15 Short & Sweet Love Stories for Tweens and Teens

Readers will fall in love with these short middle grade and YA books (around 250 pages or less) that are just perfect for Valentine's Day.

IIllustration by Mark Tuchman

In middle and high schools, romance is always in the air, and not only in February. So it’s no surprise that the genre is a staple in every collection for young people. Thankfully, there’s a renaissance of love stories, with diversity and acceptance of all kinds of relationships coming to the fore. These books exist in all lengths; however, they do not have to be long to
be epic. Short novels can provide the thrills of first love or the heat of a slow burn in only a couple hundred pages, just the right fit for reluctant readers and anyone fatigued with the tomes gracing most YA shelves. A short novel can be the perfect thing to lift spirits after a lovers’ quarrel or give wistful adolescents something to look forward to. While finding short romances was a bit of a challenge, nothing can stand in the way of true love—or a perfect book match. With topics ranging from first love to first heartbreak and from dire circumstances to a comedy of errors, these love stories don’t all feature happily-ever-afters—but keeping readers engaged in a good book is a happily-ever-after all on its own.

Middle School

Middle school is often where the love bug bites. These middle grade titles present the ups and downs of first romance and the twists and turns of friendship with sincerity and humor.

Acampora, Paul. Danny Constantino’s First (and Maybe Last?) Date. 224p. Dial. 2020. ISBN 9781984816610.
Gr 5 Up–Dating in middle school is hard enough without your crush being a famous actress. When Danny invites his childhood friend, Natalie, to his town’s Halloween festivities, he quickly discovers that his life is a rom-com in the making. Add in a Trojan unicorn, well-meaning friends, and a mom who’s running for mayor, and Danny is ready for his first (and maybe last) date. Danny’s cheeky narrative voice will keep readers laughing in this meta romantic comedy with its own commentary on the genre.

Berk, Sheryl & Carrie Berk. Boy Trouble. (Ask Emma, Bk. 3). 208p. Yellow Jacket. 2019. ISBN 9781499806496.
Gr 3-7–A middle grade take on Jane Austen’s Emma puts a delightfully modern spin on the classic tale. Thirteen-year-old Emma is great at matchmaking for her friends and giving love advice through her blog but struggles with her own love connection. She thinks cute classmate Jackson Knight is going to ask her out, but lately he has been sending her mixed signals. As her middle school Sadie Hawkins dance approaches, Emma must decide if it is worth risking her heart to get the boy of her dreams. Cute, accessible, and with a sweet ending, this third book in the “Ask Emma” series is the perfect middle grade introduction to romance.

Doleski, Shannon. Gabe in the After. 240p. Abrams/Amulet. 2022. ISBN 9781419754388.
Gr 5 UpAnne of Green Gables meets the apocalypse in a unique middle grade romance set in a world destroyed by a deadly virus. Two years after a pandemic has killed a majority of the population, 14-year-old Gabe lives with 20 survivors on an island in coastal Maine. While on a scouting mission, Gabe discovers Relle, a red-headed girl with an optimistic attitude. Relle brings new hope and love to their small community. Although the story takes place in a postapocalyptic world, the narrative is ultimately about first crushes and love triumphing in even the most dire of circumstances.

Going, K.L. The Next Great Jane. 240p. Dial. 2020. ISBN 9780803734753.
Gr 5 Up–Burgeoning Austen fans will delight in the quirky middle grade story of 12-year-old Jane, an aspiring writer who is making her first attempts at matchmaking and possibly finding a love of her own. Jane is very content with her life in Whickett Harbor with her scientist father and babysitter, Ana. When a famous writer and her infuriating (at least to Jane) son move into town, she immediately sees someone who could help her become the next great writer. Then, her Hollywood screenwriter mother visits and threatens to take Jane from everything she’s ever known. High jinks ensue.

Grehan, Meg. The Deepest Breath. 192p.HarperCollins/Clarion. 2021. ISBN 9780358354758.
Gr 5 Up–The more 11-year-old Stevie learns about something, the more she can keep her fear and anxiety at bay. This strategy has helped her with learning about the ocean. What she hasn’t been able to figure out yet is how to understand her feelings for her friend Chloe and how to tell her mother that she has a crush on a girl. Told in verse, Grehan’s novel gently handles Stevie’s journey of self-discovery. It captures all the first-love feels and the early struggles of adolescence.

Hitchcock, Shannon. One True Way. 224p. Scholastic. 2018. ISBN 9781338181722.
Gr 4-7–New kid Allie is determined to become the star reporter at her school. When she meets her new best friend, Sam, Allie begins to wonder if her feelings are more than just friendship. This historical romance highlights the struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community in the 1970s. While Allie and Sam are confronting their feelings and the prejudice of many, they are also met with the support of teachers, religious figures, and a counselor. Hitchcock reminds readers that they, ultimately, decide the path that will make them happy.

Levithan, David. Answers in the Pages. 176p. Knopf. 2022. ISBN 9780593484685.
Gr 5 Up–Levithan weaves three stories into one narrative, showing readers that the love between friends and for your community are just as special as romantic love. When Donovan’s mother discovers that the book his class is reading might have gay characters, she begins a campaign to have the book reviewed. This leads Donovan and his class to rally around his teacher and create a counter-campaign to keep the book in the classroom. In addition to Donovan’s story, readers are treated to excerpts from the challenged book, as well as a glimpse into the life of the challenged book’s author. The Margaret A. Edwards Award–winning author’s latest is thought-provoking, timely, and, yes, romantic.

