In recent years, light novels have grown in popularity exponentially. They're a very specific genre in Japanese literature that is targeted towards high school and middle school readers, usually in two ways: first, using less complicated vocabulary than novels targeted to an older audience and second, being illustrated in anime and manga style. The most popular stories span many volumes and are in turn usually adapted to both anime and manga, becoming even more popular.
And just like anime and manga, light novels have a ton of different genres to enjoy: while in the West the most known are fantasy and adventure and those whose illustrators are famous for more ecchi manga, it’s possible to find light novels for every taste, including BL stories that can make every fujoshi swoon.
If you are curious about the best BL light novels you can read, here we have a top ten that you will enjoy.
10. Ai Shika Iranee yo (All you need is love)
- Authors: Fuyuno, Jinko (Story), Takatsuki Noboru (Art)
- Genres: Drama, Romance, Yaoi
- Volumes: 2
- Published: 2003
High School is never easy, but when you are the heir of a crime syndicate and your classmates and teachers know this, studying can be a very lonely hell. This is what happens to Uzuki Kobayakawa, as simply no one in his class is interested in talking to him or even walking in the same hallway. Every student, that is, except for Junya Sawa, who decides to ignore everyone’s advice and become Uzuki’s friend. Things get heated quickly until Uzuki’s associates break up the relationship making sure that they never see each other again. But eight years later, fate brings Junya and Uzuki together once again.
“All you need is love” is a story of star-crossed lovers and, who doesn’t love those? What makes it better is the time jump, as we get to see where Junya and Uzuki’s choices took them after their untimely separation in school and how their adult lives have prepared them to fight for their love.
9. Loveless (Loveless: Ephemeral Bonds)
- Authors: Kouga, Yun (Art), Natsui, Aya (Story)
- Genres: Mystery, Drama, Fantasy, Shoujo, Shounen Ai
- Volumes: 2
- Published: July 2008 – April 2009
Ritsuka has been getting used to working with Soubi as both of them are the Loveless pair in the difficult battles against the named ones while looking for his brother Seimei’s murderer. However, everything he thought was true comes into question when a young man named Seiryo Yukiharu appears before him and tells him that he is his real partner. As Seiryo’s voice is very similar to Seimei, Ritsuka wants to believe Seiryo, but going with him would mean breaking his bond with Soubi forever.
If you are a Loveless fan, Ephemeral Bonds is a great read that expands more into the universe created by Yun Kouga. It has the same dark side that we have come to love in the original manga, and it’s obvious early on that there’s something strange going on with Seiryo—especially to those readers who know the truth behind Seimei’s disappearance—but at the same time, Aya Natsui knows how to throw a few unexpected twists into what we think is going to happen making the whole novel a good way to understand Soubi and Ritsuka’s relationship a lot better.
8. Finder no Hyouteki (Finder)
- Mangaka: Yamane, Amano
- Genres: Action, Yaoi
- Volumes: 1
- Published: 2007
The work of a freelance photographer is never easy. There might be some dull moments when all they have to do is take pictures of happy families, but other times, they must go outside and do some paparazzi-like work or hope to stumble into some interesting news in order to pay the bills. Takaba Akihito gets the later one night when he catches Asami Ryuichi, a very handsome yakuza boss, in the middle of a secret deal. Unfortunately for Akihito, he’s not very good at hiding himself so he ends up kidnapped by Asami. And things get worse when Asami decides to prove Akihito who is the boss, and why you never sneak up on a yakuza.
Finder no Hyouteki is the first chapter of the Finder series and the only one that exists in light novel format. The whole series is a very famous BL manga that delves deep into a problematic relationship, but if we’re talking only about this first volume, then what we get is a really dark beginning to a relationship in a "Beauty and the Beast" manner where the Beast is as handsome as the Beauty. A must-read for fans of the manga, and a great way to introduce yourself to the characters if you have never seen any of the Finder series.
