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8 Teen Romance Authors for Fans of Sarah Dessen

Writers who take on the struggles of first loves, high school terrors, and family drama.

Teen romance author Sarah Dessen’s first book was published in 1996, and since then, she has come to be known as a “best-seller machine.” One of the main draws of Dessen’s enticing writing is the way she characterizes her female protagonists as layered yet conflicted, encompassing a relatable and encouraging teenage experience. Dessen further hooks readers by weaving intricate world-building around lovable characters, and crafting relationships between family members, friends, and significant others that are deep, nuanced, and delightfully tangible.

Related: 25 of the Best Teenage Romance Movies Ever

Dessen’s work has had a great impact on pop culture. Her debut novel, That Summer and her sophomore publication Someone Like You acted as the basis for the romantic dramedy movie How to Deal. Her novels like Lock and Key and Along for the Ride wrap a story of romance around an influential message about family and second chances. Her most recent novel, The Rest of the Story, focuses on the important growth of reconciling reality with the ideas one has about their self and others.

There’s no denying that Dessen is the perfect resource for works that explore the bigger pains of adolescence and the tumultuous road of romance. But if you’ve already read her catalogue front to back, check out these 8 similar romance authors for fans of Sarah Dessen.

Meg Cabot

meg cabot authors like sarah dessen
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Meg Cabot is best known for The Princess Diaries and the following novels in the self-titled series, which went on to be adapted into two popular Disney films starring Anne Hathaway. While Dessen’s books tend to be more rooted in firm reality than Cabot’s, which branch out into both the paranormal and extreme stretches of realism, both authors center their work around capable and emotionally relatable female protagonists.

Her paranormal series The Mediator starts with Shadowland, and follows sixteen-year-old Suze Simon who has the ability to communicate with ghosts to help them pass over to the other side. On top of the drama of moving with her mother to live with her new stepfather and his sons, Suze is also destined to fall in love only once in her lifetime—but it will be a love that will last an eternity.

For readers who want something more along the lines of Cabot’s classic The Princess Diaries fare, her All-American Girl series follows a high schooler who becomes a national hero after saving the president’s life. Of course, as she’s thrust into the limelight, she’s also thrust wildly into a romance with the president’s son, David.

Related: 8 High School Romance Books About the Craziness of First Love

Jenny Han

jenny han authors like sarah dessen
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Jenny Han first gained popularity when her The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy became New York Times bestsellers. The series follows Isabel “Belly” Conklin on a coming-of-age journey of independence and tumultuous romance. Isabel spends every summer at Cousin’s Beach with a boy she’s loved her entire life. But as she starts to grow up, she finds her romantic prospects are broader than she expected.

Of course, almost everyone has heard of her teen romance novel To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and it’s subsequent follow-ups in the trilogy. After a beautiful Netflix film adaptation, the story of Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky’s epic fake romance is on the mind of romance fans of every age. But if you’re not familiar, here's the summary: after Lara Jean’s old love letters get mailed out to all of the crushes she’s had throughout her life, she finds herself pairing up with one of the letter’s subjects in a ploy to avoid further embarrassment. But as the series progresses, the recipients of the letters keeping popping up to stir up trouble.

Related: 16 Books Like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Huntley Fitzpatrick

huntley fitzpatrick authors like sarah dessen
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Published in 2012, My Life Next Door was Huntley Fitzpatrick’s debut novel. 17-year-old Samantha Reed feels suffocated from the expectations of perfection imposed upon her from her mother, a senator. However, Sam finds a reprieve from her micro-managed life by watching her next door neighbors, the large family of the Garrets. But when she strikes up a secret romance with the third oldest child, Jase, her loyalty, honesty, and courage may be tested by the events that unravel between the two unknowingly entwined families.

Fitzpatrick’s follow-up novel is a swoon-worthy summer romance titled What I Thought Was True. Dealing with some heavier themes, this book follows Gwen Castle as she obsesses over a mistake she’s made in the recent past. Meanwhile, as the daughter of a long line of fisherman and housecleaners, her life seems at complete odds with Cassidy Somers, a boy whose family is significantly wealthy. But everything she knew about herself and the people around her is called into question after some startling advice from her father.

Morgan Matson

morgan matson authors like sarah dessen
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Morgan Matson writes emotional, hard-hitting novels that pair the struggles of loss with the triumphs of love. In her 2010 novel, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, Amy Curry has to drive her family’s car from Connecticut to their new home across the country in California. The only problem is, she hasn’t been able to get into the driver’s seat since her dad died. But when a family friend’s son, Roger, tags along for the journey, her reluctant road trip turns into a journey of self-discovery.

