The best novels for young readers by and about gender non-conforming humans

Who am I?

When I was growing up there were no trans characters in children’s books, and partly because I had no examples I could point to, it took me until my forties to express and claim my gender truth. Now that I am a happily transitioned author, activist, and elected official, I champion middle grade novels by and about gender non-conforming humans because I want today’s trans kids to see themselves in stories. I hope to empower them to lead their best authentic lives from the beginning. I also hope to teach an often uninformed and sometimes prejudiced world to accept gender non-conforming kids as the beautiful healthy humans they are.


I wrote...

Zenobia July

By Lisa Bunker,

Book cover of Zenobia July

What is my book about?

As eighth grade begins, no one knows it's Zenobia’s first day going to school as the girl she has always known herself to be. Zen grew up in a family that did not accept or support her gender identity. One way she survived was by taking refuge online, where she discovered her natural genius for coding and hacking. 

Now she finds herself in a new city with a new family, and a chance to be her real self in the world. She makes friends, but also tangles with a queen-bee girl and a cyber rival. Then when someone vandalizes the school website, she has to decide whether to hide her gifts, or offer to help and risk exposure.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Ana on the Edge

Lisa Bunker Why did I love this book?

When it comes to misunderstood identities, it becomes crucial that there be stories by authors who have lived that story. There is no faking that authenticity. This is certainly the case with this engrossing and moving story of a young skater’s growing awareness of and interest in non-binary identity, written by a non-binary author with experience of the skating world. I particularly like that the story takes place in a setting in which the gender binary is so strongly enforced. I also appreciate the intersectionality – the main character is Chinese-American and Jewish.

By A.J. Sass,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ana on the Edge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Twelve-year-old Ana-Marie Jin, the reigning US Juvenile figure skating champion, is not a frilly dress kind of kid. So, when Ana learns that next season's program will be princess themed, doubt forms fast. Still, Ana tries to focus on training and putting together a stellar routine worthy of national success.

Once Ana meets Hayden, a transgender boy new to the rink, thoughts about the princess program and gender identity begin to take center stage. And when Hayden mistakes Ana for a boy, Ana doesn't correct him and finds comfort in this boyish identity when he's around. As their friendship develops,…


Book cover of Too Bright to See

Lisa Bunker Why did I love this book?

Pitfalls in writing a story about a particular identity can include a preachy centering of the identity issue, and overwrought, often tragic storylines. This lovely tale about a young trans boy figuring out who he is avoids both of these common errors, with a nuanced, gentle story of ghosts, family, and friendship...and, gender dysphoria, described with the subtlety and accuracy of someone who has experienced it first hand.

By Kyle Lukoff,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Too Bright to See as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

It's the summer and eleven-year-old Bug's best friend Moira has decided the two of them need to use the next few months to prepare. For Moira, this means figuring out the right clothes to wear, learning how to put on makeup, and deciding which boys are cuter in their yearbook photos than in real life. But none of this is all that appealing to Bug, who doesn't particularly want to spend more time trying to understand how to be a girl. Besides, there's something more important to worry about: A ghost is haunting Bug's eerie old house in rural Vermont...…


Book cover of Rick

Lisa Bunker Why did I love this book?

Gino’s novel “George” is better-known and also excellent, but it’s older, and even in the short time it has been published, some ideas have changed. Gino themself has expressed regret publicly that its main character’s deadname is the book’s title. This follow-up companion novel centers on a young boy coming to terms with a friend who is becoming a bully, and also struggling to find a word that accurately expresses his lack of interest in sex and romance. It’s a gentle and affirming book that introduces the idea of ace and aro identities to younger MG readers, and it is a delight.

By Alex Gino,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rick as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rick's gone along with his best friend Jeff even when Jeff's acted like a bully and a jerk. But now Rick wants his own life to benbsp; ... understood. Even if it means breaking some old friendships and making some new ones. As they did in their groundbreaking novel GEORGE, in RICK, award-winning author Alex Gino explores what it means to search for your own place in the world... and all the steps you and the people around you need to take in order to get where you need to be.


Book cover of Both Can Be True

Lisa Bunker Why did I love this book?

I particularly like the dual narration in this 2021 debut, with two characters who challenge gender norms at different levels of intensity as they bond over a secret rescue dog. Daniel is a boy who feels all his emotions intensely, and who has been told over and over that he is too sensitive. Ash cycles through genders, feeling and expressing girl sometimes and boy other times. It’s so good to see a GNC character in a lead role. I also got a hoot out of the graphic elements, which are quirky and original.

By Jules Machias, Jules Machias,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Both Can Be True as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

*An Indie Next List Pick and a Top Ten Rainbow Book for Young Readers!*

Jules Machias explores identity, gender fluidity, and the power of friendship and acceptance in this dual-narrative story about two kids who join forces to save a dog . . . but wind up saving each other.

Ash is no stranger to feeling like an outcast. For someone who cycles through genders, it's a daily struggle to feel in control of how people perceive you. Some days Ash is undoubtedly girl, but other times, 100 percent guy. Daniel lacks control too-of his emotions. He's been told he's…


Book cover of Felix Ever After

Lisa Bunker Why did I love this book?

Of the five books on this list, this is the one that’s definitely in the Young Adult category rather than Middle Grade, but I wanted to include one of Kacen’s excellent creations. This is another book that, with its Black queer trans protagonist, does a fantastic job of exploring the complexities of intersectionality. The story is messy and emotional and real. Callender is a rising star of queer fiction for young readers.

By Kacen Callender,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Felix Ever After as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Stonewall Honor Book * A Time Magazine Best YA Book of All Time

From Stonewall and Lambda Award–winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.

Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too…


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Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

By Alan Pearce, Beverley Pearce,

Book cover of Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

Alan Pearce Author Of Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

New book alert!

Who am I?

As a journalist, I'm driven to find stories that have not been covered before and to make clear the incomprehensible. I like people, and I like asking questions. I've covered wars and disasters, and on any given day, I could expect to see people at their very worst and at their very best. With my book about comas, I've met some of the finest people of my career, doctors, nurses, and other clinicians who are fighting the system, and coma survivors who are simply fighting to get through each and every day. This is the story I am now driven to tell.

Alan's book list on consciousness that demonstrates there is more to life than we know

What is my book about?

What happens when a person is placed into a medically-induced coma?

The brain might be flatlining, but the mind is far from inactive: experiencing alternate lives rich in every detail that spans decades, visiting realms of stunning and majestic beauty, or plummeting to the very depths of Hell while defying all medical and scientific understanding.

Everything you think you know about coma is wrong. Doctors call it 'sleeping' when in reality, many are trapped on a hamster wheel of brain-damaging, nightmarish events that scar those that survive for life. Others are left to question whether they touched levels of existence previously confined to fantasy or whether they teetered on the brink of this life and the next. Coma is not what you think.

Coma and Near-Death Experience: The Beautiful, Disturbing, and Dangerous World of the Unconscious

By Alan Pearce, Beverley Pearce,

What is this book about?

Explores the extraordinary states of expanded consciousness that arise during comas, both positive and negative

Every day around the world, thousands of people are placed in medically-induced comas. For some coma survivors, the experience is an utter blank. Others lay paralyzed, aware of everything around them but unable to move, speak, or even blink. Many experience alternate lives spanning decades, lives they grieve once awakened. Some encounter ultra-vivid nightmares, while others undergo a deep, spiritual oneness with the Universe or say they have glimpsed the Afterlife.

Examining the beautiful and disturbing experiences of those who have survived comas, Alan and…


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