Sometimes I like to put off a “couldn’t care less about love” vibe, but truthfully I’m a sap at heart. I’ll fall for anything: hate to love, best friends to lovers, forbidden love, meet-cutes of all kinds. Romance is compelling because it speaks to our deepest desires and our innate drive to connect with other people. And, you know…smooching. If you’re into that.
While romantic love is not the end-all-be-all kind of love, it sure is fun (and HAWT) to read about it. And so in honor of LOVE day, here are some of my favorite YA contemporaries about falling in love for the first time 💖! SA-WOON.
The Revolution Of Birdie Randolph
Booker and Dove are beautiful little cinnamon rolls who deserve everything they want in the world. What I love most about Dove and Booker’s relationship is how both of them are so thoughtful and conscious of each other, while also acknowledging that they are both hotties. Their exploration and discoveries are tender and explosive—all while being respectful of the other person’s boundaries. Why, oh, why can’t I find a real life Booker?
I Believe In A Thing Called Love
by Maureen Goo
Desi’s path to love is too funny and too relatable. Except for the getting in a car crash on purpose thing…I adore how endearingly dramatic and awkward Desi can be, and can totally relate to how all-consuming and dramatic a first real crush can feel. This book could melt a heart as cold as a Fjerdan glacier.
The Summer Of Us
One of the tropes I’ll never get sick of is falling in love on a road/international trip. When there’s adventures to be had, foreign places to see, and new faces to smooch, anything can happen! Throw it together with a friend group with a complicated romantic past, a queer #OwnVoices relationship, and snapshots of Amsterdam, Prague, and Florence, and you’ve got an ideal romance read.
Hello, Goodbye, And Everything In Between
by Jennifer E. Smith
When I read this book at the end of high school, I properly bawled my eyes out. I think this book’s special because it captures just how hard it is to leave your first love, even if it’s the right choice. Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between captures the power and magic of first love, but also how we move forward even when we still love that person.
You Know Me Well
by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
Another book that I read and properly bawled my eyes out in high school, You Know Me Well captures two tales as old as time: for Mark—how to get over your first love, and for Kate—how to let yourself fall into first love. Mark and Kate are earnest and hopeful, as are their individual romantic storylines. This one made me cry happy AND sad tears—which the best love stories always do.
The Mighty Heart Of Sunny St. James
by Ashley Herring Blake
Okay, this book’s technically not YA, but it made me feel all the feels so I NEEDED to include it in this listicle. Watching 12-year-old Sunny try and fail to deny her feelings for Quinn is utterly adorable—I mean, not the homophobia part. But the butterflies-in-her-stomach and Sunny’s struggle to figure out whether she wants to be Quinn or kiss Quinn part. Sunny and Quinn prove that you’re never too young to fall in good and true love <3.
The Sun Is Also a Star
by Nicola Yoon
I ship Daniel and Natasha too hard, and not just because Daniel is the sweetest and Natasha deserves a break. Something I loved about how Nicola Yoon structures the story is how she gives historical context to seemingly insignificant moments (that chapter about the racism behind Korean-owned black hair care shops KILLED ME). Daniel and Natasha’s romance is not contained to their own story—you’re not just watching them overcome their own personal histories, but overcome centuries old systems of racism and classism. Their love feels sweeping and revolutionary because it is. SaWOOON.
What’s your favorite romantic love story? Non-romantic love story? Anti-romantic love story? TELL US EVERYTHING.