19 Sapphic YA Books You'll Love (No Matter Your Age)
Young adult fiction is always relatable.
Whether you’re still in high school, or you just want to revisit the kinds of books that helped you accept yourself and your sexual orientation as a teenager, a lesbian young adult novel is completely relatable.
So here are 19 Sapphic YA novels you're going to love, swoon, cry, and tremble over.
All descriptions are courtesy of their respective publisher.
1. 'The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali' by Sabina Khan
Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents' expectations, but lately she's finding that impossible to do. She rolls her eyes when they blatantly favor her brother, and saves her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don't know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech. But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana's plans fall apart.
Her parents are devastated and decide to whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Through reading her grandmother's old diary, Rukhsana gains some much-needed perspective and realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love without losing the connection to her family as a consequence.
2. 'Orpheus Girl' by Brynn Rebele-Henry
Abandoned by a single mother she never knew, 16-year-old Raya—obsessed with ancient myths—lives with her grandmother in a small conservative Texas town. For years Raya has fought to hide her feelings for her best friend and true love, Sarah. When the two are outed, they are sent to Friendly Saviors: a re-education camp meant to “fix” them and make them heterosexual. Upon arrival, Raya vows to assume the role of Orpheus, to return to the world of the living with her love—and after she, Sarah, and the other teen residents are subjected to abusive and brutal “treatments” by the staff, Raya only becomes more determined to escape.
3. 'Late to the Party' by Kelly Quindlen
Seventeen is nothing like Codi Teller imagined.
She’s never crashed a party, never stayed out too late. She’s never even been kissed. And it’s not just because she’s gay. It’s because she and her two best friends, Maritza and JaKory, spend more time in her basement watching Netflix than engaging with the outside world.
So when Maritza and JaKory suggest crashing a party, Codi is highly skeptical. Those parties aren’t for kids like them. They’re for cool kids. Straight kids.
But then Codi stumbles upon one of those cool kids, Ricky, kissing another boy in the dark, and an unexpected friendship is formed. In return for never talking about that kiss, Ricky takes Codi under his wing and draws her into a wild summer filled with late nights, new experiences, and one really cute girl named Lydia. The only problem? Codi never tells Maritza or JaKory about any of it.
4. 'The Henna Wars' by Adiba Jaigirdar
Nishat doesn’t want to lose her family, but she also doesn’t want to hide who she is, and it only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life. Flávia is beautiful and charismatic, and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat decide to showcase their talent as henna artists. In a fight to prove who is the best, their lives become more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush, especially since Flávia seems to like her back.
As the competition heats up, Nishat has a decision to make: stay in the closet for her family, or put aside her differences with Flávia and give their relationship a chance.
5. 'Last Night at the Telegraph Club' by Malinda Lo
Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the feeling took root—that desire to look, to move closer, to touch. Whenever it started growing, it definitely bloomed the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club. Suddenly everything seemed possible.
But America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.
6. 'The Girls I’ve Been' by Tess Sharpe
Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when her mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.
For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:
#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris. #2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because: #3: Right after they enter the bank, two guys start robbing it.
The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage...
7. 'I Kissed Shara Wheele' by Casey McQuiston
Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and the puritanical administration of Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.
But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.
On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair and square.
Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.
8. 'Dauntless' by Elisa A. Bonnin
Seri's world is defined by very clear rules: The beasts prowl the forest paths and hunt the People. The valiant explore the unknown world, kill the beasts, and gain strength from the armor they make from them. As an assistant to Eshai Unbroken, a young valor commander with a near-mythical reputation, Seri has seen first-hand the struggle to keep the beasts at bay and ensure the safety of the spreading trees where the People make their homes. That was how it always had been, and how it always would be. Until the day Seri encounters Tsana. Tsana is, impossibly, a stranger from the unknown world who can communicate with the beasts - a fact that makes Seri begin to doubt everything she's ever been taught. As Seri and Tsana grow closer, their worlds begin to collide, with deadly consequences. Somehow, with the world on the brink of war, Seri will have to find a way to make peace.
9. 'To Break a Covenant' by Alison Ames
Moon Basin has been haunted for as long as anyone can remember. It started when an explosion in the mine killed sixteen people. The disaster made it impossible to live in town, with underground fires spewing ash into the sky. But life in New Basin is just as fraught. The ex-mining town relies on its haunted reputation to bring in tourists, but there’s more truth to the rumors than most are willing to admit, and the mine still has a hold on everyone who lives there.
Clem and Nina form a perfect loop—best friends forever, and perhaps something more. Their circle opens up for a strange girl named Lisey with a knack for training crows, and Piper, whose father is fascinated with the mine in a way that’s anything but ordinary. The people of New Basin start experiencing strange phenomena—sleepwalking, night terrors, voices that only they can hear. And no matter how many vans of ghost hunters roll through, nobody can get to the bottom of what’s really going on. Which is why the girls decide to enter the mine themselves.
10. 'South of Sunshine' by Dana Elmendorf
In Sunshine, Tennessee, the main event in town is Friday night football, the biggest party of the year is held in a field filled with pickup trucks, and church attendance is mandatory. For Kaycee Jean McCoy, life in Sunshine means dating guys she has no interest in, saying only “yes, ma’am” when the local bigots gossip at her mom’s cosmetics salon, and avoiding certain girls at all costs. Girls like Bren Dawson.
