I cannot tell a lie: I’m a sucker for a great contemporary YA romance. There’s nothing quite like the swooniness of first love, whether it’s online or in person, a slow burn or an instant spark, two strangers coming together or best friends taking a new step. If there’s one thing YA has got in spades, it’s romantic firsts, so pour yourself some sparkling cider, pull the lid off that heart-shaped box of chocolates, and curl up with a few of our favorites. Date night can wait.
The Night We Said Yes, by Lauren Gibaldi
Once upon a time, Ella met Matt and they had a fabulous night. The future seemed promising, and then suddenly, he was gone without a trace. Now, he’s back, and all he wants is a chance to prove to Ella he’s worthy of her forgiveness, by having her and their friends re-create that perfect night. On that night a year ago, they agreed to say yes to everything that came their way, but Ella doesn’t know if she’s ready to reopen her heart and say yes to Matt for a second time. One of my absolute favorite, fun, feel-good reads.
Everything Leads to You, by Nina LaCour
Emi has the perfect summer laid out in front of her: a dream job in set design, her brother’s killer apartment, and a true Hollywood mystery to solve…which leads her right to Ava, the biggest and best surprise of all. As Emi and her best friend, Charlotte, help trace Ava’s history, Emi and Ava start to figure out their places in Hollywood, and in each other’s arms. LaCour’s third book applies her always-beautiful writing to one of YA’s only romances between two girls to feature both zero coming-out angst and a delightfully happy ending.
Girl Against the Universe, by Paula Stokes
Maguire is straight-up bad luck; there’s no other way to explain why terrible things happen around her, hurting and even killing people who dare get too close. So to be safe, Maguire shelters herself from the outside world as much as humanly possible. But when she finds a reason to force herself to overcome her fears, the cute guy she meets in her therapist’s office is only too happy to help, especially when they learn both of their solutions revolve around tennis. (Insert joke about “love-love” here.) Though this adorably bittersweet love story of personal growth won’t be released by this V-Day, you can pick up her last one, The Art of Lainey, while you impatiently wait.
Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli
Somewhere at Simon’s school there’s a smart, funny, sweet, undoubtedly cute, utterly perfect boy—a boy whose emails melt not-yet-out Simon into the mushiest of milk-soaked Oreos…and Simon has no idea who he is. Well, he does have his suspicions, but what he doesn’t have is a whole lot of time to get used to the idea of his feelings and sexuality, thanks to some insidious blackmail from a classmate. As Simon and the mysterious Blue move toward turning their email chain into a Happily Ever After, readers pretty much just burst into flames of cuteness and see exactly why this debut took home the coveted Morris Award.
Open Road Summer, by Emery Lord
Reagan needs a change of scenery, and what better way to get it than by joining her country music star BFF, Dee (aka Lilah Montgomery), on her summer tour? But being on the road doesn’t exactly mean 24/7 girl time—not when Dee’s opening act is the obscenely cute and talented Matt Finch. And though the world may think their joint tour means there’s something going on between the two singers, it’s Matt and Reagan who are secretly making beautiful music together.
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, by Sara Farizan
It’s been easy enough for Leila to hide from her family that she likes girls; there haven’t exactly been a ton piquing her interest at school. But then new girl Saskia moves to town, and Leila’s feelings and attraction are too big to keep inside. Thankfully, she seems to have found people she can trust to confide in; while her Iranian-American family is still off limits on that front, her theater friends are a safe bet. But when it turns out the person she’s risking it all for might be the least safe of all, the love she needs just may come from the last source she expects.
Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
No list of dreamy YA romances is complete without Perkins’ modern classic, about an American cinephile who goes to boarding school in Paris and falls for her (taken) (but oh so charming) new best friend. Anna and Etienne have undeniable chemistry, but between her entanglement with a guy back home, his girlfriend in France, and their mutual friend’s feelings for him, love does not seem to be in the cards. But as anyone who loves movies as much as Anna does knows, sometimes happy endings are just inevitable.
