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9 Must-Read Diverse YA Romances

January 25, 2018
Nicole Fiorica

Everyone deserves to see themselves in the books that they’re reading. That’s one of the best parts about fiction. This feels doubly true for romances, as no two couples are exactly alike. Lucky for us, there is no shortage of great contemporary romances out there featuring diverse characters. Here are 9 that you can cozy up to and enjoy ASAP. 

1. Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Penny Lee is ready to leave behind her mediocre high school years when she flies across the country for college…and then she meets Sam, the struggling barista who quickly becomes her closest confidant. But only over text.

2. A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

When Steffi, a selective mute suffering from crippling anxiety meets Rhys, the deaf new kid at school, they will both have to find new ways to communicate, and find their own voices. 

3. Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Kiko Himura is struggling with her social anxiety, stifling family, and understanding of her half-Japanese heritage. When she doesn’t get into her dream art school, her childhood friend Jamie invites her to join him on a road trip touring art schools on the West Coast. As the trip unfolds, Kiko is free to learn more about herself, while realizing that she has feelings for Jamie as well. 

4. The Last to Let Go by Amber Smith

The Last to Let Go by Amber Smith

Amber Smith’s contemporary novel isn’t exactly a romance as it follows the year after Brooke’s mother kills her father. But it’s only as Brooke starts to fall for her biracial classmate Dani that she is able to start piecing her life back together and letting go of the past.

5. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Dimple Shah is excited to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers – especially because she thinks it means that her parents have put their plans of finding her “Ideal Indian Husband” on hold. But little does she know that Rishi Patel’s parents are sending him to the same camp, with the hopes that he can woo her to be his future wife.

6. American Panda by Gloria Chao

American Panda by Gloria Chao

17-year-old Mei is a freshman at MIT, following the next step in her parents’ plan for her to become a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer.  What Mei can’t tell them is that she hates germs—and that she has a massive crush on her Japanese classmate. 

7. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Artistotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Aristotle and Dante might feel like a throwback, but if you haven’t read it yet – really what are you waiting for? Aristotle meets Dante, another Mexican-American teen, at a local swimming pool, and in each other, both loners learn more about who they are.

8. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Lara Jean Song writes love letters to the boys she’s loved, including her sister’s ex-boyfriend – and hides them in a box in her room. Then her letters are mailed out, and Lara Jean fakes a relationship with one of its recipients, all while trying to figure out how she really feels about each of her crushes. What could go wrong?

9. Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Janna thinks of people in three different categories in her world, and she places herself at Jeremy firmly in the misfits. Janna thinks she and Jeremy are from two different worlds, but the old adage “opposites attract” can be very true.

Look for more romance? Check out these 24 swoonworthy books or 5 LGBTQ+ love stories!