Sports and romance might not seem like a natural pairing at first glance, but let’s think about this a little more. The importance of good communication? Check. Bodily contact? Check. A cheering section? If you’ve got the right, supportive friends! Here are eight YA novels that score big, on the field and off.
First & Then, by Emma Mills
This new release is for you, Austenites! Billed as Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights…I could really write anything here because you probably stopped reading and started buying as soon as you read that comparison. Devon isn’t quite sure what she wants to do with her life, but she has no intention spending it babysitting her quirky cousin, Foster, who’s recently moved in with her family. As it turns out, the guidance Devon really needs is from Ezra, the extremely talented, closed-off, and hot star of the football team. As Ezra helps Foster nurture the skills no one knew he possessed, Devon learns there might be more to Ezra than a killer arm.
Catching Jordan, by Miranda Kenneally
Kenneally’s debut is also set on the football field, but this time, it’s a girl who’s calling the shots. Jordan Woods is the captain and quarterback of the football team, but the arrival of a new guy with talent and hotness to spare throws her off her game, leaving her to struggle to figure out her life, love, and future. Kenneally is the go-to author for sports romances, with heroines including a softball player, a jockey, and a runner training for a marathon, and this is the book that started it all.
Whatever Life Throws at You, by Julie Cross
Annie Lucas’s father getting a job as pitching coach of the Kansas City Royals means life is about to change big time for both of them. What Annie never sees coming is the player to end all players: Jason Brody, proving not to be the ladykiller the media shows the world. Instead, Jason is a sweet, good guy, and Annie is completely smitten…which makes for some seriously hot and appreciably honest (near-)sex scenes. But between their age gap straddling legal lines, his reputation, and the fact that his job is inextricably linked to Annie’s dad’s, their relationship gets increasingly complicated, and they’ll both have to prove they’re ready for it.
Game. Set. Match., by Jennifer Iacopelli
Iacopelli’s seriously sporty debut straddles the border between YA and its older sibling, New Adult, set in the world of competitive tennis and rotating between the perspectives of three rising stars at Outer Banks Tennis Academy. There’s Penny, the queen, determined to take home titles, not her hot new partner; Jasmine, who struggles in the shadow of her legendary parents and wrestles with an unrequited crush; and Indiana, who’s making waves on every front as OBX’s newest arrival. This book is even heavier on tennis than on kissing, so if you love your sports romances with an emphasis on the athletics, be sure to pick this one up.
Pinned, by Sharon G. Flake
Adonis is a brilliant boy, born without legs. Autumn is a star wrestler, struggling with academics. In a way, the two are a perfect balance, but though Autumn aggressively sees it that way, Adonis isn’t convinced a guy of his intelligence belongs anywhere in the younger girl’s vicinity. The harder she pushes to bring them together, the harder he pushes her away, but even he can’t ignore that she’s gotten under his skin.
Play On, by Michelle Smith
Set in a town rife with southern charm, local drama, and an all-out sports obsession, Play On is another YA that has earned itself a Friday Night Lights comparison, albeit on the baseball diamond. The pressure’s on for star pitcher Austin, who has one last season to get through before he can finally break free of Lewis Creek, a town full of bad memories and high expectations. But a slipping grade puts his career and scholarship in jeopardy and leaves him reliant on a tutor…in the form of new girl Marisa, who has already been drawing his eye and working her way into his life. Marisa has her own issues to escape, though, and with the darkness in their pasts, they’ll have to hit bottom before they can dig their way out together.
Freshman Year: The You-Know-Who Girls, by Annameekee Hesik
Abbey and her best friend, Kate, have an agreement never to try out for the school’s basketball team. After all, everyone knows it’s full of the you-know-who girls, aka, girls who like other girls. But Abbey doesn’t find that to be quite the same turnoff Kate does; in fact, she’s becoming increasingly sure she’s a you-know-who girl herself. Plus, with her height, how can she not join? When a raging crush sparks her to life, she begins to realize hiding who she wants isn’t an option if she’s gonna find her own happiness, and thankfully, a couple of other girls on the team are more than glad to help her navigate her budding sexuality.
Being Sloane Jacobs, by Lauren Morrill
Sloane Emily Jacobs is an ice skater who’s had it up to here with her stress. Sloane Devon Jacobs is a hockey player whose aggression on the ice has landed her in hot water. Both of them are off to skating camp, where they meet and discover they share not only skating skills but a name. If you’ve seen any version of The Parent Trap, you know what comes next, but neither Sloane could anticipate what a life-changing experience it would be, especially when it came to finding love where they least expect it.