The best YA romance novels bring back that feeling of being in love for the first time. Recently, I went to see Greta Gerwig’s film Lady Bird, a poignant coming of age story that hit me in the heart, reminding me what it felt like to breathe the sunshine and butterflies of first love. I’m mega excited to experience this all over again with these upcoming YA romance novels of winter 2018.
Meet Cute edited by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Jan. 2)
Although not a novel, this anthology of short romantic fiction boasts contributions from an all-star cast of your favorite YA writers. With a tagline of Some people are destined to meet, the book’s title references the classic “meet cute” trope of romantic comedies when the two protagonists are introduced in some quirky, funny, ironic, and fateful way. Contributions from dynamite writers, like Julie Murphy, Nina LaCour, Nicola Yoon, and more, explore this theme in creative ways, looking at love in many kinds of relationships. If you’re looking for a quick break in between YA romance novels or a binge read, Meet Cute’s menagerie of nicely digestible, diverse stories is a great pick.
Love and Other Train Wrecks by Leah Konen (Jan. 2)
I love trains and have commuted quite a lot via train for work, school, and travel. Oh, how many times have I developed a train crush on some dreamy guy reading some impressive book but never worked up the courage to take it from there. So I am beyond excited for Leah Kohen’s debut novel, Love and Other Train Wrecks. Over the course of 24 hours, strangers Noah and Ammy will see go from love to hate when their Amtrak train breaks down in a snow storm, stranding them together with their undeniable chemistry.
Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed (Jan. 16)
A breathtaking debut by an #OwnVoices author, Love, Hate and Other Filters follows seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz, an aspiring filmmaker trying to carve out an identity of her own but pushing back against her family’s expectations. As much as they want her to stick around the Chicago area and marry a “suitable” older Muslim boy, Maya has her heart set on going to film school in New York City, and possibly connecting with her long-time crush. After a terrorist attack puts intense scrutiny on Maya’s community, Love, Hate and Other Filters blends the gravitas of on-point social commentary with a heart-wrenching argument that love could help overcome hate.
Let’s Talk about Love by Claire Kann (Jan. 23)
A charming YA romance with a biromantic ace heroine of color who works in a library? Yes, please! After her girlfriend broke up with her when she came out as asexual, Alice is over dating, thank you. A summer of chilling with her besties, binge watching TV, and working at the library sounds great…until she meets gorgeous Takumi, a fellow library employee who awakens the romantic side of her Alice thought she could forget. This debut novel will help you rediscover the joy of first love while tackling diverse themes. Plus, how can anyone resist a cover that speaks to joy?
Say You’ll Remember Me by Katie McGarry (Jan. 30)
If you like your romances dark and gritty, you’ll adore Katie McGarry’s Say You’ll Remember Me, a star-crossed, steamy love story between Drix, a young man who was wrongfully convicted of a crime, and Elle, the privileged daughter of the governor who provides Drix with a second chance. An explosive attraction develops between Drix and Elle, but his wrong-side-of-the-tracks background doesn’t sit well with Elle’s world of the elite, wealthy, and connected. I know it sounds like a story you’ve heard before, with shades of The Notebook and, of course, Romeo and Juliet, but you’ve never read forbidden love done so well, with on-point social commentary and a burst of passion and desire so visceral you’ll feel the romance—and the knock-the-breath-out-of-you ending—like it’s happening in your heart. Unforgettable.
American Panda by Gloria Chao (Feb. 6)
My favorite YA romance novels are about more than just falling in love with another person—they’re about learning to love yourself. Gloria Chao’s debut novel, American Panda, follows Mei, who at 17 is already a freshman at college because her parents skipped her ahead a grade. So much of Taiwanese American Mei’s future has been dictated by her strict parents that they think she just has to connect the logically sequential dots: go to an elite university (MIT), become a doctor, and find a rich and promising Taiwanese Ivy League man to marry. Except…Mei wants to carve out a life of her own, especially since she’s germaphobic and biology class apathetic, with a crush on a Japanese American student, Darren Takahashi. Mei’s crush threatens her relationship with her parents, as does reconnecting with her estranged older brother, Xing, who has been all but excommunicated for dating an unsuitable woman. Although Mei’s romance with Darren is certainly part of this debut novel, Chao expertly uses it to help Mei step out on her own and become confident with what she wants for herself. American Panda is beautiful coming-of-age journey as Mei finds self love.