One of Matson’s other books, Since You’ve Been Gone, utilizes the build up of strong, loving, and emotionally intimate relationships—not limited to those of a romantic nature—that makes Sarah Dessen’s books so captivating. After Emily’s best friend Sloane disappears, all that’s left of her is a to-do list. Determined to do any small thing that might bring her friend back, Emily sets about completing the list herself. But with things like kissing boys and skinny dipping on the agenda, she might be in over her head—especially when Frank Porter starts to help.

Related: 14 Teen Romance Books That Will Make You Swoon

Jennifer Echols

jennifer echols authors like sarah dessen
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Author Jennifer Echols shines with stories rooted both in the romantic drama and romantic comedy genres. Her first novel, Major Crush, is a lighthearted book that draws on her own personal experiences as the first female drum major in her high school marching band. After Virginia snubs her pageant past to audition for the drum major, she finds herself sharing the position with the superior, argumentative, and unfairly cute Drew. But when things start to heat up between the unlikely duo, rumors crop up alongside romance.

For a heavier read, Forget You follows Zoey, a girl who feels the compulsive need for perfection to hide the embarrassing truths of her father’s young and pregnant girlfriend and her mother’s nervous breakdown. Despite the added stress of the endless teasing from the rough around the edges Doug, Zoey throws herself into behind the best daughter, student, and girlfriend to high school superstar Brandon. But in the wake of a car accident, Zoey finds she can’t remember anything about the night before. She has no way of knowing why it feels like something huge is shifting around her—or why both Doug and Brandon are acting strange.

Related: 10 Young Adult Romance Books Readers of All Ages Will Love

John Green

john green authors like sarah dessen
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Appearing on Time magazine’s 2014 list of The 100 Most Influential People in the World, John Green is essentially a household name at this point. His work centers around deep and meaningful teen experiences that, while always contributing to growth, don’t always have the happy, clean ending readers have come to expect from teen and young adult romances. His most notable work is perhaps The Fault in Our Stars, which follows 16-year-old Hazel Grace on her fight against cancer and her life changing romance with the similarly ill Augustus Waters. The book was adapted into a popular tear-jerking film of the same name, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort.

His novel Paper Towns was also made into a movie, and follows Quentin “Q” Jacobsen on his journey to find his childhood sweetheart who has gone missing after suddenly reappearing in his life. For those readers who enjoyed this book, Green’s debut novel Looking for Alaska explores similar themes of infatuation and loss, though it takes a much darker path. This novel was also adapted into a Hulu original series.

Related: 13 YA Books for Fans of John Green

Stephanie Perkins

stephanie perkins authors like sarah dessen
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While Stephanie Perkins’ horror novel There’s Someone Inside Your House is receiving a Netflix movie adaptation, she’s made a solid name for herself in the teen romance genre. In her debut novel, Anna and the French Kiss, a high school senior is sent to a boarding school in Paris, leaving behind her job, friends, and budding crush. When Anna meets a charming and handsome fellow student, Etienne St. Clair, her disappointment about her transfer starts to change. But St. Clair has a serious girlfriend, no matter how close he and Anna seem to be getting.

Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After take place in the same world as Perkins’ first novel, bringing in beloved characters from the other books to support the new romances unfolding on the page. In Lola and the Boy Next Door, an aspiring costume designer believes she has the perfect life with her rocker boyfriend until a pair of twins from her past turns up to flip her world upside down. In Isla and the Happily Ever After, Isla and Josh—two former students from the same boarding school—have a chance encounter that ignites a romance threatened by the uncertainty of college and the greater future.

Related: How to Find a Romance Book by Description

Maureen Johnson

maureen johnson authors like sarah dessen
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Maureen Johnson’s 2004 novel The Key to the Golden Firebird is a captivating and moving read about coming of age in the wake of a tragedy. Mayzie is the brainy middle child of two sisters, Brooks and Palmer, and the one who feels truly left behind in the wake of their father’s death. As her sisters spiral into drinking and panic attacks, Mayzie struggles to figure out how to move on, get her family back together, and learn how to drive. When her ex-nemesis Pete barrels back into her life to try and help, Mayzie will also have to figure out how to open her heart.

In another of Johnson’s novels, Girl at Sea, 17-year-old Clio Ford is doomed to a yacht in Italian waters for the whole summer. For most girls this would be a dream, but for Clio it means hanging out with her selfish father and his strange companions—not to mention being away from her crush at the art store. But when she meets the intense and attractive grad assistant Aidan, there’s something a lot more interesting on this trip than the search for old treasures.

Published on 18 Mar 2020

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