Here are three soft and adorable romances that take place in high school! They have minimal angst, tons of cute tropes thrown in, and are (mostly) innocent. Also, they deal less with heavy topics. My heart literally expands in my chest whenever I reread these. I have given all of them 5 stars, and some are my all-time-favorite YA romances!
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
If you’ve been in the romance (or Netflix) world for a while, you’ve probably heard of this book. Its movie adaptation helped the TATBILB book series gain a lot more attention. I, like most book nerds, would say that the book was much better than the movie. Even though the movie was awesome, it left out lots of cute scenes and details that I adored in the book!
This is one of my favorite books of all time and one of the first YA romances I ever read! I could not recommend it enough for someone who’s just started getting into YA romance. (Still, even seasoned romance readers should read this).
Basically, the plot is about Lara Jean finding herself in a situation where she needs a fake boyfriend. Enter Peter Kavinsky, typical popular jock with a secret vulnerable side, who fits the bill. The two start fake dating and, over time, fall in *real* love (bet ya didn’t see that coming!).
I will not listen to anyone who tries to argue, Lara Jean and Peter are the blueprint for all fake dating books. Lara Jean is one of my favorite characters. She’s relatable without trying to be annoyingly quirky. Peter is my OG book boyfriend and a great balance between cocky and sweet. Their opposing dynamics meshed so well together and they had the best chemistry! Another gem besides the romance was the focus on Lara Jean’s family. We saw a lot of Lara Jean’s wholesome relationship with her dad and sisters, and it felt so comforting to read about. Almost as if you were part of the family and living with them.
This book is the definition of fluffy. Every two pages there’s a scene between Peter and Lara Jean that makes me smile, and I always read TATBILB when I need a pick-me-up. Check out the rest of the series if you like this, it gets even better!
Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill
Ok, this is one of the lesser known books on this list. I will be in my grave telling people to read it, because more people need to check this out!!!
Julia is an A+ student destined for a top college. She winds up on a school trip to London without any friends, but she’s still going to make the best of it. Somehow she ends up with the number of a stranger in her phone, and is determined to take a risk for once and meet up with her mystery guy in the city. Things start getting more complicated when she is paired with Jason, resident class clown and Julia’s nemesis, as her trip buddy. The two are forced to roam the streets of London and stick with each other for the entirety of the trip, much to Julia’s dismay. Jason offers to help Julia find the identity of the flirty stranger, leading the pair on wild adventures through London.
If you love Shakespeare, you’ll be happy to know that the whole trip is centered around the playwright! The school trip focuses a lot on Shakespeare, with the students visiting many famous sites from his life and career.
Y’all know the forced-proximity trope really gets me going in romances, and this was no exception! The enemies-to-lovers trope was REAL as well, and I’m very picky as to what counts as enemies-to-lovers and what doesn’t. Julia despised Jason for a lot of the book.
The humor was awesome. Jason, being a class clown, was very funny and got the two into laughable situations. And Julia, as the protagonist, had a very distinctly sarcastic voice which I loved.
The whole book takes place during the 10 day trip in London, and the setting was such a fun and interesting place for the adventures to take place and the romance to *bloom*. I loved learning about Shakespeare and England in general!
Just a warning: some people may find Julia super annoying as a protagonist. Some reviews say she thought she was better than all her classmates for the whole book since she “didn’t party”. I sort of agree that she was too judgemental, but it didn’t bother me much.
Julia and Jason’s romance was so sweet! I loved how they both helped each other become better people. Jason taught Julia how to take risks and be less uptight. Julia helped Jason open up about his tough family history. They had really funny banter and sweet moments, too. There may or may not be a romantic scene on the London Eye overlooking the whole city….
Adorkable by Cookie O’Gorman
Yet another book with the fake dating trope! As you can tell, this is a recurring theme with me. I’m a simple gal; fake dating is automatically a yes for me. This time, the romance is also friends to lovers! Usually, friends to lovers isn’t a trope I enjoy because it can be pretty bland and boring. However, this is one of the few friends to lovers books that I adore.
Becks and Sally have been best friends since birth, and are complete opposites. Sal is your classic nerd who loves Star Wars and gets good grades. Becks is a star soccer player and the most popular guy at school. Yet, their friendship has been rock-solid throughout high school. They decide to start fake dating because Sal has had enough of her mom trying to set her up with blockhead boys.
The story focuses a lot on how much a platonic friendship can change once you throw dating into the mix, even if it is fake. I loved how Becks was such a good best friend to Sal, and never let his popularity at school make him a jerk. There was so much mutual pining, since Sal has secretly been in love with Becks for years. And, of course, so many scenes where the gesture was to put on a show but you KNEW that it was because Becks and Sal were in looooovveeee.
This book really showed me that a romantic partner should also be your best friend. Even without any romantic scenes, I was in awe of Becks and Sal’s trust in each other and respect for each other as a result of their friendship.
If you want to see what a completely healthy best friend relationship AND romantic relationship looks like, look no further! (Also, if you like soccer, check this out because there are MANY soccer games and references).