Like so many other readers, I’m a sucker for romance. Give it to me with drama and angst or sweetness and banter! Start them off as the best of friends or the worst of enemies! Slow-burn or insta-lust, brand new or a second chance, I’m here for it all and psyched to rec some of YA’s best and newest, as well as a few to keep your eyes on in the coming months!
Love à La Mode, by Stephanie Kate Strohm
Strohm is a majorly insta-buy author for me when it comes to contemporary romance, because she does this fascinating combination of sweetly hilarious like nobody else. She really captured my heart and my stomach with this newest, set at a majorly prestigious culinary program in Paris and starring Rosie, a budding pastry chef from Nowhere, Ohio, and Henry, who’s got plenty of talent at cooking but not so much at keeping his jealousy in check or convincing his mother that following in his father’s footsteps is a viable career path. Sparks fly between them immediately when they meet on the plane, but between culinary competition, a fellow (hot) student who’s also got his eye on Rosie, and Henry’s overloaded schedule thanks to his mom’s meddling, what should be a perfectly sweet pairing is working more like oil and water. Rosie and Henry need to find the secret recipe to romance before their time together comes to an end, and you’ll be cheering for them the whole way through to happily ever after. And the best part is that when you fall in love with this one, you’ve only got a couple of weeks to wait until her romantic and hilarious newest title, That’s Not What I Heard!
Tell Me How You Really Feel, by Aminah Mae Safi
Nothing says “Happy Valentine’s Day” like a preorder for a fabulous enemies-to-lovers rom com, am I right? Sana and Rachel got off to a bad start years ago when Rachel assumed Sana’s asking her on a date was a mean joke, and they’ve only moved further apart since. Now Sana’s an It Girl who manages to combine cheerleading with a stellar GPA, while Rachel’s an obsessive director whose perfectionism is driving everyone batty and threatens her own future. When their paths literally collide, Sana becomes the answer to Rachel’s prayers in the form of the perfect actor for the lead role in Rachel’s film project. As they film, they go from two people who had no desire to spend time together to two people who really enjoy spending time together, because yes, that amazing chemistry on the cover is oh so real in the pages, too.
Busted, by Gina Ciocca
A girl who accidentally falls into becoming an extremely amateur PI who helps bust guys cheating on their girlfriends regrets her career choice deeply when her newest case has her falling for the very guy she’s investigating. Marisa didn’t even really want to help Kendall; they aren’t exactly friends anymore. But as she tails TJ with the mission of finding him cheating, she learns that what he’s hiding isn’t what she expects…and neither are her feelings for him. Now the girl who’s supposed to help bust the cheaters is falling for a taken guy herself, and if anyone finds out, she’s toast. But when Marisa learns there’s even more to the story than she thought, she can’t throw in the towel, especially not if love is on the line. This V-Day, let yourself get caught up in this book that’s funny, twisty, and romantic all rolled into one.
There’s Something About Sweetie, by Sandhya Menon
Before we even get to the romance, I have to tell you that this book (which releases in May) has the fat girl rep of my dreams. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s welcome back charming and charismatic Ashish, whom you hopefully met in When Dimple Met Rishi (and if not, get on that while you wait for this one to release in May!) and get to know Sweetie, a spirited athlete who struggles not with her weight but with what her mother wants to it to be. When a heartbreak kills Ashish’s mojo, he takes a friend’s suggestion to ask his parents to set him up, the same way they successfully did for his brother. His parents choose Sweetie, and everyone’s on board…except for Sweetie’s mother, who doesn’t think her fat daughter is on Ashish’s level. Both determined to prove her wrong, they begin sort-of dating behind her back, following all his parents’ rules for where these dates are to be. But when their transitional romance becomes something that feels permanent, the truth will have to come out, and the date where Sweetie’s mom learns the truth may be their last.
This is Kind of an Epic Love Story, by Kheryn Callender
If your perfect Valentine’s Day read is the kind that makes you literally kick your legs in the air at cuteness, allow me to introduce you to Nate and his childhood best friend, Oliver James, who happens to have returned to town with perfect timing. Nate’s feeling pretty done with romance after his ex-girlfriend (but still his best friend) cheats on him, but when Oliver James shows up just as he’s at his lowest, Nate can’t help getting sucked back in. What’s more, he can right the confusion that happened between them when they were little and make clear that he’s got feelings with a capital-F. It’s a tenuous time, given he and his mother are still recovering from his father’s death, but Oliver brings so much lightness to the dark that’s been swallowing Nate, and there’s just too much promise there for them not to dive in. It is, indeed, kind of an epic love story, and one of the warmest-hearted romances I’ve read in a good, long time.
Cold Day in the Sun, by Sara Biren
As someone who was a hockey-playing, grunge- and glam rock-loving teen, this romance felt as if it was written specifically for me. Holland Delviss is a killer hockey player, good enough to earn a spot on the boys’ team, regardless of how anyone feels about it. But when her “only girl” status puts her in the spotlight, it draws a huge amount of unwanted attention, exactly when she’s trying to keep her feelings for her team captain, Wes, under control. But Wes stands by her through thick and thin, and despite whatever rules Holland’s made for herself against dating on the team and letting anyone think she slept her way into her spot, there’s only so much she can resist the very real feelings brewing between them.
