The best sex-positive YA books

Who am I?

I grew up in Texas where sex-ed curriculums ranged from spotty and misinformed to totally nonexistent. Therefore, as a teenager, I learned about sex from the novels I read—at that time, I was devouring Meg Cabot and John Green books—and I remember wishing for more tangible information. (This was before Urban Dictionary and Tumblr, unfortunately.) Fast forward a decade, and I’m the one writing YA novels. I no longer live in Texas, but my passion for crafting sex-positive, uplifting, and accessible books for teenagers remains central to my life as a writer and reader.

I wrote...

The Night When No One Had Sex

By Kalena Miller,

Book cover of The Night When No One Had Sex

What is my book about?

It's the night of senior prom, and eighteen-year-old Julia has made a pact with her friends. They have secured a secluded cabin in the woods, one night without parental supervision, and plenty of condoms. But as soon as they leave the dance, the pact begins to unravel. Alex’s grandmother is undergoing emergency surgery, and he and his date rush to the hospital. Zoe is trying to figure out how she feels about getting off the waitlist at Yale. Madison’s chronic illness flares, holding her back once again from being a normal teenager. And Julia’s fantasy-themed role play gets her locked in a closet.

The Night When No One Had Sex finds a group of friends navigating the tenuous transition into adulthood and embracing the uncertainty of life after high school.

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The books I picked & why

Full Disclosure

By Camryn Garrett,

Book cover of Full Disclosure

Why did I love this book?

This contemporary YA novel is honest, open-hearted, and rings true to the teenage experience. Simone is HIV positive, a reality that makes sexual relationships complicated and her presence at a new school potentially dangerous, thanks to a series of anonymous notes in her locker threatening to out her. In this debut novel, Camryn Garrett deftly navigates complex subjects while infusing Simone’s story with humor, hope, and all the excitement that accompanies first love.

By Camryn Garrett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"An unflinchingly honest, eye-opening, heartful story that's sure to keep readers talking." --Angie Thomas, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Hate U Give and On the Come Up

"Romantic, funny, hopeful, and unflinchingly real." --Becky Albertalli, New York Times bestselling author of Simon Vs. The Homosapiens Agenda

The uplifting story of an HIV-positive teen, falling in love and learning to live her truth.

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She's making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for…

The Darkness Outside Us

By Eliot Schrefer,

Book cover of The Darkness Outside Us

Why did I love this book?

This science fiction novel from Eliot Schrefer has it all: a thrilling adventure in space, a disembodied robot withholding information, and a pair of adorably opposite boys falling in love. This dramatic story about survival, love, and love as a means of survival is on the upper end of YA, but it’s one you don’t want to miss! Be prepared to laugh, cry, swoon, and throw your book across the room in shock because this one will stick with you long after the final page.

By Eliot Schrefer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Darkness Outside Us as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

They Both Die at the End meets The Loneliest Girl in the Universe in this mind-bending sci-fi mystery and tender love story about two boys aboard a spaceship sent on a rescue mission, from two-time National Book Award finalist Eliot Schrefer. Stonewall Honor Award winner!

Two boys, alone in space. Sworn enemies sent on the same rescue mission.

Ambrose wakes up on the Coordinated Endeavor with no memory of a launch. There's more that doesn't add up: evidence indicates strangers have been on board, the ship's operating system is voiced by his mother, and his handsome, brooding shipmate has barricaded…

Today Tonight Tomorrow

By Rachel Lynn Solomon,

Book cover of Today Tonight Tomorrow

Why did I love this book?

If you’re wanting young adult romance with well-crafted sex scenes that are equal parts sweet, funny, and informative, Rachel Lynn Solomon is your gal. Today Tonight Tomorrow takes place in twenty-four hours in the city of Seattle as two high school rivals team up to win the senior class scavenger hunt. This fun, light-hearted novel is a great read for teens and adults alike! (And Solomon also has some stellar adult romances, if that’s more your speed.)

By Rachel Lynn Solomon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Today Tonight Tomorrow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Brilliant, hilarious, and oh-so-romantic." -BuzzFeed
"Swoony, steamy." -Entertainment Weekly

The Hating Game meets Booksmart by way of Morgan Matson in this unforgettable romantic comedy about two rival overachievers whose relationship completely transforms over the course of twenty-four hours.

Today, she hates him.

It's the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she'd love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.…

Book cover of Last Night at the Telegraph Club

Why did I love this book?

Set in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1954 at the height of the Red Scare, this quietly powerful coming-of-age novel by Malinda Lo is guaranteed to astound. A confused and questioning Lily Hu is torn between her commitment to family, a new friendship that blossoms in unexpected ways, and her discovery of a tantalizing queer nightclub in her own neighborhood. This sapphic historical romance is full of beautiful prose, striking images, and a tenuous exploration of forbidden love.

By Malinda Lo,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Last Night at the Telegraph Club as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other." And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: "Have you ever heard of such a thing?"

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can't remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall…

Red Hood

By Elana K. Arnold,

Book cover of Red Hood

Why did I love this book?

This exquisite novel by Elana K. Arnold opens with an evocative sex scene and only gains momentum from there. Not for the faint-hearted, this fairytale explores themes of toxic masculinity, rape culture, and violence. Unlike some of the other books on this list, Red Hood is not an uplifting book about teenage sexuality. But if you’re wanting a gritty, daring novel that pushes the boundaries of storytelling and leaves you aching for more…look no further. 

By Elana K. Arnold,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Red Hood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A dark, engrossing, blood-drenched tale of the familiar threats to female power-and one girl's journey to regain it. Five starred reviews greeted this powerful story from Elana K. Arnold, author of the Printz Honor winner Damsel.

You are alone in the woods, seen only by the unblinking yellow moon. Your hands are empty. You are nearly naked. And the wolf is angry.

Since her grandmother became her caretaker when she was four years old, Bisou Martel has lived a quiet life in a little house in Seattle. She's kept mostly to herself. She's been good.

But then comes the night…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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