Blume, Judy. Forever… New York: Pocket Books, 1975. Blume provides a picture of romantic and sexual first love that many teachers and parents disapprove of. However, it’s the book that most high school students love to talk about, love to pass around the room with specific passages marked. High school.
Caletti, Deb. Honey, Baby, Sweetheart. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2004. Ruby, quiet and conscientious, finds herself unintentionally involved with thrill-seeker Travis Becker. Intrigued by his bad-boy ways and rich family, Ruby struggles to hang onto her own values when what Travis offers is so intriguing. When her librarian mother finds out about Ruby’s relationship, she insists that her daughter join the senior book club she runs. Eventually charmed by the 60 and 70-something “Casserole Queens,” Ruby becomes involved in a truly romantic caper that makes her realize that love comes in all different packages. Great high school read.
Davis, Jenny. Sex Education. New York: Bantam, 1988. For a class project, a boy and a girl are asked to create a sex education project based on “caring” for someone. They help to care for a young pregnant woman in their neighborhood, but the simple project turns painful when they find that their new friend is the victim of an abusive husband. Middle school.
Ferris, Jean. Once Upon a Marigold. Harcourt, 2002. Taking yet another view of fairy tales, Ferris gives us Christian, a child roaming the forest who is found and raised by Edric the Troll. Years later, Christian takes his telescope, and while checking out the neighborhood castle, falls for Marigold, the youngest daughter of the doddering King and his treacherous Queen. Corresponding with her by pigeon, Christian decides that he must meet Marigold, but all of this is complicated by the fact that Marigold’s mother has other ideas for Marigold and the role of Queen of Country. Can Christian save Marigold from her mother’s treachery? It’s a fun read in the finding out. Great read for middle school.
Martin, Ann. Just a Summer Romance. New York: Holiday House, 1987. A 14-year-old has a summer romantic fling. Later, when she finds out that her fling is actually a teen idol, she tries to renew the romance, and finds out that summer dreams do not always translate into “real-world” actuality. Middle school.
Miller, Sarah. Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn. NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2007. Gideon doesn’t know what to expect of Midvale Prep. When he becomes roommates with Cullen and Nicholas, two of the most popular and sexually active guys at school, he struggles to understand what they expect of him and what he should expect of himself. Life gets even more complicated when Nicholas and Cullen bet on when Gideon will lose his virginity. But what does Gideon really think of his situation? We know every thought, thanks to the fact that a girl at Midvale is sharing every thought in Gideon’s head: but who is she, and how is she connected to Gideon. Fun and interesting book for high school readers.
O’Connell, Jenny. The Book of Luke. NY: MTV Books, 2008. For students who liked the movie “John Tucker Must Die,” this book takes a similar premise in that nice girl Emily decides to be a bad girl upon returning to the high school she started at after a two year break to live in Chicago. With two of her friends, she decides to get revenge on Luke, the boy who broke Josie’s heart and come up with an intriguing addition to the senior class time capsule. But when she starts to fall for Luke, Emily finds herself at odds with her plans, her friends, and her dreams for the future. Middle school/lower high school.
Plummer, Louise. The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman. NY: Laurel-Leaf, 1999. Kate writes a romance novel the way she thinks “real” teen-age girls should want it to be written. Smart, humorous, and yes, romantic, this book is a winner for teachers who would like to pry their students away from those silly bodice busters. Middle/high school; great book to read in conjunction with Pride and Prejudice. Rennison, Louise. Angus, thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging. London, HarperTempest, 1999. The adolescent version of Bridget Jones Diary. Middle/High School.
Rennison, Louise. On the Bright Side,I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God . London, HarperTempest, 2000. Georgia’s life picks up as she works hard to become Robbie’s girlfriend and then keep him, all the while dealing with the impossible life choices of “Mati and Vati,” Libby’s bad hygiene habits, Angus’s typical tantrums, and the daily life of school. Another humorous installment. Middle/High School.
Rennison, Louise. Knocked Out by my Nunga-Nungas. London, HarperTempest, 2001. Nunga-nungas, otherwise known as “breasts!” become Geogia’s main concern as she finds herself balancing Robbie—the most wonderful “snogging” partner in the world, and Dave the Laugh, a former boyfriend whose reentrance into Georgia’s life throws her into a quandary. Which guy to choose? Or can she have both. The third book in the Georgia Nicolson series.. Middle/High School.
