Not Just a Romance: Some Recommendations

In honour of Valentine’s Day, I knew that I was going to want to write a blog post on books with romance in them. After all, it’s a day all about love, so what could be more fitting than a post full of books on the same topic? However, I wanted to add something else to this as well – so today I’m telling you about some YA books which are romances, but also have another layer to them, whether that’s discussing mental health or grief or sexuality.

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First is How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne. As the title would suggest, there is romance involved in this – and it’s a good one! Set in an American summer camp, sparks fly between Amber and Kyle. However, things are complicated by other factors, such as Amber’s difficult relationship with her mother, due to the history between them. The book also tackles how to have a successful relationship and maintain feminist principles, which I think is commendable!

Next up is The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. I read this book over a year and a half ago, but I still remember bits of it vividly because it was such a moving and poignant read. There is a love-triangle, for anyone who loves them, but there is also a touching tale of a girl trying to cope with the death of her sister.

This book was one of my top two favourite books of last year, so it was a no-brainer to include it here when it fitted in perfectly. Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall tells the story of Norah, who is housebound because of her mental health issues, such as agoraphobia. However, when a friendly boy moves in next door, Norah is forced to challenge some of her problems in order to embark on a friendship – and a romance – with him.

Confession: while I’m including it in this list because I think it looks so good, and my impression from the blurb is that it fits this blog post rather well, sadly I haven’t read Haunt Me by Liz Kessler yet. I do actually think this is really sad, as I’ve been excited to read this book since it came out in October, but somehow I just haven’t got around to it. Anyway, similarly to The Sky is Everywhere, it deals with grief, with a slightly paranormal aspect. The protagonist, Erin, has two interests: Joe, who recently died, and Olly, his still alive brother. I think this book has the potential to be powerful and heart-breaking, and so I think this sounds like a good fit for this post.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard is a book that I recently reviewed on my blog, and if you’ve read my review then you’ll know how much I loved the romance aspect of this book (there was actual, out loud squealing involved). However, it also dealt with the topics of social anxiety, deafness, and selective mutism, and how these impacted their relationship.

I don’t even know if I need to write a little description for All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, and I’m not sure how much of the YA community has either not heard of it or hasn’t read it! While there is a romance between Violet and Finch, our two protagonists, it also discusses Finch’s mental health issues and Violet’s grief at the recent car accident which took her sister’s life, culminating in an absolutely heart-breaking ending.

In Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, the protagonist, Simon, has feelings for a friend he has made online, Blue. The problem? Simon doesn’t know Blue’s real identity, as they are both LGBT and yet to come out. There’s some lies and some false friends, with an email held as a threat against Simon, but ultimately this book perfectly blended a romantic story with themes of self-discovery and sexuality.

What books would you recommend to someone looking for a romance that also covers powerful topics? Have you read any of these books?

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