15 Queer Books and Shows for the Summer
Happy pride month Gaels! Enjoy some queer media this summer with our suggestions!
By Emma Assad and Bethel Eshetu
1. Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
When petty thief Sal Leon steals a poster from a royal scribe announcing open auditions for The Left Hand, Sal knows it’s a chance for a better life. The queen’s powerful personal assassins are named after the rings she wears–Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal–and are her most trusted advisors.
But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly qualifies as preparation, but with each success, Sal comes closer to victory… and to the nobles who destroyed everything. Because Sal is there not only to win–but to get revenge.
TW: Abuse, death, gore, murder, violence, misgendering, self-harm, kidnapping, and classism
2. Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuinston
First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations. The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince.
As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?
TW: Addiction, Blackmail, death, drug abuse, homophobia, forced outing, racism, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexually explicit scenes.
3. Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful – irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath. They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name.
Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and, torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a sacrifice.
TW: Murder, death, slavery, abduction, torture, mentions of rape, gore, human sacrificing, violence, human trafficking, child abuse, war, minor sexual content
4. Cinderella is Dead by Kaylnn Bayron
It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.
Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her stepsisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew.
TW: Animal death, arranged marriages, corpse description, death, domestic abuse, homophobia, kidnapping, misogyny, murder, physical assault, selling people, sexual assault.
5. Crier’s War by Nina Varela
After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, took over the estates of their owners and bent the human race to their will. Now, Ayla, a human servant rising the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging the death of her family… by killing the Sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier. Crier, who was made to be beautiful and flawless, is to take over the work of her father.
Crier had been preparing to do just that—to inherit her father’s rule over the land. But that was before she was betrothed to Scyre Kinok, who seems to have a thousand secrets. That was before she discovered her father isn’t as benevolent as she thought. That was before she met Ayla.
TW: Discussions of war and exploitation, minor character death, self-harm, slavery.
6. Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from mental strain.
When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.
To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage her combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.
TW: Misogyny, femicide, mentions of rape and physical and emotional abuse, suicidal ideation, alcohol abuse, depictions of blood and gore, murder, and torture.
7. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider in court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
TW: Alcohol abuse, blood, death, depression, miscarriage, murder, plague, mentions of suicide, suicide ideation, torture, graphic violence.
Teens Charlie and Nick discover their unlikely friendship might be something more as they navigate school and young life.
TW: Emotionally abusive relationship, Non-con kiss scene, homophobia, use of homophobic slurs, references to past bullying.
(I highly suggest reading Heartstopper as well, and checking out Alice Oseman, such as Loveless, Radio Silence, and I Was Born for This.)
9. She-ra: And the Princesses of Power
In this reboot of the 1980s original, a magic sword transforms an orphan girl into warrior She-Ra, who unites a rebellion to fight against evil.
TW: Minor violence, manipulative parental relationship.
10. Young Royals
Prince Wilhelm adjusts to life at his prestigious new boarding school, but following his heart proves more challenging than anticipated.
TW: Alcohol and drug abuse, minor violence, minor homophobia, classism, explicit sexual content.
11. I am Not Okay with This
A teenager navigates the complexities of high school, family and her sexuality while dealing with new superpowers; based on Charles Forsman’s graphic novel.
TW: Fantasy violence, sexual content
12. First Kill
Falling in love is tricky for teens Juliette and Calliope because one’s a vampire and the other’s a vampire hunter – and both are ready to make their first kill.
TW: Graphic depictions of violence, suicidal thoughts
13. Steven Universe
The Crystal Gems are a team of magical beings who are the self-appointed guardians of the universe, Half-human, half-Gem hero Steven is the “little brother” of the group. The goofball is learning to save the world using the magical powers that come from his belly button and he goes on magical adventures with the rest of the Crystal Gems, even though he’s not as powerful–or smart– as fellow group members Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl. Despite his shortcomings, Steven usually finds a surprising way to say the day.
TW: Minor violence
14. Black Lightning
As a younger man, Jefferson Pierce donned the suit of a vigilante and protected the streets of his city, but he believed he’d left those days in the past. He learns that life doesn’t always work out as planned when his daughter, Jennifer – a star student who is determined to achieve justice at any cost – gets recruited by a street gang. In order to protect his family, Jefferson sees no choice but to once again become Black Lightning.
TW: Violence, sexual content, usage of drugs
15. But I’m a Cheerleader
Megan considers herself a typical American girl. She excels in school and cheerleading, and she has a handsome football-playing boyfriend, even though she isn’t that crazy about him. So she’s stunned when her parents decide she’s gay and send her to True Directions, a boot camp meant to alter her sexual orientation. While there, Megan meets a rebellious and unashamed teen lesbian, Graham. Though Megan still feels confused, she starts to have feelings for Graham.
TW: Non-explicit sex scenes, underage drinking, homophobia, sexism.