There's nothing quite like first love. The passion, the uncertainty, and the newness of teen romance makes it especially poignant. When I'm looking for a particularly swoon-worthy read, I turn to young adult literature. Luckily for readers like me, there is an abundance of fantastic authors creating memorable characters and stories to enjoy. Here are some of the best YA contemporary romance authors to check out, along with a suggestion of one of their books to sample first:
Sarah Dessen has been writing romantic YA for 20 years and set the groundwork for many other authors to follow in her footsteps. She primarily sets her books in her home state of North Carolina, many at the beach, and most involve complicated family and friend relationships in addition to the romance.
Start with: Just Listen
David Levithan is a powerhouse in the YA industry as both an author and editor. Some of his best-known works are co-written with other authors including Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist with Rachel Cohn. But his greatest contributions to the YA romance canon are his books starring gay teens, for which he won the American Library Association's Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring his significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens.
Start with: Boy Meets Boy
Morgan Matson writes epic YA books that pack weighty topics into their pages. Three of her four books easily top 400 pages, so be prepared to dive in. All of her currently published books take place in the summer, but they cover a range of subjects including road trips, grief, fraught friendships, family angst, and more, all with pitch-perfect dialogue and unforgettable characters.
Start with: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
Emery Lord is quickly cementing her place in the YA landscape with three memorable books published in the last three years. She writes dreamy romances that are grounded with real emotional stakes and is not afraid to confront issues like grief and mental illness.
Start with: The Start of Me and You
Sara Farizan has just two books under her belt so far, but she proves to be an author to watch. She deftly writes about lesbian romance, especially how her main characters reconcile their sexuality with their culture. Both of her books feature Iranian culture—one is set in Iran, while the other is about a teen of Persian heritage in the United States.
Start with: Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel
Nicola Yoon is new to the YA scene, but her first book made a splash in 2015 with its memorable main character, a sweet forbidden romance, and interesting use of illustrations and text. She has another book coming out later this year and I look forward to reading more.
Start with: Everything, Everything