12 Teen Romances Delve Into Big Feelings and Deep Thoughts | Summer Reading 2021

These swoon-worthy beach reads keep it light while diving into deeper themes.

Heartstoppers / Meet Cute Diary / Counting Down With You / Happily Ever Afters

See more Summer Reading 2021 selections


These swoon-worthy beach reads keep it light while diving into deeper themes.


Love from A to Z by S.K. Ali. S. & S./Salaam Reads. ISBN 9781534442726.

Adam Chen and Zayneb Malik, who for very different reasons feel alone and frustrated, meet in Qatar and discover the transformative power of convictions and connections. Centering the Muslim experience, this beautiful, complex, and important book examines love, family, justice, activism, and the changes and challenges life throws at us.

Love in English by Maria E. Andreu. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780062996510.

When 16-year-old Ana moves from Argentina to New Jersey, she works hard to learn English and fit in at her new high school. When she meets Harrison, a handsome, blonde-haired boy in her math class, Ana begins to come out of her shell. And as Ana makes progress with English and expresses herself through her poetry, she develops a close friendship with Neo, a Greek Cypriot boy from her ESL class, who enlists her to watch 1980s movies and take trips to New York City.

Counting Down With You by Tashie Bhuiyan. Inkyard. ISBN 9781335209979.

High school junior Karina Ahmed is asked to tutor mysterious bad boy Ace Clyde. After a rough start, they begin to open up to each other—first as friends, and then as something more. As sparks fly, Karina realizes she might not be the only one hiding her true self under the surface.

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. ISBN 9780062982834.
When Tessa starts a creative writing program in her new school, she runs into a debilitating case of writer’s block, but her friend Caroline develops Operation Happily Ever After, a plan to jump-start Tessa’s creativity by giving her an actual love life. This well-written, page-turning romance is packed with smart dialogue, powerful insights, and a lovable cast of characters.

Say Yes Summer by Lindsey Roth Culli. Delacorte. ISBN 9780399552311.

Reflecting that she had refused to participate in many high school rites of passage, and after finding a self-help book that encourages saying “yes” to new life experiences, recent valedictorian Rachel decides to try this approach.

Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar. Page Street. ISBN 9781645672579.

Despite being the only two Bengali students in their Irish high school, popular, unassuming Hani and intimidating, ambitious Ishu are barely more than passing acquaintances. But when Hani needs to convince her friends of her bisexuality and Ishu needs to stir up votes for Head Girl, they strike a deal.

Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee. HarperCollins/Quill Tree. ISBN 9780063038837.

Noah writes embellished trans love stories based on real-life encounters for his viral blog “Meet Cute Diary.” When Noah explains the truth about the blog, Drew agrees to pretend to date him, and their pretending “for the Diary” quickly becomes real. But when Noah gets a job at a camp, he also grows close to his coworker Devin. Lee’s writing smartly and reverently serves as a rom-com metanarrative.

Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins. Scholastic. ISBN 9781338620825.
Felipe is comfortable with being gay. However, he’s uncomfortable with being fat and feeling too vulnerable to others’ judgments. Then Caio, a more outgoing boy from a neighboring apartment, is sent to stay with Felipe while his mother is out of town. This LGBTQ–themed story with a soul that goes well beyond exploring queer identity will delight teen readers of realistic fiction.

Breathless by Jennifer Niven. Knopf. ISBN 9781524701963.
After Claudine’s parents announce their separation, she and her mother spend the summer after high school on a remote island, where Claude meets Jeremiah and rediscovers herself and her feelings about love. The discussions of sex are refreshingly frank and positive, and Niven expertly examines common YA themes—the desire for independence, evolving friendship, new romance, family tensions—with standout authenticity and heart.

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman. Scholastic/Graphix. (Heartstopper: Bk. 1). ISBN 9781338617443.
The only openly gay boy in his school, sensitive Charlie was bullied when he came out. When Charlie is assigned to sit next to Nick, he begins falling for the popular “rugby lad.” Young love—with all its awkwardness, tenderness, and raw emotions—blossoms between two teenagers who appear to be worlds apart.

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. ISBN 9780062748379.

A uniquely twisted love story involving time travel, death, and friendship. Sparks fly when Jack and Kate meet at a party, but their love affair ends unexpectedly when Kate dies suddenly. Jack uses his newfound time-traveling ability to save her. This “meet cute” blends elements of classic rom-coms Say Anything, Groundhog Day, and When Harry Met Sally to great effect.

Made in Korea by Sarah Suk. S. & S. ISBN 9781534474376.

Senior Valerie Kwon and her cousin Charlie rule the school business field with their K-beauty products sold out of Val’s locker. All is well until new student Wes Jung poses a threat by selling merchandise and products from the hottest K-pop band. As they get to know each other more deeply, feelings arise on both sides, but much is at stake to cave into something as inconvenient as love.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing