If there’s one thing we learned from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, it’s that sometimes the realest connections come from the fakest starts…and that fauxmance-to-romance trope is one we just can’t get enough of. So here are eight (!) more YAs where the best laid plans of aggrieved teens with something to prove turn into feelings none of them saw coming.
Frankly in Love, by David Yoon (September 10)
Get ready for one of this year’s biggest debuts to bust out onto the scene and completely steal your heart. As you may have gathered from the title, it stars a guy named Frank Li, although that’s his American name; Sung-Min Li is his Korean name, which no one on the planet uses. But while his parents may not care if he speaks Korean or what name he uses, they will definitely care that he’s fallen for a white girl. Brit is everything to Frank…except someone he can bring home. The solution? Find a friend who’s in the same spot and get to plotting so you can both keep your relationships happy and your parents in the dark. It should be a great option for both Frank and Joy, but life and matters of the heart so rarely go as planned.
Fake it Til You Break It, by Jenn P. Nguyen
Mia and Jake can’t stand each other but are constantly pushed together thanks to their moms being best friends. They’ll never have their own romantic lives if their moms won’t stop sabotaging them in the hopes that they’ll end up together, and the only way to stop it? Pretend they’ve tried dating, and then let it blow up spectacularly, so their mothers will finally understand they aren’t meant to be. But it throws a wrench into their plans when their fauxmance proves that maybe their moms were onto something after all.
The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls, by Jessica Spotswood
In this small-town tale (think serious Gilmore Girl vibes, only with actual diversity) of four sisters who do a lot of growing up and acting out, the most dramatic of the quartet is sixteen-year-old Kat. So it’s no surprise that she’s the one involved in the deceptive romance, but can you blame her? Having your ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend get cast in the play with you seriously sucks…unless you can prove you’re completely over him by dating yet another guy in the cast. Enter Mase, who’s got similar goals in mind, thanks to his boyfriend having cheated on him. When the two pair up to make their exes jealous, it doesn’t take long for Kat to realize that maybe what she had before isn’t quite worth fighting for.
Analee, in Real Life, by Janelle Milanes
Real life isn’t really Analee’s thing. She’s far more interested in spending all her time online as night elf hunter Kiri, avoiding her ex-best friend, widower father, and stepmother-to-be. But then, life as Kiri has gotten pretty interesting as she’s gotten closer to Xolkar, whose real-life identity is that of a teen boy named Harris whom Analee has never met in person but is definitely falling for. Unfortunately, she has no idea how to confess her crush; she hasn’t exactly been blessed with skills in the romance department. But when someone who has, a.k.a. high school hottie Seb, asks her to pose as his fake girlfriend to make his ex jealous, Analee takes the opportunity to learn how these things actually work. What she ends up with an education in, though, is herself, what she’s capable of, and what she really wants. If you’ve been looking for your next read to follow up Han’s novel-turned-Netflix-smash, make sure this one’s at the top of your list.
How to Repair a Mechanical Heart, by JC Lillis
Newly out Brandon and extremely proud Abel are indeed in a relationship…as co-vloggers for a channel about their favorite TV show, Castaway Planet. But when they take their show on the road for a traveling fandom convention and their fans decide (or at least express hope) there’s more going on than co-vloggership, the guys decide it’d be hilarious to play along. But their real feelings aren’t quite as funny, especially when one if you is secretly carrying around a cross full of Catholic guilt and the other one supposedly has a boyfriend. I cannot say enough good things about the ways every aspect of this book is handled, from the lightest parts to the most complex. It’s honestly just joy wrapped up in adorable packaging, perfect for fans of Simon.
The Fill-In Boyfriend, by Kasie West
Your boyfriend dumping you in the parking lot at prom is pretty freaking terrible, so it’s only fair that Gia does whatever she can to save face, even if it means picking up a complete and total stranger who just happens to be hanging out in the very same lot to pick up his sister. The fill-in boyfriend is only supposed to be a one-night deal, but for some reason, Gia can’t stop thinking about him…and then she’s given no choice, because his sister, who happens to be in Gia’s class, is ready to call in a favor: it’s Gia’s turn to play pretend for the fill-in, aka Hayden, to make his ex jealous. But there’s only so much filling in one can do before that space starts to mold itself in your shape, and Gia and Hayden discover they might just be the perfect fit.
Dating Sarah Cooper, by Siera Maley
This is one of my absolute favorite feel-good queer reads, about besties named Katie and Sarah who end up in a compromising situation when they’re mistaken for girlfriends and Sarah asks Katie to keep up the ruse in order to grab the attention of her (male) crush. The thing is, the longer they keep up the ruse, the less Katie feels like playing pretend; she’s developing some very real and very confusing feelings. Now she wants Sarah for real, but is that in the cards? And even if it is, how do they explain to their new rainbow circle that they’ve been lying all along?
The Way to Game the Walk of Shame, by Jenn P. Nguyen
No one takes school more seriously than Taylor, and everyone knows it; it’s how she got her reputation as an Ice Queen. Then an incident involving alcohol and a party has her waking up next to bad boy Evan McKinley, and suddenly everyone assumes the queen has thawed…and is taking her to task for it. Determined not to let herself get mocked and shamed, Taylor decides the only way to get everyone off her back is to let everyone think that “wild night” was actually her taming the untameable and making Evan her boyfriend. But the terms of their deal go haywire when it turns out there are more than just pretend feelings between them.