In September, the suicide of 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi was a tragic close to a shocking month of gay teens taking their own lives. Clementi’s dormmate secretly recorded the teen having sex with another man, sent out messages on Twitter and broadcast it across the Internet. Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge.

Clementi’s death also brought attention to three other teen suicides–Seth Walsh, Asher Brown and Billy Luca–that occurred in September; all had been bullied over their sexuality. We’ll never know exactly how many LGBT teens have taken their lives because of physical or cyber bullying.

So although the media glare has revealed that bullying is an epidemic, LGBT novelists have long tackled this issue in the pages of their books.

In my own novel, Conquering Venus ($14.95, Vanilla Heart), the story is set in motion by the suicide of a high school student, Peter, fearful that family and friends will abandon him if they discover he is gay. Peter’s boyfriend, Martin, goes to Paris to try and move on with his life, but meets another young man tormented by his sexuality who seems to be heading down the same irrevocable path.

Here are 10 books for teens and adults that confront bullying and suicide in frank language and tone, not to mention providing hope that “it gets better.”

By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters ($16.99, Hyperion).

A bullied high school student trolls a suicide “completers” website determined to get it “right” after several botched attempts. Then she meets a young man dying of cancer, who is just as determined to make sure she lives.

Peters includes information about suicide prevention at the end of the novel.

Bait by Alex Sanchez ($7.99,  Simon & Schuster)

Told from the prospective of the bully, Sanchez charts the course of a 16 year old coming to terms with his abusive past after he is arrested for assaulting a gay teen.

Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford ($8.00, HarperTeen)

A 15 year old tries to commit suicide and wakes up in a juvenile psych ward, where he confront his burgeoning sexuality with the help of three other teens.

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger ($17.99, Simon & Schuster)
Lambda Award Finalist

A transgendered high school student gets support from his family while trying to defend himself from bullies and act on his attraction to the hottest girl in school.

Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Dole ($16.99, HarperTeen)

A Cuban-American girl in a Catholic school is expelled and abandoned by her mother after they discover she is a lesbian.

A Scout is Brave by Greg Novak ($3.99, Amazon Kindle exclusive)

A Native American is bullied at a Boy Scout summer camp as he faces his own sexuality and the traditions of his family.

The Side Door by Jan Donley ($14.95, Spinsters Ink)

A teen gets bullied after coming out at her high school and tries to uncover the secret behind the suicide of another bullied teen, whose death has been hushed up by the small town.

Freak Show by James St. James ($8.99, Puffin)
Lambda Award Finalist

Teenage drag queen Billy (or “gender obscurist” as he calls himself) faced down bullies as he seeks to become the homecoming queen at his conservative high school.

Finlater by Shawn Stewart Ruff ($15.50, Quote)

A book for older teens and adults, this story of a young African American teen and his Jewish boyfriend in 1969 is sexually frank and shows that bigotry and bullying roots are deep. (Reviewed for LLF by Reginald Harris)

Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein ($16.95, Seven Stories Press).

Okay, this isn’t a novel, but it’s definitely a book for bullied teens that belongs on any list. The celebrated transgender writer offers up suggestions from the witty to the controversial, but all with one simple message: “Don’t be mean.”

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22 Responses to “10 LGBT Teen Novels that Tackle Teen Suicide & Bullying”

  1. […] I am a librarian, I feel that I should provide some books to help out. So here is a list of “10 LGBT Books for Teens That Tackle Suicide and Bullying.” Via Lambda Literary.  We probably should acquire one or all for our library, but between […]

  2. 28 October 2010 at 6:36 PM #

    I’ve read half of these! Guess I’ll go and read the other half now. Wonderful list.

  3. 29 October 2010 at 7:00 AM #

    Would like to add Jerome, by William Taylor

  4. 29 October 2010 at 8:55 AM #

    Thanks for this list, and please add my novel SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE HOMOPHOBES. Thanks!

    • 29 October 2010 at 5:57 PM #

      Whoa! I love Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, and books, and camp! I know where my Amazon gift money is going!

