Young Adult Literature

20 Love Books for Teens to Read this Valentine’s Day

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Alison Doherty

Senior Contributor

Alison Doherty is a writing teacher and part time assistant professor living in Brooklyn, New York. She has an MFA from The New School in writing for children and teenagers. She loves writing about books on the Internet, listening to audiobooks on the subway, and reading anything with a twisty plot or a happily ever after.

This Valentine’s Day are you ready to read some love books for teens? Whether you are a teenager or not, these YA romances are perfect for cuddling up with this February. First love is such a heightened, dramatic experience in real life. It’s no wonder, teenage romance is such a popular and beloved topic for authors to tackle. From crushes to first kisses to fake dating and friends falling for each other, teenage love stories offer so many different narrative possibilities. And this February, whether you are looking for a classic YA romance, something contemporary or fantastical, or maybe one of the newest 2022 YA novels, here are 20 teen romances ranging from sweet to sexy and tender to tempestuous.

Happily ever afters, happy for now, and hopeful endings (even if the couples aren’t together at the end in a few of these) abound! Love might not conquer all in every book…but it certainly conquers the page and readers’ imaginations in these 20 captivatingly romantic love stories.

Classic YA Romance Books

Seventeenth Summer Book Cover

Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daily

While this novel is often overlooked, some critics view Seventeenth Summer as the first young adult book. Written when the author herself was 17 years old and published in 1942, it definitely was an influence for the genre and especially teen romance. The novel begins with 17-year-old Angie being asked on her first date the summer after graduating high school. She and the boy, Jack, fall in love. But they both are being pulled in different directions come the fall, with Angie going to college and Jack moving to get a job at his uncle’s business. A true exploration of first love (and a book I devoured when I read it in high school).

Book Cover for Forever by Judy Blume

Forever by Judy Blume

While Seventeenth Summer is mostly about first love, Forever is mostly about teen sexuality. Don’t get me wrong, love plays a big part. Published in 1975, it stood apart for showing a teenage girl having sex, going on birth control pills, and nothing bad happening to her. When Katherine and Michael have sex for the first time, they both are sure their relationship will last forever. But as time progresses, Katherine isn’t sure she is ready for forever. And that’s okay. Their romance can still be important and meaningful whether it lasts forever or not. This book can feel somewhat issue-y and downright anatomical at times (Ralph…if you know, you know). But it certainly represents a step forward in romance books for teens.

annie on my mind nancy garden cover

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

This book is considered one of the first queer YA romances that gave its characters a happy ending. Liza meets Annie on a rainy day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. While the two girls are very different, there is an instant connection between them. A close friendship turns romantic as both girls confront their attraction to each other. When their relationship is discovered and made public, Liza is threatened with expulsion from her private school. But some time and the influence of a pair of lesbian teachers helps Liza to accept her sexual orientation and move through the challenges of being in a lesbian relationship. Published in 1982, this book received both critical acclaim and challenges, banning, and even burning.

finding my voice book cover

Finding My Voice by Marie Myung-Ok Lee

First published in 1992, this YA romance has been reissued twice in the 2000s. Set in the early ’90s, Ellen Sung is the only Korean American student in her all-white midwestern school. While she has a crush on Tomper, the white, popular football star of the senior class, Ellen never expects he will like her back. But he does and the two fall deeper in love throughout the book. But will their romance withstand the challenges of her family’s disapproval and the racist bullies who populate their town?

This Lullaby Book Cover

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen is a YA romance queen. A list of love books for teens needs at least one of her high school romances on it. This Lullaby tells the story of Remy, a teenage girl cynical about romance, and Dexter the disorganized, romantic musician she’s dating. Remy usually has a list of dating rules she abides by, including breaking up with guys before things get too serious. She doesn’t believe in love, but for some reason with Dexter she can’t bring herself to give him “the speech” and break up with him.

