My favorite type of romantic fiction trope is anything where the romance doesn’t come too easy, where the writer or creator makes the couple work for it, so that the inevitable reunion or coupling is that much sweeter. A great example of this is the trope of the star-crossed lovers: the type of relationship where the universe, families, circumstances, and even the characters themselves, thwart the couple’s pairing in every way… and yet despite everything they simply can’t deny the inexplicable pull towards one another. It’s so romantic and so frustrating all at once.
In honor of the much-buzzed-about release of Frankly In Love by David Yoon (out today!), a book that is so fun, so sweet and features one of my favorite YA couples ever, we wanted to put together a list of some of our favorite star-crossed lovers in YA contemporary fiction, the couples that make us swoon vicariously with their longing.
Frankly In Love by David Yoon
What’s It About: Frank Li is a Southern Californian teenager whose Korean parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity. His parents still expect him to end up with a nice Korean girl–which is a problem, since Frank is finally dating the girl of his dreams: Brit Means. Brit . . . who is white.
As Frank falls in love for the very first time, he’s forced to confront the fact that while his parents sacrificed everything to raise him in the land of opportunity, their traditional expectations don’t leave a lot of room for him to be a regular American teen. Desperate to be with Brit without his parents finding out, Frank turns to family friend Joy Song, who is in a similar bind. Together, they come up with a plan to help each other and keep their parents off their backs. Frank thinks he’s found the solution to all his problems, but when life throws him a curveball, he’s left wondering whether he ever really knew anything about love—or himself—at all.
In this moving novel, debut author David Yoon takes on the question of who am I? with a result that is humorous, heartfelt, and ultimately unforgettable.
Why It’s A Perfect Star Crossed Romance: No spoilers, of course, and I may be stretching the definition of “Star-Crossed” a bit here but the couple I have in mind for this particular book is so delightfully unexpected that it was too perfect not too include.
Written In The Stars by Aisha Saaed
What’s It About: Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden.
When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.
Why It’s A Perfect Star Crossed Romance: What’s more star-crossed than not only falling in love when you parents have forbidden you to, but then using that love to escape from the marriage they’ve arranged for you to someone you’ve never met?
Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
What It’s About: Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern-day Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets. But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.
Why It’s A Perfect Star Crossed Romance: Zorie and Lennon’s once inseparable friendship hasn’t been the same since a year earlier, after a disastrous homecoming dance. But when they get stuck in the woods together, they’re forced to trade in their exasperation for cooperation, as they try to avoid confronting their broken past.
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
What It’s About: Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs, the enigmatic leader of the cadets who train nearby—and, someone she thought she would never see again.
And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor’s only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother—who abandoned her years ago on the Jellicoe Road.
Why It’s A Perfect Star Crossed Romance: Taylor and Jonah are on opposite sides of a territory war between the students of the boarding school she attends, the townies, and the cadets that train near the school every year.
American Panda by Gloria Cho
What It’s About: At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.
With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.
But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who was estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?
Why It’s A Perfect Star Crossed Romance: Parental disappointment, especially potent because it’s borne of sacrifice and obligation, leads Mei to keep a lot about herself a secret–including her feelings for a classmate who’s not at all the type of guy her parents would approve of.
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown
What It’s About: Joanna Gordon has been out and proud for years, but when her popular radio evangelist father remarries and decides to move all three of them from Atlanta to the more conservative Rome, Georgia, he asks Jo to do the impossible: to lie low for the rest of her senior year. And Jo reluctantly agrees.
Although it is (mostly) much easier for Jo to fit in as a straight girl, things get complicated when she meets Mary Carlson, the oh-so-tempting sister of her new friend at school. But Jo couldn’t possibly think of breaking her promise to her dad. Even if she’s starting to fall for the girl. Even if there’s a chance that Mary might be interested in her, too. Right?
Why It’s A Perfect Star Crossed Romance: Jo’s promise to her dad to hide her sexuality in their conservative Georgia town becomes much harder to keep when she begins to suspect that her latest crush might actually be into her, too.
Autoboygraphy by Christina Lauren
What It’s About: Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.
But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.
It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.
Why It’s A Perfect Star Crossed Romance: Forbidden love in a strict religious environment. Might be hard to read at times but you’ll find yourself wholeheartedly rooting for Tanner and Sebastian.
Like No Other Una Lamarche
What It’s About: Devorah is a consummate good girl who has never challenged the ways of her strict Hasidic upbringing.
Jaxon is a fun-loving, book-smart nerd who has never been comfortable around girls (unless you count his four younger sisters).
They’ve spent their entire lives in Brooklyn, on opposite sides of the same street. Their paths never crossed . . . until one day, they did.
When a hurricane strikes the Northeast, the pair becomes stranded in an elevator together, where fate leaves them no choice but to make an otherwise risky connection.
Though their relation is strictly forbidden, Devorah and Jax arrange secret meetings and risk everything to be together. But how far can they go? And just how much are they willing to give up?
Why It’s A Perfect Star Crossed Romance: The teachings of Devorah’s Hasidic upbringing forbid her to act on romantic feelings—and she probably would have managed it, if not for the hurricane that strands her and a neighbor together, and the instant connection that becomes too strong to ignore.
If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
What It’s About: Jeremiah feels good inside his own skin. That is, when he’s in his own Brooklyn neighborhood. But now he’s going to be attending a fancy prep school in Manhattan, and black teenage boys don’t exactly fit in there. So it’s a surprise when he meets Ellie the first week of school. In one frozen moment their eyes lock, and after that they know they fit together—even though she’s Jewish and he’s black. Their worlds are so different, but to them that’s not what matters. Too bad the rest of the world has to get in their way.
Why It’s A Perfect Star Crossed Romance: Jeremiah and Ellie’s differences don’t matter to each other another, even if it seems to the world like there are too many. They can’t help but try to figure out a way to be together, even when everyone wants to tear them apart.