  5. 29 October 2010 at 3:51 PM #

    My novel, Rounding Third, which was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award and was a finalist for a San Diego Book Award, also covers these tragic topics and is based in part on my own experiences in high school. I have been asked to write about it for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,’s Writes of Passage and the web site Epochalips. Sadly now, fact is immitating fiction far too often.

  6. 29 October 2010 at 5:53 PM #

    Down to the Bone and By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead are both good, but I don’t remember any suicide-related content in the former or LGBT-related content in the latter (unless you count the author being queer.)

    • 5 November 2010 at 7:45 AM #

      Hi. In Down to the Bone, El Gringo’s T-Girl/drag queen brother gets bullied and beat up by his cop dad before he commits suicide. Che, the teen Laura works with landscaping, is a homophobe/bully.

  7. 29 October 2010 at 6:19 PM #

    The selections deal with bullying as well as suicide. “By the Time You Read This…” is one of the best books I’ve read that deals with teen suicide, so that’s what I chose to include it. I’ve been hearing from a number of folks about other great books. I had a much longer list, so hopefully there will be a sequel to this article soon.

  8. 30 October 2010 at 4:29 AM #

    Thank you for this list. You know, when I started writing Shades of Gay I had no idea there were so many other LGBT books out there, never mind so many other books that deal with suicide. I can’t wait to read these.

    I’m so glad that there are so many resources, factual and fictional, dealing with suicide. I just wish it didn’t have to take so many suicides before the issue got some publicity.

  9. […] Lambda Literary’s list of 10 LGBT teen novels that deal with bullying and suicide. Here’s a more upbeat list for […]

  10. […] 10 LGBT Teen Novels that Tackle Teen Suicide & Bullying Lambda Literary: “So although the media glare has revealed that bullying is an epidemic, LGBT novelists have long tackled this issue in the pages of their books.” […]

  11. […] Click the following link for the full list: […]

  12. 5 November 2010 at 7:51 AM #

    A couple of my YA novels also include bullying of LBGT kids: GOOD MOON RISING, (iUniverse,2005; Farrar, Straus & Giroux,1996), and THE YEAR THEY BURNED THE BOOKS (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1999). Also, my YA novel ENDGAME (Harcourt, 2006) is about a straight boy who, after being brutally bullied in many of the same ways he would have been had he been gay, ends up taking a gun to school and using it.

  13. 5 November 2010 at 7:53 AM #

    Whoops–of course I mean LGBT, not LBGT in my post!!

  14. […] 10 LGBT Teen Novels that Tackle Teen Suicide & Bullying This year is the year people are finally standing up and saying they refuse to be bullied any more. Dan Savage became a voice for every terrified LGBT teen who feared being attacked in the hallways at school. He created his It Gets Better Project to remind kids that this time in their lives is short lived and it DOES get better after graduation so don’t give up now. Lambda Literary put together a list of book that tackle the issue of bullying and unfortunately, teen suicide, in relation to queer identified kids. I have to admit I’ve only read one off the list, but the story descriptions are compelling because the scenarios could happen (and are happening) anywhere. I’m making it a point to tackle more of them in the upcoming year. […]

  15. […] PERFECT FAMILY by Kathryn Shay Bold Strokes Books Featured Do you enjoy to our RSS feeds for posts and comments . You'll never […]

  16. […] the highest risk for both homelessness and suicide. So what can we do? Lambda Literary has a great list of YA books that tackle LGBT issues and suicide head on. This is a great […]

  17. […] Fact:  Unless they are portrayed as abhorrent or tragic, there are no high school novels or literature that deal directly with LGBT relationships.  Suggested reading for the Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum to fight discrimination against LGBT teens:  10 LGBT teen novels that tackle teen suicide and bullying. […]

  18. 4 December 2012 at 8:35 PM #

    Sarah Dessen has impressed me time and time again with her novels!
    If your looking for excellent heart-felt teen novels, check her out!

    I guarantee if you read the first two chapters of What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen from the link below you’ll be hooked. ;)

  19. 16 December 2012 at 7:04 PM #

    What’s up, I desire to subscribe for this blog to get hottest updates, thus where can i do it please assist.

  20. 9 August 2013 at 4:07 PM #

    I just came across a great new book on this topic. It won the Kirkus Star. I couldn’t put it down. “Promise me something” by Sara Kocek

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