If there’s one thing that we can all agree is universal, it’s that you never forget your first love. Ironically enough, first loves might also be one of the hardest things to capture in words — but, luckily, we have books for that. These brilliant authors have explored every part of the teen experience: from family drama to school responsibilities to, yes, that sensation of falling head over heels for the first time.
So what (or who) are you waiting for? Without further ado, here are the best YA romance books that you can’t miss.
1. All the Little Lights by Jamie McGuire
When Catherine and Elliot first meet at the tender age of 15, they become best friends immediately. But just when life starts looking up, Elliot leaves town. And by the time he shows back up at school, he’s a star quarterback — and she’s a girl with a secret. A bestselling author with a string of hits, Jamie McGuire knocks it out again with All the Little Lights as she skillfully merges romance with thriller to create a book that’s more than the sum of its parts.
2. A Million Junes by Emily Henry
In Five Fingers, Michigan, the O’Donnells and the Angerts have feuded for, oh, just about a couple of centuries. With that rivalry ingrained inside of her, it’s no wonder that 18-year old Jack “June” O’Donnell grows up with a healthy hatred of the Angerts. The last thing that she expects is for sparks to fly when she meets Saul Angert. But fly they do, in this triumphant YA book that has been proclaimed as a modern meeting of Romeo and Juliet and One Hundred Years of Solitude.
3. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Amy Curry needs an escape. Her dad’s just died, her mom’s moving both of them from California to Connecticut, and her life just sucks. So Amy plans her own adventure. The setting: a beat-up car and a thousand miles of road. Her companion: Roger, the son of her mom’s friend who she hasn’t seen since she was a child. It’s the perfect recipe for an epic road trip that’ll encompass lots of laughter, mileage, and maybe love as well.
4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Meet Anna, a soon-to-be senior in Atlanta who’s got it all. That is, until her father ships her all the way to a boarding school in France. Suffice to say, that’s practically the other side of the world. Now Anna has to contend both with baguettes and Étienne St. Clair, a handsome youth who has no right to be as charming or gorgeous as he is. Set in the most romantic city in the world and featuring the swoon-worthy French boy of your veritable dreams, Anna and the French Kiss is the YA literary equivalent of a chef’s kiss.
5. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Aristotle and Dante are 15-year olds when they meet in the 1987. From that moment onward, a beautiful relationship unfurls between the two Mexican-American boys as they grow up in “the universe between boys and men.” It’s this friendship — and what it might mean for the two protagonists — that make Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe such a captivating success. It might move slowly, but this richly-drawn story is sure to reward patient readers.
6. Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
When a plane passes above everyone in the sky, there’s one person on the ground who notices: Astrid Jones, a high school senior in a small town. She watches airplanes and thinks of them because she knows that the passengers on the plane won’t judge her — or her innermost desires, most of which involve falling in love with another girl. A heartbreakingly honest coming-of-age story, Ask the Passengers asks real questions of society and human nature.
7. Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
When Tanner Scott moves to Utah with his family, he’s not expecting much out of it: he only has one semester of high school left. Besides, he’s bisexual and he’s not planning on coming out in what seems like a relatively conservative state. Then he makes the mistake of signing up for a writing seminar, which is unfortunately taught by Sebastian Brother: brilliant, prodigious, cute — and extremely Mormon. Every word in this book is pitch-perfect as it weaves an unforgettably heartrending story about falling in love in a writing class.
8. A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks
Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember is a classic in the genre — and it’s synonymous with the definition of a “tear-jerker.” In Beaufort, North Carolina, Landon Carter is a popular class president and Jamie Sullivan is the minister’s quiet daughter. She’s the last person that Landon thought that he would like, much less love. But fate might just have something to say about that in a devastating finale that will remind readers just what it’s like to find a miraculous love at the tender age of 17.
9. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
When queen bee Samantha Kingston dies in a car crash on the evening of February 12, or “Cupid Day,” she really doesn’t expect to wake up the next morning on February 12. Or the next next morning on the exact same day. In fact, she ends up reliving her last day for seven days in a row. Now Samantha has to figure out why this is happening — while going through the five stages of grief about her own death. Lauren Oliver’s debut novel about second chances was acclaimed when it was first published, for good reason.
10. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
He’s supposed to be the savior of the magical world, but here’s the truth: Simon Snow just isn’t a very good Chosen One. He accidentally sets things on fire all the time, he trips over his own robes, and, quite frankly, he has no idea what to do with the terrible monster that’s loose on school grounds. On top of all of that, Simon has to contend with an unfairly good-looking (but evil) roommate in Baz Pitch. So you tell him: what could go wrong in a single semester? Carry On is the addictive, romantic, and eminently lovable retelling of Harry Potter you didn’t realize you needed in your life until now.
11. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Willowdean Dickson goes by Will — or “Dumplin’,” if you’re her pageant mom. One of the fat girls in her Texan small town, she’s really doing just fine, thank you very much. But then a cute boy kisses her one day. And then her beloved aunt suddenly dies, which makes Will decide to honor her memory by entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant. The result will thrill and inspire readers in this eminently charming, poignant book about positivity and acceptance.
12. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Park is the boy whose nose is perpetually stuck in a book. Eleanor is the weird, smart girl who’s new in town. This is the story of how they met and fell in love. Resoundingly praised by none other than John Green, who described Eleanor & Park as a book that reminded him “not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book,” this is a YA romance for anyone who knows what it’s like to experience the mind-bending heights of first love.
13. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
For 17 long years, Maddy has not stepped a single foot outside of her house. The reason is simple: she has a rare disease that makes her allergic to everything, and doctors haven’t managed to sort it out. Until then, indoors is simply safer than outdoors. But then a tall, handsome guy named Olly moves in next door. Olly makes the outside world suddenly seem tantalizing. Whether that’s worth the risk of her own life is the question that Nicola Yoon explores in this gorgeous, beautifully-written book that became an instant New York Times bestseller.
14. Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Hazel Grace thinks that her life has an expiration date, thanks to the almost-terminal cancer that’s resided in her body for a long time now. So she’s prepared for anything — except for Augustus Waters, who shows up one day at her Cancer Kid Support Group and changes everything. With more than a million copies sold worldwide and a blockbuster Hollywood movie made in its name, The Fault in Our Stars is the seminal young adult book of this decade.
15. Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills
It’s Claudia’s senior year and she did not expect to make an enemy of Iris, the meanest girl in school. But when they're both forced to audition for their school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the unexpected happens. Put that drama on top of the goofy, cute boy with dimples who keeps catching Claudia’s eye and Claudia’s life is about to get interesting. And, though the romance is sweet in Foolish Hearts, the real charm of this book lies in the burgeoning friendship between Claudia and Iris.
16. Geekerella by Ashley Poston
Elle Wittimer is a huge geek girl. Her fandom? Starfield: a classic sci-fi series. So she really can’t pass up the opportunity to enter a cosplay contest for the new Starfield movie, and to participate in a meet-and-greet with Darien Freeman, the actor who’s going to play the part of Prince Carmindor. You might be thinking right now (just like Elle’s stepsisters) that you already know how this tale turns out, but you also might be in for a surprise. Cinderella meets nerd culture in this enormously charming fairy tale with a whole lot of heart.
17. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Jude and Noah are twins, inseparable ones. They grew up supporting each other: Jude’s the daredevil and Noah’s the artistic one who might just be in love with the boy next door. But then tragedy strikes, drastically changing their lives — and, fast forward several years later, they’re barely on speaking terms. Something has to give for them to journey back to one another’s side. But one thing’s for sure: this story is for both Noah and Jude to tell. An exquisite must-read for fans of Nicola Yoon, Emma Straub, and Rainbow Rowell.
18. My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
For 10 years, Samantha Reed has lived next door to Jase Garrett without talking to him. In fact, the Reeds don’t have much to do with the Garretts at all. Loud, chaotic, and affectionate, the Garretts seem completely foreign to Samantha’s own prim family. That is, until the summer that Samantha meets Jase for the first time and finds herself falling for him — hard. Not just another summer romance, Huntley Fitzgerald will make you swoon all over again with this timely novel about the tangles of first love and family.
19. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn
Music is the soundtrack of your life, right? If that’s true (and it is), then Nick and Norah, who star in the very aptly named Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, have a roller coaster of a time together for one night. On the surface, they share only two things in common: they’re both teenagers, and they both love good music. But as the night stretches on and on, they realize that this is a first date that might change the course of both of their lives — forever.
20. Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Ever heard of a little book called Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen? Here’s the remix that you’ve been waiting for: Pride, a retelling of Pride and Prejudice that’s set in modern-day Brooklyn. But there’s a twist: its cast stars all characters of color. Funny, warm, and vibrant, it’ll have you rooting all over again for Zuri Benitez, who instantly dislikes the new guy who’s just moved in across the street — Darius.
21. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Something terrible happened to Echo Emerson one night, and she can’t quite remember all the details herself. This should keep her too preoccupied to notice Noah Hutchins, the hot loner, when she goes back to school. But two things are undeniable when Echo and Noah are together: they’re both broken. And when they’re with each other, even they can’t deny the chemistry that they have. With a healthy dose of angst and drama along the way, Katie McGarry knows how to pull heartstrings as she weaves a mesmerizing story about two teenagers who should be completely mismatched for each other, but aren’t.