Contemporary Romance Books for Teens

Cool for the Summer cover

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler

Lara’s had a crush on football star Chase for all of high school. And now in their senior year, it seems like he’s interested in her too. But as their relationship develops, Lara can’t get Jasmine out of her head. Jasmine is the girl from the beach she became more than friends with over the summer. She never expected to see Jasmine again, but now she’s joined Lara’s school. And Lara isn’t sure what — or more specifically who — she wants.

cover of Instructions for Dancing

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

Evie doesn’t believe in love. Especially not after she gains the power to see other people’s romantic fates. She begins to realize that love always ends in heartbreak. No matter how good the beginning of a relationship is, the end is always excruciating. And Evie doesn’t want to put herself through that. But when she finds herself entering a ballroom dance competition with a boy named X, that resolve weakens. She doesn’t want to risk her heart on falling in love. But with X there might not be another choice.

Rent A Boyfriend Book Cover

Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

Chloe and her traditional Taiwanese, immigrant parents have very different ideas about who she should be in a relationship with. In fact, her parents have been pressuring her to go out with Hambo, a wealthy bachelor in their Asian community who Chloe can’t stand. She just wants to be a college student and focus on her own life. But to get her parents off her back, she hires Drew from a service that specializes in providing fake, Asian parent–approved boyfriends. But as her parents fall in love with her fake boyfriend, Chloe starts falling in love with the real Drew (a struggling artist who is definitely not parent-approved). If you like the fake dating trope like in Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, then this is a YA love story to read this Valentine’s Day.

Cover of Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee

Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee

In another amazing fake dating romance, Noah runs a blog all about featuring trans romances and happily ever afters. But a troll exposes that the stories aren’t real. They are fantasies Noah wrote to give himself and the trans community hope. To save his blog, Noah wants to convince the world they are true stories. And Drew is willing to help Noah with this by pretending to be in a relationship. But Noah’s feelings for Drew start feeling very real and unlike anything he imagined while writing about love on the page.

Book Cover for Curvy Girls Can't Date Quarterbacks

Curvy Girls Can’t Date Quarterbacks by Kelsie Stelting

When a mean girl at school says that fat people should just lose weight, Rory accepts her ignorance as a challenge to prove her and other fatphobic students wrong. She is a self-described big and curvy girl, who wants to prove fat people can get happily ever afters too. Her solution is to somehow get school quarterback and golden boy, Beckett, to agree to be her homecoming date. Beckett doesn’t even know who Rory is…yet. But with the help of her friends, Rory has a plan to make it happen.

Fantasy & Paranormal Teen Romance Books

Blood Like Magic cover

Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury

Voya’s waited all her life for the Calling, a trial every witch undergoes before they receive their powers. When she fails, her ancestors give her a second chance. But this time, if she doesn’t pass, her entire family will lose their magical abilities. And the task is to kill her first love. The problem is that she’s never been in love. So now, she has to find someone to fall in love with and then kill them.

Book Cover for Crave by Tracy Wolff

Crave by Tracy Wolff

When Grace’s parents die, her uncle enrolls her in his exclusive boarding school in Alaska. She soon discovers there is something different about the students at his school. They are monsters of different sorts, and she is a mere mortal among them. She forms an intense relationship with Jaxon, but he is a vampire with a century worth of secrets. Older readers will notice the allusions to Twilight. But for younger teen readers, this is a paranormal romance that feels fresh, new, and deeply engrossing.

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh cover

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

In this Arabian Nights retelling, Khalid is the feared boy king who marries a new woman every night only to have her killed in the morning. Shahrzad volunteers to be one of his brides in order to avenge her best friend who he murdered. She tells him enchanting, captivating stories with cliffhangers that keep him from ordering her death in the morning. All the while, an attraction and love bloom between these two characters. As they discover each other’s secrets, each learn the other is not who they expected.

