Romance has traditionally been the most optimistic genre of literature because of its mandatory happy endings. These five complex teen romances don’t necessarily end in “happily ever after,” but each one offers readers a satisfying dose of hope. So go ahead - find a romance on the teen shelves, check it out for Valentine’s Day, and fall in love with a good book.
Libby Strout stayed on my mind and in my heart long after I’d finished Jennifer Niven’s Holding up the Universe. Formerly called “America’s Fattest Teen” after being hoisted out of her house by a crane, with the cameras rolling, Libby has lost 300 of her 643 pounds and is heading to high school with a lilt in her step. She’s feeling strong and ready to embrace life with all its possibilities. Enter Jack, a good-looking, popular boy with a secret he’s desperately hiding. After a cruel prank lands them in group counseling together, Libby and Jack work through their anger and uncover a lovely surprise. This story of a plus-size teen is infused with great respect for its indomitable heroine.
When We Collided, by Emery Lord, tells the beautiful, gut-wrenching story of two damaged teens and the summer romance that saves them. Jonah has lived in the idyllic town of Verona Cove his entire life, and nothing ever changed until his dad died. Now he’s consumed with hiding his mother’s debilitating depression and caring for his siblings. Vivi has just arrived in town but is already in love with everything about Verona Cove. When these two collide, their story will make your heart swell.
If I Was Your Girl, by Meredith Russo, is a powerful, bighearted book that should open more than a few minds and hearts. Amanda is the new girl in town, having arrived with a black eye and a very big secret that prevents her from getting close to anyone at her new high school. But she’s also a normal teenage girl who longs for friendship and even romance. Amanda’s aloof resolve collapses under the attention of a kind and attractive boy, and she gives in to her yearning for love. Does she have to tell him – should she tell him – that she used to be Andrew? The author is a transwoman herself, writing with a level of honesty and compassion that makes a very complex subject relatable. Her author’s notes at the end are a revelation.
Nicola Yoon, author of Everything, Everything, is clearly in love with language – and so is the book’s heroine, Madeleine. Her narrative voice is an intellectual delight. Madeleine is a “bubble girl” allergic to pretty much everything in the world. She has spent most of her life shut inside her germ-free house, all alone but for the company of her mother and nurse. When a new boy moves in next door and she begins to fall in love with him, Madeleine realizes she has some frightening choices to make. Could love be worth risking everything?
Be prepared to cheer for Simon Spier in Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Readers will wish to be Simon’s friend, but he already has two great BFF’s, a wonderful family he adores, and a budding email romance with a mystery boy who calls himself Blue. When a vindictive classmate outs him via the school Tumblr, Simon is forced to step outside his comfort zone before he’s ready. At the same time, all he really wants to do is discover the identity of his mystery man. The sweetly unfolding relationship between Simon and Blue will make you swoon.
--Mary Schneeberger, Teen Services Coordinator