Upper middle schoolers are always asking for romance books, and 8th graders, in particular, are probably ready for some sweet YA books in which romance is more central to the plot! That’s what this post is all about. I’m sharing 20 of my favorite romance books for 8th graders that are sweet and swoony, but still entirely age-appropriate. And by age-appropriate, I mean they’re limited to a kiss or two, some pining, and very little (if at all) profanity. If you’re looking for slightly younger romance, you can also check out my middle grade romance book list (some of the books on that list also feature here as well).
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The Best Romance Books for 8th Graders
Here are some of the best romance books for 8th graders to read:
Simone Breaks All the Rules
Published: June 1, 2021
Simone Thibodeau is in her senior year of high school and is ready for some freedom from her strict Haitian parents. She’s been dreaming of her perfect prom experience with her long-time crush, Gavin, as her prom date, but the dream is threatened when her mom arranges a prom date for her. But Simone isn’t backing down easily this time. She joins forces with two other daughters of protective immigrant parents: Amita and Kira. Together, they make a bucket list of sorts, determined to take charge of their lives. This is a sweet, entertaining, and sometimes hilarious coming-of-age YA novel following an awkward teen on the path to reclaiming her life from her controlling, overprotective immigrant parents.
Published: January 31, 2023
This is a full-on historical romance for teens, BUT it’s squeaky clean in terms of language and features four Black sisters who stumble into love in different ways. It’s also about the Davenport family business and features side characters who are dealing with compelling issues, like a maid trying to start a business and a best friend whose parents are forcing her to form a relationship with the Davenport’s only son. The Davenports is an exhilarating romance that manages to still be appropriate for older teens ages 12+
Give Me a Sign
Published: July 11, 2023
Lilah is a teen with hearing loss but who isn’t profoundly deaf. So she has always felt caught in the middle — not deaf enough to be part of the Deaf community and not fully hearing enough to fit in completely there either. But when she becomes a counselor at a summer camp for deaf and blind kids, her experiences (and the boy she falls in love with) change the way she views her disability. I loved this book! I’d recommend this for readers ages 13+ who want to learn more about deafness and Deaf culture + are looking for a summer camp romance.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Published: April 15, 2014
This is a sweet, compulsively readable book about Lara Jean, who gets herself in a fix when all the letters she wrote to five crushes get sent out by mistake. Over the course of the three books in the series, she also gets stuck in a love triangle. Lara Jean’s story is less angsty and sweeter, and I like it better than Belly’s story.
The Summer I Turned Pretty
Published: December 21, 2010
Belly loves spending summers with her mom’s best friend, Susannah, and her two sons, Jeremiah and Conrad. But this summer, everything is different. Susannah is keeping a secret, and suddenly, both Jeremiah and Conrad (whom Belly has had a crush on forever) are noticing Belly. Follow all three teens through the summer rollercoaster of emotions and watch the Amazon Prime TV adaptation when you’re done. This is a very angsty teen series that continues to be a favorite for teens and adults alike. I even made a list of readalikes if all your 8th graders have already torn through this one.
Rhythm and Muse
Published: May 30, 2023
This is a very sweet young adult romance that feels written FOR TEENS! I loved the message of putting yourself out there instead of living in your head. I also liked that while we’re in Darren’s head, we learn enough about his love interest that she’s not just a manic pixie dream girl. There are lovely teen-parent relationships, male friendships, humor, and main characters who attend church without it being a preachy book. It’s really fun and perfect for younger teens ages 12+ with nearly no language! Plus, bonus points for a male lead narrator in a romance.
Published: July 18, 2023
Since her mom died during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been just Chloe and her dad. She worries about their finances, so when she has the chance to go on a school trip to Broadway, she’s hesitant to tell him. On a good note, there’s a boy she maybe likes? He works at a boba tea place in her neighborhood, and things are going well until an altercation at the shop ends with Chloe being banned from the boba tea place. What unfolds is a string of chaotic, surprising, and satisfying events, including a boba-making business, two lost lovers reuniting, and a new furry family member. This is a lighthearted, fun story that I think many kids are constantly looking for. It has many realistic elements but is ultimately a feel-good story with lots of information about making boba, being a good friend, and giving romance a chance. It’s also super short at 221 pages!
My Sister’s Big Fat Indian Wedding
Published: April 19, 2022
Zurika Damani is a naturally gifted violinist with a particular love for hip-hop beats. But when you’re part of a big Indian family, everyone has expectations, and those certainly don’t include hip-hop violin. After being rejected by Juilliard, Zuri’s last hope is a contest judged by a panel of top-tier college scouts. The only problem? This coveted competition happens to take place during her sister’s extravagant wedding week. And Zuri has already been warned, repeatedly, that she is not to miss a single moment. In the midst of the chaos, Zuri’s mom is in matchmaking mode with the groom’s South African cousin Naveen—who just happens to be a cocky vocalist set on stealing Zuri’s spotlight at the scouting competition. This is a rambunctious, chaotic story about family and music and featuring a swoony enemies-to-lovers romance.
This Time It’s Real
Published: February 7, 2023
Eliza Lin has never had a boyfriend and moves every couple of years because of her mother’s exec role. Now she’s a new kid again at an international school in Beijing with a viral essay about as boyfriend she doesn’t have. She convinces a classmate and famous author to fake date her until the storm blows over. And we all know how fake dating goes… This is a cute YA rom-com about identity (especially when it’s hard to put a finger on “home”), life in the spotlight, and embracing vulnerability. I liked this one just fine, and it’s the kind of YA that younger teens ages 14-16 can actually read.