Polisner, Gae & Nora Raleigh Baskin. Seven Clues to Home. 208p. Knopf. 2020. ISBN 978-0593119617.
Gr 4-7–Grief and love are interwoven in Polisner and Baskin’s tale of friendship. On Joy’s 12th birthday, her best friend Lukas dies. A year later, she decides to face her grief and complete the scavenger hunt Lukas made for her the previous year. Told in the alternating perspectives of past Lukas and present Joy, this bittersweet tale will show readers that heartbreak and healing are often part and parcel of many love stories.

Taylor, Will. The Language of Seabirds. 256p. Scholastic. 2022. ISBN 9781338753738.
Gr 5 Up–Twelve-year-old Jeremy is dealing with a lot. His parents have recently divorced, and he is being forced to spend the summer in Oregon with his father and uncle. While exploring the beach, Jeremy comes across a boy named Evan who ends up changing Jeremy’s summer, and his life. Romantic feelings soon develop between the boys as they use “the language of birds” to communicate and grow closer while keeping their romance a secret. This tender and bittersweet middle grade novel proves that relationships can lead to both love and personal growth.

High School

The Regency-inspired recommendations continue. Plus, paperback originals for rom-com fans are just the thing for reluctant readers. Teens will be gushing over these unforgettable protagonists, their meet-cutes, and their happily-ever-afters.

Correia, Tony. Prom Kings. 176p. Lorimer. 2020. ISBN 9781459414099.
Gr 9 Up–Boy likes boy. Boy asks for friend’s help to ask boy to prom. Boy falls for friend. Boy ends up with two dates to prom in this delightful hi-lo YA romance. Charlie joins the prom committee as a way to get close to his crush Andre. In order to plan the perfect promposal, Charlie enlists his friend Luis. As Charlie and Luis grow closer, Charlie ends up with some difficult decisions to make. The beauty of this short novel is in its representation. A sweet story that will get readers excited for prom.

Engle, Margarita. Your Heart, My Sky: Love in a Time of Hunger. 224p. S. & S./Atheneum. 2021. ISBN 9781534464964.
Gr 8 Up –How can love exist when hardship consumes your life? Taking place during Cuba’s período especial en tiempos de paz (the special period in the times of peace), which lasted from 1991 to 2000, this novel-in-verse centers around Liana and Amado, who find each other despite dealing with profound hunger. Told from the perspectives of Liana, Amado, and the Singing Dog (who represents their own version of Cupid), this historical work will give readers insight into this time period and prove how even in the worst conditions, love will find a way.

Jordan, Sophie. Sixteen Scandals. 256p. HarperCollins/Clarion. 2021. ISBN 9780358206217.
Gr 8 Up–Regency romance lovers will rejoice in Jordan’s deliciously decadent novel. Primrose Ainsworth is the youngest, and often overlooked, daughter of a society family. When her 16th birthday arrives and her family delays her coming out to society, Primrose decides to give herself the night out she deserves at the indulgent Vauxhall Gardens. Unfortunately for Primrose, she is separated from her friend, and her cover is almost blown. Enter the mysterious Jacob, who helps her not only survive the night but also kick off her birthday with a flirtatious romance. Austen and Bridgerton fans alike will enjoy the ride as Primrose and Jacob fall for each other over the course of an evening.

Loggia, Wendy. All I Want for Christmas. 240p. Random/Underlined. 2020. ISBN 9780593179833.
Gr 7 Up–Who says you have to wait for the holidays to enjoy Christmas rom-coms? In this novel, which is Hallmark movie–like in its plot, Bailey is determined to make this the year she lands the perfect boyfriend. When she meets adorable Brit Charlie, she thinks she has found her man. If only classmate Jacob wasn’t around to complicate the situation. This holiday contemporary romance with a hint of magic is as sweet as a cup of hot chocolate and will warm readers up during the cold winter days.

Rockaway, Kristin. My Epic Spring Break (Up). 256p. Random/Underlined. 2021. ISBN 9780593180112.
Gr 7 Up–Ashley has everything planned out. Work hard in school, move to Silicon Valley, and get an internship at her dream company. When her internship application is rejected, she starts to question all the decisions she’s ever made. Thus begins Ashley’s spring break mission to find love and what she’s been missing in her high school experience. Will it be Walker, her crush, or Jason, her childhood friend, who steals her heart? Romance readers will delight in this fun YA take on the friends-to-lovers trope.

Woodson, Jacqueline. If You Come Softly: 20th Anniversary Edition. 192p.Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. 2018. ISBN 9780525515487.
Gr 7 Up–Woodson’s interracial love story is still relevant more than 20 years later. Jeremiah is proud to be Black but nervous about his new, mostly white high school. White, Jewish Ellie is also getting used to the transition from public school to the same private school. When Ellie and Jeremiah meet, it is love at first sight. Unfortunately for them, family and societal pressures become obstacles to their happy ending. Beautiful and heartrending, this modern-day Romeo and Juliet story will have readers rooting for the pair and wondering if love is powerful enough to overcome prejudice. This features star crossed lovers, so give to readers who can handle tragic endings.

Ashley Leffel is a middle school librarian in Frisco, TX, and a member of SLJ’s Best Books committee.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing