“Love and Gelato” by Jenna Evans Welch
A summer getaway to Italy is most 16-year-olds’ dream come true, but that’s not the case for Lina in “Love and Gelato” by Jenna Evans Welch. She’s there to get to know her estranged father at her late mother’s request, determined just to get through the summer in one piece.
But when Lina gets her hands on her mom’s old journal, her attitude toward the trip changes, as she starts learning about romance, secret bakeries, and art. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the handsome Lorenzo, aka Ren, is going on the journey with her.
The journal will help Lina unlock secrets about her mother, giving her a new perspective on both of her parents that will change how she sees love in her own life.
“Hot Dog Girl” by Jennifer Dugan
Getting the guy of your dreams to fall in love with you is hard enough, but it’s even more difficult when you have to make it happen while wearing a hot dog costume. But Eloise (Lou) Parker is determined to do just that as she works at Magic Castle Playland for the summer — in said hot dog costume — where her crush Nick also happens to work as a pirate.
But Nick already has a girlfriend, who literally plays the princess of Magic Castle, and Seely, the carousel operator and Lou’s best friend, doesn’t want to help Lou win him over, even though she’s normally all for her wacky plans.
Lou will have to work through the trial of emotions the summer brings, and they land her somewhere she didn’t anticipate. Jennifer Dugan’s “Hot Dog Girl” is a story about finding love where you least expect it.
“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han
You’re probably familiar with the Netflix adaptation of Jenny Han’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” series, but if you’ve somehow missed the cultural phenomenon, it’s a must-read.
The first book in the series introduces readers to Lara Jean Covey, a middle sister who has a penchant for writing love letters she never intends to send. Lara Jean has written five letters total in her life, and when they somehow get sent without her knowledge, they threaten to wreak havoc on her life, as one of the letters is addressed to her sister’s boyfriend.
The solution to Lara Jean’s problem comes in the form of one of the letter recipients: Peter Kavinsky, the boy who gave her her first kiss and also happened to have been dating her ex-best friend until a few days before Lara Jean’s letters were sent.
Peter and Lara Jean decide to fake a relationship together. Their arrangement will protect Lara Jean from drama with her sister, and it will make Peter’s ex jealous. But when they catch real feelings for each other, their arrangement becomes more complicated than they anticipated.
“What I Like About You” by Marisa Kanter
Halle Levitt never expected to meet Nash in real life. After all, online he knows her as Kels, the creator of a YA book blog that pairs book covers with custom cupcakes. Plus, they live miles apart, telling each other everything from the comfort of their computers.
But when Halle moves to Nash’s small town and meets him in real life, she’s terrified to tell him who she really is. Halle has real feelings for Nash, but his heart is stuck on Kels. How can she tell him she’s both of them without making him feel betrayed?
Offering a fun look at the world of online dating, Marisa Kanter’s “What I Like About You” will warm your heart.
“The Princess Diaries” by Meg Cabot
Anne Hathaway brought “The Princess Diaries” to life alongside Julie Andrews, but the book series of the same name by Meg Cabot existed first — and it’s a bit different than the movie you know and love.
Mia Thermopolis has only known her dad through fleeting visits, and she’s been perfectly content to spend her life with her mom. But as she stumbles through the awkwardness of being 15 years old, both of her parents decide to stir up trouble in her life: Her mom starts dating her teacher, and her dad announces he’s actually the crown prince of Genovia.
Mia is forced into princess lessons with her diva/queen of a grandma, and she’ll have to navigate her newfound royalty alongside the pains of high school, figuring out who she wants to be in the world. The book is the first of 11 novels about Mia’s life, so it’s a great choice if you want to see a long-term YA arc play out.
“Tweet Cute” by Emma Lord
Jack and Pepper are nothing alike. Type-A Pepper has been almost single-handedly keeping her family’s fast-food chain in business by running Big League Burger’s popular Twitter page, and goofball Jack is reluctantly in line to take over his family deli.
When Jack and Pepper get into a Twitter war after Big League Burger steals the recipe for Jack’s family’s cheese recipe, their snarky tweets soon go viral. People start “shipping” them despite their disdain for each other, but even Jack and Pepper don’t know they’ve actually been messaging each other anonymously on an app Jack made.
