Okay, I’m a sucker for any good romance, but YA is the genre where I specialize, so I’ve read a fair share of it. I found a few good lists online, but below I will list my all time favorites. Most of the time, I love romance where the guy is vulnerable (not some perfect hunk) and the heroine convinces us she doesn’t need his love to survive (sorry, Twilight–I mean, I consumed you, but there were some issues).
So here’s a quick list of my top three favs if summer boredom or travel is making you want to feel the love. Why did I pick them? They are straightforward (contemporary, real life), and because I went out of my way to buy the hardback version once I finished them…you know, for the inevitable re-read.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
by Jenny Han
From Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.
I’m sorry. No, wait, I’m not going to apologize. Han has me LOLing maybe more than any other YA author (Jojo Moyes holds that title for me in the adult genre). I absolutely adore Lara Jean, the way she can seem so in charge of herself, and at other times seem a little clueless. But the book has this way of making ordinary life just sing, and we haven’t even gotten to the romance! One heads up…you may need to read all three books to get the full romantic scoop on Lara Jean!
Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell
From Goodreads: Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.
Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
There’s some grit in this story–from language to themes–but in all, it is full of lines that will make you smile and a plot that ends so lovely that it’s impossible not to share. It’s not your classic romance, which, obviously, makes it way better. Oh, and for those of us who are children or teens of the eighties, get ready for a trip back in time.
My Life Next Door
by Huntley Fitzpatrick
From Goodreads: The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.
As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase’s family embraces Samantha – even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?
Political intrigue. Summer setting. First love. Does it get any better? Jase and Samantha are your new kind of star-crossed lovers–people whose families just don’t fit. And the secrets that can come between them could ruin everything. Ah! I love it.
Feel free to post your favorite (real-deal) romances below. Don’t get me wrong… I love paranormal, fantasy, and sci fi. But it takes an author with a great deal of heart to write something real life and make it so incredibly intriguing.