Readers love a good love story from time to time, but the unfortunate reality is that the majority of romantic books on the market still cater largely to heteronormative audiences. Even with the rise of LGBTQ+ fiction for young adults over the course of the last decade, it’s still difficult to find queer love stories that don’t incorporate narratives of suffering. That is, of course, one important aspect of queer life, but sometimes you just want to read about queer folks thriving and falling in love without too many obstacles of intolerance, right?
If you are in fact a romance fan, chances are you’ve consumed your fair share of classic straight people’s love stories, whether in the form of a novel or a beloved romantic comedy film. But if you’re in the mood for one of those comfortingly familiar narratives just without the straight people, that’s where queer read-alikes are a fun alternative — especially when history has prevented real-life queer people from ever having the chance to experience many of these narratives until recently. Thus, I have compiled this list of eight such titles featuring queer love stories that are sure to charm the pants off any Nora Ephron or John Hughes fan.
Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa
For fans of: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Starting over at Saint Francis Prep School, Mira has promised her parents that she will act like a functioning human being this time and not someone who can’t will herself out of bed most days or someone who only feels alive when she’s around her best friend, Sebby. Jeremy, a painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis, soon finds himself drawn into the enigmatic world of Mira and Sebby, who are determined to escape their lives and their problems by any means necessary. Drawn deeper and deeper into their world, Jeremy soon begins to understand the secrets his friends keep hidden beneath the surface, forcing him to confront his own demons and, by extension, himself.
Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales
For fans of: Grease
When Ollie meets Will during a summer vacation, it’s the fling fantasy he’s always imagined: he’s warm, affectionate, and kind — everything Ollie could ever ask for in a boyfriend. But when vacation ends and Will stops texting Ollie back, he figures that’s the end of it. That is, until Ollie’s family moves across the country and he starts attending school with none other than Will himself. But the Will his school knows and the Will that Ollie met on vacation are two vastly different people: the confidently queer guy from the summer has disappeared into a closeted jock of a class clown who Ollie really doesn’t care for. But when Will keeps showing up in every area of Ollie’s life, he has to decide if his heart is worth giving to someone twice.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
For fans of: Practical Magic
Returning to the Watford School of Magicks for his final year, 18-year-old orphaned magician Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One to have ever been chosen — according to his roommate, the vampire Tyrannus Basilton “Baz” Grimm-Pitch the Third. Dubbed the Chosen One by the Greatest Mage, Simon possesses an unprecedented amount of magical powers, despite not being able to get his wand to work half the time, while the other half he’s busy setting something on fire. Carry On, the first in a character-driven trilogy by Rainbow Rowell, follows Simon as he is prophesied to destroy the Insidious Humdrum, an evil force that has been wreaking havoc on the World of Mages for years. As its publisher described it, “Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters.”
Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian
For fans of: Pretty in Pink
In New York City in 1989, the world is complicated place for three teenagers. Iranian immigrant Reza knows he’s gay, but is deeply conflicted by his cultural values and images in the media of gay men dying from AIDS. Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who doesn’t fit in anywhere except with her Uncle Stephen, who is sick. And Art, Judy’s best friend, is their school’s only out and proud teen, who rebels against his conservative parents and attempts to capture the AIDS crisis through his photographs. As Reza grows closer to Judy while continuing to discover more about himself, he must learn the way to break a heart while keeping a friend. Like a Love Story brings these three lost souls together in a story that celebrates activism, loving who you are, and dancing to Madonna.
Swearing Off Stars by Danielle Wong
For fans of: The Last Letter from Your Lover
As one of the first women studying abroad at Oxford University in the 1920s, Amelia “Lia” Cole is finally free from her overbearing parents in Brooklyn and able to embrace her own independence for the very first time. As she begins to navigate British college life, she finds herself falling for Scarlett Daniels, an activist and aspiring actress who introduces her to the exciting new gender equality movement. But when their love is caught in the crossfires of a political uprising, Lia and Scarlett lose contact. Decades later, Lia’s only memories of Scarlett are further obscured by the Hollywood billboards advertising her latest films. When a mysterious letter resurfaces, Lia is drawn back into Scarlett’s world, realizing now that she has the power to change the ending to their story.
Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan
For fans of: Some Kind of Wonderful
When Morgan, a star track athlete, is forced to transfer schools after it turns out that being openly queer went against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct, the last thing she needs is any kind of hassle. But then she meets Ruby, whose two hobbies happen to include competing in beauty pageants and tinkering with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino, she can’t help but find herself drawn to her. The difference is that Morgan is out and proud while Ruby is not, forcing herself to compete in beauty pageants to satisfy her overbearing mother. As the girls continue to grow closer, they’re forced to confront whether or not they have the strength to boldly live as they’ve always wanted to.
Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon
For fans of: The Last Chance Library
All Jordan Collins wants is for his favorite supernatural romance author to continue writing more books so that the romance book club he’s a part of doesn’t keep losing steam. He certainly doesn’t need a man and doesn’t need the judgment of a new bookstore employee who thinks he reads books that are meant for grandmas. But when that very employee, Rex, shows up wanting to join the Meet Cute Club, Jordan realizes he can’t afford to be turning away new members — even if he really wants to tell this one new member to go eat glass. But when Jordan and Rex find themselves teaming up to help save the book club, Jordan is about to learn the importance of never judging a book by its cover. Especially when this book happens to be breathtakingly handsome.
This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kacen Callender
For fans of: Bridget Jones’s Diary
Despite being a film buff and aspiring screenwriter, Nathan Bird doesn’t believe in happy endings, having seen the demise of one too many relationships to believe they ever really exist in real life. Playing it safe to avoid a broken heart has been his go-to strategy ever since his dad died and his mom fell apart. But with the help of Florence, his best friend who became a girlfriend and who’s now his best friend again, Nathan might just be about to find his ultimate date in the form of Oliver James Hernández, his childhood best friend. A painful mix-up led to hurt feelings when they were little, but now Nathan has the chance to clear the air and finally get what he wants. The question is, will he be able to put aside what he’s seen in movies and have the courage to step forward in real life?
For more queer romances and read-alikes, try: