A selection of great books which can be used as part of the curriculum and which should not be missing from any school or college library.
Download the complete list of secondary school books.
Two Boys Kissing
This story is based on the true events of two 17 year old boys, Harry and Craig, who decide to take part in a 32 hour kissing marathon to set a new Guinness World Record. The boys’ kissing becomes a focal point to explore the lives, loves and struggles of a long-time couple, a broken up couple, a new couple, and a boy searching to be part of a couple. Levithan narrates the story via a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS who, over the course of the story, show the reader how each person’s problems can be overcome with support from others. A touching, charming and poignant book that is a must read for all teenagers and adults alike.
Published by Knopf Books ISBN: 0307931900
Set in a futuristic world after the collapse of society, this science fiction novel tells the story of Knox, a ‘patron’ boy from one of the wealthiest families in the 1% that make up the Upper City, and his proxy Syd, a poor orphan living below in the debt ridden Valve. When children from the Upper City break the law, they watch the punishment being carried out on their proxy, whom they have never met. From practical jokes to murder, Knox pushes the system of Proxy to the limit. Yet it turns out that Knox and Syd share more in common and, realising that to beat the system they must save one another, they decide to flee. Early on in the book Syd is outed as gay, although it remains an integral part of his character, his struggles with sexuality is not the main focus of his story. London takes the reader to some dark places in this dystopia, with flawed, complex yet incredibly smart characters that we see grow and develop along a path of friendship and self-discovery.
Published by Philomel ISBN: 0399257764
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
This is the story of an introverted book loving American teenager, Charlie, at high school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Charlie writes frequent letters to an unknown recipient, but despite him being a shy ‘wallflower’ his is befriended by high school seniors Patrick and his step-sister Sam. The book takes the reader through his coming of age high school journey; which include his love for Sam, Patrick and closeted footballer Brad’s relationship and Charlie dealing with his past traumatic experiences. In 2012 this book was adapted into a critically acclaimed film starring Emma Watson. “Even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there" is the message to take from this story.
Published by MTV Books/Pocket Books ISBN: 0-671-02734-4
Between You and Me
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Some say this novel about fame, fortune and family is based loosely on the life of Britney Spears. 27 year old Logan Wade takes a trip to LA to visit her famous cousin Kelsey Wade whom she has not seen since their respective childhoods. Kelsey then offers Logan the role of her assistant, and Logan rediscovers the toxic relationship between Kelsey and her parents. Kelsey attempts to break away from the fame, and Logan is torn between protecting Kelsey and saving herself. This novel demonstrates the peaks and falls of stardom and the difficult family relationships that often go with it.
Published by Atria Books ISBN: 1439188181
Boy meets Boy
This is David Levithan’s take on the ‘boy meets girl’ romantic fiction, set in a fictional gay friendly small town in New Jersey, USA. It tells the story of openly gay Paul and his best friends Joni and Tony through their romantic high school experiences. Levithan provides the reader with some real escapism in this fantasy world, yet still touches on some harder hitting issues through Tony’s uncommonly strict religious background.
“This is a happy-meaningful romantic comedy about finding love, losing love, and doing what it takes to get love back in a crazy-wonderful world.”
Published by Knopf Books ISBN: 0375832998
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Benjamin Alire Sáenz
“A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.”
Published by Simon and Schuster Books ISBN: 1442408928
Will Grayson, Will Grayson
John Green and David Levithan
In alternating chapters, John Green describes the story of the first Will Grayson, with Levithan unravelling the life of the other will grayson (no capitals). The first Will Grayson tries to lead a life going unnoticed, which is made difficult by his best friend Tiny Cooper, who is “the world’s largest person who is really, really gay.” The second will grayson leads a life with seemingly little good to hold on to besides an online relationship with “Isaac”.
“One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, teenager Will Grayson crosses paths with . . . Will Grayson! Two teens with the same name who run in two very different circles suddenly find their lives going in new and unexpected directions. Culminating in epic turns-of-heart on both of their parts, they team up to produce the most fabulous musical ever to grace the high-school stage.”
Published by Dutton Children’s ISBN: 0525421580
Boys Don’t Cry
In true Malorie Blackman style, Blackman takes a common situation – teenage pregnancy – and turns it on its head. 17 year old Dante eagerly answers the front door awaiting his A level results but instead finds his ex-girlfriend, Melanie, holding his 11 month old daughter, Emma. Shortly thereafter Melanie abruptly exits, leaving Dante to raise his daughter alone. Dante’s dreams of a career in journalism and a university degree are turned upside down by this unexpected parenthood. The book tells the story from the perspective of Dante, along with his brother Adam, and through the boys’ Blackman explores many themes of parenthood, gender, prejudice and homophobia.
