9 Contemporary YA Books for Food Lovers

Devin McKinley

Staff Writer

Devin works as a freelance SEO copywriter in Chicago. When she isn’t writing catch lines and how-to pages, she’s reading the latest fantasy novel, working on her blog, or drafting her first full-length novel. You can follow her on Instagram at Devin_mckinley_books or Goodreads to stay up to date on what she’s reading.

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet

Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father's restaurant, Nacho's Tacos. But her parents have different plans—leaving Pen to choose between disappointing them or following her own path. Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a boy. For him, a job at Nacho's is an opportunity for just that—a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo's, and to find the father who left him behind. Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong in order to save the place they call home.

Is there anything better than food? No? Then you haven’t heard about these YA books for food lovers! I always enjoy a good book about food lovers like myself, and these eight novels did not disappoint. Novels with food themes are often about more than what’s cooking. They tackle difficult subjects such as trauma, immigration, family, and growing pains. These YA contemporary novels are light on the surface and appropriate for young readers while approaching subjects with social and political relevancy. Explore their premises below!

YA Books for Food Lovers

A Pho Love Story By Loan Le

If you’re searching for YA books for food lovers, this story is one of the best I’ve read in a while.

This is a fun own voices Romeo & Juliet retelling of two teens working at their parents’ competing pho restaurants. When a chance meeting throws them together, sparks fly, and they team up to mend the break between their families. Soon, they realize their families’ feud goes much deeper than healthy competition. Can these teens navigate new love and overcome old animosity, or will family loyalties break them apart?

A Taste for Love By Jennifer Yen

High school senior Liza Yang is well-liked and smart at school, but her home life is a different story. She finds her mom’s traditional values suffocating and her ideas about dating old-fashioned. One thing they have in common is their love for baking. When her mother hosts a baking competition at the family bakery, Liza agrees to help out. But when she arrives, she finds that all the competitors are eligible Asian American men her mother chose for her to date!

Even worse, one of them catches her eye, and she’s stuck between not wanting to fall for her mother’s trick and exploring her attraction to James Wong, a Darcy-like boy whose aloof behavior intrigues her. In this Pride and Prejudice retelling, cultural tradition and new ideas collide.

Kisses and Croissants By Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau

Mia is an American ballerina spending the summer at an elite ballet academy in Paris. She only has a few weeks to prove her skill and nail an audition with a ballet company. But when she meets a Parisian boy who offers to be her tour guide, she discovers the city of love has more to offer than ballet.

Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous By Kathryn Williams

Sophie knows the kitchen at her parent’s Italian-Greek restaurant like the back of her hand. She’s spent most of her life there and loves it. Then her boyfriend convinces her to apply for a cooking show offering a prize for the winner — a scholarship to a prestigious cooking school.

Now she must navigate the cut-throat world of reality TV, with celebrity judges, talented rivals, and a cute french chef, all rooting for her to fail. Can she take the heat?

Bittersweet By Sarah Ockler

Once, Hudson knew what she wanted and was on the road to getting it. But after a betrayal, she hid from the world and consoled herself by baking cupcakes at her mother’s diner.

Then things start looking up for Hudson, and she’s back on the road to follow her dreams. Of course, just as she’s getting her second chance, a cute boy walks into their diner and, as they grow closer, old wounds surface, threatening everything. Can she learn to love again?

The Music of What Happens By Bill Konigsberg

Max and Jordan could not be more different. Max likes sports, video games, and chilling with friends. Jordan loves poetry and hangs out with girls, waiting for “Mr. Right.” A 1980s food truck will stick these two teens together, and soon, they start feeling a spark they can’t deny. But with Jordan’s family relying on him in more ways than one, his love life may have to stay on the back-burner. If you want love interests you can root for, pick up The Music of What Happens.

Tweet Cute By Emma Lord

Pepper is an over-achiever and perfectionist working at her family’s restaurant, Big League Burger, and running their Twitter account. She barely has any time for herself, and now she’s battling a Twitter troll from a rival deli.

Jack is the class clown who’s trying to get out of his popular brother’s shadow. When Big League Burger steals his grandparent’s grilled cheese recipe, he vows to take them down in a Twitter war of epic proportions.

Meanwhile, Jack and Pepper and falling for each other on an anonymous app Jack built. As their connection grows and their Twitter fight reaches a pitch, Pepper and Jack find themselves being “shipped” by strangers online. This awkward, unlikely rivals-to-lovers romance is a quick, light read that has a lesson to tell about what we say online.

We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This By Rachel Lynn Solomon

If you like romantic comedies, you’ll fall in love with Quinn and Tarek.

Quinn’s family owns a wedding planning company, and she plays the harp at their weddings. Tarek’s parents own a catering company, and he works as a waiter. When Quinn admits her feelings for him over email before leaving for college, she expects a response — but doesn’t get one.

Now it’s summer break and she dreads going home and seeing Tarek. A stream of weddings throws them together, and their bickering is incessant. But when Tarek opens up to Quinn and tells her a secret about himself, she realizes that perhaps everything is not as black and white as it seems.

A La Carte By Tanita S. Davis

Seventeen-year-old Lainey wants to be a famous chef more than anything else. But when her best friend and crush leaves town, she’s unsure of everything, including her future. Only her enduring dream and Julia Child’s genius can get her cooking again.

Want more books about food? So do we! Explore more books for food lovers below.