As a teen, working was my reality — after school jobs, summer shifts, and of course, babysitting on weekends and evenings. I love it when YA books depict working and jobs because not only does it reflect the lived experiences of a lot of teens, but I also think that reading about working teens can teach readers a lot about what it’s like to enter the workforce (which, let’s be real, can be intimidating, especially to more reserved teens!). Of course, it shouldn’t be all work and drudgery — first jobs can be an exciting avenue to discovering your strengths, responsibility, freedom, and meeting people you might not otherwise encounter in your day-to-day life! It can even lead to love!
These young adult books all feature romance and the workplace, whether that’s a job at a food truck or in retail, or an internship, or just work at a family business. Most of these YA workplaces romances feature a relationship between employees (which can be fraught with its own stress and excitement) but a few feature romances between employee and customer! And while my own minimum wage, food and retail days are behind me, these YA workplace romances are enough to make me long for a summer flirtation while working at a food truck. Plus, I just really love reading about various jobs, and the more exciting or interesting the better. Here we go!
YA Workplace Romances
The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the best burger in LA) by Amy Spalding
Abby is thrilled to land an internship with her favorite size-inclusive boutique for the summer — usually these internships lead to a paying gig! But she’s disappointed to learn that for the first time, she’ll be sharing the internship with someone else: Jordi Perez, a photographer with no fashion sense. Abby is ready to show that she’s the star intern and she’s the one who deserves a job, but as she gets to know Jordi she can’t help but fall in love with her!
We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Quinn and Tarek’s families have been in the wedding business together for years, and they practically grew up together, spending weekends at weddings that Quinn’s family plans and Tarek’s caters. Right before Tarek left for college, Quinn confessed her love for him in an email…and he ignored it. Now he’s back for the summer and they’re forced to work together through the awkwardness and unresolved feelings. As they attend to various wedding mishaps and understandings, Quinn has to decide if she’s willing to hear his side of the story and give him a second chance.
Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp
Penelope feels torn between her dream of opening up a pasteleria next to her dad’s restaurant Nacho’s Tacos, and heading off to college like her parents expect. Xander has never felt like he’s had a home, until he’s hired at Nacho’s Tacos and finds happiness and a glimpse at stability. When Xander and Pen collide, they challenge each other to ask big questions about themselves and the future…but when that future is threatened, they must figure out their feelings in order to save what’s precious to them.
Melt With You by Jennifer Dugan
Chloe and Fallon have practically grown up together since their moms co-own a gourmet ice cream truck, which they both work at. Last summer, they hooked up right before Chloe went off to college…and then promptly stopped speaking to each other. Now Chloe is back and they somehow have to work together as Fallon takes the ice cream truck on a road trip of food festivals when their parents have a last-minute emergency. At first, both girls think they can just set aside feelings to get the work done…but that’s not quite as simple as it sounds.
Once Upon a Quinceañera by Monica Gomez-Hira
When Carmen Aguilar finds herself as an unpaid intern at a company that hires out princesses and princes to parties, she doesn’t think it could get any worse than performing in heavy costumes in the Miami summer heat. But then her ex is cast to be her opposite. And then they’re hired out to work her younger cousin’s quinceañera. All of this stirs up old feelings in Carmen, including the complicated emotions about why her own quinceañera was canceled. Despite these unfortunate circumstances, can Carmen find her own second chance at love?
The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg
Max is generally pretty chill, and he’s out to his friends and mom. He just is hiding a big secret about something that happened to him, that he doesn’t want to talk about. Jordan is anxious, holding on to a secret that could wreck his family and dreaming of romance. When the two are thrown together at Coq Au Vinny, a rickety food truck in the height of an Arizona summer, they find unexpected connection and possibility.
Where the Rhythm Takes You by Sarah Dass
While everyone in Reyna’s life seems set to move away from Tobago, she knows she’s stuck, working at her family’s resort, The Plumeria. And that’s fine, because she’s happy to continue her mother’s legacy, especially since her dad doesn’t seem to care about tradition anymore. But then Reyna’s first love and the one that got away, Aiden, shows up. When he left, he was a boy pursuing a dream and now he’s returning as a VIP and member of one of the hottest bands, along with his bandmates and their entourage. And it’s up to Reyna to see to their every need while at the Plumeria, forcing her to face Aiden and the past, and her changing future, once and for all.
Recommended for You by Laura Silverman
For Shoshanna, working at her local indie bookstore, Once Upon, is a welcome respite from tensions at home. When her boss announces a holiday bonus to whoever sells the most books, Shoshanna becomes bent on nabbing it — she could use the money. But she’s thwarted by cute new hire Jake, who doesn’t even read and yet somehow rivals Shoshanna’s sales. The competition is on, and Shoshanna wants to despise Jake…but soon finds that what she’s feeling for him isn’t exactly antagonism.
The way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
When Clara takes a prank one step too far, her dad decides an appropriate punishment is a summer spent working at his food truck, KoBra. Clara thinks this is indeed punishment, because she doesn’t want to spend her summer in close proximity with her uptight coworker. But the more time she spends at the food truck, the more she gets invested — in the business, in her new friendships, and in a potential new romance with a cute customer.
Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Hot off a break up with her girlfriend, Alice is ready for a no-drama summer of chilling and working at the local library. But when she meets new library hire Takumi, it’s not long before she catches feelings. And Takumi seems to like her back, too…but Alice is afraid that if she gets too close, he won’t want to be with her. Because the reason for her recent break up? Alice knows she’s asexual, and that was a dealbreaker for ex. Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk telling the truth about her sexuality with a guy she not only really likes, but values as a friend.
Want more workplace romances? Check out our round up of the best (adult) workplace romance novels! And if you want more romance tropes in your YA, we recommend these forbidden romances in YA! And feel free to share your favorite YA workplace romances with us over on Facebook and Twitter.