Stressing over school crushes and candy grams around Valentine’s Day are (unfortunately) just normal teen rites of passage, but wouldn’t getting lost in a book be a whole lot more fun? Check out two of our favorite new young adult romances that capture the spark of first love and explore the all-too-real challenges of growing up.
FALLING FOR YOUR NEMESIS
Laurie Devore (How to Break a Boy) has crafted yet another winning young adult romance with Winner Take All. Nell Becker is determined to graduate as the class valedictorian at Cedar Woods Prep. She’s feeling pretty salty about being the only solidly middle-class kid at a prep school filled to the brim with old money Southerners, but as she freely admits, she’s not here to be liked. She’s here to be the best at all times, and she would be if it wasn’t for the annoyingly handsome and effortlessly perfect Jackson Hart. For a while, it seems like all they can do is spit venom at one another, but I’m sure you can guess that an attraction slowly creeps up on the both of them.
Fans of 10 Things I Hate About You will find plenty of common ground here with the conflict between fiercely independent and outspoken feminist Nell and terminally chill Jackson, but Devore’s story has much sharper edges than the beloved ’90s confection. Never shying away from tough subjects like mental illness, parental pressure, difficult family life, the maddening gender disparities in schools, sexuality and class issues, Winner Take All nicely balances the thrill of young love with two difficult but believable protagonists.
Alvie just wants to live a normal life. But first, she’ll have to convince a judge and a few other people that she’s capable of living a normal life on her own. Alvie is a 17-year-old orphan who also happens to be autistic, but she’s determined to live on her own terms. She’s not a big fan of surprises or anything that goes against the routines that make her feel safe and secure, but that’s exactly what Stanley is—a surprise. When she meets this quirky college boy, Alvie is puzzled by his uncommon condition known as osteogenesis imperfecta. Stanley’s bones are unbelievably brittle, and he’s forced to use a cane for support, but Alvie finds comfort in his no-nonsense approach to living with a disability.
Readers looking for a straightforward, sweet love story will want to pick up When My Heart Joins the Thousand, and although these two teens may be atypical, their slowly blossoming relationship will be instantly recognizable to any reader.