The YA or “young adult” category of books exploded in popularity when one boy wizard hit the shelves in the late 90s, and it hasn’t shown any signs of slowing since then. After the Twilight craze, books in the subgenre “young adult romance” also dominated the bestseller lists. If you are a fan of YA fiction, you will love our list of the best romantic books for young adults!
YA books are written with 12 to 18-year-old readers in mind, but they can also be entertaining for older romance lovers! For a book to be considered YA, at least one of the protagonists must be a teenager — generally between 15 and 19. Younger protagonists tend to put the book in the “middle grades” genre.
Best Romantic Books for Young Adults
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Hazel has always known how her story was going to end — even with miracle meds, but what she didn’t expect was a handsome human plot twist. When Augustus Waters shows up at the Cancer Child Support Group, Hazel finds herself imagining an entirely different ending.
Award-winning author John Green gives readers a heartbreaking romance that is as insightful as it is raw (for more authors like John Green, find our favorites here). It isn’t a typical “Cancer Book” as it shows kids — albeit sick ones — being kids. Hazel is a real girl, not a heroic caricature. She watches silly reality shows and has a regular teenage crush.
The teens in The Fault in Our Stars have all-consuming illnesses, but their sicknesses do not define them. Green has created a beautiful romance that is sensitive and real for those teens (and families) dealing with a terminal disease.
Grab your tissues and your copy of The Fault in Our Stars here.
Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry by Joya Goffney
Quinn is the queen of lists. She keeps lists on just about everything — days she’s ugly cried, boys she’d like to kiss, and a whole slew of other topics she’d rather not see the light of day. Lists keep her grounded. But when her journal goes missing, Quinn finds herself at the mercy of a blackmailer. To save herself from mortal embarrassment, she teams up with Carter Bennett to track down her journal before her lists go public.
Goffney has created a novel full of humor, inspiration, and (of course) romance. It shows readers what finding courage looks like and expresses the freedom of embracing one’s authenticity.
Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry starts conversations about honesty, friendship, and race. It is a timely novel full of less-than-perfect characters that will leave you charmed.
Discover the electric chemistry between Carter and Quinn here.
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menin
A newly graduated Dimple is ready for a break. While she loves and respects her family, she is ready to get away from a mother constantly looking for Dimple’s “Ideal Indian Husband.” But Dimple’s attendance at a summer program puts her in the orbit of traditional Rishi, and she finds that perhaps her parents’ “suggested arrangement” isn’t so terrible after all.
New York Times bestselling author Menon introduces cultural themes and expectations that will ring true for many Indian teens but will still resonate with readers of other backgrounds. Romance buffs will love the swoon-worthy sparks flying between the couple in this hilarious and heart-warming narrative.
When Dimple Met Rishi is a perfectly penned story that explores the idea of finding the balance between our passions and what is practical.
See if Dimple and Rishi chose tradition here.
The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Surviving the blood fever left Adelina with silver hair, a jagged scar, and a father who thinks she’s an abomination. But there are rumors that survivors sometimes possess mysterious gifts, and Adelina certainly has abilities not of this world. Her powers put her on a collision course with Enzo, a Dagger Society member, and Teren, the king’s hand tasked with destroying those deemed to be dangerous.
Lu, a New York Times bestselling author, is a master at raising the stakes. In this complicated “coming of age” romance, Lu has built a world you will want to get lost in. Readers are sure to want to consume the entire series!
Described as X-Men meets Game of Thrones, The Young Elites explores fear’s power and how people buck against it. It is a narrative full of betrayal, near escapes, and pulse-racing action.
See how Adelina fares with your copy of The Young Elites.
The Betrayed by Kiera Cass
Hollis is busy adjusting to her new life after fleeing her homeland — leaving life with her beloved behind. While she has found a bit of peace, the tensions between her and her cousin Etan and the unrest in her new locale could make it all fall apart. But if the kingdom is going to be saved, Hollis and Etan will have to put away their differences.
