Good Shit vs. Shit to Avoid: YA Romance

Candy discussed this topic at length in a rant about children’s books that are way better than the Harry Potter series, and a lot of you had some fantastic recommendations for YA and children’s novels that were better than HP and his division of children into four ranked groups (that’s the part of the HP series that bugs the hell out of me: “You’re lame and ineffectual, so you’re a Hufflepuff.” WTF?).

Candy requested good children’s novels and books to read aside from HP, and while I’m sure there will be some overlap, I wanted to send out the Bitchery Request for Recommendations – YA Romance.

Simon & Schuster is releasing YA Romance under SimonPulse. I’m sure other publication houses have similar intentions. So, if YA romance is having a surge of sorts, what YA romances do you recommend?


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  1. 1
    Carrie Lofty says:

    Excellent and cannot-be-overrated props to the Philip Pullman His Dark Materials triology.  I wondered at my best friend’s recommendation, but after reading all three books, I must say that the series cannot be praised highly enough.  It is sophisticated enough to deal with concepts of sin, the Church, an afterlife, death, ecological concerns, and intense interpersonal issues with tact enough for younger readers (as young as, say, six or eight) and intellectual integrity enough to satisfy and compel adults.  A fast-paced, highly imagininative and exceptional classic.

  2. 2
    Carrie Lofty says:

    As a note, seeing as how I just re-read the title of this post, the series is NOT a romance, but there is an budding attraction between the lead two protagonists (the male character of which does not even appear until the second book).  They are children, early adolescents, so the story is not romantic in an adult sense – more like an exploration of the differences between the sexes as they emerge into adulthood.  But the issue of sin does raise its head (again, tactfully enough to make it appropriate for younger kids).

  3. 3

    One of my all-time favorite books is Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Beginning Place—which is odd because I usually don’t read fantasy, and I’ve tried & failed to get into other Ursula. I discovered it in jr. high and still re-read it every few years, it’s that good.

  4. 4
    J-me says:

    Anything by Tamora Pierce if fantastic particularly the Lioness Trilogy. (If you like Merceded Lackey’s writing style, you’ll like this lady) Annette Curtis Klause does a couple of good paranormal teen romances.  ‘East’ by Edith Pattou is quite good.  Francesca Lia Block borders on erotica and has a style that I can only describe as “airy fairy L.A.” – favorite if ‘I Was a Teenage Fairy.”  The His Dark Materials series is wonderful to even if it doesn’t have a HEA.  Actually, any of the Phillip Pullman teen books are good.  And there are of course the ever growing number of teen oriented chick-lit like Gossip Girls and A-List, tho I can never bring myself to read or recommend them.

  5. 5

    Sherwood Smith’s Crown Duel a fantasy YA romance. Lovely sexual tension and a wonderful hero.

  6. 6
    Stephen says:

    I don’t know whether it’s available in the US, but Mary Hoffman’s Stravaganza series is great YA stuff. Like Pullman it isn’t strictly romance, but there’s a heck of a lot of unresolved tension among the main (teenage) characters. The basic premise of each book is that a girl or boy from our world finds him or herself transported by means of a talisman which they are somehow drawn to, to an alternative world, where it is still the 16th Century, and where names and places are subtly different. The first in the series is City of Masks, set mostly in Bellezza, an alternative Venice, then City of Stars is mostly set in an alternative Siena, and the third (and latest), City of Flowers is set in an alternative Florence.

  7. 7
    Tracy says:

    I’m not sure if they’re printed anymore, but Katherine Applegate had a great series of books called “Making Out.” They focused on a group of teenagers who’d grown up together on a tiny island in Maine, and their various relationships. Very, very good.

  8. 8
    Jennifjord says:

    I love Sharon Shinn’s YA romantic fantasy books.  There’s Summers at Castle Auburn, which is a stand-alone and there’s also her YA trilogy: The Safe-Keeper’s Secret, The Truth-Teller’s Tale, and The Dream-Maker’s Magic.

    My favorite YA romance without any speculative elements is Winter Dreams, Christmas Love by Mary Francis Shura.

    When I was a teen, I was obsessed with Norma Klein, Bruce and Carole Hart, Barbara Conklin, and Caroline B. Cooney (before she started writing like R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike).

    Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer is a fun Regency fantasy romance.  I haven’t read the sequel yet, plus there’s a third book coming out this fall.

