Let’s face it: Rainbow Magic works for some kids, but not all of them.
It can be hard to find books for kids that don’t fall into annoying “boys’ books” and “girls’ books” catergories and young adult books with positive, feminist perspectives. This summer, the Young Adult Library Services Association put together a list of 41 books with transgender and genderqueer characters. It was originally meant as a resource list of librarians, but I think it works pretty well for anyone looking for good books.
Young adult novels with main and supporting characters who identify as transgender
Luna by Julie Anne Peters
Regan is an average sixteen-year-old who is keeping secret the fact that her brother Liam is really a Transgender girl named Luna.
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
When Logan meets Sage he is instantly attracted to her, but how will he react when he learns that Sage was born male?
I Am J by Cris Beam
J has always known that was a boy who happened to be born into a girl’s body by mistake. Now he just has to convince everyone else.
Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger
Just like the parrotfish that is born female but becomes male later in life, teenager Grady knows that even though he was born Angela, on the inside he is a boy. He is happy but not everyone else is, especially his family, and he must rely on the people in his life who support him to move forward.
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
The story of a group of teen beauty queens marooned on a desert island, one of them is a former boy band member who has transitioned.
Being Emily by Rachel Gold
When Emily, who was born as Christopher, tells her parents about her desire to live a woman, they send her into therapy, convinced she is ill. She is able to rely on her girlfriend and a few others in her life to help her through her family issues.
A Circus Mirror Day by Corin Ash (ebook)
When Emily (or Edward to everyone else) is assigned to write a paper about a day in her life, she writes about how hard it is to pretend to be a boy on the outside, when she knows that she is truly a girl.
Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Elle lives by herself because her mother’s boyfriend doesn’t want to deal with a teenage girl. She meets and slowly falls in love with Frank, her next door neighbor, but her world is forever changed when Frank reveals he is transgender and that he was born a woman.
Happy Families by Tanita S. Davis
Ysabel and Justin are twins who live a generally happy life. When their father reavels he is transgender and will live the rest of his life as a woman, they are upset at first, but slowly come to terms with their dad’s new identity.
Circle of Change by Laney Cairo (ebook)
The story of a romance between Kim, a teenager transman, and Dash, a gay college student who initially rejects Kim, but ultimately falls in love with him.
London Reign by A.C. Britt
London is one of Boston’s toughest boys, who was actually born a girl. London must deal with his abusive stepfather, as well as a whole host of other issues that come with living in the inner city.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Gabe, who was born Elizabeth, hosts a popular weekly radio show called, “Beautiful music for ugly children.” He is not out at school and is still living as Elizabeth, but when someone discovers his secret he must figure out how to live an honest life and still stay safe.
Nina Here nor There by Nick Krieger
This is Nick Krieger’s memoir about his “journey beyond gender.”
Refuse by Elliot DeLine (ebook)
This is Dean’s story, of coming out as a transman in college and the subsequent reaction of his friends and family.
Young adult novels with Genderqueer characters or characters who express gender ambiguity
The Sweet In-between by Sheri Reynolds
The story of Kenny, a gender ambigous girl who becomes with obsessed when a college student is murdered by accident by her neighbor.
The Tragedy of Miss Geneva Flowers by Joe Babcock
The coming of age story of a young, gay man, who is also an aspiring drag queen, and the community he becomes a part of.
Far from Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters
Mike lives a pretty routine life in her boring Kansas town. When Xanadu, a beautiful and different girl arrives, Mike is quickly infatuated. But can a romance ever blossom between them?
Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff
A love story that takes place over the course of a summer between two semi-homeless Brooklyn teens, Scout and Kid, their genders are never revealed.
Picture Books and stories for younger readers (not exhaustive)
My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis
Based on the author’s son, this picture book tells of a princess boy, who loves running, wearing dresses, climbing trees, and being a princess, and his family loves him for exactly who he is.