The Betrayed is the second in Cass’s fantasy series, and while the plot borders on predictable, the characters and world make for a satisfying read. It is like the novel equivalent of comfort food.
Fans of the series and those who enjoy likable characters will be charmed by The Betrayed. The action-packed ending will leave you ready for more.
Grab a copy of The Betrayed on Amazon.
Geekerella by Ashley Poston
Elle is a total Starfield nerd. So, when she learns of a cosplay contest that could get her an invitation to an exclusive con AND a meet-and-greet with the hunky actor playing the lead role in the reboot, she had to enter. But Elle’s stepsisters may just dash her fandom dreams.
Poston has created delightful characters in Elle and the nerd-turned-heartthrob Darien. The uplifting YA romance will thrill every preteen heart — and those who have already left their preteen days behind. It is hilarious and emotional and makes a timeless tale feel fresh.
A nerdy play on a classic fairytale, Geekerella is an adorable romance that loves nerd culture and definitely isn’t making fun of it! Readers in any fandom will identify with Elle’s Starfield obsession and root for her romance with the hero!
Will Elle win the contest and Darien’s heart? Find out here.
I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
After moving to Alabama from California, all Chloe wants is to be valedictorian of her Christian high school. There’s only one thing standing in her way: the perfect prom queen, Shara Wheeler. But just days away from graduation, Shara kisses Chloe…and disappears. Now, Chloe is hunting for answers, and Shara, trying to untangle the clues and get her nemesis back before graduation. So she can beat her for the valedictorian seat properly.
New York Times bestseller McQuiston gives readers a puzzling secret to unravel in a sleepy Alabama town with just a little unexpected love along the way. Readers will love following Chloe as she breaks a few rules and gets a little bit messy.
McQuston’s stories often follow fish-out-of-water characters who, whether they are in a new town or a new time, learn things about themselves they would never have thought were true. They challenge the readers to examine their own lives and seek to learn their own hidden truths.
Find out where Shara is hiding here.
Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore
Those who live around the lake have all heard the rumors of the half-air, half-water world that exists beneath it. However, two people, Bastian and Lore, know the stories are actually true. But when the world beneath starts drifting to the surface, the two are forced to team up — but that means Lore and Bastian will need to trust each other with the truths they are both trying to hide.
McLemore uses her characteristic prose to create a vivid world full of magic, emotion, and love. The story is very affirming for those with neurodivergence — Bastian has ADHD, and Lore is dyslexic.
Lakelore confronts the characters’ trauma and dissects their internalized shame with gentle humor and many sincere moments. Both Bastian and Lore show internal growth, and readers will be drawn in by the family and friend characters as well.
Find out if Lore and Bastian manage to work together in Lakelore.
Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz
As the American Revolution churns in the distance, a distinguished New York family prepares for their grand ball. Three proud daughters, Eliza, Angelica, and Peggy, are brimming with excitement at the news that Washington’s “right-hand man” will be in attendance. When Eliza and Alexander meet, it is the beginning of a love story for the ages.
Tapping into the Hamilton fever, de la Cruz pens a charming romance putting Eliza in the spotlight. Alexander is, of course, impressive, but readers will be drawn in by Eliza’s passion and intelligence.
Alex & Eliza expertly weaves historical facts with a bit of added love story fiction. It’s the perfect accompaniment to your Broadway soundtrack.
Grab a copy of Alex & Eliza on Amazon.
My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Samantha watches the Garrett family from her balcony. She loves the way they are so loud and affectionate, so when she falls in love with Jase Garrett, Samantha thinks she has found everything she ever wanted. Still, a single (impossible!) decision may mean choosing her newfound messy family, her perfect senator mom, or herself.
Fitzpatrick has created nuanced characters wrapped up in beautiful prose that you will fall in love with. The honesty and humor with which the author covers heavy topics like addiction and politics will have you laughing while contemplating the intricacies of life and family.
It is an excellent summer page-turner, but the characters are sure to stick with you long after you’ve reached the book’s conclusion.
Which “perfect” family will Samantha choose?
