90% of the Young Adult (YA) novels that you pick up will have romance in there. And a good portion of those novels will be focused on a heterosexual couple.
It gets tiring, after a while, reading about the same sort of people (usually the ‘bad’ boy with the troubled past and the girl who doesn’t see herself as beautiful until the male love interest tells her so), only with different names.
But for those of you who tire of these conventional romantic tropes, fear not! There are other relationships that exist in YA novels, ranging from family, friendship and LGBTQ relationships.
Without further ado, here is a list of six YA novels that celebrate diverse relationships:
1. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
I know. The title just screams “Romance” at you but besides the romantic relationships in this book, Han focuses on the family aspects. Lara Jean’s family (the protagonist) consists of her single dad and her two sisters.
One of the things that hit home for me was how both great and awkward Lara Jean’s dad was in a house full of girls, because it’s not easy when you have Kitty, the precocious youngest sister, Lara Jean who’s attempting to navigate through high school, and Margot who is preparing to leave for college.
2. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
No, I am most definitely not talking about the Dursleys.
Harry’s home is Hogwarts. And that’s because his friends, Ron and Hermione, aren’t just friends. They’re family. They’re all fiercely loyal and love each other deeply. This was the place that Harry could belong and feel (somewhat) safe.
And who could forget the Weasleys? Mrs. Weasley probably fed Harry more in the second book than Aunt Petunia did in all seven books combined.
1. Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo
Warning: this motley crew of thugs and criminals are not to be trusted. They probably stole your wallet and used the money to escape on a ship before you even finished reading this sentence.
However, the six of them will have each other’s backs. They will save each other, yell at each other for risking their lives and probably celebrate with waffles after pulling off a grand scheme concocted by Kaz, who is the mastermind behind all of their operations.
And bonus: the series is wonderfully diverse in its cast of characters — race, disability and sexuality.
2. Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Although, technically, everyone in the series is related to each other in some way through the very messy family tree of Olympic god/demigod/human, the demigods act primarily like friends unless Riordan explicitly states that they’re family.
Percy is one of the most loyal characters you’ll find. He’ll carry the world for you, he’ll walk through hell for you. You can’t find a better friend.
1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
This is a coming-of-age novel about two Mexican-American boys. It’s a slow burn and it’s in the POV of a very angsty teenage boy but you can see the growth and maturity of the protagonist through his voice.
While the book is in Ari’s point of view, both Ari and Dante grow and mature into complex characters throughout the book. Although they could have stayed as close friends, they prove that they are stronger together as a couple.
2. A Darker Shade of Magic series by V.E. Schwab
We have a cross-dressing gender-fluid pirate. We have a gay prince. And we have a main character who can travel between Londons. Yes. Londons as in four of them.
This book doesn’t have a lot of romance in it, but the bonds that are created between each character is just as, or perhaps more, substantial.
This list is only the beginning of a literary world that is just scratching at the surface of diverse relationships for young adults. Go out. Go to a library. Try to pick a book that celebrates different relationships and bonds. You won’t regret it.