Rushtan, Rosie. The Dashwood Sisters’ Secrets of Love. NY: 2005. This contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility follows Ellie, Abby, and Georgie as they come to terms with their father’s death and subsequent relinquishing of the family home to their despised stepmother. Forced to move from their beloved Brighten, the girls find that new experiences and new loves are both a joy and a pain. A nice little read for middle school through 9th grade.
Scott, Elizabeth. Perfect You. Simon Pulse, 2008. Kate’s dad suddenly quits his job and starts selling vitamins at the mall—and expects Kate and her brother Todd to help him. Kate hates the situation, and then it takes a turn for the worse when she realizes that obnoxious Will, who embarrassed her on the first day of freshman year, also works at the mall. However, when a chance meeting in the alley behind the mall turns into a hook-up, Kate has to rethink Will as well as situations at home and school. Middle school.
Shaw, Tucker. Flavor of the Week .(2004).NY: Hyperion. This amusing take-off of the Cyrano de Bergerac story finds Cyril, chef extraordinaire, pining after the lovely vegetarian, Rose. When Cyril’s friend Nick enters the picture and finds out that Rose loves great cooking, Cyril helps Nick wine and dine her, all the time in anguish. But when the truth comes out, look out! Fun read, with great recipes throughout the text!
Sones, Sonya. What My Mother Doesn’t Know. NY: Simon and Schuster, 2002. Written in poetic form, this is a delightful story in poems of Sophie’s first, second, and third loves, all from Sophie’s point of view. A charming read for girls in middle and high school.
Sones, Sonya. What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know. NY: Simon and Schuster, 2007. Picking up from the end of What My Mother Doesn’t Know, this story picks up with Robin Murphy and his take on his relationship with Sophie. The reader agonizes with Robin when Sophie becomes an outcast at school but cheers both of them as they work to overcome other students’ prejudices. A great read for boys and girls alike, especially in the sense that getting inside the guy’s head is a real treat when it comes to the romance category. Middle/high school.
Van Draanen, Wendelin. Confessions of a Serial Kisser. Knopf, 2008. One boring night at him, Evangeline finds one of her mother’s romance novels hidden under a bed. The book inspires her to search out a spectacular kiss; however, finding the guy who will bestow that kiss becomes a painful project that creates problems for Kate with her friends, her parents, and the guys with whom she’s been kissing! Funny and insightful, female readers will certainly enjoy this one.
Bauer, Marion Dane, ed. Am I Blue? Coming Out from Silence. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. This book contains short stories in which the characters must face the issue of homosexuality with family members, friends, or themselves. Although some selections could work with middle school, especially the title story, the majority of this book is really aimed at high school students.
Chambers, Aiden. Dance on My Grave. New York: HarperCollins, 1982. A young gay male must cope with the death of his love but is arrested for fulfilling his friend’s desire for him to dance on his grave. This book has been acclaimed for its depiction of deep emotional feelings by males. High school.
Ferris, Jean. Eight Seconds. NY: Puffin, 2000. John can’t wait to get to rodeo camp; to be away from his clutchy girlfriend, his four know-it-all sisters, his over-protective mother. And camp is all he expects and more, especially in his new friendship with Kit, the best bull-rider of the group. But when his sister, Caro, confides to him that Kit is gay and active in a political organization on campus, John doesn’t know how to feel. Suddenly uncomfortable with Kit, he’s not sure if it’s because he’s a little bit homophobic or because he’s actually attracted to Kit “that way.” A solid high school read.
Garden, Nancy. Annie on My Mind. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1982. Liza discovers that her feelings for Annie go
beyond friendship. Garden sensitively describes the romantic emotions of two young girls and the resulting chaos when Liza’s private school realizes their relationship. High school.
Garden, Nancy. Lark in the Morning. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1984. Another story of growing up and dealing with life’s problems even as the protagonist of the story works through her romantic feelings for another young woman. High school.
