I would highly, highly recommend (OK, I'd go so far as to urge you to read) A.S. King's extraordinary Ask the Passengers. It's one of the truest, and therefore most complicated, stories of a teen dealing with her sexuality that I've read in years - showing brilliantly that it's not the label you put on yourself but the real identity beneath that matters.
I know I'm not alone in saying this -- a few others, like the Man Booker judges, would agree with me! -- but Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies is the best book I've read this year. Riveting in its tense progress, profound in its psychological explorations, and startlingly stylish in its sentences.
I'd like to nominate Dreaming in French by Alice Kaplan. It's about the Paris years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis. It shows how Paris functioned differently for them -- as a place to acquire social poise and contacts, of sexual liberation, or immersion in radical politics.
I realize that Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding came out in 2011, but was a hit in 2012! I would love to make an exception: I loved that book! I loved the physical and emotional worlds Harbach created in his novel, making his college campus a place I wanted to return to day after day. The advocate in me loves that he wrote a best-seller with a central love story that involves two men of very different backgrounds who unpredictably but believably and very compellingly fell in love. The writer in me admires his descriptions and the many touches that made his novel great. One of Harbach's central characters is Mike Schwartz, a strong but also tender guy whose vision for what everyone can achieve is infectious. The novel itself, to me, is like Mike: ambitious, generous and unforgettable.
Full disclosure: Margot Livesey read my novel before publication and is quoted on the jacket. But my admiration is truly based on her enormous talent. Set in the 1960s in Scotland, The Flight of Gemma Hardy follows a quasi-orphan named Gemma Hardy through many hardships and adventures. Some scenes, like a bitterly cold night Gemma spends fighting hunger and trying to find a safe place to lay her head, will stay with me forever. It was also a nice bonus that one of the few happy homes Gemma encounters belongs to a pair of kind, elderly lesbians.
I was drawn to Perla because it was set in South America and the author, Carolina De Robertis, was of Uruguayan descent and, since I'm from Uruguay, I was curious. Then, after reading and enjoying it, my book club and I wanted to know more about the author, and we learned she also happens to be gay. Perla tells the story of a young woman visited by the soaking wet ghost of her father, who refuses to leave and whose presence leads her to confront her adoptive family's secrets. De Robertis employs very poetic and descriptive language and nicely marries the politics of South America with the politics of family.