Some Great Contemporary YA Reads That are More Than Their Romance


orangutan list

Let’s face it: romance is a staple of contemporary YA. Even so, that doesn’t mean that the story has to end there. Many wonderful contemporaries also explore other avenues of life, love and relationships. That’s why today I’m sharing some of those YA books!

Sisterhood everlasting

#1 Sisterhood Everlasting– I feel like I can rarely talk about contemporary YA without bringing up one of the books in this series. I adore how Brashares shows love and friendship in all of her books- this finale is special though in that it takes a sadder turn. Annnd I’ll leave it there, cos I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that hasn’t read it!

words in deep blue

#2 Words in Deep Blue– another moving book, this delves into the depths of loss, family and friendship. This exquisite story really takes a lot of the themes of this genre to another level.

second chance summer

#3 Second Chance Summer– this was my first Matson book and definitely not the last! I don’t think I could ever forget reading this for the first time- mostly cos it involved lots of crying in public… oops πŸ˜‰ Seriously, this does not pull its punches. If you want an excellent read about family and grief, then this is the book for you!

cinder and ella

#4 Cinder and Ella– in fairness, this is the most romance-heavy of the books on this list. That said, this Cinderella retelling does a *brilliant* job of demonstrating complex family dynamics and offers more than your standard YA contemporary fare.

simon vs the homosapien agenda

#5 Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda– this is also fundamentally a romance, but along with a good dose of cuteness and a strong hint of humour, this book also delivers by telling a powerful coming out story.

A thousand perfect notes

#6 A Thousand Perfect Notes– I read this fairly recently and haven’t had the chance to review it yet- but rest assured I will get to it, cos this book deserves a lot of attention! I have a difficult time with books on abuse- however I really do believe that this does an outstanding job.

all the bright places

#7 All the Bright Places– possibly the most controversial book on this list, as like many books on mental health, it’s incredibly polarising. Personally, I connected very strongly with the representation and found the characters realistic.

eliza and her monsters

#8 Eliza and Her Monsters– I have made no secret of how much I liked this book- it’s a colourful, exciting contemporary, which also happens to deal with anxiety, friendship and even living on the internet. Hence for a lot of us online, it’s not to be missed!


#9 Stargirl– an ‘un one but a good ‘un! This is aimed at a bit of a younger audience, but I read it in my late teens and still got a lot out of it. This is far less about getting a crush and more about dealing with bullying.

And *Bonus*- cos here’s a contemporary without romance at all:


#10 Wonder- such a powerful read about friendship and overcoming hardship. Words tend to fail me when it comes to this book, so I’ll simply say: if you haven’t read it, you really should.

So have you read any of these? What did you think of them? And what other contemporary YA books do you think are more than their romance? Let me know in the comments!

67 thoughts on “Some Great Contemporary YA Reads That are More Than Their Romance

  1. I am having such a hard time with recs right now. I have a coworker of mine who is trying to find books for a specific patron. The girl is a young teen, and doesn’t like fantasy/sci fi. She wants to read contemporary but HATES romance. The kicker is that her mother is a bit uh….protective? She doesn’t want her to read about anything too sad like death or … how do I put this nicely….anything “unrelatable” so things like The Hate U Give, The Poet X, etc. (if you catch my drift). It’s honestly infuriating me but what can you do? I think I will try to offer her Eliza and Her Monsters and Stargirl though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah wow that is a tough situation. I really wish that people wouldn’t rule out certain topics- it’s not helpful to be that protective. And as for not allowing “unrelatable” topics- I wonder what they think reading is for and how they expect their child to navigate the world. Basically, that whole situation is really frustrating to hear :/ I do think Eliza and Stargirl are good ones for that though. And maybe Wonder? I don’t see how there could be a problem with that? (I mean I know it’s dealing with difficult circumstances, but it’s not dark in the slightest)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes!! I’m so happy to see all our bright places on your list- as it did crossed my mind as I read your post.
    Both AoBP and Eliza & her Monsters are absolute favorites of mine ❀️❀️


  3. Oh gosh I remember reading Wonder… that was an emotional experience. Eliza and Her Monsters is one that I’ve owned for a while and STILL haven’t gotten round to reading (oops).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I just bought Second Chance Summer last week. I really liked Since You’ve been Gone, so i had to get it.
    1000 perfect notes was a big fave of mine last year, and i think Eliza and the monsters would be up my alley too πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading! I totally understand that- I used to have a similar problem with YA- books like second chance summer convinced me there was more to the genre πŸ˜‰ I definitely recommend that one- though it is the last in the sisterhood of the travelling pants series

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  5. Ahh what a fantastic list ❀ I adore Eliza and Her Monsters and the way it tackled anxiety and internet friendships, too. ❀ Second Chance Summer was such a great book, I cried like a baby when I read it haha. Fantastic list!! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I read and loved 7 of these, and honestly, I tell everyone I meet to read Wonder, because it was just a beautiful book. So happy to see Words in Deep Blue up there, because it’s a favorite of mine, and I suggest Second Chance Summer for anyone in the mood to ugly cry

    Liked by 1 person

  7. OMG I’m glad you added All the Bright Places to this list because I’ve always felt demonized for loving it so much, but it was one of the very first important books in my life that steered me in the direction of loving YA. I understand everyone’s critique of its characters and their choices and the way mental illness is represented in this book, but I agree that the characters seemed realistic and at times even lovable.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I think all of the books in this list have passed in front of my eyes and have made me want to read them … and damn, but I need more free time πŸ˜€ if I wasn’t in a ‘seriously need to get to all of those (6) netgalley titles’ funk at the moment, I would not hesitate picking a few titles listed here up straight away!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks so much for this list – I was wandering around the internet looking for the next read and now I’ve found 4 books I can’t wait to get stuck into. I think I’ll start with A Thousand Perfect Notes


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