The world of Harry Potter is fantastical and teaches about acceptance. It has provided a beacon of hope for many trans people since it was first created, but many folks believe it’s time to leave the original books behind.
If you’re looking for some alternatives to Harry Potter, there’s a growing collection of fantasy and science fiction books that offer magic and suspense. To help get you fill your bookshelves or e-reader’s memory storage, here’s a primer on novels in the fantasy genre, some that are even written by and about transgender and nonbinary people.
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Rick Riordan is at the top of the list, because aside from creating characters and storylines that kids of all ages enjoy, he has endeared himself to the trans community for his vocal and pointed allyship. Some of his earlier works aren’t as inclusive for other marginalized groups, but he has recognized this and is making concerted efforts to do better.
Perseus “Percy” Jackson is a 12-year-old New Yorker with dyslexia and ADHD. He has always felt like an outsider, but after his pre-algebra teacher transforms into an ancient Greek spirit and attacks him, he discovers the truth about his heritage: He is a demigod, the son of Poseidon.
In this first book of a great series, Percy sets out on an epic quest across the United States to recover Zeus’ stolen master lightning bolt and prevent a war of mythical proportions. After that, grab the others books to see what other adventures await him.
The Shadow Hunter Universe by Cassandra Clare
This book series is about Nephilim — half humans, half angels, whose job is to protect the earth. There are mythical creatures galore, from vampires, werewolves, wizards, and faeries. The different races of magical creatures are a subtle depiction of different minorities in our society. And the strict government that oversees their world is used as a critique on abuses of power. So kids can enjoy the fantastical stories and get a history/government lesson in the process. Bonus!
Another bonus: It’s not just one series. It’s four!
Cirque Du Freak: The Saga of Darren Shan by Darren Shan
Similar to HP with a theme of “chosen children” whisked away into a fantasy realm, the Cirque Du Freak series is a classic collection with a horror edge. Turned into a half-vampire by Mr. Crepsley, Darren joins a group of misfits and oddballs who comprise a traveling freak show called the Cirque Du Freak. The series promotes tolerance and celebration of diversity, presented mostly through the vampire war against the cutthroat Vampaneze.
Some of the stories and images in the book are rather graphic and the series does get more explicit in violence as the books go on, similar to how the Harry Potter series ages with its readers. So keep that in mind before picking these up.
The Alchemyst by Michael Scott
Fans of The Sorcerer’s Stone will like this series centered on teenage twins Sophie and Josh Newman. Throughout the six books, the twin deal with an immortal alchemist, Nicholas Flamel who is being kept alive by making the elixir of life.
The series also has an online game called The Codex Master. The object is to get money and guess a secret code composed of a sequence of colored orbs by inputting various sequences and using logic. Smart reading, smart gaming.
In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brenan
In Other Lands makes the list first because it’s a play on the Harry Potter series presented through a queer lens. The story follows Elliot, a grumpy, nerdy, arrogant, rather unlikable version of Harry, who crosses into a parallel magical land called The Borderlands that is filled with elves and mermaids. But over the course of four years training among child soldiers, Elliot grows up. His slow development into a genuinely kind person is a joy to see, as is his awakening to his own bisexuality and to the colonialism, sexism, and racism of Borderlands society. During that time, he attends a magical school, where he meets Luke Sunborn and Serene, forming an alternative and more inclusive Harry, Ron, and Hermione trio.
The Unintentional Time Traveler by Everett Maroon
After Jack Bishop participates in an epilepsy clinical trial, he emerges in a different body — that of a girl named Jacqueline from a previous era. At first Jack believes he’s hallucinating. When realizes he’s not, he has to learn how to navigate these two identities and time periods, both to discover who he really is and save his town. The exploration around gender and sexuality is subtle in the book, but since the author is transgender, the experiences are authentic.
Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker
In a science experiment gone terribly wrong when Felix Yz was three years old, a hyperintelligent fourth-dimensional being became fused inside of him. The creature is friendly, but Felix won’t be able to grow to adulthood while they’re still melded together. So when he is 13, a risky Procedure is planned to separate them…but it may end up killing them both instead.
This book is Felix’s secret blog, a chronicle of the days leading up to the Procedure. The story isn’t directly about a transgender storyline, but readers might get a sense of how a trans teen feels. Overall, it’s a unique and groundbreaking story about how we are all separate, but all connected too.
All Out: The No Longer Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages edited by Shaundra Mitchell
This collection of 17 LGBTQ+ historical fiction short stories centers queer characters — including a reimagining of the classic Little Red Riding Hood story that features a transgender soldier, an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent, and a story about two girls bonding over a shared grief sparked by Kurt Cobain’s death and falling in love.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Pet chronicles the relationship between Jam, a transgender teen who is loved and protected by her family and her entire community, and her best friend, Redemption, a mythical creature who’s come to protect her from a monster that no one else in the novel seems able to admit exists. Jam is selectively mute, choosing to communicate in sign language and use her speaking voice only when necessary. At the age of 3, after being repeatedly misidentified as a “handsome little boy,” she exclaims that she is “Girl! Girl! Girl!”
Author Emezi is Nigerian and fills the book with African oral traditions of storytelling, and even sprinkles in Caribbean terms like “doux-doux” and dishes like salt fish with avocado. This is a lovely book about community, culture, and what safety really means.
Dreadnought: Nemesis by April Daniels
This is the first book in a series that features LGBTQ heroes. In the first book, we meet Danny Tozer, a transgender teen girl who inherits the mantle of the superhero, Dreadnought. This gives her the chance to use superpowers to experience a feminine body and fight transphobic villains.
The next book in the series introduces Kinetiq, a genderqueer superhero, who joins Danny’s fights against evil and helps Danny leave her abusive family.
The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag
The Witch Boy is a graphic novel series about 13-year-old Aster, a trans girl who must find the courage to embrace her powers as a witch, when her parents expect her to become a wizard. Not only does this series represent transgender peoples, it has a diverse POC cast of characters.