    Very Far Away from Anywhere Else by Ursula K. Le Guin was a brilliant, but too-short book.  I think it’s one of her only non-SFF books and the romance is sweet.

  9. 9
    jmc says:

    Megan McCafferty’s Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings.  Brainiac Jessica Darling is hyper-obsessed with slacker-stoner, Marcus Flutie.  There’s a third book in the series, but well, it sucked and I hated what the author did with Jessica Darling, so I’d say skip that one.

    Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier.  About Dimple Lala, an ABCD, figuring things about about being Indian-American.  [Way, way better than the Viswanathan book.]

    Meg Cabot’s Mediator series.  The heroine sees dead people.  Ghosts.  Six books, so it is not a never ending series.  The heroine seems like a normal teenager, and the romance thread is sweet.  Light and fluffy, despite the dead people.

    Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  First person narrative of an isolated high school freshman who no longer speaks. 

    Tamora Pierce’s two Trickster books.  Fantasy set in a medieval world, where magic abounds and the gods are closer than mortals think.

    Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia.  Set in ancient Greece-like country.  The first is geared toward the younger end of YA, but the following books become a little more advanced.  Full of adventure, political maneuvering, and a thread of romance.

    Carolyn Mackler’s Vegan, Virgin Valentine.  Another angsty brainiac trying to deal with slacker niece (one year younger) horning in on her senior year.

    Wrede & Stevermer’s Sorcery & Cecilia and The Grand Tour.  Regency set, with magic.

    I’ve heard great things about Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, a YA paranormal that has a follow up coming out this fall.  Same for Holly Black’s Tithe, which is in the TBR mountain.  Also has a follow up already released.

    Sorry to hog the comments.  Bookseller Chick blogged about this topic not too long ago and received a very good list of YA reads, not necessarily with romance included.

  10. 10
    Sonja says:

    I might be crucified for this one, but I really liked Obsessing Orlando by Kassy Taylor. It wasn’t deep and the plot wasn’t an epic journey, but it was fun and sweet and something I would have loved to read when I was 10 or 12.

  11. 11
    Loren Epstein says:

    If yo don’t mind fantasy, Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith has a great romance.  Make sure you get the paperback edition, which has both Crown Duel and Court Duel.

  12. 12
    Jennifjord says:

    How could I forget Robin McKinley?  Her Damar books, The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, were the first fantasy books that I got hooked on and the romantic element was a large factor in my addiction.  Then there’s Beauty, Rose Daughter, The Outlaws of Sherwood, Spindle’s End, her short fiction collections, and Deerskin (although some people hesitate to classify it as YA because of the subject matter).

  13. 13

    I’ll second the recommendations of Shinn and Wrede and add a reminder about Eloise Jarvis McGraw’s Mara, Daughter of the Nile.

    In addition I recommend the books of Sally Watson—Witch of the Glens, Linnet, Lark and others.  All have heroes to die for, and heroines who are splendidly strong.

    She wasn’t writing YA, but at that age I was reading Jane Aiken Hodge, books like Watch the Wall, My Darling; Marry in Haste; Here Comes A Candle and Greek Wedding.  Another book I enjoyed as a teen was The Scarlet Pimpernel and my son read it when he was 12, so it still appeals to that age group.

  14. 14
    Firefly says:

    Someone already mentioned Patricia Wrede, but I’ll add to the list.  I really liked her Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Dealing with/Searching for/Calling on/Talking to Dragons).  Very cute and witty, with the required HEA.

  15. 15
    Caryle says:

    I’ve heard great things about Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, a YA paranormal that has a follow up coming out this fall.  Same for Holly Black’s Tithe, which is in the TBR mountain.  Also has a follow up already released.

    I’ve read both of these, and enjoyed both a great deal.  That’s actually exhausted my YA expertise.

  16. 16

    Let me second Sorcery and Cecilia by Stevermor and Wrede! Jane Austen writes fantasy YA, with a dash of Georgette Heyer :)

  17. 17
    Victoria McManus says:

    Margaret Mahy, THE CHANGEOVER.  I believe it’s out of print, but it’s a really cool YA romance that doesn’t follow a traditional pattern.  Mahy is a well-known author from New Zealand.

    Eva Ibbotson’s YA books are harder to find now than her work for children, but I would still recommend A COMPANY OF SWANS.  A COUNTESS BELOW STAIRS and JOURNEY TO THE RIVER SEA are less romance-like, but of similiar type.

