The best romance novels labeled YA but equally great for gals old enough to drink wine at book club

Cate Carlyle Author Of When You're With Me, I'm Smiling
By Cate Carlyle

Who am I?

I am a librarian and have published several short stories, and a couple of young adult novels, including a teen romance. But back in the day, when I was a quiet bookish teen who lived in used books stores and libraries, I would devour Judy Blume books like potato chips! To this day, I am still a sucker for a great romance no matter the age of the characters, whether they are in high school or teaching high school. Throw in a tropical beach or a wealthy architect slumming it on Nantucket and I’m all in. (Nora Roberts is the Queen of All Romance; I will challenge you to a duel on that fact!)

I wrote...

When You're With Me, I'm Smiling

By Cate Carlyle,

Book cover of When You're With Me, I'm Smiling

What is my book about?

Food is love and Annie’s Instagram baking account is blowing up just as Gran is losing her mind, Annie’s fitness-obsessed BF is driving her away and her extra BFF is fighting for his life. Add swoon-worthy Miles Godfrey to the mix and it’s a recipe that sends Annie’s mental health into a tailspin. Grab a cupcake and a tissue! Funny, intense, sweet, and heartbreaking, When You’re With Me, I’m Smiling will bring all the feels.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Fault in Our Stars

By John Green,

Book cover of The Fault in Our Stars

Why this book?

If I hadn’t included this title in my book list I’d be in big trouble! An instant classic, the story revolves around two teens who meet in a cancer support group, 16-year-old Hazel who is terminal, and Gus who has lost a leg but is cancer free. The pair fall madly in love, and when Gus arranges for Hazel to travel to Amsterdam to meet her favourite author the pair embark on an adventure together. This book will grab your heart and rip it out of your chest, but in a good way. If there’s such a thing as a “tissue rating”, this one would be 5 boxes.

Eleanor & Park

By Rainbow Rowell,

Book cover of Eleanor & Park

Why this book?

Eleanor & Park is the story of two 16-year-olds who ride the school bus together and fall in love for the first time. Your typical first love story, right? Wrong. Eleanor and her mother are both victims of domestic abuse, Eleanor also suffers from poor body image, and she is bullied at school for not fitting in. Park is a half-Asian cool kid who tries to break through Eleanor’s tough exterior. Set in the mid-1980s with lots of cool cultural references, Eleanor & Park will appeal to the romantics, the quirky ones, and the misfits among us.

Everything, Everything

By Nicola Yoon,

Book cover of Everything, Everything

Why this book?

Maddy (a biracial black Asian teen) suffers from a rare illness that has made her allergic to literally everything! A modern-day “bubble girl,” the illness has kept her confined in her house for 15 years, her only company being her mom and her nurse. But when hot new neighbour Olly moves in across the street everything changes. Maddy falls in love and vows to leave the house and sneak away with Olly…cue the huge plot twist! No spoilers from me, but you will want to race to the end. Oh, and beware of the movie version, classic example of “the book was better.”

If I Stay

By Gayle Forman,

Book cover of If I Stay

Why this book?

Mia is just 17 years old when her family is in a car accident and she is the only survivor. The gifted young cellist is left in a coma. Told through flashbacks of Mia’s life before the accident, including her love for her rock star boyfriend Adam, Mia ultimately has the power to decide whether to come back from the coma and be with Adam or give in and perish with her family. If I Stay is a tear-jerker that plucks at every heart string, romantic love, love of family, loss, and hope.


By Judy Blume,

Book cover of Forever...

Why this book?

Written in 1975, Forever is still going strong. The love story of 18-year-old Katherine and her boyfriend Michael and their first introduction to sex is real and intense. In the aftermath, separated by distance, Katherine struggles to come to terms with the fact that she is also attracted to Theo her tennis instructor, and that being her first physical partner does not necessarily make Michael her “forever.” A true mature coming-of-age romance.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in love, life satisfaction, and romantic love?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about love, life satisfaction, and romantic love.

Love Explore 144 books about love
Life Satisfaction Explore 110 books about life satisfaction
Romantic Love Explore 367 books about romantic love

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Lovely War, The Darkest Part of the Forest, and The Shadows Between Us if you like this list.