7 Contemporary & Swoon-Worthy YA Romance Novels

Hand these seven contemporary romances to genre enthusiasts looking for fun rom-coms, enemies-to-lovers, and friends-to-lovers reads—especially with ­Valentine’s Day around the corner.

Hand these seven contemporary romances to genre enthusiasts looking for fun rom-coms, enemies-to-lovers, and friends-to-lovers reads—especially with ­Valentine’s Day around the corner.

Bryant, Elise. Reggie and Delilah’s Year of Falling. 400p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Jan. 2023. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780063212992.
Gr 8 Up–It’s New Year’s Eve and Delilah’s inability to disappoint her cool friends at her new private school means she’s the front woman in a punk band and about to sing in front of people for the very first time. Enter Reggie, a self-conscious Dungeons & Dragons nerd whose anonymous online essays about race in D&D have been gaining traction. Their meet-cute would have gone perfectly if it weren’t for Delilah’s unresolved crush on a guy in her new band. And thus begins the year of falling. Reggie and Delilah’s paths cross on Valentine’s Day, then St. Patrick’s Day, until they’re sure the universe is trying to tell them something. As the year progresses, they start inventing holidays as an excuse to hang out as they slowly grow closer. Delilah finally starts gaining the confidence she needs to finally do her own thing, but Reggie, who has faked total self-assurance, still has things to hide. Told through dual narration, this sweet, will-they-or-won’t-they romance has refreshingly authentic depth. It leaves room for Reggie and Delilah to grow, mess up, and explore their relationships with friends, family, and each other. While the secondary characters are a bit flat, Reggie and Delilah shine. Delilah is biracial (Black and white) and Reggie is Black. ­VERDICT Recommended for all collections. Hand to fans of Brandy Colbert’s Little & Lion or ­Kristina ­Forest’s Zyla & Kai.–Katie Patterson

Gonzales, Sophie. Never Ever Getting Back Together. 384p. Wednesday Bks. Nov. 2022. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250819161.
Gr 9 Up–Reality TV show contestants who are fresh out of high school and looking for love with a pseudo-member of a royal family? Gonzales ropes in readers and will have them hooked. Maya was dumped by Jordy, and he started dating Skye two years ago; his older sister is now married to a prince of a small European country and he’s suddenly an eligible bachelor, hence the show, Second-Chance Romance, which brings together his exes for a competition to get back with him. Maya hates Jordy just as much as she hates Skye—who she’s stuck rooming with for the duration of the filming—and agrees to do the show in hopes of secretly bringing Jordy down. On the other hand, despite many reservations after her relationship with Jordy abruptly ended when he moved, Skye decided to give him another chance. Though the story is slow to start and some suspension of disbelief regarding typical 18-year-old ­behavior is ­necessary, this novel finds ways to incorporate the importance of friendship, second chances, and love in all forms without feeling heavy or overbearing. The novel includes ­LGBTQIA+ representation in main characters as well as BIPOC side characters. There are age-relevant displays of affection. VERDICT A great addition to any high school collection looking to add light romance reads to their shelves and a solid recommendation for readers who are tired of drama on the screen or in real life but could use a distraction.–Samantha Hull

Green, Simon James. Heartbreak Boys. 384p. HarperCollins/Clarion. Dec. 2022. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780358617259.
Gr 9 Up–English 16-year-olds Jack and Nate, cued as white, are polar opposites. Unapologetically, fabulously gay Jack is positive that he and his popular boyfriend, Dylan, will be crowned king and queen of their prom—that’ll show the haters! Meanwhile, closeted, neurotic Nate loves his boyfriend, Tariq, enough to come out at the prom during a speech. Except, that’s when everyone finds out Dylan and Tariq are together and planning an Instagrammable summer break. An enraged Jack decides that he and Nate—former best friends—must retaliate by Instagramming their own fantastic summer. Unfortunately, theirs is a mishap-prone road trip with Nate’s parents, and extrovert Jack continually drives introvert Nate up a tree. How were they ever even friends? Could they ever get their friendship back? Could it lead to more than that? Told in chapters alternating the boys’ points of view, this hilarious rom-com overflows with lively, distinctive characters, and a lot of heart. The road trip is full of hapless episodes that Jake manages to twist into Instagram photos to rival Dylan and Tariq’s, in the process exposing how unreliable a story social media can tell. The romance develops slowly and believably, with requisite misunderstandings, as the former best friends get reacquainted and remember all the fun they had as kids. ­Cursing and sexual references are ­teen-relevant. ­VERDICT A delightful, opposites-attract ­rom-com.–Rebecca Moore