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Lara Jean has five unsent love letters — one for each boy she’s loved in her 16 years of life. The letters weren’t ever supposed to see the light of day, but her little sister decided the letters were too important to sit in an old hat box. Now, Lara Jean has to team up with letter-receiver Peter to convince her sister’s ex-boyfriend that she has no feelings for him. But will Peter and Lara Jean accidentally pretend-date themselves into a real relationship?
Now a Netflix franchise, Han has created a gaggle of relatable and loveable characters that are so fun to read (and watch!) It’s a high school romance story that is a little cheesy but in all the right ways.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a fun and easy read, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to fall in love with Peter and Lara Jean! The dynamics of the father-daughter relationship are also a lovely element woven through the story.
Find out how each of Lara Jean’s crushes reacts to their love letter.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
In 1950s America, Lily’s attraction to Kathleen Miller is not only frowned upon, but it could also be downright dangerous. Add in the “Red Scare,” and a Chinese American girl would be risking everything to start a lesbian love affair. But something about Kathleen makes everything else — even her father’s possible deportation — seem less scary.
Lo was awarded the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for her novel, which explores the experience of being a member of two marginalized communities. It is a complex tale that will enthrall both YA and adult readers.
Last Night at the Telegraph Club is a story of daring and realism but also contains hope, bravery, and love. The story explores themes that are as complicated today as they were in the 1950s.
Fall in love with Lily with your own copy of Last Night at the Telegraph Club.
Salaam, With Love by Sara Sharaf Beg
Dua isn’t thrilled about how her visit to New York City has turned out. She didn’t see herself spending her days in the Big Apple crammed into a tiny house in Queens, fasting all day, and failing to connect with her cousin Mahnoor. But there is one spark of light, the super cute drummer named Hassan.
Beg’s novel engages the reader with characters that are relatable even to those outside the Pakistani culture. As Dua learns more about her family and her faith, the reader is left to explore their own ideas of how the two intersect.
While Beg has written an inviting story, a moment of violence may be triggering for some readers — especially those who have dealt with a racially-charged incident.
Will Dua ever connect with her cousin or the cute drummer? Find out here.
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Juliette has been cursed with unimaginable power — the ability to kill with a single touch. But what Juliette sees as a curse, The Reestablishment sees as an opportunity. Not wanting to be used as a weapon, Juliette has to learn to fight for herself, but she may not have to do it alone.
Mafi has created a dystopian world where birds no longer fly, and the population is riddled with disease. But even with all of the terror and drama, Mafi still manages to offer a tingling romance that will leave you begging for the sequel.
Watch Juliette learn to live with her killer touch here.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Simon loves drama…when it’s on the stage. But when one of his emails threatens to expose his secret –Simon gets more than his fair share of drama. Now, he finds himself way out of his comfort zone, trying for a possible shot at happiness. But can he do it without compromising his friendships and himself?
Albertalli gives us a funny yet poignant tale that was made into a hit movie called “Love, Simon.” As a debut novel, Albertalli has hit it out of the ballpark with a coming-of-age and coming-out story for the 21st century.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a hopeful novel sprinkled with just a little bit of mystery as we try to figure out the identity of Blue. You’ll be rooting for different characters along the way!
See if you can guess Blue’s identity before Simon does here.
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
Popular Hani is easy-going and loved by her friend group, but when she comes out as bisexual, no one believes her because Hani has only dated boys. In an effort to prove her sexuality, Hani claims she has a girlfriend — the unpopular overachiever Ishu. In a surprise turn of events, Ishu actually agrees to fake date Hani in hopes of improving her popularity, but fake dating starts to turn into real feelings.
Jaigirdar is a critically acclaimed Bangladeshi and Irish writer who has two best-sellers under her belt. Her stories are full of heart, with unique and 100% charming characters.
Those drawn to the fake-dating romantic genre will surely fall in love with this YA romance. But the story will keep you drawn in by the friendships and family bonds it also portrays.
Find out if fake dating leads to real romance here.
