I’ll never forget the day I went to the bookstore with two of my best friends, all of us recent high school graduates, and as we walked between the shelves I suddenly found myself alone in the young adult section. Where had my friends gone? Up until that day we had spent years scouring the shelves of the YA sections of libraries and bookstores together. We’d choose stacks of YA books to bring home and end up swapping them between ourselves all year long. We even got to the point of reading the same copy of Twilight at the same time when we hung out together. I kid you not. The person sitting in the middle held the book, and we all raised our pinkies when we were ready for a page turn. I am simultaneously embarrassed and proud of our teenage selves. Those were the good old days.
This particular day, though, as we visited the bookstore post–high school, my friends seemed to have come to an unspoken understanding. The YA section no longer held the same priority for them that it once did. Setting off in search of my friends, I wandered amongst the shelves until I found them in adult fiction. How did they know it was time to move on to adult books? I still clung to my YA reads like life rafts. Back then, I wish I’d known there is an excellent in-between genre that spans these years of change between high school and full-fledged adulthood. That’s where new adult books come in. Goodreads defines new adult books as those that feature protagonists between 18 and 25 years old, or more broadly between the ages of 18 and 30 years old.
Despite growing up (do we ever really though?), I’ve always stayed constant in my love for young adult books; they’re exceptional reads at any age. However, sometimes I’m in the mood to read a book with a protagonist closer to my age. I like getting drawn into a character’s world who may be experiencing a relatable phase in life for me, whether it’s moving out from home, going back to grad school, starting your first job fresh out of college, or trying to figure out what you want to do with your life. I crave books with these themes, and new adult books deliver.
When it comes to new adult books, new adult romance books are my favorite. I love the cozy, feel-good, comfort of the new adult romance genre with its happily ever afters for characters my age. It adds an extra layer of fun to read about situations I can envision myself in. As with YA though, new adult books can be enjoyed at any age. So, if you’re looking for some sweet new adult romance books for a delightful summer read, browse below!
Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
If you’re looking for a good new adult read, Korean American author Mary H.K. Choi has written multiple books that star endearing college-aged protagonists. This poignant new adult romance book follows Penny Lee as she escapes her hometown life to begin college studying writing in Austin, Texas. Sam, on the other hand, struggles to keep hold of his dream to become a movie director while living in the storage room above the cafe he works at. When Penny and Sam meet, something sparks between them. Swapping numbers, they begin a texting relationship where they feel safe sharing their deepest worries and feelings.
Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert
This queer new adult romance takes place at one of my favorite meet-cute locations: a gaming convention! It also promises enemies-to-lovers and “just one bed” tropes, which are always a plus. Popular Conrad Stewart may seem cool and collected on the outside, but deep down the turmoil of his life brews. Jewish, Neurodivergent, and brilliant gamer Alden Roth keeps his own feelings buried too. When it comes to the world of tabletop games, these two are arch-rivals, but a cross country road trip to a fan convention may be just what they need for their real feelings to show.
If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy
Written by Julie Murphy, bestselling author of Dumplin’, this body positive retelling of Cinderella makes for an incredibly sweet and feel-good new adult romance. Rather than at the start of her college career, the protagonist of this novel has just graduated with her degree in shoe design. While working on the reality TV show Before Midnight that her stepmom produces, Cindy lands a spot as one of the contestants in a last minute opening. As the only plus size woman in the competition, Cindy soon finds herself growing into a body-positivity icon and finding love along the way too.
Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon
For a cute and fun WLW new adult romance, check out this delightful one by Rebekah Weatherspoon. Other than her sister’s bachelorette party, Alexis Chambers has been having a rough year, and her expectations of her approaching freshman year of college are just as low. That is, until Treasure, the stunning stripper from the bachelorette party, walks into one of Alexis’s freshman classes. As she juggles classes with her job as a stripper, Trisha Hamilton discovers with pleasure she shares a class with shy baby butch Alexis from the party.
A Sign of Affection, Vol. 1 by Suu Morishita, Translated by Christine Dashiell
This charming new adult romance manga follows Deaf college student Yuki after her meet-cute with popular and handsome classmate Itsuomi-san on the train. Itsuomi-kun speaks three languages, but sign language isn’t one of them. As the two get to know each other, Itsuomi-kun begins to learn. Immerse yourself in this one for gorgeous art, a memorable cast of characters, and a heartwarming love story.
The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters
This adorable and uplifting new adult queer romance makes for the perfect summer read. As a recent high school graduate, biracial Black teen Wesley Hudson’s ready to make the most of his summer. In between working at his beloved local indie bookstore and debating what he should major in at UCLA, Wesley wonders if now’s the time to finally confess his feelings for his best friend Nico.
Trade Me by Courtney Milan
Struggling to make ends meet between her job and college classes, Tina Chen can’t help but call out her attractive billionaire classmate Blake Reynolds after he makes a snarky comment in class about money. To her surprise, Blake offers to switch places with her for one semester: she’ll get his income, car, and home, while he works her job and sends money to her family. What starts as a playful bargain turns into something so much more in one of the best new adult romance books.
An Acquired Taste by Kelly Cain
After graduating culinary school and working six years as a head chef now, Rowan Townsend’s expert farm-to-table cuisine has customers flocking to her mother’s restaurant. When she enter a TV chef competition, Rowan is affronted to learn her culinary school rival Knox Everheart has also entered. As the competition gets underway, Rowan may find that there are a few more sparks in the kitchen than she expected.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Take a trip to New York City with this lovely queer new adult romance written by Casey McQuiston, the bestselling author of Red, White and Royal Blue. When 23-year-old August moves to the city, she meets a gorgeous girl named Jane on the train, and her life will never be the same. August will soon learn that Jane’s no ordinary girl; she’s stuck in the future from the 1970s, and she needs August’s help!
If you’d like to learn more about new adult books, or discover more new adult romance books, take a look at what some of our other Rioters have to say about it!