7. Karada de Wakaru Koigokoro (Body Language)
- Authors: Enomoto, Tsubaki (art), Morimoto, Aki (Story)
- Genres: Yaoi
- Volumes: 1
- Published: 2004
When you are a college student, rumors can make or break your reputation. Kanae knows this first hand because since he’s not a very sociable person and he’s quite handsome, everyone assumes that he’s some sort of gigolo who will sleep with anyone at least once. At first, Kanae doesn't mind much because he's a virgin and doesn't care for what other people think, but when his crush, the so-called Don Juan of the campus, Yuuichi, comes to him with a proposition, Kanae must decide if he really can have a no-strings-attached relationship with the one he loves, or if he will risk everything and reveal the truth?
Body Language is a novel that gives you exactly what you expect from the title: once Kanade and Yuuichi reach some sort of agreement, there's a lot of sex. There's sex in the classroom, in the bedrooms, and on every horizontal surface the guys can find. This is not to say there isn’t a plot tying all the sex scenes together but the main draw of the book is the many, many sexual escapades Kanae and Yuuichi get to while Kanae is trying to make up his mind about what to do.
6. Sabishigariya no Egotist (The Lonely Egotist)
- Authors: Minase, Masara (Art), Masaki, Hikaru (Story)
- Genres: Drama, Romance, Yaoi
- Volumes: 1
When you start a new job, it’s very important to be ready for anything and to make sure that your client understands your boundaries. Minami Kasuga, a young up-and-coming interior designer, forgot those two simple rules when he got the chance to design a new luxury hotel—he wasn’t ready for the fact that it was going to be a love hotel. Then, when owner Shinya Asakura offered to teach him what he needed to know in order to finish the job, Minami didn’t make clear that he didn’t need a hands-on education. But once he got himself into Asakura’s arms, he wasn’t sure he wanted to leave.
Sabishigariya no Egotist is another sweet and short story that has a lot of sex and little conflict. This is not to say that Minami and Shinya are not interesting characters; to the contrary, we’re very invested in seeing their relationship work. There’s more than enough build-up to the climax, and, to be honest, these are two characters that we would love to see again in a second volume.
5. Sono Yubi dake ga Shitteiru (Only the Ring Finger Knows)
- Authors: Kannagi, Satoru (Story), Odagiri, Hotaru (art)
- Genres: Drama, Romance, Shounen Ai
- Volumes: 5
- Published: July 2001 – September 2008
There’s a very strange custom at Wataru Fujii’s high school that sometimes makes him very uncomfortable: Students buy matching rings to signify they’re involved. And while Wataru is single, he wears a ring that happens to be a perfect twin of the ring that Yuichi Kazuki wears. As Kazuki is the most popular and nicest guy at the school, that wouldn’t a problem but, for some reason, Kazuki seems to hate Wataru. And things don’t get better when they accidentally switch rings and Wataru is forced to seek out Kazuki in order to recover his ring.
Sono Yubi dake ga Shitteiru is a perfect sweet tale for those who are just starting to dip their toes in the BL pool. The first half of the first volume was adapted into a manga of the same name but the story goes beyond the original ring mixup and how Wataru realizes exactly why Kazuki pretended to be cold when people are around, and how others are jealous of their relationship, giving their story a realistic feeling and making you want to see them be happy. It's a lovely read that will leave you with a smile in your face.
- Authors: Aida, Saki (Story), Nara, Chiharu (Art)
- Genres: Drama, Yaoi, Police
- Volumes: 4
- Published: 2005
In order to fight organized crime, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police has created a special division nicknamed “Anti-gang 5” in which every detective is paired with an “S”, a Spy who finds information from the underground in order to feed it to the detective. Of course, for this system to work, trust is the most important element. A Detective must trust his “S” implicitly. Detective Masaki Shiiba has been training a new “S” in order to infiltrate the Matsukura Group. Unfortunately, one day he gets a mysterious call that warns him to “watch out for his S”, but before Shiiba can figure out if that means that his “S” betrayed him, his “S” dies. So now Shiiba has two mysteries to solve.
If you like crime novels, mystery, and intrigue, S is going to be a perfect addition to your collection. While of course, we are more interested into how Masaki will discover the identity of the caller who warned him about his "S" and how they will end up working together, that's not the only thing Aida Saki makes us intrigued about. Be ready for some heartbreak and great surprises if you pick this one up for a good read.
