A glowing recommendation for realistic young adult romances frequently reads "for fans of Rainbow Rowell and John Green." My final three recommendations for 2016 fall in this category. The highly acclaimed The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (Everything, Everything) finds two teen falling in love over the course of 12 hours in NYC. We are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen is an epistolary romance that takes place in the 80s. Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland follows the unconventional relationship between a traumatized girl and the boy who is determined to save her.
In alternating first person chapters The Sun is Also Star chronicles the romance between Natasha, an undocumented immigrant from Jamaica whose family is being deported the next day, and Daniel, a first generation Korean American whose parents are insisting he become a doctor. They meet and fall in love during one fateful day in NYC. Natasha, who is an outstanding science student, is facing deportation because her dad was arrested on a DUI charge. She is looking for a lawyer who can help her family stay in the US long enough for her to get into college. Daniel, a dreamer and a poet, is on his way to an interview for admission to Yale. They witness a shoplifting incident at a record store and he falls in "love at second sight." (where you meet a person and know you'll fall in love) Their paths continue to converge throughout the next 12 hours and Daniel is determined to make her fall in love with him. Although she is in a race against time, Natasha can't help but be charmed by his insistence that fate means for them to be together. This book has won numerous accolades, including a National Book Award nomination.
Through an exchange of letters in the 1980s, Scott and Cath, two high school graduates, continue their best friend relationship in We are Still Tornadoes. Even though Cath leaves for college at Wake Forest and Scott stays home in Maryland to work at his dad's clothing store and start a band, they lean on each other for support and advice. During their first year apart they weather a variety of crises, including crazy roommates and band mates, as well as family problems. While Scott's relationship with his dad is strengthened, Cath struggles with her parents' divorce and the upcoming arrival of a half sibling. As the year progresses, Scott finds himself regretting not going to college and Cath works to resolve her feelings of anger toward an unborn sister. Turning to each other, as they always have, isn't as easy as when they were next-door neighbors, but together they navigate their first year apart and become closer in the process. The epistolary banter and the 80s music references, as well as Scott's overuse of quotation marks, will keep readers laughing and turning the pages hoping for a happy ending.
When Henry Page first meets Grace Town, the protagonist in Our Chemical Hearts, he is strangely attracted to her, despite her pronounced limp and baggy boy's clothes. Getting to know her as co-editors of the school newspaper, he is intrigued by her quick wit and occasionally flirtatious behavior. When researching her on the internet, he finds she looks nothing like her social media pictures of a beautiful smiling athlete. Digging deeper, he finds she is the survivor of a horrific car accident, and has transferred schools in the hopes of starting a new life. Henry's best friends, Murray, an Australian party guy, and Lola, a lesbian graphic designer, dub Grace a manic pixie dream girl and warn him to stay away from her. But he dreams of being the one to turn her life around and end up with a happily-ever-after story. Predictably this is not in the cards. Readers will love this emotionally complex, humorous, heartbreaking tale filled with sympathetic characters and an unusual story line.