Greene, Bette. The Drowning of Stephen Jones. New York: Bantam Books, 1991. A female teen stands by and does not intervene when a group of young men harass and eventually kill a homosexual male; the trial that follows forces her to consider her own sense of identity as well as others. Based on a true story. High school.
Hartinger, Brent. The Order of the Poison Oak, HarperCollins, 2005. This sequel to Geography Club reintroduces us to Russ and his friends Gunnar and Min. Russ, who is gay and out of the closet, has agreed to be a camp counselor, and while he has a wonderful summer learning a great deal about himself as a mentor to younger kids, this is also the summer where he finds that love and romance can be difficult. A strong book for students looking for a balanced view of gay love.
Kerr, M.E. Deliver Us from Evie. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. Parr must cope with farm life, his own hormones, and his sister’s lesbian relationship with the daughter of the town’s most powerful family. An undercurrent throughout the book is religious intolerance. High school.
Levithan. David. Wide Awake. NY: Knopf, 2006. When the first gay Jewish president is elected, Duncan is elated: gay and Jewish himself, Duncan has campaigned religiously for Abraham Stein and his running mate, Alice Martinez. But when the governor of Kansas calls the votes from his state into question and Stein encourages his supporters to go to Kansas, Duncan has to decide how far he’s willing to take his beliefs. When his boyfriend, Jimmy, insists they go, Duncan is torn: his parents aren’t thrilled about this trip and he’ll certainly miss school. When he does finally make the decision to go, he finds that maybe he and Jimmy aren’t as solid as he thought they were. This is a wonderful story about political activism, love and romance, and friendship. High School.
Peters, Julie Ann. Luna. Little, Brown, and Company, 2004. Liam to his family but Luna to the world outside, one young man struggles with his own personal truth: he is a girl stuck in a boy’s body. With the support of his sister, Regan, Liam begins the transformation into Luna, and in doing so, this truly becomes Regan’s story as Peters allows us insight into what her life is like in the shadow of the brilliant Liam who is bent of becoming Luna. An interesting read for high school aged readers.
Peters, Julie Ann. Far From Xanadu. New York: Little Brown and Company, 2005. Mike thinks that nothing much happens in her little town of Coalton. But when Xanadu, mysterious and beautiful, comes on the scene, Mike falls, hard, even though she knows that Xanadu is straight and not interested in a romantic relationship with her. Can Mike be satisfied with her friendship? For high school students.
Reynolds, Marilyn. Love Rules. Buena Park, CA: Morning Glory Press, 2001. Kit and Lynn have been spirit sisters for years, which means they have no secrets from each other. When Kit tells Lynn that she’s a lesbian, Lynn accepts Kit after a bit of self-doubt, and the two work together to make sure that Kit feels comfortable with her decision to not only share this information with Lynn, but also with other high school students making the same realization. A powerful story of how two girls can make a difference in their school with the support of positive, proactive teachers. A very worthwhile read for high school students.
Wilson, Martin. What they Always Tell Us. NY: Delacorte Press, 2008. Alex has always been in James shadow, but in the aftermath of an attempted suicide (Alex isn’t sure if he meant to hurt himself or not), Alex becomes to focus of everyone’s attention, although not in a way that makes him happy. But when James’ best friend Nathan encourages Alex to go out for cross country, Alex finds a sense of himself again. That sense grows as he comes to realize that he’s attracted to Nathan, and that Nathan returns those feelings. But how will that fly with James? A story of brothers and romance. High school.
Wittlinger, Ellen. Hard Love. Simon Pulse, 2001. John, the narrator of this story, says that he feels nothing for anyone or anything in his life until he comes across Marisol’s ‘zine when he is dropping his own—Bananafish—at Tower Records. Struck by her writing style and her total honesty about herself—including her coming out as a lesbian to her friends and family—and her parents, John is determined to meet her. When he does, he tries to maintain the idea that they are friends, but knows that he feels for her in a romantic sense. When Marisol rebuffs him, John has to figure out how to stay in her life, even though he knows that she doesn’t need him in the way he needs her. A meaningful read for high school students.
Woodson, Jacqueline. From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun. New York: Blue Sky Press, 1995. This powerful story
describes an African American teenager named Mel and how to he comes to terms with his mother’s declaration of love for a white woman. High school.