Great Realistic YA with Romance

Annika Barranti Klein

Staff Writer

Annika Barranti Klein likes books, obviously.   Twitter: @noirbettie

This post about great realistic YA with romance is sponsored by Flatiron Books, publishers of Tin Heart by Shivaun Plozza

Bestselling author of All the Bright Places Jennifer Niven calls emerging talent Shivaun Plozza’s charming and romantic second novel “from cover to cover swoon-worthy, moving, deep, and funny”!

Contemporary Young Adult novels are probably my favorite thing to read. I don’t need there to be any romance, but I don’t complain when there is. What I do require is a sense that the romance—and everything else about the book—feels realistic. Below are 8 great realistic YA novels with romance.

Pride by Ibo Zoboi CoverPride by Ibi Zoboi

My current read (I’m listening to the audiobook read by Elizabeth Acevedo), this is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in a gentrifying Bushwick, Queens. It is basically perfect.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Another listen, this slam poetry novel-in-verse is a work of art while also being an extremely engaging contemporary YA. And the forbidden (by Xiomara’s religious mother) romance is sweet and lovely.

dumplin book coverDumplin’ by Julie Murphy

If you’ve watched the Netflix adaptation of Dumplin’, you probably wish it had spent just a liiiiiittle more time on the romance. The novel gives you that, while spending no less time on the mother-daughter relationship, the friendships, and everything else you love about Dumplin’.

The Way Back to You by Mindi Scott and Michelle Andreani

This is something of a backlist title. It came out allllllll the way back in 2016, and (full disclosure) is co-written by a longtime friend of mine. It also features the swooniest, cutest love story, while also dealing with grief in a beautifully sensitive manner and also-also being a ROAD TRIP BOOK.

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

This book never quite decides what it is—romcom or romance, YA or adult (it would be NA if that had caught on). Despite this, or perhaps because of it, it’s got a little of everything, including a very sweet romance. And it’s the only YA title I’ve read with an asexual main character.

The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding

Fashion blogger Abby gets the summer internship of her dreams at a local boutique, and is distressed to learn that she will be sharing it with photographer Jordi Perez. Who she promptly starts crushing on. This is primarily a romcom, as per Amy Spalding’s usual, but also as per usual, the side friendships and B plots are every bit as delightful, including Abby and her new friend Jax’s project of finding the best burger in L.A.

The Sun Is Also A Star Nicola Yoon coverThe Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

This book made me cry, so be forewarned. It is beautiful and heartbreaking but also so hopeful. Natasha’s family is 12 hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Daniel is defying his parents’ expectations by secretly writing poetry. They have 12 hours to try not to fall in love.

Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue Book CoverThe Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Monty is in love with his best friend Percy. They’re going on Monty’s last hurrah, his Grand Tour, before he has to settle down and behave and be boring. Except Monty’s sister Felicity is going with them. And Percy isn’t interested in Monty…is he? Oh, and P.S. they are on the run because Monty got in trouble at Versailles. 1700s QUEER ROAD TRIP!