On the spectrum of universal experiences, teen romance – unrequited and not – ranks pretty high. It’s a fairly safe bet that we can all identify to some extent with the bittersweet ache of a first real crush or the heady excitement of reciprocal attraction. Trace it back to Tristan and Isolde or Romeo and Juliet, teen romance is a classic literary trapping if ever there were one.
“Everything, Everything,” an adaptation of the bestselling Nicola Yoon novel, is now in theaters. Given its earnest teen romance and star-crossed protagonists, we thought this an excellent moment to revisit a few of our favorite young adult love stories. Whether you’re looking to pick up Everything, Everything before seeing the movie or perhaps looking for a few more young adult tales of love found and perhaps lost after the credits roll, this list has you covered.
Born with a rare disease that leaves her confined to the sterile confines of her home and unable to interact in person with anyone other than her mother and nurse, Maddy Whittier yearns to experience the world outside her window. When she notices the boy next door and he notices her, the two begin an at-first-clandestine relationship that will reshape the boundaries of Maddy’s world.
The Tim Tharp novel The Spectacular Now flew largely under the radar on its release in 2013. And then the movie adaptation landed. Starring Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, the story centers on Sutter (Teller), a charismatic and troubled underachiever, and his blossoming relationship with straight-laced Aimee (Woodley). What sets “The Spectacular Now” apart is its vivid attention to the realities of youth and the way it lifts Sutter and Aimee beyond the stereotypical trappings that initially define the characters.
Wholly original and delightfully witty, Eleanor and Park was an instant classic when it was published in 2013. Set over the course of a school year in 1986, the novel follows the first love between two precocious misfits. Told with nimble precision through rapid-fire dialogue, Eleanor and Park is a reminder of the searing power and limitations of first love.
This 2005 Kazuo Ishiguro novel is a poignant love story set against the backdrop of near future dystopia. The elegiac and haunting story centers on a trio of friends – Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth – in an idyllic boarding school in the English countryside – one that nonetheless masks a terrible truth. The growing romance between Tommy and Ruth provides part of the novel’s crushing emotional core, and the chemistry between them as portrayed by Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley in the movie adaptation is stunning.
Left comatose following a tragic car accident, seventeen-year-old Mia Hall is left to watch on from the brink of death as her remaining family gather around her in a hospital room. Through this out-of-body experience, Mia looks back over her life – her decisions, her friendships, her growing relationship with her boyfriend – and is left with the decision to stay or leave this world. If I Stay was adapted into a film of the same name in 2014 and starred Chloe Grace Moretz.
Anne Brashares’s novel The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants centers on a group of four friends separating for summer vacation. While largely a story on the bonds of friendship and particularly mystical pair of pants, Sisterhood still makes time for its fair share of well-drawn teen romance. The 2005 movie adaptation launched Sisterhood to new heights.
You can’t do a list of teen romance without including something by John Green. His works are insightful, brash, emotionally raw, and often unexpectedly hilarious. The Fault in Our Stars might just be his best work to date. It chronicles the love affair between a pair of teenage cancer survivors and is near equal parts hopeful, tragic, and life-affirming.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is a coming-of-age tale of first love, loss, and friendship. It centers on an introverted teen named Charlie struggling through new friendships, first love, and his own secrets during his freshman year at a suburban Pittsburgh high school. See the movie adaptation to witness one of those rare instances wherein the film arguably improves on the book.
In this witty and original bestseller from David Levithan, a teen known as A wakes up each morning in a different body, living a different life. It’s a cycle that A has made peace with until the morning he wakes in the body of Justin and discovers and connects with Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. It’s a captivating read with one of the more intriguing obstacles to young love.
Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
This YA novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan centers on two misfit teens who make a connection on an eventful New York City night. Following their oft-derailed quest to track down the location of a secret show by a legendary band, Nick and Norah’s Inifinite Playlist – adapted into a charming movie of the same name – is a charming reminder of the excitement that comes with a sudden attraction and young love.