This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi
Alizeh may look like a simple servant — even with her unique eyes, but she is actually the lost heir to an ancient kingdom. Kamran, the crown prince, finds he is inexplicably drawn to the servant girl, but she may be the undoing of his reign and quite possibly the entire world.
Mafi has created a forbidden romance that has been adored by thousands of readers, making it a bestseller on multiple lists, including Publishers Weekly, the New York Times, and USA Today. This Woven Kingdom is the first novel in a three-book fantasy trilogy.
Fans of intrigue, revolution, and magic will adore this perfectly crafted fantasy romance. The world-building is spectacular, and there are enough twists to keep you turning the pages at a furious rate.
Find out how Alizeh breaks free from her servant role and takes up the mantle she was born to hold.
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Natasha is all about facts. She doesn’t put faith in things like destiny, fate, or dreams. Daniel always lives up to others’ expectations being a good son and student. But when he sees Natasha on a New York City street, his inner poet has him wondering what fate has in store for them both.
Yoon is a Jamaican-American author who has hit the New York Times best-seller list and had two of her books turned into films. In addition to The Sun Is Also a Star, her novel Everything, Everything made it to the silver screen.
The Sun Is Also a Star is an easy story to get lost in. The two beautifully unique characters react to their circumstances in reasonable and organic ways, and the chemistry between them jumps off the page.
Find out what fate has planned for Daniel and Natasha here.
Beauty and the Besharam by Lillie Vale
Kavya used to be told she’s too much, or in other words, a besharam. But after a messy public breakup, Kavya decides to tone it down for the summer. The only problem is she gets paired with Ian — her arch nemesis — at her summer job. Tired of their constant feuding, Ian and Kavya’s friends create a competition so the duo can finally crown a winner. But the desire to win may not be the only feeling heating up.
Vale has created a witty novel full of hilarious banter and a hot romance to boot. YA readers who are also fans of Emma Lord or Sandhya Menon should love Beauty and the Besharam.
Set in a small town in Indiana, Beauty and the Besharam offers a plot driven by character development, and the cast of personalities is very diverse. Vale doesn’t paint the romantic relationship as the only one that matters. Equal weight is also given to family bonds and platonic friendships, which is a refreshing take in the romance genre.
See whether the competition crowns a winner or if the pair decide to start working together.
Anna & the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Anna had the perfect senior year planned: a good part-time job, an amazing best friend, and a cute crush. However, it all comes crashing down when she gets shipped off to a French boarding school. But things aren’t all bad in Paris, especially when Anna meets the swoon-worthy Etienne St. Clair. There’s just one minor problem with Anna’s French crush; he’s already taken.
The New York Times bestselling author creates a cute novel with a fun love story, and it especially hits the mark for those who love everything about Paris. Perkins does a great job of adding enough drama to keep the pages turning.
While some of Anna’s decisions border on frustrating, they do feel pretty organic for a fish-out-of-water teen. But overall, it’s a solid story with a fun cast of characters.
Will Anna’s crush on Etienne turn into something more? Find out here.
Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Rowan and Neil’s rivalry has lasted throughout high school. They’ve attempted to outdo each other on everything from test scores to pull-ups in gym class. Now it’s the last day of senior year, and Rowan and Neil team up to win the scavenger hunt and the $5,000 prize. But what started as a strategy to win may blossom into something deeper for both of them.
Solomon has created an intimate romance between two characters that feel extremely real. The banter is clever, and the teens discuss real-world issues like anti-Semitism and class differences.
Readers love the slow-burn love story, and many relate to the cultural discussions the characters share. The story plays out across Seattle while the pair play the scavenger hunt game making the city itself nearly feel like another character in the story.
Enjoy Rowan and Neil’s journey from enemies to something more.
Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
After fleeing her coven and giving up magic, Louise has found refuge in a city that doesn’t take too kindly to witches. Reid is a huntsman sworn to stamp out witchcraft by the Church. But as events force Louise and Reid into marriage, can she continue to hide what she is? As feelings grow between the pair, choices will have to be made.