As they fall for each other in secret, their public feud only gets more attention. Both Jack and Pepper’s feelings brim to the surface in a burst of delightful romance in Emma Lord’s “Tweet Cute.”
“Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli
Later adapted into the movie “Love, Simon,” “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli is a poignantly funny coming-of-age and coming-out story.
Simon Spier hadn’t planned on coming out in high school, as he’s happy to fly under the radar by blending into his friend group and playing a chorus member in the school play.
But when his private emails to an anonymous boy threaten to be leaked, Simon has to navigate how he can come out on his terms without his entire life falling apart.
“You Should See Me In A Crown” by Leah Johnson
In Leah Johnson’s “You Should See Me In A Crown,” Liz Lighty has absolutely no interest in going to prom with the white, rich kids who populate her school. But when the financial aid she needs for college falls through, the scholarship prize for the prom queen seems like her only option.
Liz decides to actively campaign for queen, determined to do whatever it takes to get out of her small town, even if it means schmoozing her classmates.
But her feelings for the new girl Mack, the only person in her town who understands her, might mess up Liz’s plans. Or is Mack the key to her happy ending?
“The Upside of Falling” by Alex Light
17-year-old Becca Hart didn’t plan on making up an imaginary boyfriend. But when her ex-best friend mocks her single status, Becca claims to be secretly dating someone on a whim, pushing down her lack of belief in love for the sake of her reputation.
Football captain Brett Wells, who never has time for dating, overhears Becca’s lie, and he knows it’s the perfect opportunity to stop people from constantly asking him why he’s single. But because they’re basically strangers, keeping up the fake relationship facade proves a bit challenging.
As Becca and Brett get to know each other better, they both realize they’ve experienced hardship few others their age understand. Their feelings race ahead of them, forcing Becca and Brett to decide if their feelings for each other are real or not in “The Upside of Falling” by Alex Light.
“The Best Laid Plans” by Cameron Lund
When Keely realizes all of her friends have had sex but her in Cameron Lund’s “The Best Laid Plans,” she decides to take matters into her own hands. And college student Dean seems like the perfect guy to take things to the next level with — he’s funny, flirty, and has a motorcycle.
But Keely doesn’t want Dean to know she’s never had sex, so she decides to enlist the help of her very experienced best friend Andrew for friends-with-benefits tutorials.
It’s the perfect setup: Andrew can show Keely what sex is all about so she doesn’t feel out of her element with Dean, and it won’t impact their friendship at all. Until, of course, it does.
“Today Tonight Tomorrow” by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have spent all of high school hating each other. When Neil is named valedictorian over Rowan, she knows her last chance to get back at him is through Howl, a game the seniors play that leads them adventuring all over the city.
Rowan and Neil find out a group of their classmates has teamed up against them, so they decide to band together to beat the rest. They can duel it out to see who the final champion will be at the end.
But as they play together, Rowan discovers Neil isn’t what she thought, and her feelings quickly shift from loathing to something that looks a lot more like love in “Today Tonight Tomorrow” by Rachel Lynn Solomon.
“Along for the Ride” by Sarah Dessen
Sarah Dessen is a legend in the YA genre, with 14 novels to her name to date. “Along for the Ride” is just one of many sweet romances in her collection, but the fun beach tale is a great entry point into Dessen’s fictional world.
The novel’s protagonist is Auden, a teen who has been struggling with insomnia since her parents started fighting years ago. Now, the couple is divorced, and Auden’s dad just had a baby with his new wife in the sleepy beach town of Colby. Auden agrees to spend the summer there, thinking she’ll enjoy the downtime before heading off to college in the fall.
The insomnia follows Auden to Colby, which leads her to Eli, a local who also has trouble sleeping. The sleepless duo decide to adventure together, with Eli helping Auden let loose after years of trying to be perfect and Auden giving him space to come to terms with the death of a friend.
Their feelings only get stronger as they spend more nights together, but what will happen when the summer ends?
“More Than Just a Pretty Face” by Syed M. Masood
Chef-to-be Danyal Jilani is handsome, funny, and most of all, confident. He doesn’t care that his dad doesn’t approve of his career, and he knows he can win over his longtime crush, Kaval, eventually, even though she doesn’t think he’s the best arranged husband for her.