    There’s some romance in Scott Westerfeld’s sf series that begins with PRETTIES.  And a bit in Judith Berman’s fantasy novel, BEAR DAUGHTER.

  18. 18
    celeste says:

    Another recommendation:  Garth Nix’s trilogy that includes Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen.

  19. 19

    Oh, and I almost forgot one of my faves, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare.  Good stuff.  And I’ll also throw in a recommendation for Garth Nix.

    Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books aren’t usually marketed as YA, except for ones like A Hat Full of Sky, but they’re generally suitable for YA audiences and the “Death” books, especially the ones about Death’s granddaughter Susan, have some romantic elements.

  20. 20
    cassie says:

    Sarah Dessen – That Summer, Someone Like You (although the love story in this one is between the two best friends), Dreamland, This Lullaby, Keeping the Moon, The Truth About Forever, Just Listen (I haven’t read this one yet, but I have so far liked everything else she’s written).  They’re all contemporary and don’t have any otherworldly parts.

    Robin McKinley – more of a fantasy writer, but has romantic elements in her books.  I love them all, including the short stories.  I think the more romantic ones are probably Beauty, Rose Daughter (the second and quite different version of Beauty and the Beast) and the Blue Sword.  I loved Deerskin as well, but I don’t think it’s a YA book (same with Sunshine).

    O.R. Melling – also has fantasy threads in her books (mostly Canadian-Irish mythology/fairies).  I think they’re re-releasing some of her books – the ones I’ve seen recently, with much prettier covers, are The Hunter’s Moon and The Summer King.  I also liked The Druid’s Tune, The Singing Stone and My Blue Country.

    Norma Johnston has a coming-of-age series that I adore.  The Keeping Days series is about a young girl named Tish Sterling.  I think it’s set at the end of the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th.  Tish is 14 in the first one and grows up throughout the books: The Keeping Days, Glory in the Flower, The Sanctuary Tree, Mustard Seed of Magic, Nice Girl Like You, and Me, Myself and I (the last two are narrated by Tish’s niece, and I prefer the first four, but they give some completion to Tish’s story).  They’re out of print, unfortunately.

    A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly – not really a romance, but a great read nonetheless.

    The Tam-Lin stories I like:
    Tam Lin by Pamela Dean – I think it is (or was) supposed to be re-released sometime this year.  It’s out of print now, but I don’t think it’s too difficult to find copies.
    Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones – I found it a bit confusing, but in a good way.  There are some mixed up timelines and memories involved, but it all works out in the end.
    The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope – shades of Tam Lin but doesn’t really follow the ballad all that closely.  It’s one of my favourites.
    An Earthly Knight by Janet McNaughton – I’ve only read this one once, but I liked it.  I think it follows the ballad the closest of the ones I’ve read.
    Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C Wrede IIRC also has a Tam Lin/Thomas the Rhymer character, but it’s not so much about him, as the title indicates.

    The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan – Marnie, the heroine, gets married to an older man, whom she dislikes, to save her family.  He dies and she befriends a young man, who is an outcast in the village because they think he’s crazy.  The villagers become suspicious of her/them and accusations of witchcraft arise.

    To continue on the theme of witchcraft, The Witch of Blackbird Pond is also a lovely book.  The romance isn’t quite as prevalent as Kit’s (the heroine) rocky relationship with her aunt’s family who have taken her in after her grandfather dies, but it’s there in bits and pieces throughout the book and is rather sweet.

    The King’s Daughter by Suzanne Martel – a young woman travels to Canada (I think the Quebec region) to marry one of the settlers.  The man she marries is a widower with two children.  They slowly fall in love with each other, though a number of things come up to interfere with their relationship.  It’s probably one of the books that started my love of romance novels.  I think it’s translated from French, and I wonder what’s been lost, although it’s still a good read.

    Mara, Daughter of the Nile – as mentioned in the previous topic is also a great book.

    The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery – it’s rather fairy-tale like.  I never could get into the Anne books, though I tried, but this one I really liked.  I liked the Emily books, too (Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, and Emily’s Quest).

  21. 21
    Jessy says:

    Deb Caletti
    Sara Ryan
    Rachel Cohn
    (few of my favorite romantical YA writers)

  22. 22
    Michelle says:

    I like Kate Maxwell (Katie MacAlister) she has 2 YA series-her Emily books and her YA vamp series.  Both are very good. 