Mahurin’s writing is superb, giving readers a forbidden love fantasy novel that will have them begging for more. Luckily, Serpent & Dove is the first in a trilogy!
The world-building in this book is top-notch, and the tension keeps rising, making it near impossible to put down. And while the romance takes center stage in the plot, Mahurin doesn’t skimp on the fantasy elements.
Will Louise keep her secret? Find out with a copy of Serpent & Dove from Amazon.
You, Me, and Our Heartstrings by Melissa See
Risk-taker Daisy and prodigy cellist Noah both want to get into Juilliard, and they both hope to use the holiday concert to snag an audition. But when they get paired together, each worries the other’s style will knock them off their game. To everyone’s surprise, the two put on a viral performance that has the whole country writing their love story. But Daisy doesn’t want her disability to define her, and Noah isn’t faring well with all the attention. Will the cost of their dreams — and their connection — be too high?
Author Melissa See, herself a disabled musician, shines a light on the way disabled people are often patronized in the media. The realism will feel uncomfortable for some, but it should spark thought-provoking conversations.
Readers love Daisy’s self-assured attitude, and a lot of insight can be gleaned from the therapy sessions Noah attends. It also explores the aftermath of a viral moment on the people who have to live with the fame.
See if these two musicians manage to stay together and get to Julliard.
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Scarlett has big dreams that go well beyond her little island and the demands of her abusive father. With the help of a sailor, her sister, Tella, puts Scarlett on the path to her biggest dream: seeing the show Caraval in person. However, the plan goes awry as Tella finds herself in the center of the dangerous game, changing Scarlett’s Caraval experience goes from spectator to participant.
Garber has created an epic tale of intrigue, danger, love, magic, and sisterly bonds. It is a sweeping world as whimsical as it is vicious, and it leaves you feeling like you just experienced a vivid dream.
While readers are sure to fall in love with Scarlett, the other characters in the book remain a bit more mysterious, with unclear motives. This writing style helps put you even more firmly in Scarlett’s shoes as you also try to figure out who to trust alongside her.
Experience Caraval for yourself with a copy from Amazon.
All the Right Reasons by Bethany Mangle
Cara hates her new stepmom, but she didn’t expect a rant video about her to go viral. Now, her popularity has snagged her and her mom a spot on a new hit reality dating show for single moms. The whole debacle is pushing Cara way out of her comfort zone. And then there’s Connor. As the son of one of the contestants vying for her mom’s affections, he is decidedly off-limits. Only someone forgot to give that message to her feelings.
Mangle has created a fun, low-stakes novel that makes for an excellent beach read. The story builds slowly but offers a nice twist ending to give you a satisfying wrap-up.
All the Right Reasons gives fans of reality TV an inside look while also expertly navigating post-divorce relationships with authenticity. Those of biracial descent will also be able to see themselves in Cara.
Find out if Cara and Connor can make a go at romance here.
The Selection by Kiera Cass
Anyone else would count America as lucky for being chosen in the Selection. She has the chance to escape her caste and win the chance of a gorgeous prince. But America has already found love, and she doesn’t want a crown anyway. Upon actually meeting the Prince, America starts to wonder if the future she’s planned is the one she wants after all.
Cass delivers a world of fantasy romance with characters to make you swoon. The intrigue is mixed up with fairy-tale charm and glittering gowns. If you love stories like Divergent, you should find The Selection right up your alley.
Dystopian literature at its finest, The Selection is a fast read with characters you can’t get enough of. Plus, Cass has done excellent world-building allowing you to fly through the pages like you are watching a movie.
Will Cass win the hand of the prince or stay true to her secret love?
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
At 16, Tessa wasn’t prepared for London’s Downworld full of warlocks, vampires, and other supernatural peoples. She traveled to the city seeking her brother, but there are those in the city who want Tessa for themselves. Tessa’s powers make her a target for those that would use her, and she is forced to seek refuge at the London Institute with the Shadowhunters. There she enlists the help of two boys, James and Will, in the search for her brother. But circumstances may have her making choices she isn’t prepared to have to make.