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids, by Sarah Ockler
Elyse has loved singing her entire life growing up on the island of Tobago, but when a boat accident steals her voice, nothing feels like it’s going according to plan anymore. She leaves her immediate family (including her twin) behind in favor of moving to coastal Oregon, but when the intriguing Christian asks her to be his first mate for an important regatta, she finds herself back on the water far sooner than she expected…and learns Christian isn’t quite what she expected either.
One Man Guy, by Michael Barakiva
When Alek’s parents decree he’ll be spending the summer after his freshman year in summer school, he could not be more miserable about it. Of course, he doesn’t know he’s about to meet Ethan, get sucked into his world, realize he’s gay, and completely fall for him. But that’s exactly what happens, bringing Alek out of his comfort zone in more ways than one and expanding his world into something bigger, brighter, cooler, and more loving than he ever could’ve imagined.
Last Year’s Mistake, by Gina Ciocca
Kelsey and David used to be inseparable, until one night wrecked everything for Kelsey, and she couldn’t get out of town fast enough. Now she has rebuilt her life with new friends and a new guy…until David shows up and throws everything into upheaval. Kelsey has to figure out whether she and David are truly meant to be a thing of the past, or if the key to her happiness lies in sharing a future.
Dating Sarah Cooper, by Siera Maley
Any rabid consumer of girl-girl teen romances knows a truly delightful, angst-free read can be harder to track down than a rainbow needle in a haystack. Maley knows it too, and it’s the best running joke in this—yes—truly delightful, angst-free read about best friends who start off in a misunderstanding-induced fauxmance and surprise themselves by realizing they’ve in fact found the real thing.
The New Guy (and Other Senior Year Distractions), by Amy Spalding
Jules has got her eyes on the prize this year, and that prize is the position of editor of the school newspaper. She doesn’t have her sights set on Alex, the new guy with an old past—as a boy bander, no less. She’s definitely not looking to fall for him. But most of all, when she does, she definitely doesn’t expect him to join the band of the school’s biggest betrayers, in the form of a rival campus news organization. To Jules, this is an unforgivable act of war, but when it comes down to her pride or her heart, something’s gotta give. Per usual, Spalding’s newest is laugh-out-loud funny with fabulous parents, but I think this may be my very favorite of hers.
Going Too Far, by Jennifer Echols
This book may be nearly seven years old, but it’s one of my forever romance favorites, featuring the rare “troublemaker girl/upstanding guy” combo. When Meg gets arrested during a wild night, she never expects to be punished by getting hitched up to a cop for her entire spring break. Nor does she realize she in fact went to high school with said cop. But after a week of pushing each other’s buttons, neither Meg nor the very serious John After will ever forget the other again, especially after they start pushing entirely different kinds of buttons.
Wanderlost, by Jen Malone
Aubree’s big sister, Elizabeth, is never supposed to mess up; if anything, that’s Aubree’s job. But when Elizabeth does, big time, trying to protect her little sister, it’s up to Aubree to pick up the pieces, even if those pieces take her an entire continent out of her comfort zone. Now she’s stuck in Europe on a tour group for seniors with no idea what she’s doing, and dealing with the tour group operators who think she’s someone else entirely. Which wouldn’t be quite as bad if one of those operators wasn’t a seriously cute flirt named Sam who worms his way onto the tour and into her heart. I cannot emphasize enough how hard I swooned at this book, and it wasn’t just from the fabulous European scenery.
The Weight of Feathers, by Anna-Marie McLemore
Realism takes a turn for the magical in McLemore’s gorgeous and lyrical debut about feuding families who intersect when Cluck—a wing-weaving Romani boy from the tightrope-dancing Corbeau clan—saves Lace, a Paloma-family mermaid. The two are forbidden to talk and especially to touch, but the more strained things get with their families, the more they cling to each other, and the deeper they fall. And the deeper the fall, the more they risk losing everything and everyone they hold dear.