    I highly recommend Elizabeth Pope’s The Sherwood Ring and the Perilous Guard.  Excellent-check them out if you like Patricia Wrede.

    Dianne Wynne Jones is also very good.  Love her books, check out The Dark Lord of Derkholm and its sequel Year of the Griffin.  Her book Howls Moving Castle was made into an animated movie, another good story.

  23. 23
    Candy says:

    The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause is amazingly good and amazingly romantic, though the ending is bittersweet.

    The first book of the the Darkangel trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce, The Darkangel, is also wonderfully romantic. The next two books are considerably darker, but that first book is just wow.

    The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery is fantastic, and the development of the love between Anne and Gilbert is very sweet.

    Another excellent classic is the Little Women series by Louisa May Alcott, though I’m not sure I’ve ever forgiven Alcott for not setting up Laurie and Jo. Biggest. Cop-out. EVER. Also, turning Amy into a Mary Sue was kind of lame.

    Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore is another classic that’s centered around a love story.

    Rosemary Sutcliff has written some excellent historical fiction for teenagers with strong romantic elements. Some of the titles that spring to mind include Simon, Dawn Wind and Warrior Scarlet. Also, her version of the legend of Tristan and Iseult will break your heart.

    For mainstream romantic offerings, my favorite contemporary YA romance of all time is still Wrong-Way Romance by Shari Cobb South. Seriously, if you can find a copy of this, READ IT. It’s hilarious and touching and adorable.

  24. 24
    cassie says:

    And as I post so slowly, a lot of my recommendations are redundant.

    But seeing as I’m posting again, I’d also add the Flicka trilogy by Mary O’Hara to the list – the romance of the younger set doesn’t start until the the third book, but there’s some mention between the relationship of the parents – their strained relationship and as they fall in love with each other again – which is one of my favourite parts of the books.

    Madeleine L’Engle also has some romance in her books – Meg and Calvin (A Wrinkle in Time, etc), Vicky and Adam (A Ring of Endless Light, Troubling a Star)…

    Kristen D. Randle’s The Only Alien on the Planet is another wonderful book.  It’s about a girl whose family has moved across the country – so she feels like an outsider in a new school.  She makes new friends, and meets a guy who’s very strange – he doesn’t interact with anyone or speak, although he can.  And I’m not doing the book justice with my synopsis at all.  It is a much better read than I’ve made it sound.

    Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi and Saving Francesca are also good, but not quite romances.

    It’s been a while since I’ve read them, but One More River and its sequel Broken Bridge by Lynne Reid Banks I remember as being pretty good, too.  Not sure how much romance is in them, though.

  25. 25
    Firefly says:

    For mainstream romantic offerings, my favorite contemporary YA romance of all time is still Wrong-Way Romance by Shari Cobb South. Seriously, if you can find a copy of this, READ IT. It’s hilarious and touching and adorable.

    I love that book so much I may start gushing like a teenager.

  26. 26
    Esther says:

    Robin McKinley is fabulous; I’ll have to dig out my copy of The Blue Sword this weekend.

    The first few Princess Diaries titles were cute, before the author started writing to keep up with the movies.

  27. 27
    readergrl27 says:

    I agree with the recommendation for Sarah Dessen books. I’ve read almost all of them except for Just Listen and I think they’re all really great.

    I also love anything by Meg Cabot. I especially like All-American Girl which is about a girl who saves the life of the president and how the president’s son likes her. I also like the sequel, Ready or Not.

  28. 28

    Good heavens, how could I forget Mrs. Mike by Nancy Freeman?  I practically wore my copy out!

    Good history and good romance.

  29. 29
    Nicole says:

    Funny, I just picked up Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith from the library yesterday.  I’d remembered wanting to read it for some reason, but never got around to it. 

    Love Robin McKinley, though I haven’t read them all. 

    I’ll have to look for that Wrede/Stevermer series.  I just bought Stevermer’s A Scholar of Magic.  I mean, who can resist a trade paperback for 5.99 list price?  And I liked A College of Magic.

    I didn’t really read much romance when I was a teen.  Too busy reading fantasy and thrillers.

  30. 30
    Keishon says:

    The YA novel that I loved was Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. The sequel, New Moon, is due out this month and I can’t wait to read it.

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