In spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are five love stories with more substance than just being a fluffy romance or a hot and steamy story.
In other words, these are my top five love stories that don’t suck. In no particular order
Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli.
This does have a cute fluffy romance element to the story that just makes the reader giggle with joy, however what sets this story apart is two things:
One is that the main plot follows the romance between two high school boys, a trope that’s not often represented a lot in young adult literature.
Two is that the story is layered with the difficulties of being gay in high school. The main character, Simon, struggles with the difficulties of being in the closet and becomes at risk for having his secret exposed.
Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
This is the story about Emi, an up-and-coming set designer who is thrusted into the mystery of finding the estranged daughter of a dead Hollywood legend.
The story takes a romantic turn when Emi begins to develop feelings for the estranged daughter.
What I loved most about this story was that while it has a romantic element to the plot and the main character is a lesbian; none of those things were the main focus of the story. “Everything Leads to You” is a character-driven story following a young girl trying to make it in Hollywood and focused on her development as a character; not just her being a lesbian. It’s a perspective we need more of in LGBTQ literature.
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
This is the story of Natasha who is scrambling to try and stop her family’s deportation and while doing so, has an encounter with Daniel, a Korean-American boy with the ambition to be a poet despite his parents wishes for him to be a doctor.
The story follows their day together and how that one day led to their ultimate relationship. What I loved about this was that once again, this story is layered with prevalent themes such as immigration and following life’s passions.
It also gave the reader the sensation of not being able to help root for these two characters because throughout the book, you know that there is that pressure of time inflicted on these two characters.
At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson
Aside from Shaun David Hutchinson being my favorite author, this novel is probably my favorite of all the books I’ve read by him. He excels in writing relatable characters and developing them with layered personalities.
He writes LGBTQ fiction, but he isn’t afraid to tackle the difficult, rawness of the things LGBTQ teenagers go through.
In this story in particular, we follow Tommy on his quest to figure out what happened to his boyfriend Ozzie after he mysteriously ceases to exist and vanishes. This all becomes a metaphor for something in the end. While Tommy is on this journey he meets Calvin,who is being abused by his football coach. Throughout the novel, Calvin struggles to understand what is happening to him and is fighting the delusion that the coach is someone who loves him. As someone who has gone through abuse, I found Calvin’s story to be so relatable.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
This gem of a novel follows Monty, a young man, living in 19th century England who is about to go on his grand tour of Europe, which is a right of passage for young men during this time. He is rebellious, privileged and constantly getting himself into trouble which makes him a realistic and deeply flawed character.
He also happens to be bisexual and in love with his best friend Percy, an epileptic young man of color.
Throughout the novel we see Monty struggle with his bisexuality and the extreme disapproval from his father. We see Percy’s struggle with being a man of color during this time and how he is labeled a freak due to his epilepsy. The novel also follows Felicity, Monty’s sister, who has a dream of becoming a doctor but there’s one problem standing in her way:19th century England women aren’t allowed to be doctors.
These characters will stay with you long after you finish reading. The love story being set in this time period is a refreshing take on what would normally be tropes explored in contemporary fiction.
The intersectionality of this story reflects Lee’s amazing skills as a writer because she manages to tackle the themes of race, sexuality, gender and ableism. She does this in such an impactful way that you’re engaged throughout the entire novel.
There are many other stories I can add to this list but these were the ones that have stuck with me long after I’ve read them. As someone who is always walking around with a book in my hands, I do enjoy the occasional romance but prefer romance stories to have substance. I want them to have a layer of complexity to them, not like “Twilight” or “Fifty Shades Of Grey,” which in my opinion, are bland. I hope this Valentine’s Day, if you’re in the mood to read something romantic, you give these novels a shot.