Danyal cooks up a plan to win Kaval and his dad over when he’s selected for the Renaissance Man, an academic competition at school. He enlists the help of Bisma, a brilliant peer who couldn’t care less about him, to prepare, but there’s no way he could’ve prepared for the feelings he starts to have for Bisma as they spend more time together.
Syed M. Masood’s “More Than Just a Pretty Face” is about being yourself and finding love in unexpected places.
“Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell
Cath’s whole life feels like it’s changed as she starts college. Her twin sister Wren doesn’t want to be roommates, their father is alone for the first time since their mother left when they were young, there’s a cute guy in her class who has caught her eye, and Cath isn’t sure what to make of her grumpy roommate.
The only thing that’s keeping Cath grounded is the world of “Simon Snow,” a fantasy series that she and Wren have been reading since they were kids. Cath is still a fervent fan, writing “Simon Snow” fan fiction and all but living in online forums. But is her commitment to the fictional world keeping her from embracing the real life in front of her?
“Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell is about Cath’s journey to figure out how she can balance her old life and her new one.
“All-American Girl” by Meg Cabot
“All-American Girl” is one of Meg Cabot’s lesser-known books, but it seethes with the joy and awkwardness of teen love.
It stars Samantha Madison, a teen living in DC who is dealing with normal stuff — like having a crush on her sister’s boyfriend — when she happens to save the president of the United States from an assassination attempt.
In thanks, the president makes her a teen ambassador to the UN, which is weird enough as it is. But when she realizes the first son is in love with her, Sam wants to flee. Full of the tender awkwardness of first love, “All-American Girl” will make you long for the days when being tongue-tied in front of a crush was your biggest worry.
“Frankly In Love” by David Yoon
Even though they don’t even call him by his Korean name, Frank Li’s (aka Sung-Min Li) parents still expect him to marry a Korean girl.
But the only girl Frank wants is Brit Means, a hilarious and sweet nerd just like him — who happens to be white. Determined not to disappoint his parents who have sacrificed everything for him, Frank goes to his friend Joy Song for help, as she’s in a similar position.
Frank and Joy tell their parents they’re dating to keep a cover on their actual love lives, but their fake relationship leads them down a path neither could have expected. David Yoon’s “Frankly In Love” is equal parts coming-of-age story and romance.
“I Kissed Alice” by Anna Birch
“I Kissed Alice” by Anna Birch stars Rhodes and Iliana, two teens who attend Alabama’s Conservatory of the Arts — but that’s where the similarities between them stop. Rhodes is a naturally talented writer — suffering from a secret writer’s block — while Iliana relies on her work ethic to help her make it as an artist.
They’re competing against each other for the Capstone scholarship, making them rivals, but neither Rhodes nor Iliana know they’re simultaneously working on a fan-fiction webcomic together online, as they’re both using aliases.
Their online personas start developing feelings for each other, which is sure to wreak havoc when they find out who they’re really talking to. Or will it?
“Bookish and the Beast” by Ashley Poston
Ashley Poston’s modern adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” has all the romance of the original tale, plus the fun of a modern, YA book.
Rosie Thorne and Vance Reigns shouldn’t have met. But they’re forced together when Hollywood star Vance ends up in Rosie’s small town to hide from the public eye after a scandal. When Rosie accidentally destroys a rare book in the home’s library, the two are stuck together.
Rosie’s friends can’t understand why she isn’t thrilled to be spending time with Vance, who plays in her favorite series “Starfield.” But his surly personality is the last thing she expected, and he doesn’t seem to be too fond of her either.
Yet as they spend more time they spend together, Rosie and Vance might discover that first impressions can be wrong, and that they might be just what the other needs.
“Starry Eyes” by Jenn Bennett
Zorie and Lennon used to be best friends, but after an incident at last year’s homecoming dance, they hate each other with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns.
They begrudgingly go on a camping trip together, assured by the fact that they’ll be with a large group of friends and won’t have to spend time together. But things go awry, and somehow Zorie and Lennon end up abandoned in the woods with only each other for company.
They’ll have to rely on each other to find safety, working through their problems with insults on their journey. The longer they walk, the more they talk, and secrets and hidden feelings are confessed.
But how can they trust that their rekindled feelings are real? “Starry Eyes” by Jenn Bennett is a fun and fresh take on the enemies to lover trope.