Running With Lions, by Julian Winters
Soccer camp is Sebastian’s happy place, between his love of the sport and the fact that it’s an extremely chill place for him to be out-and-proud as bi, but the reappearance of Emir Shah threatens to turn that summer calm into an emotional storm. The two of them had been best friends as kids, but no matter how much effort Sebastian puts into welcoming Emir into the soccer fold, the guy is just not interested in getting over their past. But Sebastian is desperate to keep the team happy, even if it means continuing to reach out to Emir to his own detriment. They don’t stay clashing for long, however, as the time they spend together not only brings them back to the friendship they used to have, but brings their feelings to a whole different, romantic level. Get your Valentine’s Day squee on with an adorable sports romance you’ll want to read again and again whenever you need an emotional pick-me-up.
Somewhere Only We Know, by Maurene Goo
For the third year running, Goo delivers the rom-com of our dreams, this time set in the compelling world of K-Pop. Lucky is exhausted, riding fame as a K-Pop star from international concerts to talk show appearances, and all she wants is a night to relax. Of course, the tabloids have something else in mind, and that’s how reporter Jack (whose parents have no idea he does this) and late-night-burger-seeking Lucky end up crashing into each other at his hotel. But for all his newsy knowledge, one thing Jack doesn’t know is who the very cute girl he’s helping track down a burger is, and that’s just perfect for Lucky. It’s a night that will change them both forever, but first? Junk food.
Birthday, by Meredith Russo
The Stonewall Award winner is back with her sophomore novel, about best friends from literal birth and the ways their friendship changes over the course of the span from their thirteenth birthdays to their eighteenth. Eric and Morgan love each other with a bond that can’t be broken…can it? What if they’re destined for different things? What if Eric’s obnoxious family drives Morgan away? And the biggest what if—what if Eric found out Morgan’s truth, that they aren’t two boys who’ve spent their whole lives together, but a boy and a girl? The spiral of Morgan’s identity journey combined with Eric’s confusion over his feelings for his best friend, all amid the family drama and grief that swirls around them is loaded with both heartbreak and triumph, but there’s no question as to how much love resides in this book, demands you feel it, and encourages you to embrace it.
If I’m Being Honest, by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
You’ve probably already read about my love for Always Never Yours a thousand times on this site, but the good news is, the pair behind it has a brand-new Shakespeare-inspired rom com to follow it up! This delightful charmer stars Cameron, whose beauty makes her popular and whose bluntness makes her…occasionally a little less so. When the guy she wants decides the ugly side of her might be a little too ugly for him to tolerate, Cameron decides to take on a project to prove to him that underneath her prickly shell beats a heart of gold. But when she starts off her apology whirlwind tour with Brendan, whose life she kinda ruined with a terrible nickname, she’s stunned to find there may be someone who’s capable of liking her for exactly who she is.
Comics Will Break Your Heart, by Faith Erin Hicks
Comics have defined both Miriam and Weldon’s lives, for better or for worse. It was their grandfathers who started the TomorrowMen series together, but only Weldon’s family, the Warricks, have financially benefited from it; Miriam’s grandfather signed his rights away for less than a thousand dollars so many years ago, then spent the rest of his life fighting to get them back when it all blew up. Their meetcute at the comics shop where Miriam works looks promising, but when she learns Weldon’s last name, it’s an uphill battle for him to get her to see him again, even as her parents try to embrace him and repair the rift. Then the comics shop closes, and it gets even harder to bear being with a Warrick when Miriam has no idea how she’ll pay for college. Money, family drama, and poor communication keep tearing them apart, even as they try to talk things out and repair old hurts. Is there room for a happy ending in comics, or are they destined to break their hearts forever? (Spoiler: this is in a Valentine’s Day post for a reason, and yes, it’s “super”cute.)
Love From A to Z, by S.K. Ali
The Morris Award finalist might be returning with something much more adorable than her hard-hitting Saints and Misfits, but don’t expect her—or, more accurately, her hijabi heroine Zeynab—to go meekly into romance. When Zeynab is suspended from school after a misunderstanding while dealing with her Islamophobic teacher, her parents decide to start her spring break early, giving her a whole extra week in Doha, Qatar, with her aunt. As it turns out, Adam Chen is also done with school, for a different reason—having recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, which happens to be the disease that killed his mother, he’d rather spend his healthy time with his dad and sister in Doha than waste it away in London. The attraction between them is immediate on the plane, but when they’re separated at the airport, they don’t know if they’ll see each other again…but they do, over and over, and the sparks between them can’t be denied. But for both of the religious Muslim teens, dating is serious and must be for real, and Adam and Zeynab are still learning plenty about each other, some of which may end things before they even start, and some of which shows them forever together might not be long enough.