Published by Double Day Books ISBN: 0385604793
Pretend you love me/Far from Xanadu
Julie Anne Peters
Mike, previously known as Mary Elizabeth, is an iron pumping, truck driving softball player from Coalton, Kansas. Mike’s world is turned upside down when exotic new girl Xanadu, arrives in the small town. Xanadu is everything that Mike is not, including straight. Mike falls instantly in love with this cool, complex and sexy character, but like many teenagers Mike has to overcome the fact that Xanadu may not feel the same way. This novel explores interesting ideas around love, reciprocity, friendship and sexuality.
Published by Samhain Publishing ISBN: 1599983958
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Just moments before both her parents were killed in a car crash, Cameron Post had been kissing a girl. Part of Cameron is relieved that they will never discover her sexuality, but this relief is short lived as she moves in with her conservative Aunt and old fashioned Grandmother in Miles City, Montana. Then the beautiful and perfect cowgirl, Coley Taylor, comes to town along with her boyfriend and Cam and Coley form an unexpected and intense friendship. As their relationship shows signs of developing further, Cam’s Aunt begins to take drastic action in the name of ‘fixing’ Cameron who has to address the cost of her denial.
Danforth emphasises the best and the worst , and often contradictory, aspects of a town like Miles City; full of many loving, well intended people, strong family relationships and a heavy Christian ethos, but struggling to come to terms with anyone who doesn’t quite conform.
Published by Balzer and Bray ISBN: 0062020560
Dawson tells the story of Lis, a teenage girl who moves in with her sister and husband in the town of Hollow Pike in Yorkshire to escape the bullying she suffered back home in Bangor. Unfortunately for Lis, the bullying didn’t stop when she left Wales, but she manages to form an allegiance with other school outcasts who begin to plot revenge on their perpetrators. In this dark thriller, the plot takes a turn for the worst and Lis and her friends experience fear, paranoia and possible witchcraft in Hollow Pike.
Dawson shows his insight as a previous PSHE teacher with his depiction of bullying and diversity. He also effectively explores the sexuality and relationship path of Lis and her friends. A real cliff hanger, you will struggle to put this one down.
Published by Orion Children’s Books ISBN: 1444004816
What’s up with Jody Barton?
16 year olds Jody and Jolene are identical twin sisters living above their parents’ diner in Willesden, London. When a new boy, Liam comes to the diner, both Jody and Jolene fall for him. Jody decides not to tell her sister but instead help her sister move forward with Liam all whilst hiding a BIG secret. Through this complicated love triangle Long explores sexuality, cyberbullying and gender. This book is bound to catch any reader out and proves to be a very gripping read.
Published by Macmillan Children’s Books ISBN: 9781447267829
This Song Will Save Your Life
Elise Dembowski is a typical teenager who feels like she doesn’t quite fit in. Unusually for Elise, one day she finds herself at a warehouse party where she meets three girls who share her love for music and newfound love for DJing. Many will find a connection with Elise’s story of a teenager whose hobby becomes her life and vehicle for self-exploration.
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) ISBN: 0374351384
Brie loves her gay best friend Charlie, who loves serial heartbreaker Walker who loves Daisy who hates everyone… This is a light hearted account of love, fashion, art and friendship set against the backdrop of a school production of Taming of the Shrew.
Published by Puffin ISBN: 014240859X
Out of Pocket
Bobby Framingham is the star quarterback and one of the most talented high school football players in California. Bobby shares a typically strong brotherly bond with his fellow team mates but he’s keeping one essential difference about him from them; he’s gay. Bobby’s worried about still being able to be one of the guys if he is open and honest about his sexuality. A student reporter then outs Bobby against his will, meaning Bobby must find a way to gain back his team mates’ trust and accept his success path may now look somewhat different to his peers’. ‘An affecting novel about identity that also delivers great sportswriting.’
Published by Dutton Juvenile ISBN: 0525479961
Convinced he is the only gay student at his high school, Russell starts using an online chat forum and his latest gay pal turns out to be none other than Kevin, the school star baseball player. Soon after, Russell starts to meet more gay students and they form a diverse group of friends. They start up the Geography club; a guise so that they can hang out together on a regular basis without drawing attention to themselves. This fast paced funny novel shows contemporary teenagers exploring the social world around them.
