With a Bit of Love: YA Title List
For the sake of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to take a moment to talk about love. Love and romance is a central force in the lives of many teens. It will be present no matter how much adults want to tell students to focus on finding themselves and to focus on education; no matter how much we want to tell them there will always be time for love later, that the tears aren’t worth it right now.
But, love is an important part of being a young adult. Love is fun! It’s a break from hard realities of life—family issues, economic struggles, bullies, and hate. In fact, love can sometimes break down barriers caused by hate. Having someone to fall for for even a moment can help teens get through some of the hardest times in their lives. It can help them see how beautiful and important they are. It can provide that ear to listen, that shoulder to cry on. Sometimes, teens need that person to say, “It’s you and me against the world,” so that they don’t have to feel like they’re alone in facing problems in their lives.
Love can also be fun to read about, and as adults, it’s our job to give students access to books they’ll love reading, to foster a love for reading.
With all of this in mind, I have chosen some title recommendations with some sort of romantic theme. These don’t all necessarily fall into the genre of “romance”. Rather, I chose books that tackle many of the tough issues young adults face daily, and books that explore how romance can help or complicate these real life topics. I recommend all of these for you high school classroom library, and you may consider some of these options if you’re working on an inquiry unit exploring love during difficult times.
American Panda by Gloria Chao.9781481499101. 2018. 7-12.
Seventeen-year-old Mei Lu’s Taiwanese immigrant parents’ have their expectations for Mei: mainly, that she should gain a medical degree, marry a nice Taiwanese doctor, and have children. But Mei has her own wishes. She loves dancing over science, and she’s falling for Darren Takahashi, a Japanese American boy. This novel explores how teens go about finding their own identities and the challenges teens face when their own identities are in conflict with their parents’ wishes.
American Street by Ibi Zoboi. 9780062473042. 2017. 9-12.
Fabiola Toussaint and her mother finally leave Port au Prince, Haiti to live in Detroit, Michigan in hopes of finding “une belle vie”—a good life. However, Fabiola’s dreams begin crumbling when her mother is detained by U.S. immigration, and Fabiola must navigate her new American life—her loud cousins, new school, and new love interest—all alone. Just as Fabiola begins to feel a bit of happiness, she is forced to choose between her boyfriend and helping her mom get out of detention.
Chaos of Standing Still by Jessica Brody. 9781481499187. 2017. 9-12.
For nearly a year, Ryn has had a single unread text message on her phone, a text she can’t read because it’s the last text her best friend ever sent her before she died. Now, exactly a year after that text message, a blizzard traps Ryn in the Denver International Airport where Ryn is run into by Xander, a charming and cute stranger, and the two accidentally swap phones. During an all-night adventure with Xander, Ryn finally stands faces to face with her grief.
The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis. 9780062659002. 2017. 8-12.
Evangellos “Evan” Panos has two secrets. The first, he’s thinking about revealing: he’s gay. The second: he is abused by his mother, and his father stands by silently. Alone, tired, and scared, 17-year-old Evan’s only respite is in the moments he spends drawing in an abandoned monastery. Then, there is Henry, the handsome friend Evan kissed over the summer. When Henry becomes interested in being more than friends, Evan begins to see that he deserves more than his mother’s abuse, and all the while, Evan’s mother becomes even more abusive.
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone. 9781484723647. 2017. 9-12.
Samantha McAllister will do anything to remain within he safety net of the rest of the popular girls in her grade. But Sam has a secret: she has Purely-Obsessional OCD. She obsesses, second guesses, and worries over every single decision that she makes. It doesn’t help that in the world of popularity, one mistake—her outfit, her lunch, her crush—could ruin everything. Then, Sam meets Caroline, a girl who brings a whole new world to light for Sam. Caroline introduces Sam to the Poet’s Corner where Sam learns to be herself and falls for a handsome musician named AJ.
Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven. 9780385755924. 2016. 9-12.
Two lives collide after a cruel high school game. Libby Strout, once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen” after being rescued from her house by a crane, struggles to heal after her mom’s death and wishes she could be seen for who she really is. Jack Masseline is the master at fitting in and giving people what they want, but he’s hiding that he suffers from face blindness. Libby and Jack end up in group counseling together, and soon, both are surprised at how they begin feeling once someone else finally sees them for who they are.
Love & Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves. 9780316436724. 5/15/2018. 9-12.
After a bad freshman year at Harvard, Danny finds herself failing pre-med and losing touch with her best friend. However, when Danny goes to rehab for an eating disorder and meets an attractive older girl, she starts to find herself. Tragedy adds more challenges along the way.
Love, Hate, & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed. 9781616958473. 2018. 9-12.
Living in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, Maya Aziz struggles to find her own identity when everyone else wants to speak for her. Her parents, Muslim Indiana dentists, expect Maya to attend a local college and marry a suitable Muslim boy chosen by her mother. The outside world also has their own perception of Maya, stereotyping and attaching Maya after a building in a nearby town is attacked. Through all of this, Maya dreams of attending film school in New York City and pursuing a boy she’s crushing on all on her own.
The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt. 9781250096890. 2017. 9-12.
Gretchen Asher, 17, has suffered with PTSD since being mugged in a parking lot. Phoenix, 18, is in danger of being deported after having just arrived from helping his brother get to the U.S. to escape gang violence in El Salvador. When Gretchen sees Phoenix, who looks similar to her attacker, she is thrown into panic. However, when Gretchen and Phoenix continue to run into each other, an unlikely bond forms.
Say You’ll Remember Me by Katie McGarry. 9780373212378. 2017. 9-12.
After Drix was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, he gains a second chance with the governor’s new program, the Second Chance Program designed to rehabilitate delinquents. Elle, the governor’s daughter, lives a life of privilege but is breaking under the expectations of her family. Soon, love breaks down barriers between two worlds when Drix and Elle meet.