Clockwork Angel belongs in the world created by the ever-popular Mortal Instruments series, and it offers just as much magic and excitement as the trilogy. Plus, the historical setting of Victorian London adds spectacular charm to the storyline.
Clare is excellent at creating characters that readers fall in love with, and the ones populating the pages of Clockwork Angel are no exception —good, bad, and morally gray. You’ll be glued to the page until the very end of the tale.
See if Tessa finds her brother here.
Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi
Pablo, a college dropout, struggles to pay his student loans and credit card debt with the pay from his 3rd shift deli job. Leanna is an international pop icon who spends her days signing autographs and whisking around the world on private planes. They come from decidedly different worlds, but that didn’t stop the sparks from flying when they had a chance meeting at 5 am. The pair find they have a lot more in common than they thought and begin to rely on each other more and more. Can a bodega worker and a popstar be a thing?
As a pop culture journalist, Choi spent time jet-setting with the likes of Rihanna — so she knows a thing or two about stardom. Her depiction of Leanna feels very authentic, and while her life may be outside the realm of what most readers can imagine, her emotional struggles are not.
Permanent Record is a fun and adorable read. The courtship is juicy, and the dialogue is hilarious at times. While it may seem that the pairing is impossible, you will find yourself rooting for Pablo and Leanna.
Can the popstar and the bodega worker make it work? Find out here.
TJ Powar Has Something to Prove by Jesmeen Kaur Deo
Pretty and popular, TJ takes a stand when a meme making fun of her cousin goes around the school. The meme making fun of female body hair sets TJ on a hair removal protest. But giving up her razors and wax starts to chip away at TJ’s self-esteem. However, there is a boy on a rival debate team that thinks TJ is beautiful just the way she is. Winning the debate may be TJ’s ultimate goal, but what will it cost her?
Deo tackles the unfair beauty expectations set on women in TJ Powar Has Something to Prove while also creating a sweet rom-com. The story is as insightful as it is entertaining.
Readers are sure to fall in love with TJ Power, and the themes in the novel will inspire deep thoughts and conversations. But things don’t get too heavy as the banter between characters is delightfully fun.
Find out if TJ wins her debate here.
Counting Down with You by Tashie Bhuiyan
While her parents visit Bangladesh for a month, Karina agrees to pretend-date the school bad-boy, Ace. Even tutoring Ace puts Karina in danger of breaking her parents’ strict rules, but Ace is hard to resist with the way he charms her friends, brings her coffee each morning, and promises to buy her all the books she can read. At first, Karina is counting the days until the charade is over, but as she spends more time with her fake boyfriend, she starts to forget it is all pretend.
Bhuiyan’s debut YA romance is as witty as it is romantic. Readers are sure to enjoy the dynamic between the lovebirds, but they will really be drawn in by the insightful themes found in the pages.
Grab a copy of Counting Down to add to your YA collection.
Can a 12-year-old read romance books?
There are romance novels appropriate for those in the 12-18 age range. Books labeled as Young Adult or YA are generally appropriate for teens, but some parents may want 12-year-olds to stick to books marked “middle grade”.
Has a 13-year-old ever published a book?
Yes! The Shadow Thief was published in 2007. Its author, Alexandra Adornetto, was 13 at the time of publishing.
At what age do people start reading romance novels?
Studies have found that 71% of the people who read the romance genre picked up their first romance book at the age of 16.
What is the target age for YA novels?
YA books are written for those aged between 12 and 18. However, there is some overlap on the bottom end of that age range, as middle-grade fiction is meant for those 8 to 12.
How long is the average YA romance novel?
Romance novels, both YA and adult, tend to fall between 50 and 90k words.
What percentage of adults read YA books?
Of YA readers surveyed, about 55% of them were actually over the age of 18.
What is the most popular YA book genre?
The most popular genres in YA fiction are dystopian, contemporary fiction, romance, and fantasy.