Published by HarperTeen ISBN: 0060012234
Love in Revolution
B. R. Collins
Love in Revolution is set in an imaginary Basque country on the cusp of a communist revolution. It follows fifteen year old Esteya, a doctor’s daughter who, following a chance encounter at a pello match, falls in love with Skizi, a girl shunned by society because of her peasant, Zikindi class. Reluctantly, Esteya is forced to keep their relationship secret from her friends and family because Skizi is Zikindi. The revolution arrives and Esteya and her family are initially protected from its worst excesses by her older brother Leon, who is a Minister in the new communist government. But life for Skizi doesn’t change, despite the communists’ initial promises that it would – and she eventually disappears from her ramshackle hut when it is ransacked by the Revolutionary guard. Leon is removed from his government position and imprisoned for his own safety, putting Esteya and her family in mortal danger. When her parents and twin brother are forcibly taken away by the Revolutionary guard in the middle of the night, Esteya is left alone with no choice but to flee the country not knowing if she will ever see her family or Skizi again.
Published by Bloomsbury Childrens ISBN: 1-40881570-2
Openly Straight turns the traditional coming out story on its head. Rafe is already out and has been for a while, but he’s fed up of always being labelled as ‘the gay guy’. So when he transfers to an all-boys boarding school miles away from home he decides to reinvent himself and keep his sexuality a secret. What follows is an interesting, emotional, funny (very funny!) story of personal reflection, special friendships and first love. Openly Straight is a book that can be enjoyed by young adults of any sexuality.
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books ISBN: 0-54550989-0
David’s an outsider. He’s smart, sensitive – and convinced he has secret super-powers. Life for him and his brother is a constant whirl of would-be stepfamilies and overbearing friends and relations. And even aged ten, he’s finding he’s not sure what he thinks about fancying girls when 14-year old John down the road seems so much more interesting…
Published by Simon and Schuster ISBN: 0-689-83657-0
Fifteen-year old Kim is horrified when her dad tells her she’s got to leave her posh school and go to infamous Ravendence Comprehensive. How will she survive in this wild and scary teenage jungle? But then Kim meets gorgeous Maria Sweet – better known as Sugar – queen of the ‘Ravers’. Leaving her good girl past far behind, Kim finds herself falling under Sugar’s spell - and asking herself a disturbing question: has she fallen in love with her best friend?
Published by Young Picador ISBN: 0-33041483-2
Girl2girl – the lives of young lesbian and bisexual women
Norrina Rashid and Jane Hoy (editors)
Girls from across the UK write from the heart about being gay or bi, coming out, or falling in love.
Published by DIVA ISBN: 187374145-6
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
Jeanette has issues - "unnatural" ones: her adopted mam thinks she's the Chosen one from God; she's beginning to fancy girls; and an orange demon keeps popping into her psyche.
Brought up in a working-class Pentecostal family, up North, Jeanette follows the path her Mam has set for her. This involves Bible quizzes, a stint as a tambourine-playing Sally Army officer and a future as a missionary in Africa, or some other "heathen state". When Jeanette starts going to school ("The Breeding Ground") and confides in her mother about her feelings for another girl ("Unnatural Passions"), she is swept up in a feverish frenzy for her tainted soul. Confused, angry and alone, Jeanette strikes out on her own path. Mixed in are unconventional fairy tales that transcend the everyday world, subverting the traditional preconceptions of the damsel in distress.
Published by Grove Press ISBN: 9780802135162
Maria Sweet, aka Sugar, is back. Her husband's done a runner, taking their daughter with him, but at least she has a plan: get a job, get some cash and get the hell out of Brighton. And somewhere out there in the big bad world is Kim Lewis, who might just be the Love of Sugar's Life. Sugar's landed herself a stint as a model for local fashion designers Agnew & Bagshawe. But when she discovers they've exploited her, she's hell-bent on vengeance - and that can only lead to chaos.
Published by Young Picador ISBN: 0330453718, 9780330453714
Tipping the Velvet
"Tipping the Velvet" is a historical novel written by Sarah Waters. Set in Victorian England during the 1890s, it tells a coming of age story about a young woman named Nan who falls in love with a male impersonator, follows her to London, and finds various ways to support herself as she journeys through the city. The main character's experiences in the theatrical profession and her perpetual motion through the city allow her to make observations on social conditions while exploring the issues of gender, sexism, and class difference.
Published by Riverhead Books ISBN: 1573227889, 9781573227889
Set in a British military hospital during WWI, this novel blends fact and fiction, drawing its two protagonists from the pages of history. The author of Union Street portrays overwhelmed men who try to come to terms with their outrage of a futile war. Stressed by the war, poet, pacifist, and protestor Siegfried Sassoon is sent to Craiglockhart Hospital, where his views challenge the patriotic vision of Dr. William Rivers, a neurologist assigned to restore the sanity of shell-shocked soldiers.