22. The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson
Trixie Watson’s planned her senior year at her school of geniuses pretty much to a T: she’s going to buy a lot more comics, and she’s going to beat that annoying Ben West in the monthly school rankings. Getting a boyfriend doesn’t figure into her schedule at all. Nope. Of course, she doesn’t expect her best friend to cross enemy lines and start dating Ben’s best friend — forcing Trixia to spend more time with Ben. Worse things (like the Dalek Wars) have happened, she guesses. Nerd-heaven meets Much Ado About Nothing in this humorous, warm, and terrifically smart book that will delight the fangirl or fanboy in you.
23. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
You might call Macy’s life a bit sheltered: during the day, she whiles away the hours shelving books at the local library, and her evenings are spent doing SAT drills. In fact, things are so routine and dull that she’s completely caught off-guard when Wes enters the picture. He’s artistic, cute, and kind. But most of all, he makes Macy question whether it really is better to have loved and lost, than never have loved at all. This is a stunning, poignant offering by the queen of contemporary YA romance — one of Sarah Dessen’s standouts.
24. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Sydney might as well be invisible in her family. Constantly overshadowed by (and overlooked for) her brother, Peyton, Sydney doesn’t really know what a family feels like until she meets the Chathams: a chaotic, lovable family that welcomes her with open arms. And then there’s Mac, the gentle older brother who might turn Sydney’s summer upside-down. This is another quietly lovely triumph by Sarah Dessen.
25. Slammed by Colleen Hoover
Colleen Hoover entered the literary scene with a bang with this shimmering debut novel about a girl, a boy, and slam poetry. The girl? Layken (who also goes by Lake), who’s the resigned rock of a family that has just been shaken by the death of her father. The boy? Will — 21-years old, cute, and impossibly sweet. They strike it off within days of meeting each other. But just when Layken thinks she’s found a spark of hope in her life, a shocking turn of events changes everything — maybe once and for all.
26. Simon Vs. the Homo Sapien’s Agenda by Becky Albertalli
The publishing sensation of 2016, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapien’s Agenda is the incredibly beloved story of Simon, who is sixteen years old and gay. Except that his entire school doesn’t know it yet and Simon really isn’t planning to telling anyone — until external circumstances say otherwise. As if that’s not enough, there’s also the matter of the cute, incredibly baffling guy with whom he thinks he’s falling in love. If you’d like to do yourself a favor, pick up this witty, openhearted bestselling novel up stat.
27. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
We can all agree that high school is horrible — and it might be even worse for introverts. Quiet and observant, Charlie is a “wallflower” at his school: he prefers to watch life pass rather than interact with it. Unfortunately, there’s so much that he has to experience, from first dates to family battles. And then there’s Sam, his best friend who’s stuck by his side all this time. This heartfelt cult favorite is Charlie’s coming-of-age story — and if you can’t get enough after you put it down, it was even adapted into a major motion picture starring Emma Watson in 2012.
28. The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
A year ago, Paige Hancock’s boyfriend died in an accident and nothing has been the same since. But now she’s entering her junior year at school and she’s determined to get back into the groove of life again. And her first step in her plan to avoid being known as “The Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned” is to date her old crush, Ryan Chase — but that’s surprisingly hard when Ryan’s cute cousin, Max, shows up in the picture. This might be the start of many new things, if only Paige can overcome the most obvious challenge in her perfect strategy: letting herself be herself again.
29. The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines
Meet the Vincents: Sawyer Vincent, the boyfriend, is basically the perfect Prince Charming. Then there’s Beau Vincent — Prince Charming’s dangerous cousin, who’s entirely wrong for Ashton. And yet Ashton finds that she can’t stay away from him, especially when Sawyer leaves town in the summer. Now she has to pick one of the Vincent boys, and she knows that she has to make the right choice.
30. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
Yes, this is that novel that spawned the Internet’s new boyfriend, Noah Centineo, and the “To all the ___” memes that you’ve seen online. The sleeper hit of 2018 when it exploded in popularity on Netflix, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the extremely lovable story of Lara Jean, a girl who’s just trying to navigate high school. Instead of telling her crushes face to face that she likes them, she writes them a letter that they’ll never actually see… until the day that they do. Cue family shenanigans, school drama, and a fake relationship that might just change Lara’s world, once and for all.
31. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
The girl: Dimple Shah, a precocious young girl who’s going to go to Stanford next year and could care less about finding the “Perfect Indian Husband.” The boy: Rishi Patel, a boy who may or may not be the arranged husband that Dimple Shah’s parents would choose for her. The stage where they meet for the first time: a summer program for aspiring web developers. Except that Dimple doesn’t yet realize that this might be a set-up by her parents in this sweet, wildly endearing book about opposites and the meaning of real love.
For the best YA fantasy books, check out Reedsy’s 30 recommended fantasies for teens.