10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert
Bailey dreams every night of beautiful dresses but her parents are not supportive. People tell Bailey that she shouldn’t dream of dresses because Bailey was designated male at birth. But Bailey keeps on dreaming and one day she meets a girl who helps make all of her dreams come true!
The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke
Princess Violet doesn’t want to get married to a knight, she wants to BE a knight, so she trains in secret so she can win her own hand!
Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr
Nick was born a boy but knows that she is really a girl. This story tells of Nick sharing this information with her family and ultimately transitioning with their support.
Goblinheart by Brett Axel
Jude has wings and is supposed to be a fairy, but Jude wants to be a goblin. This story tells of Jude’s desire to be accepted by all the other people in Jude’s fairy tale world.
Short story collections
How Beautiful the Ordinary ed. by Michael Cart
A collection of twelve LGBT themed short stories with three focused on transgender characters.
Girl Meets Boy ed. by Kelly Milner Halls
A book of short stories about relationships between boys and girls told from both their perspectives, includes one about a transgender teen.
Young adult novels that deal with gender in a nontraditional way
Boy2girl by Terence Blacker
When Matt’s cousin Sam comes from America to live with him and his family in London Matt and his friends decide Sam must pretend to be a girl as an initiation into their group. But their trick works too well and suddenly they are all in way over their heads.
Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers
Johnny uses his love of goth music to deal with his terrible life. When he is introduced to Debbie Harry he realizes he doesn’t just love her music, he loves her, so much that he wants to be her.
Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin
Jill is a regular teenager girl, except for four days a month when she turns into Jack. Until now she and her family have managed to keep Jack under wraps. But Jack is done hiding and ready to be a real teenager.
The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams
Dennis deals with his parents divorce by reading Vogue magazine. When he meets Lisa, he falls in love with her, but also with her style, and realizes he wants to dress in women’s clothing.
Every Day by David Levithan
Every day A wakes up in a new body of a different 16 year old. Somedays A is a boy, somedays A is a girl, but to deal with this uncertain reality, A has certain rules, the main one being to never make a connection with someone because it won’t last. But all of this changes when A meets Rhiannon and falls in love. Now, A must track down Rhiannon every day so that A can be near her again, even if it means ruining the lives of the people A inhabits.
If You Believe in Mermaids, Don’t Tell by A.A. Phillips
Todd knows he can never tell his family the truth, that he wants to be a mermaid, that he loves to play dress up, and that he doesn’t want to follow in his dad’s footsteps as an athlete. But when he goes to a summer science camp, he meets a girl who might help him learn to love who he truly is.
The End: Five Queer Kids Save the Sorld by Nora Olsen
Tells the story of five queer kids who must prevent the end of the world, including one character who goes on a gender journey of their own.
Choir Boy by Charlie Anders
12 year old Berry wants nothing more than to stay a soprano so he can continue as a choir boy. He decides to castrate himself so that his voice will stay the same. He meets Trans* adults after his parents put him in therapy.
Angel Diary by YunHee Lee
A story about the princess of heaven who must hide on earth as a boy and those that watch over her.
Boy Princess by Seyoung Kim
A prince must take his sister’s place after she runs away from an arranged marriage. Will anyone find out who he truly is?
Wandering Son by Shimura Takako
The story of two fifth graders, a boy and a girl, who both prefer to live in the other gender.
Shadoweyes by Ross Campbell
Scout is an aspiring superhero who, after being hit in the head, begin to randomly turn into a male alien superhero named Shadoweyes.
Princess Princess by Mikiyo Tsuda
Tells the story of Toru, who is one of three boys chosen at his all boys school to be dressed up as princesses to entertain the male students.
Cheeky Angel by Hiroyuki Nishimori
When Megumi was young he wished to be a manly man, but was instead turned into a girl, now a teenager, he must figure out a way to turn back while fighting off the advances of his male classmates.
a+e 4ever by Ilike Merey
a+e are both genderqueer teenagers who become friends and develop an intense, passionate relationship.