Who doesn’t enjoy a well-written story about childhood crushes and first loves? Even as a reader in her early twenties, I absolutely adore books that explore the tenderness and innocence of young romances. They just fill my heart with warmth, fuzziness, and nostalgia! But more importantly, these stories are incredibly valuable to young readers themselves, especially as they navigate their middle-school years.
So, whether you’re a voracious young reader looking for romance recommendations or a tired adult seeking a rush of endorphins and nostalgia, here are several novels with a dash of tween romance that you may want to pick up. Happy reading!
The Best At It
In a small town in Indiana, a young gay Indian American boy navigates middle school and takes on his grandfather's challenge: Find one thing you're really good at. And become the BEST at it. Between avoiding bullies and staring too long at his classmate Justin Emery, Rahul Kapoor is determined to be the best there is.
Pancholy’s The Best At It is an incredibly charming middle-grade debut that revolves around family, friendship, self-acceptance, and the courage to live one’s truth.
Related: 15 Books for Fans of Love, Simon
Drum Roll, Please
Quiet Melly loves playing the drums because it's the only time she doesn't feel like a mouse. Although Melly is excited to spend two weeks of her summer at Camp Rockaway, she is unprepared for the changes that come with it: her parents parting ways, her best friend ditching her, and to top it off, finding herself falling for a girl at camp.
Drum Roll, Please is led by a charming, albeit awkward, young girl whom many readers are sure to relate to. Plus, who doesn’t love a good whirlwind romance set against the backdrop of summer camp?
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
Thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora is on a mission: Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make his Abuela proud. But is he setting himself up for a big, epic fail?
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora follows the life of a young Cuban boy as he valiantly fights for his community and discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of Jose Marti.
From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess
With 15 million copies sold worldwide, Cabot’s Princess Diaries series is a global phenomenon. Everyone adores Princess Mia and her shenanigans. But what about her younger, long-lost half-sister?
From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess is a more recent series dedicated to Olivia Grace Clarisse Harrison, a book-and-music-loving heroine who is now the newest princess of Genovia. In Royal Crush, the third installment of this series, Olivia finally confronts her more-than-friendly feelings for Prince Khalil and turns to Grandmère for some help.
Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World
Ivy Aberdeen is having the worst time. A tornado has destroyed her home, leaving her family of five displaced. And her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing. But when Ivy's drawings begin to reappear in her locker with anonymous notes encouraging her to open up, she hopes her crush is behind this mystery.
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World is a wonderfully wholesome tale that will have readers bawling their eyes out.
Not wanting to be a victim anymore, Mary has a plan: build a real submarine, like the model she's been making with Kip Dwyer, the secretly sweet class clown. Drawing strength and courage from her heroine, Joan of Arc, Mary is determined to pilot a sub across the Chesapeake Bay to save herself.
With themes of persistence, courage, and heroism, Mary Underwater is an empowering tale for readers, regardless of their age.
The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James
After a successful heart transplant, twelve-year-old Sunny St. James sets off to pursue her "New Life Plan": 1) do awesome amazing things she could never do before; 2) find a new best friend; and 3) kiss a boy for the first time. But when she meets her new best friend Quinn, Sunny questions whether she really wants to kiss a boy at all.
The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James tells a beautiful tale about young love, sexuality, and self-discovery.
Nikki on the Line
Thirteen-year-old Nikki Doyle dreams of becoming a basketball star. But between school stress, friend drama, and babysitting woes, will she make it? To make matters worse, her science teacher assigns a family tree project that will require Nikki to reveal her most embarrassing secret.
Nikki on the Line is a sporty, poignant novel that delves into friendship, competition, and self-confidence.
P.S. I Miss You
Eleven-year-old Evie is heartbroken when her older sister is sent away from their strict Catholic home after getting pregnant. Forbidden to speak to Cilla, Evie starts sending letters, especially as she begins to question her sexual orientation.
P.S. I Miss You is a middle-grade novel that explores a myriad of topics, such as first crushes, faith, teenage pregnancy, and complicated families.
Redwood and Ponytail
Kate appears to be a stereotypical cheerleader who's perfect and polished, while Tam is tall, athletic, and frequently mistaken for a boy.
Told in verse, Redwood and Ponytail follows the lives of two girls who are opposite in many ways but are ultimately drawn to each other.