Hibbert, Talia. Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute. 336p. Random/Joy Revolution. Jan. 2023. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593482339.
Gr 9 Up–Romance author Hibbert’s first foray into YA fiction has all the signs of her lovable adult love stories placed squarely in the world of teen angst. Celine Bangura and Bradley Graeme were friends until a fractious event turned them into enemies. Both are highly competitive for top marks in their school and know all too well how to irk each other. When a scholarship opportunity places them out of their comfort zone, they find themselves thrust far too close to stomach. As they trade barbs, they begin to experience other feelings for each other that they loathe acknowledging until a chance kiss changes the direction of their relationship. A series of unfortunate accidents happen that leaves Celine and Bradley no choice but to recognize their feelings and see where it takes them. Hibbert does a fantastic job describing the ways the two main characters represent their Blackness throughout, which is a definite highlight of this story. The main characters initially feel unlikable the first part of the book, but they are presented in a more likable light as their enemies-to-lovers story unfolds. The surrounding characters, especially their family members, play a major role in the story, but readers don’t experience their respective friend groups enough to have context on how their relationship changed. VERDICT A great addition to any library’s YA shelves, especially where there’s a gap in the collection for love stories featuring Black teens.–David Roberts

Lord, Emma. Begin Again. 352p. ­Wednesday Bks. Jan. 2023. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250783363.
Gr 8 Up–When Andie Rose doesn’t get into her dream college, she goes to community college and works hard to transfer. She shows up at Blue Ridge State mid-year, armed with a relentlessly positive attitude and unlimited snack cakes, and jumps headfirst into college life—corralling her reluctant dormmates into weekly hangouts and diving into the ribbon hunt that will help her gain entrance into the same secret society her late mother was in. She also jumps into solving her new friends’ problems—helping her roommate Shay figure out a major and curing her grumpy RA’s caffeine addiction. All this might be a means to avoid her own issues, like her struggles with statistics class, her fears that she’ll never live up to her mother’s legacy, and her problems connecting with her long-distance boyfriend. As she finds a home away from home at Blue Ridge State, complete with ride-or-die friendships and maybe even a new romance, Andie will have to come to terms with her past, reckon with her expectations for herself, and find a future path that’s all her own. This grumpy-sunshine rom-com features a grouch with a secret heart of gold, an eternal optimist with plenty of depth beneath the surface, a healthy dose of banter, and a generous helping of Lord’s laugh-out-loud wit. While Andie is the star of this story, secondary characters, especially new friends, Shay and Valeria, are fleshed out and have their own interesting narrative. Andie and her RA, Milo, are presumed white and straight; Shay is Black, Valeria is biracial, and both girls are queer. VERDICT A worthwhile addition to your collection to satisfy romance lovers and fans of Lord’s previous books.–Alison Glass

O’Clover, Ellen. Seven Percent of Ro Devereux. 320p. HarperTeen. Jan. 2023. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780063255036.
Gr 10 Up–Ro Devereux has created an app for her senior project that is based on the classic game of MASH (Mansion Apartment Shack House), which can predict a user’s future with 93 percent accuracy. To gain interest from a potential investor, Ro must test out the app herself and prove that it works. The app declares Alistair Miller, her childhood best friend who hasn’t spoken to her since an incident between them during their freshman year, as her perfect match. Will she convince Miller to play this game with her, and if so, what will this app ultimately prove to Ro, Miller, and possibly the world? This story isn’t simply a teen romance with an enemies-to-lovers trope. It’s also about finding yourself and realizing that life is unpredictable. The author provides excellent insight on life and relationships in this debut that teens can take away from this beautiful, slow-burn contemporary romance. Main characters present as white, with one supporting character cued Black. There are bisexual and gay secondary characters. VERDICT Fans of Rachel Lynn Solomon and John Green will not be able to put this one down. It will fit right in with the YA collection of any public library.–Lacey Webster

Wilde, Rhiannon. Henry Hamlet’s Heart. 336p. Charlesbridge. Oct. 2022. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781623543693.
Gr 9 Up–Henry Hamlet, senior at Northolm Grammar School for Boys, is the school captain and a force on the debate team but does not know what the future holds for him after high school. Sometimes, the only thing he feels good at is making any social situation awkward. His best friend, Len, is the opposite: bold, athletic, and an enigma in the relationship department. When a game of truth or dare leads to Len and Henry kissing, Henry realizes he may have feelings deeper than friendship. When Len, who struggles with commitment, reciprocates some of those feelings, Henry is faced with the fear of ­losing his best friend ­forever. A nice debut that starts slowly but picks up momentum in Part 2 as Henry and Len’s relationship is explored more deeply. The protagonist, Henry, is easy to sympathize with as he navigates his feelings throughout. However, the real standout character is Len, whose complexity equals or surpasses Henry’s. The side characters add some humor to the story, but not a lot of dimension, although Henry’s grandma is charming as she prepares for her wedding to her girlfriend. Overall, ­Henry is the character that readers will want to see come out on top. Characters are cued white. VERDICT This sweet, queer, best-friends-fall-in-love story is perfect for fans of Becky ­Albertalli.–Amanda Harding

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