The Way You Make Me Feel
Published: May 8, 2018
I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful YA novel by Maurene Goo. Clara Shin is a “cool kid” determined to be unbothered by caring too deeply about anything. But when a prank goes too far, she has to spend her summer working on her dad’s food truck with her nemesis, do-gooder overachieving Rose, and the two form a surprising friendship even as Clara falls for a boy named Hamlet. I loved the character development in this one. The whole story and all the characters felt so authentic and enjoyable without being unbearably saccharine.
The Love Match
Published: January 3, 2023
Zahra Khan is a new high school graduate who’s saving up for college—which she’s had to defer because her mom can’t afford to send her just yet. Her mother, though? She thinks their family’s way out is an arranged marriage to a wealthy family. Too bad the family’s son Harun Emon doesn’t care for Zahra. Zahra herself is falling for a new waiter in the cafe where she works. So Harun and Zahra band together to make their parents call off the courtship. But we all know that love doesn’t quite play by the rules, don’t we? This is a romantic, tender, feel-good Pride and Prejudice retelling with lots of insight into Bangladeshi culture, arranged marriages, and Bangladeshi film history.
Tokyo Ever After
Published: May 31, 2022
When Izumi Tanaka finds out that her father (the one her single mother never wants to talk about) is the crowned Prince of Japan. Immediately, she’s whisked away to Japan to meet her father and the family she didn’t know she had. Of course, this means she had to leave close to the end of her senior year in high school, hoping to return in time for graduation. When she gets to Japan, however, she’s met with a new (handsome) bodyguard, Akio; cunning cousins, and a whole lot of royal etiquette to learn. This is a royal coming-of-age story perfect for fans of The Princess Diaries.
To Be Honest
Published: August 21, 2018
Savannah, aka Savvy, is a fat teen with a mom who, post-divorce, has just completed a weight-loss-centered reality TV show. While Sav is a smart, confident girl, her mom constantly needles her about her weight under the guise of concern for her health. Sav has also just met her best friend’s cousin, George, and the two soon begin a friendship that leads to romance. This is a powerful fat-positive story featuring a strong sisterhood bond, solid female friendships, and a sweet romance.
Far from Normal
Published: September 22, 2020
Maddy, a 17-year-old from Normal, Illinois, moves to Chicago for a summer internship in her aunt’s sports marketing company. Away from home — and her parents’ low expectations of her — for the first time, Maddy is ready to prove that she can be excellent at something, even though she has to work hard, unlike her genius brother. Things are going fairly well until she runs into one of the company’s clients, 19-year-old soccer star Gabe. This is a sweet young-adult novel, perfect for younger YA readers. This escapist novel is compulsively readable and full of mouthwatering food scenes. It’s also great for teens looking for sports-centric romances.
I Love You So Mochi
Published: May 28, 2019
Japanese-American, Kimi Nakamura is fashion-loving teen who spends her time designing and sewing bold, creative outfits. The only problem is that her mother thinks Kimi should be a real artist and her designs should remain a “hobby.” Although Kimi has already been accepted to a reputable fine art college, she hasn’t told her mother that she’s dropped out of Advanced Fine Art and hasn’t painted anything all semester. When her mother finds out and is sorely disappointed, Kimi takes advantage of her estranged grandparents’ offer to visit Kyoto. This is a delightful, delicious young adult novel, perfect for anyone desperate for a trip to Japan on a page.
Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai
Published: August 3, 2021
This is the companion title to fan favorite, Keep It Together, Keiko Carter. Jenna and Keiko have remained BFFs after their fall out with Audrey. But Jenna is having a hard time with several life issues. For one, she and her boyfriend have just broken up (but she’s still stuck in the same school newspaper as he is), and now her parents are divorcing. To top it all off, she’s met a frustrating boy at a deli she frequents to be alone. I found this compulsively readable title perfect for fans of upper middle grade stories. This realistic contemporary novel handles tough themes like the process and reality of parental divorce, a tween experiencing the fallout of a breakup, kids managing busy school schedules, and keeping bonds of friendship alive.
The Beauty of the Moment
Published: February 26, 2019
This strong YA novel follows an Indian girl, Susan, who moves from Saudi Arabia to Canada, where she forms a friendship with a certified “bad boy,” Malcolm. I loved that the main characters form a genuine friendship and that this novel addresses so many themes. Susan is a talented artist whose immigrant parents want her to pursue a “professional” degree, and Malcolm’s issues with his dad are serious issues I haven’t seen tackled by many YA books. I also enjoyed all the minor characters and their storylines, especially how Susan’s parents navigate their marital relationship. Refreshingly, the characters in this novel deal with problems more important than the romance in this book.
Published: July 13, 2021
XOXO is about a Korean-American teen and cello prodigy, Jenny. One night she meets and likes a stranger, Jaewoo. They basically go on a date, take photos in a photo booth, and exchange numbers, only for Jaewoo to stop responding to her texts. When her grandmother becomes sick, Jenny’s mother decides to travel to South Korea to look after her. She eventually agrees that Jenny can transfer schools and move with her. But soon after they arrive, Jenny realizes that Jaewoo is 1/4th of the popular new K-pop boy band, XOXO — and is forbidden from dating. This is a swoon-worthy, adorable YA romance set in South Korea and follows two musicians — one a cellist and the other the lead singer of a K-pop band.
Listen to Your Heart
Published: May 29, 2018
Kasie West books are the perfect romance for this age group and this one is my favorite of the lot so far. It’s about a girl who becomes a podcast host and starts doling our relationship advice. When a boy who she thinks likes her best friend starts asking for advice, she’s invested in helping him out. Soon, though, her helpful feelings begin to feel more like attraction.
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There they are: 20 of the best romance books for 8th graders! Which of these are popular in your school library? Which ones have I missed?