I am not a fan of romcoms on the screen or in book form but I do enjoy a good romance, once in a while. Back when I was in high school (just a few years ago), I devoured those bodice rippers. You know the ones I’m talking about where the stunningly beautiful woman stands wrapped in the arms of an equally stunning man who seems to have just (accidentally?) torn her bodice to shreds. I learned a lot about the birds and the bees from those novels (probably why I’m not married now…super high expectations from those bees). My favorite books, however, are those that build the relationship between the characters slowly and there’s a whole lot of other stuff going on around them. These novels are not, technically, romance novels. You certainly wouldn’t find them at Barnes and Noble next to the bodice rippers (yes, they still write those and it’s a billion dollar industry). Mostly, they are contemporary fiction novels or fantasy novels (you know how I love my fantasy stories) that have characters who fall in love. You’ll have noticed that I don’t even have Romance as a genre listed! Honestly, though, that’s more of an oversight than purposeful. Maybe you can help me come up with a list of truly Romance-y novels?
I’ve made an observation after the thousands of books I’ve read throughout my life…many, many YA novels have an element of romance in them but you wouldn’t necessarily label them with the Romance genre sticker. Some revolved around crushes that turn into something or that remain star-crossed. Others, focus on the I-don’t-need-anyone-until-BAM-I’m-in-love stories. Below are some of my favorites. Please forgive me for the overabundance of my favorite genre. I can’t help myself!
Hunger Games – there’s even a love triangle in this one…Katniss, Gale, and Peeta.
Graceling by Kirstin Cashore – This one is about a girl who has the powerful “grace” of being able to kill anyone, any time, with any or no weapon. She’s being used as an enforcer by her uncle but runs a rescue group on the sly. One a mission to save an elderly royal, she meets the only person ever to be able to hold his own against her. Oh, she still beats the daylights out of him but she has to break a sweat to do it.
Matched by Ally Condie – Sure, this one is all about matching young people for mates but, there’s a lot more going on here, still, you definitely get the LUV angle.
Divergent by Veronica Roth – you CANNOT deny the smoldering passion between Four and Triss from the moment they meet.
Sarah Dessen – I mention her because her books ALWAYS have an angsty love story unfolding amongst the dysfunctional family drama (and, they are ALL fabulous books).
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier – Based on the Seven Swans fairy tale, the romance in this one builds over three fabulously long books.
Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – This one’s a mashup between the Beauty and the Beast and the Scottish Tam Lin fairy tales. There’s death and destruction, betrayal, and, ultimately love, but with a mind-bending twist.
The Dark Artifices series by Cassandra Clare – the romance in this book started long before this was even published! There are demons, warlocks, curses, betrayal…love?
Harp of Kings by Julie Marillier – This one has a couple of love stories but the main one unfolds slowly with all the infuriating potholes and familial interferences that make a good love story. Bonus: two of the characters are the children of a couple from another of my favorite Marillier books, the Blackthorn and Grim series.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levitan – This story is a borderline love story about two boys, both named Will Grayson, looking for and finding love even though one of them wasn’t looking for it and the other finds it in an unexpected place.
An Abundance of Katherine’s by John Green – This is all about a mathematical genius (no, seriously) who is trying to figure out the formula that will explain why he only falls in love with girls named Katherine all while he’s on a post-graduation road trip with his best friend. Is it a buddy story? Is it a romance? You decide.