The best middle grade novels about first love

Jennifer Richard Jacobson Author Of Crashing in Love
By Jennifer Richard Jacobson

The Books I Picked & Why

Drama: A Graphic Novel

By Raina Telgemeier

Book cover of Drama: A Graphic Novel

Why this book?

This incredibly engaging graphic novel about thirteen-year-old Callie, and the ups and downs of her infatuations, had me cheering! I was transported back to my own drama club experiences and reminded that it's much easier to explore crushes (and to survive disappointment) when embraced by a tight-knit, supportiveand in this case, passionate—community. Raina Telgemeier creates wonderfully complex and nuanced characters. I cared deeply about them all...well, maybe not Bonnie.

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The Next Great Jane

By K.L. Going

Book cover of The Next Great Jane

Why this book?

Who can resist a heroine who climbs a tree barefoot (in growing winds) and leaps to an attic window to hear one of her favorite authors speak? Not me! I’m a big Jane Austen fan and K.L. Going was able to capture the spirit and wit of her work in this wonderfully layered and romantic tale. (No worries if you or middle grade students you know are not familiar with Austen—the story stands on its own.)  

Just like in my book, the story is set in Maine and the protagonist’s parents are divorced. There are multiple loves stories in this book, and I adored every one of them. I cried big happy tears in the end. I bet you will too.

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Redwood and Ponytail

By K.A. Holt

Book cover of Redwood and Ponytail

Why this book?

I cannot say enough wonderful things about this heartfelt novel in verse about Tam (Redwood) and Kate (Ponytail) who fall in like while finding their authentic selves. Kate (like Peyton in my book) is a perfectionist—she’s got her list of boxes to check. But then Tam comes along, and Kate is set on an invigorating path of discovery. K.A. Holt’s brilliant poetry dazzles as she shares two journeys that are often joyful, satisfying introspective, and completely engrossing.

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Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai

By Debbi Michiko Florence

Book cover of Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai

Why this book?

This sweet story brings me back to the rush of heady (albeit sometimes fleeting) infatuations and reminds me that simple friendship rules such as “Don’t let guys come between us” are not always as simple as they seem. The best part? Although Keiko ends up with the right romantic interest (there’s a scene that will melt your heart), she learns that self-love is paramount.

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The Chance to Fly

By Ali Stroker

Book cover of The Chance to Fly

Why this book?

Another wonderful drama club romance! Thirteen-year-old Nat braves big moves for her passions, which include musical theater, friends, and one certain boy who happens to be one of my favorite literary love interests. Both authors are actors (Stoker the first actress to appear on Broadway in a wheelchair) and the authenticity of their experiences shines through on every page.

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