Dive into Diversity: YA Romance

In 2021, my Dive into Diversity posts about young adult books will focus on a different genre each month. I’ll highlight books with characters that represent a range of experiences and identities. I’ll also feature #ownvoices authors, or authors who share an aspect of their characters’ identity, as much as possible. Predictably, the February edition highlights books that feature romance as a central plot element.

Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon
Grades 9 and up
OverDrive; Library Catalog
I was excited to read David Yoon's next book after loving Frankly in Love when I read it in 2019, and I was not disappointed. In this one, accomplished D&D cosplay engineer Sunny Dae accidentally tries on his older brother Gray’s rock star persona in front of his cute new neighbor Cirrus Soh. Sunny gets stuck perpetuating the lie when Cirrus expresses interest in his music career. Even though this book definitely fits into the romance category, the love story doesn’t dominate the whole book. Brothers Sunny and Gray struggle to define their identities and navigate family dynamics. One of my favorite parts was the hilarious and supportive relationship Sunny had with his two best friends, Milo and Jamal, who serve as his accomplices on the drums and bass respectively. Definitely recommend this funny, fulfilling romance.

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant
Grades 9 and up
OverDrive; Library Catalog
“When 16-year-old Tessa starts a creative writing program in her new Southern California school, she is excited to work on her romance stories as a class assignment. Though she misses her best friend, Caroline, Tessa feels comfortable among the artists at her new school. Just as things seem to be falling into place, Tessa runs into a debilitating case of writer's block. She's terrified of being called out as a fraud, but her friend Caroline develops Operation Happily Ever After, a plan to jump-start Tessa's creativity by giving her an actual love life.” –School Library Journal

Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson
Grades 7 and up
OverDrive; Library Catalog
“Nala Robertson has a three-pronged plan for the summer before her senior year. One—Find a new hairstyle. Two—Spend time with her cousin and best friend, Imani. Three—Find love. When she attends a talent show hosted by the community group that her cousin is involved in and meets the beautiful Tye Brown, it seems like Nala's summer is shaping up the way she intended. Who cares if she tells a few white lies to get the civically minded Tye to think more highly of her? But as the summer progresses and Nala's relationship with Tye deepens, she feels her cousin pulling away from her and starts to wonder how long she can keep up the ruse.” –School Library Journal

Camp by L. C. Rosen
Grades 9 and up
OverDrive; Library Catalog
“Randall ‘Randy' Kapplehoff now goes by Del. He's 16, at an LGBTQIA+ summer camp for the fourth year, and ready to finally hook, line, and sink the masc4masc love of his life. Previous seasons have been about starring in the camp's annual theatrical production in gender-bending roles and painting his nails to express his inner shimmer. But longtime crush, hunky Hudson Aaronson-Lim (a charismatic serial dater), is more soccer than sequin, so Del cultivates a disingenuous shell to attract him (which he does) and keep him as a boyfriend, turning his back on the production of Bye Bye Birdie (which he regrets).” –Kirkus Reviews

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado
Grades 9 and up
OverDrive
“Charlie Vega is struggling, and who can blame her? She's continuously bullied by her mother about her weight, resigned to being overshadowed by her thin and popular best friend Amelia, withdrawn from her Puerto Rican extended family after the death of her father, and tossed aside by her admittedly unworthy crush. When she meets a new coworker, Brian, it's not easy to let go of her insecurities in pursuit of her own happiness. Charlie's romantic journey is adorable, perfectly encompassing all the giddy hopes and insecurities of first love.” –School Library Journal

Heiress Apparently by Diana Ma
Grades 9 and up
Hoopla; Library Catalog
“Gemma Huang, a Chinese-American teen from Illinois, is taking a gap year after high school to pursue her dream of acting. Though she has been accepted to UCLA, she trades her academic studies for grueling auditions while living in Los Angeles with other aspiring actresses. When she lands a major role in a new movie adaptation of M. Butterfly, Gemma is thrilled, until she learns that the filming will take place in Beijing. Defying her parents' lifelong ban on traveling to China, Gemma accepts the role and flies across the world…. This page-turning novel's lighthearted tone, mixed with a thorough exploration of serious topics and romantic relationships, is reminiscent of Jenny Han's To All The Boys I've Loved Before.” –School Library Journal

A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey
Grades 7 and up
OverDrive; Library Catalog
“Lila Reyes, 17, had her whole life after graduation planned out—stay in her native Miami, take over her family’s bakery, get an apartment with her best friend, and keep dating her boyfriend—but after “the trifecta,” a series of massive losses, she’s sent to a medieval town in Hampshire, England, to visit her Tía Cate. Lila is determined to return to Miami, but new experiences begin to warm her up to England—replacing the head baker on leave at Tía Cate’s traditional British inn, as well as meeting new friends Remy and Jules, and getting to know Orion, a boy who becomes her unofficial tour guide.” –Publisher’s Weekly

More Than Just a Pretty Face by Syed M. Masood
Grades 9 and up
OverDrive; Library Catalog
“California teen Danyal Jilani knows he is good looking, but is that enough to win over fashionable and vivacious Kaval Sabsvari, the girl he's long had a crush on? The Pakistani American high school senior's looks and charming personality don't impress his father, who is disappointed by his poor academic performance and desire to attend culinary school. But when he meets smart college freshman Bisma Akram through his parents for potential future marriage purposes, Danyal learns of her scandalous secret—one that has made other families decide she isn't a suitable marriage prospect.” –Kirkus Reviews

The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley
Grades 9 and up
OverDrive; Library Catalog
“Theater people are often superstitious, especially the kids at Beaconville High School, whose drama program’s wing is built on the site of a ruined theater and almost certainly cursed. This makes things harder for junior Melody McIntyre, the youngest stage manager in school history, but she’s up for it. So after the tech crew decides that more things go wrong when Melody’s dating someone, she agrees not to fall in love for the show’s duration, even though she’s the school’s “patron saint of serial monogamy.” But when senior Odile Rose, who’s already acted in films and television, is cast in the spring musical, she and Mel are immediately attracted to each other.” –Publisher’s Weekly

10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon
Grades 8 and up
OverDrive; Library Catalog
“Pinky Kumar is ready to take on the world, starting with whatever social justice cause she can get her hands on first. Samir Jha is content to follow his plan in corporate law. When the latter’s internship falls through and Pinky needs to prove to her parents she is capable of making good choices, Pinky invites Samir to play her boyfriend for the duration of their coastal summer vacation.” –Kirkus Reviews

Categories: Authors & Books, Featured, Homepage Teens, Library News, and Teens.

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