The best YA books with unlikely love stories

Who am I?

I love novels that bring people together who would otherwise never meet each other. I will never forget the connection between Ponyboy and Cherry in The Outsiders or between Bryon and Cathy in That Was Then, This Is Now. Sometimes it’s undeniably romantic, and sometimes it isn’t as clear. The first time I ever missed a character was when I got to the end of those books. I remember thinking, I want to create a world that people will miss when the story is over. I also remember thinking, I will never stop reading books like this. Here are a few that I’ve found along the way.


I wrote...

The Tragedy Paper

By Elizabeth LaBan,

Book cover of The Tragedy Paper

What is my book about?

It follows the story of Tim Macbeth, a seventeen-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is “Enter here to be and find a friend.” A friend is the last thing Tim expects or wants—he just hopes to get through his senior year unnoticed. Yet, despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “It” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim's surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, but she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone ever finds out. Tim and Vanessa begin a clandestine romance, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior-year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.

The books I picked & why

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The Outsiders

By S.E. Hinton,

Book cover of The Outsiders

Why this book?

While the connection between Ponyboy Curtis and Cherry Valance never goes beyond a simple crush on Ponyboy’s part, I would argue that their connection is memorable, unlikely, and life-changing. The fact that they even find each other and are able to talk as honestly as they do is surprising and heartwarming. In the end, they show each other that their social groups aren’t as different as the others might think—they all have problems and redeeming qualities. Cherry tells Ponyboy that not all Socs are like the ones who beat up Johnny. S.E. Hinton takes the romantic notion one step further and adds to the impossibility and heartbreak of it all when Cherry confesses to Ponyboy that, if things were different, she could fall in love with Dally, one of Ponyboy’s friends who is a fellow greaser. In the end, this is a life-changing book for me because it, along with Hinton’s That Was Then, This Is Now, made me want to be a writer. 

The Outsiders

By S.E. Hinton,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Outsiders as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

50 years of an iconic classic! This international bestseller and inspiration for a beloved movie is a heroic story of friendship and belonging.

Cover may vary.

No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he's got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends-true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. But not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids whose idea of a good time is…


The Fault in Our Stars

By John Green,

Book cover of The Fault in Our Stars

Why this book?

Who thinks they are going to meet the love of their life at a cancer support group? Probably not too many people, and yet one of the greatest love stories of all time began there, as unlikely as it was. It is where Hazel Grace and Augustus, both battling cancer at different stages, first meet. How many times have I thought, I wish I had thought of that first? And yet, I always remind myself that I’m glad I didn’t because there could be no better version than this one. The moment that always sticks with me is when Hazel’s mom, instead of telling her to wait until she’s older to express her love to Augustus, encourages her to now because it is possible there won’t be a later for her. 

The Fault in Our Stars

By John Green,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Fault in Our Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The beloved, #1 global bestseller by John Green, author of The Anthropocene Reviewed and Turtles All the Way Down

"John Green is one of the best writers alive." -E. Lockhart, #1 bestselling author of We Were Liars

"The greatest romance story of this decade." -Entertainment Weekly

#1 New York Times Bestseller * #1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller * #1 USA Today Bestseller * #1 International Bestseller

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters…


The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

By Jennifer E. Smith,

Book cover of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Why this book?

I had to pick this book because it is air travel that brings Hadley and Oliver together. In this case, they are on a flight together to London where Hadley’s father is getting married after a difficult divorce from her mother. Hadley believes she is dealing with the worst possible thing, but she later learns what brings Oliver to London which is something far more difficult. It is the time on the plane when everything else fades away that draws me to this book. If they hadn’t ended up on the same flight, they never would have met.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

By Jennifer E. Smith,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Imagine if she hadn't fogotten the book. Or if there hadn't been traffic on the expressway. Or if she hadn't fumbled the coins for the toll. What if she'd run just that little bit faster and caught the flight she was supposed to be on. Would it have been something else - the weather over the atlantic or a fault with the plane?

Hadley isn't sure if she believes in destiny or fate but, on what is potentially the worst day of each of their lives, it's the quirks of…


The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

By William Goldman,

Book cover of The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

Why this book?

I am including this book because it is one of my absolute favorite books of all time and thinking of it brings me back to one of my favorite family memories: reading it out loud together. I can still remember carrying it around the house, always ready to read if we had a few minutes or longer. It tells the unlikely love story of a farm boy and a princess. My family still quotes regularly from the book (“as you wish”) and (“inconceivable”) and, of course, (“have fun storming the castle!”). We loved it so much, we named our amazing Great Dane mix after the main character, Princess Buttercup.

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

By William Goldman,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Princess Bride as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

William Goldman’s beloved story of Buttercup, Westley, and their fellow adventurers.

This tale of true love, high adventure, pirates, princesses, giants, miracles, fencing, and a frightening assortment of wild beasts was unforgettably depicted in the 1987 film directed by Rob Reiner and starring Fred Savage, Robin Wright, and others. But, rich in character and satire, the novel boasts even more layers of ingenious storytelling. Set in 1941 and framed cleverly as an “abridged” retelling of a centuries-old tale set in the fabled country of Florin, home to “Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest…


Eleanor & Park

By Rainbow Rowell,

Book cover of Eleanor & Park

Why this book?

This is one of the great love stories in young adult literature. Eleanor and Park are each dealing with their own issues, as teenagers do. They are completely different from each other, and yet, after an incident on the school bus brings them together one day, everything changes. Similar to so many of the characters in these other books, their paths might never have crossed, or, if they did, the wall would never be broken down so that they could actually see each other and yet they did and it was, which to me is what sets up the best stories of all.

Eleanor & Park

By Rainbow Rowell,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Eleanor & Park as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Reminded me not just what it's like to be young and in love, but what it's like to be young and in love with a book' John Green, author of The Fault in our Stars

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she's never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn't stick out more if she tried.

Then she takes the seat on the bus next to Park. Quiet, careful and - in Eleanor's eyes - impossibly cool, Park's worked out that flying under the radar is the best way to…


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