These Violent Delights book cover

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

This historical YA romance brings readers to 1926 Shanghai. Juliette is a flapper and the heir to the city’s Red gang, a powerful network of criminals. Roma is the heir to their rival gang, the White Flowers. He also is Juliette’s first love and the boy who broke her heart. The magical battle between their two gangs is getting out of hand. Too many people are dying, and the city is in chaos. But can Juliette and Roma put their personal history aside to create peace? Even if they can, there are darker forces at work making peace between the two gangs almost impossible, even if Juliette and Roma can reunite.

Sweet and Bitter Magic cover

Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley

After Tasmin, a powerful young witch, commits a magical sin, she is expelled from her coven and cursed with an inability to love. In order to feel, she must steal love from others. Wren is a source, made of magic but with no ability to practice it. She’s spent her life caring for her father and hiding who she is from the world. When a plague arrives and threatens her father, she makes a deal with Tasmin. If Tasmin will find the dark witch who created the plague, Wren will give away the love she has for her father. There are many adventurous twists and turns in this enemies-to-lovers, sapphic romance. But deep emotions run through the plot of their dangerous love bargain.

a court of thorns and roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

All my students are reading this book because of TikTok. It’s a sexy YA retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in a Fae world. When Feyre kills a wolf while trying to hunt to feed her family, she gives up her freedom and the life she expected. The wolf was no normal wolf. He was a shapeshifting faerie. And her punishment is imprisonment in the Fae world with a captor with a mask magically stuck to his face. But her captor soon becomes her lover, and Feyre grows determined to end the curse that entraps him and his entire kingdom.

New 2022 YA Romance Books

one true loves book cover

One True Loves by Elise Bryant

The summer after her senior year, Lenore is 100% focused on her future. She’s still figuring out who and what she wants to become. And her parents are putting a ton of pressure on her to figure it out quickly. But on a ten-day Mediterranean cruise, Lenore meets Alex Lee. And despite her reluctance, a romance develops between them against the backdrop of breathtaking excursions to cruise stops around Europe. Major swoon! This book is technically a sequel to Elise Bryant’s Happily Ever Afters, although it can definitely be read as a standalone story as well.

Cover Image of "Ophelia After All" by Racquel Marie.

Ophelia After All by Racquel Marie

Ophelia has a reputation for being boy obsessed. And it must be true. She has a long string of crushes as proof. But after her boyfriend dumps her and her perfect prom fantasy vanishes, she finds herself thinking about her friend Talia in a romantic way. This makes her begin questioning her sexuality and the parts of her identity she thought were set in stone. She’s always had a perfect picture in her head about what true love would look like. But what if that picture is getting in the way of Ophelia discovering who she really is and who she is meant to be with?

Book Cover for The Temperature of You and Me

The Temperature of You and Me by Brian Zepka

This YA romance has a speculative twist. Dylan has always wanted a boyfriend. His new crush, Jordan, seems like a perfect candidate to be his first one. But Jordan isn’t just euphemistically hot…he’s literally always running around at 110 degrees. And after spending time together, Dylan’s body is changing too. He has a two week long fever and begins coughing up flames. He’s never been in love before, but he’s pretty sure this isn’t a standard reaction. As Dylan pushes Jordan for answers about what’s going on, the two grow closer. But they also realize just how much danger they are in.

Zyla & Kai Book Cover

Zyla & Kai by Kristina Forest

This one isn’t out until June, so you’ll have to wait until next Valentine’s Day (or at least this summer) to read it. But the swoons are very real in this teenage love story. Zyla and Kai broke up months ago. So why do they disappear together on their senior trip to the Poconos? Their family and friends are all confused. And with a storm coming, their school is desperate to find them. But what if they didn’t really break up like everyone thought? Told in flashbacks and the present moment, this book tells the story of them meeting, falling in love, and what really happens in the Poconos mountains.

Happy reading, lovebirds! And if you are still looking for more romance books for teens, take a gander of this list of 50 YA romance books from a few years ago or this round up of 2021 teenage romances.