Published by Plume ISBN: 0452270073, 9780452270077
Carol Ann Duffy
The effortless virtuosity, drama, and humanity of Carol Ann Duffy's verse have made her much-admired among contemporary poets. Her seventh collection, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize, is a book-length love-poem, and a moving act of personal testimony—but what sets these poems apart from other treatments of the subject is Duffy's refusal to simplify the contradictions of love, and read its transformations—infatuation, longing, passion, commitment, rancor, separation, and grief—as either redemptive or destructive. This is a map of real love, in all its churning complexity, simultaneously direct and subtle, showing us that a song can be made of even the most painful episodes in our lives. With poems that will find deep resonance in the experience of most readers, it is a collection that can and does speak for us all.
Published by Picador ISBN: 0330433911, 9780330433914
Orlando: A Biography
Virginia Woolf constructs the figure of Orlando as the fictional embodiment of Woolf's close friend and lover, Vita Sackville-West. Spanning three centuries, the novel opens as Orlando, a young nobleman in Elizabeth's England, awaits a visit from the Queen and traces his experience with first love as England under James I lies locked in the embrace of the Great Frost. At the midpoint of the novel, Orlando, now an ambassador in Costantinople, awakes to find that he is a woman, and the novel indulges in farce and irony to consider the roles of women in the 18th and 19th centuries. As the novel ends in 1928, a year consonant with full suffrage for women. Orlando, now a wife and mother, stands poised at the brink of a future that holds new hope and promise for women.
Published by Wordsworth Editions ISBN: 1853262390, 9781853262395
The History Boys
An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form (or senior) boys in a British boys’ school are, as such boys will be, in pursuit of sex, sport, and a place at a good university - generally in that order. In all their efforts, they are helped and hindered, enlightened and bemused, by a maverick English teacher who seeks to broaden their horizons in sometimes undefined ways, and a young history teacher who questions the methods - as well as the aim - of their schooling. In The History Boys, Alan Bennett evokes the special period and place that the sixth form represents in an English boy’s life. In doing so, he raises not only universal questions about the nature of history and how it is taught but also questions about the purpose of education today.
Published by Faber and Faber ISBN: 0571224644, 9780571224647
Set in the elegant Edwardian world of Cambridge undergraduate life, this story introduces us to Maurice Hall when he is fourteen. We follow him through public school and Cambridge, and on into his father's firm, Hill and Hall, Stock Brokers. In a highly structured society, Maurice is a conventional young man in almost every way, "stepping into the niche that England had prepared for him": except that his is homosexual. Written during 1913 and 1914, immediately after Howards End, and not published until 1971, Maurice was ahead of its time in its theme and in its affirmation that love between men can be happy.
Published by Penguin ISBN: 0141185201, 9780141185200
At the novel's center is Joss Moody, a celebrated jazz trumpeter who created music that convinced everyone who heard it that they knew the man who made it. But Joss's death has proved them all wrong: Joss Moody lived his life inside a stunning secret. His wife, Millie, had known about it. But their adopted son, Colman, now in his thirties, has just learned of it. With everything he understood about himself and his family thrown into question, Colman forms an uncomfortable alliance with a journalist intent on telling Joss's story her own way. Millie, grieving and besieged by the press, secludes herself in their home in a small Scottish village, sinking into the aching solace of memory. Their two voices - one revisiting the past for comfort, the other for answers - are interwoven with the voices of Joss's drummer, of the doctor who discovered Joss's secret, of the funeral director who hid it for the last time, of the registrar of death certificates, and of the journalist. Together they reveal the story of Joss and Millie: how a complex, dazzling lie became the foundation for a family, a life, and a rare, unshakable love.
Published by Pantheon Books ISBN: 0375405097, 9780375405099
Cat On a Hot Tin Roof
Set in "the bed-sitting room of a plantation home in the Mississippi Delta" of a wealthy cotton tycoon, Williams's Pulitzer Prize-winning play has captured both stage and film audiences since its debut in 1954. One of his best-loved and most famous plays, it exposes the lies plaguing the family of a wealthy Southern planter of humble origins.
Published by Signet ISBN: 0451171128, 9780451171122
A high-school sex scandal jolts a group of teenage girls into a new awareness of their own potency and power. The sudden and total publicity seems to turn every act into a performance and every platform into a stage. But when the local drama school decides to turn the scandal into a show, the real world and the world of the theatre are forced to meet, and soon the boundaries between private and public begin to dissolve. "The Rehearsal" explores how girls treat each other in school, and how being in or out of the gang is difficult to navigate. It explores what it is like to embark on a same-sex relationship in school – how other girls treat the one they think is a lesbian and how the girl explores her own feelings against this backdrop. Suitable for Key stage 4 and 5.
Published by Granta Books ISBN-10:1847081169
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