Unlike Kaycee, Bren doesn’t really conceal who she is. But as the cool, worldly new girl, nobody at school seems to give her any trouble. Maybe there’s no harm if Kaycee gets closer to her too, as long as she can keep that part of her life a secret, especially from her family and her best friend. But the more serious things get with Bren, the harder it is to hide from everyone else. Kaycee knows Sunshine has a darker side for people like her, and she’s risking everything for the chance to truly be herself.
11. 'The Space Between' by Michelle L. Teichman
Everything’s great for Harper Isabelle, the most popular girl in grade nine. That is, until she meets Sarah Jamieson.
Sarah is a reclusive artist, a loner who wears black makeup and doesn’t have any friends, but for some reason, Harper can’t stop thinking about her. Sarah isn’t used to people looking her way, especially popular girls like Harper Isabelle. Scared, religious, and unsure of herself, when Sarah begins to realize that her feelings for Harper might go beyond friendship, she is afraid to take the plunge and tell Harper how she feels.
Emotions build between these young women until they both reach their breaking points, and they need to make a choice about coming to terms with who they really are, and what they can and cannot live without.
12. 'This Is Where It Ends' by Marieke Nijkamp
This, unfortunately, timely debut novel follows Autumn and Sylv, two high school girlfriends who are stuck in an auditorium with a shooter.
Everyone has a reason to fear the boy with the gun…In 54 minutes, four students must confront their greatest hopes, and darkest fears, as they come face-to-face with the boy with the gun.
13. 'My Year Zero' by Rachel Gold
Lauren thinks she has a pretty good life—so why is it that she feels crazy most of the time? She figures it’s nothing she can’t fix by getting her first girlfriend and doing better at school. But how is she ever going to find a girlfriend in Duluth, Minnesota?
When she meets a group of kids who are telling a science fiction story online and gets invited down to the Twin Cities, she gets more attention than she ever expected, from two very different girls: charming Sierra and troublesome Blake.
Blake helps Lauren understand that she’s not the crazy one in her life. But Blake's attention—and insights into life and living with bipolar disorder—threaten to destroy everything Lauren has created for herself, including her relationship with Sierra.
14. 'Bleeding Earth' by Kaitlin Ward
Lea was in a cemetery when the earth started bleeding. Within twenty-four hours, the blood made international news. All over the world, blood appeared out of the ground, even through concrete, even in water. Then the earth started growing hair and bones.
Lea wants to ignore the blood. She wants to spend time with her new girlfriend, Aracely, in public, if only Aracely wasn't so afraid of her father. Lea wants to be a regular teen again, but the blood has made her a prisoner in her own home. Fear for her social life turns into fear for her sanity, and Lea must save herself and Aracely whatever way she can.
15. 'Out on Good Behavior' by Dahlia Adler
Frankie Bellisario knows she can get anyone she sets her sights on, but just because she can doesn't mean she should—not when the person she's eyeing is Samara Kazarian, the daughter of a southern Republican mayor. No matter how badly Frankie wants to test her powers of persuasion, even she recognizes some lines aren't meant to be crossed.
But when Frankie learns she's been on Samara's mind too, the idea of hooking up with her grows too strong to resist. Only Sam's not looking for a hookup; she wants—needs—the real thing, and she's afraid she'll never find it as long as Frankie's in her head.
Forced to choose between her first relationship and losing the girl who's been clawing her way under her skin, Frankie opts to try monogamy...under her own condition: 30 days of keeping things on the down low and remaining abstinent. If she fails as hard at girlfriending as she's afraid she might, she doesn't want to throw Samara's life into upheaval for nothing. But when neither the month nor Frankie's heart go according to plan, she may be the one stuck fighting for the happily ever after she never knew she wanted.
16. 'Prom and Other Hazards' by Jamie Sullivan
Frankly, prom is a ridiculous concept. People at school treat it like its a test run for a wedding, complete with ‘promposals’. That’s not even mentioning the dresses, which look like Disney vomited tulle and sparkles onto the nearest mannequin. Sam wants nothing to do with it.
Except for the tiny fact that she’s been in love with her best friend Tash since they were ten years old, and Tash dreams of a perfect, romantic prom. Sam had given up hope, until she spotted The Suit in a shop window. Sleek, androgynous, and flat out cool—but also way out of Sam's price range.
But if she can earn the money for the suit, then surely the suit is all she needs to finally admit how she feels and see they both enjoy the perfect prom.
17. 'Girl Hearts Girl' by Lucy Sutcliffe
An inspiring, uplifting and sympathetic story about sexuality and self-acceptance, Lucy Sutcliffe's debut memoir is a personal and moving coming out story. In 2010, at seventeen, Lucy Sutcliffe began an online friendship with Kaelyn, a young veterinary student from Michigan. Within months, they began a long distance relationship, finally meeting in the summer of 2011. Lucy's video montage of their first week spent together in Saint Kitts, which she posted to the couple's YouTube channel, was the first in a series of films documenting their long-distance relationship. Funny, tender and candid, the films attracted them a vast online following. Now, for the first time, Lucy's writing about the incredible personal journey she's been on; from never quite wanting the fairy-tale of Prince Charming to realising she was gay at the age of 14, through three years of self-denial to finally coming out to friends and family, to meeting her American girlfriend Kaelyn.
18. 'The Abyss Surrounds Us' by Emily Skrutskie
For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.
There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.
19. 'You Know Me Well' by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
This novel by two major LGBT YA authors follows a gay guy (Mark) and a lesbian girl (Kate) who become unlikely friends in high school as they deal with romantic relationships and the heartaches that come from first loves.