YA Romances with Heart

book heart

Love is in the air and on the shelves in the Butler Center this winter! And while it’s not uncommon, especially nearing Valentine’s Day, to find a plethora of lovey-dovey books to be had—this year seems particularly love-struck. One of the editors over at BookPage has even declared 2020 to be “the year of the YA rom-com” (they are REALLY looking forward to Yes No Maybe So, the upcoming collaboration between Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed, and so am I). They just may be right!

Lest you think it’s all carnations and conversation heart candy over here, there are some pretty fabulous and thoughtful twists on the traditional romantic tropes and quite a few delightfully complex characters and plots to be found as well. Take a look at some of our favorites.

Kissing Lessons cover artKissing Lessons by Sophie Jordan
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Available June 2020
Ages 14 and up

Hayden Vargas is a reputed “bad girl.” Emmaline Martin is just the opposite but determined to break out of her “good little sister” box. What could go wrong when Emmaline hires Hayden to give her lessons on how to land a man? An authentic friendship develops between the girls, challenging Emmaline’s comfort zone and Hayden’s desperately poor and unsupportive home life, making this story as much about friendship as it is about romance.

 

Four Days of You and Me cover artFour Days of You and Me by Miranda Kenneally
Published by Sourcebooks
Available May 2020
Ages 14 and up

The evolution and devolution of a relationship told in four class trips. Alex and Lulu go from enemies to lovers and back again as they fight, makeup, and support one another through the ups and downs of high school. The secondary plot line that follows Lulu’s art and interest in graphic novels through writing and selling one is compelling and could have played an even bigger part in these fun episodes.

 

19 Love Songs19 Love Songs by David Levithan
Published by Alfred A. Knopf
Available January 2020
Ages 14 and up

Joyous, awkward, tearful, raw, supportive, and lonely—19 Love Songs is a short story collection focused on love and all its many, many forms. Some are stories Levithan wrote as valentine notes to his friends, several first appeared in other short story collections, and all take a thoughtful look at the love between friends, strangers, partners, parents, families, and teammates. An appropriately varied mix-tape of emotions for Valentine’s Day.

 

Finding Mr. Better-Than-You cover artFinding Mr. Better-Than-You by Shani Petroff
Published by Swoon Reads
Available January 2020
Ages 14 and up

When Camryn Roth is dumped by her boyfriend, she turns to her other love, romantic comedies, for solace. With them comes an idea… What if she could use classic rom-com themes to make her ex jealous and salvage her senior year and her life plan—Columbia University with Marc by her side. As with any good movie in the genre, things go awry, and Camryn ends up discovering the true self she lost to her relationship. As sweet and silly as a big-screen rom-com with a side of self-actualization.

 

Only Love Can Break Your Heart cover artOnly Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber
Published by Scholastic Press
Available January 2020
Ages 12 and up

Reiko is good at keeping secrets, like the fact that she still sees and talks to her dead sister Mika. So when the school’s “It girl” starts dating gawky, quiet, unpopular Seth, she can keep that a secret too. But when their relationship goes public her entire life starts to spiral out of control–Seth, her grades, and her secrets. More toxic relationship drama, than rom-com, this story of grief, introspection, and self-discovery is also a love letter to its stunning desert setting.

 

This Train Is Being Held cover artThis Train is Being Held by Ismée Williams
Published by Amulet Books/Abrams
Available January 2020
Ages 14 and up

Two strangers meet on a train—Isa the dancer and Alex the baseball player. Then they meet again and again and again. Small snippets of their vastly different lives unfold between run-ins on the subway. But can they really develop a relationship while hiding so much of themselves from the other? Themes of racism, mental health struggles, gang violence, and heavy family expectations make this far more complex than your average YA romance.

 

 

 

 

 

Kinship Project

voice from afarThe Butler Center opened in its permanent space two years ago today on September 11th, 2011, the tenth anniversary of that infamous day in world history. To commemorate that occasion we curated an exhibit called the Kinship Project, a collection of books for children and teens that speak to our human kinship. We created a catalog with notes that speak to each of the 29 books connection to the idea of kinship. I link here to the online version. We have some print copies as well (beautiful, actually) and I’d be happy to send some along to you, too. Just fill out the form below with your name and address and I’ll get them in the mail.

How about you? What do you remember of that day? What do your memories have to say to your work with books and young people? Where do you see kinship among the collections we keep?