3. Ai no Kusabi
- Authors: Yoshihara, Reiko (Story), Michihara, Katsumi (Art), Nagato, Saichi (Art)
- Genres: Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi, Yaoi
- Volumes: 6
- Published: December 1986 – October 1987
There’s always a dark side to a utopia. The planet Amoi is ruled by a computer named Jupiter and populated by the Elites, humans genetically engineered to be perfect by the computer, and the Blonde elites are the highest ranking of them all. The Elites are sterile and can't have sexual contact, but they are allowed to keep adolescent "Pets" chosen from the Mongrel race (that is to say, the humans not created by the computer). But when Iason Mink, a noble blondie, meets Riki, a very rare blackhaired mongrel, and decides to make him his Pet, not caring if Riki wants to be a Pet or not.
Ai, no Kusabi is one of the classic stories in BL, and with good reason. We have the really interesting story about the relationship between Riki and Iason, where Iason only sees Riki as amusement at first but soon learns to love him, while Riki couldn’t hate Iason more because he never wanted to be a Pet, and yet he still loves him.. And we also we can see how the writers created a world to make a clear critique of social division and resentment, as well as ethical matters of social ranking. A must-read for all BL fans, that is thankfully available in English for all of us to enjoy.
2. Utsukushii Koto
- Authors: Hidaka, Shoko (Art), Konohara, Narise (Story)
- Genres: Drama, Romance, Yaoi, Gender Bender
- Volumes: 2
- Published: 2007 - 2009
When Matsuoka broke up with his girlfriend, he never expected he’d get a taste for cross-dressing in the clothes she left behind. But he did, and he started liking walking into town as a girl whenever he could take some time for himself. One night, a man assaults him, but he’s saved by Hirosue, one of his coworkers who had never given Matsuoka a second glance but seems to be very interested in his female self. Matsuoka decides to date Hirosue, without revealing his true gender. But can he hold the charade for long?
If you can’t get enough of unrequited love stories, Utsukushii Koto is the story for you. There’s a lot of drama and conflict as Matsuoka slowly falls in love with Hirosue but knows that if he reveals the truth about his gender, things will never work out. Or so he thinks, and he is not brave enough to risk it. And so, we, can’t help but feel bad for him as every date progresses and we see that Hirosue would be the perfect man for Matsuoka. If only he could handle the truth.
1. Sekaiichi Hatsukoi: Yokozawa Takafumi no Baai (The World Greatest First Love: The Case of Yokozawa Takafumi)
- Authors: Nakamura, Shungiku (Art), Fujisaki, Miyako (Story)
- Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Yaoi
- Volumes: 1
- Published: 2011
Yokozawa Takafumi is the head of the Sales Department of Marukawa Publishing where he has been witness to the love between Takano Masamune, the Editor in Chief at the Emerald Editing Team in charge of the Shoujo manga for the company, and Ritsu Onodera, the newest editor in the team. This has broken his heart as he really loved Takano, but he understands clearly that Takano is never going to love him. But as he’s trying to drown his sorrows, he meets Kirishima Zen, the editor in chief of Japun, the Shounen manga department of the company. Much to Yokozawa’s surprise, Kirishima seems very interested in starting a relationship with him.
Sekaiichi Hatsukoi: Yokozawa Takafumi no Baai is a spinoff of Sekaiichi Hatsukoi: Onodera Ritsu no Baai, although it can be enjoyed on its own. In particular, the romance between Yokozawa and Kirishima is more mature than the one between Takano and Onodera: They don’t have years of misunderstandings and broken hearts between them, and while Takafumi still holds a candle for Takano, Kirishima doesn't let that discourage him from getting what he wants. Another great novel and a perfect way to start in the BL Light novel-reading world since it's short, but will also give you an opening to enjoy the rest of the novels in the series.
Although light novels are just starting to grow as a market in the West, they have a long tradition in Japan. Little by little, each different genre has had some great title translated to English and other languages so it’s easier to find something we’ll like.
With that in mind, we really want to know which ones are your favorite BL light novels? Are they on our list or you have other recommendations? Have they been adapted to manga or anime? Let us know in the comments below!