Friday, February 3

10+ Swoon-Worthy Reads—Clean Teen Romances

Clean teen romances. Some people don't care, but the ones that do, care a lot. When I first started as a children's librarian, I had a mom come up and ask me for contemporary, fun romance recommendations. But, since they were for her freshly-turn-teen-aged daughter, she wanted them clean—as in no sexuality or crass content. I admit, I was stumped. I offered a few ideas then and have since had many more mothers ask the same question.

So here is my list of ten—plus a lot more because these authors do a lot of good stuff—clean and funny contemporary romances just in time for Valentine's Day. I'm sure there's more for me to discover, so by all means, share your recommendations in the comments below! And, just for fun, I added like 15 more fantasy and dystopian ones into the mix at the bottom, too.

Romeo and What's Her Name
Shani Petroff
Swoon Reads (February 7, 2017)

"Understudies never get to perform...which is why being Juliet's understudy in the school's yearly Shakespeare production is the perfect role for Emily. She can earn some much-needed extra credit while pursuing her main goal of spending time with Wes, aka Romeo, aka the hottest, nicest guy in school (in her completely unbiased opinion). But then Amanda (the real Juliet) ends up in the hospital and Emily, as the (completely unprepared!) understudy, has to star in the most famous scene from Romeo and Juliet opposite the guy of her dreams. Oops?"

This is the one the really kicked off the idea for this list. I just read it this week. In one sitting. So corny, yet so cute; drama-heavy, yet sweet moments of true friendship. It's the ultra-high-school-romance book. It's being released next week, just in time for Valentines, so check it out!

On the Fence
Kasie West
HarperTeen (July 1, 2014)

"With three older brothers, Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, has always been more comfortable calling the shots on a basketball court than flirting with the opposite sex. So when her police officer dad demands she get a summer job to pay for the latest in a long line of speeding tickets, she's more than a little surprised to find herself working at a chichi boutiqueCharlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with her neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But there's a secret Charlie's keeping that even he hasn't figured out—she's fallen for him. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high."

Ah, the boy-next-door classic. I particularly enjoyed this one myself, since I've always seen myself as bit of a tomboy. So with plenty of brothers to keep the humor going and some unexpected depth of character for Charlie, this is an awesome read. Plus, Kasie West has a ton of great (clean) romantic, exciting reads. So give them all a try!

Better Off Friends
Elizabeth Eulberg
Point (February 25, 2014)

"For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. They're best friends—which wouldn't be so bad if they didn't keep getting in each other's way. Guys won't ask Macallan out because they think she's with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can't help but wonder . . . are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?"

It's like a rom-com in book form. Quick, funny, and the perfect romantic read. And yes, totally predictable, but hey, most romances are. Plus, this is another author who's just a genius of clean romances and has more to read. Definitely give her books a read.

Pride & Popularity
Jenni James
Brigham Distributing (July 13, 2011)

"Chloe Elizabeth Hart despises the conceited antics of the popular crowd, or more importantly, one very annoying self-possessed guy, Taylor Anderson, who seems determined to make her the president of his fan club! As if! Every girl in the whole city of Farmington, New Mexico, is in love with him, but he seems to be only interested in Chloe. It's a battle of wits as Chloe desperately tries to remain the only girl who can avoid the inevitable falling for Taylor."

Well, you could read Pride and Prejudice itself (it is a clean romance, after all!) but sometimes, these modern adaptations just bring so much joy (in an easier to read, quicker way). And, this happens to be book 1 in the Jane Austen Diaries series, so if you like this, there are five more clean Austen adaptations to enjoy!

My Double Life
Janette Rallison
Putnam Juvenile (May 13, 2010)

"Her whole life, Alexia Garcia has been told that she looks just like pop star Kari Kingsley, and one day when Alexia's photo filters through the Internet, she's offered a job to be Kari's double. This would seem like the opportunity of a lifetime, but Alexia's mother has always warned her against celebrities. Rebelliously, Alexia flies off to L.A. and gets immersed in a celebrity life. Can she stay true to herself while pretending to be somebody else? Especially when that involves romancing the hottest lead singer on the charts?"

I admit, the premise sounded pretty ridiculous to me, but then I really enjoyed it. Of course, that's probably mostly to do with the writing skills of Rallison—awesome, kick-butt main character with just the right amount of swoon romance. She's another author who has a ton of good, clean stuff. If you haven't already, make sure to check out My Unfair Godmother and the rest of that series.

This is What Happiness Looks Like
Jennifer E. Smith
Poppy (April 2, 2013)

"When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds. Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?"

Okay, so two Hollywood-based books in a row, but still! It's cute stuff. I've always wanted a pen pal. I've also read Smith's The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, which yes, is another bit of far-fetched (but clean!) romancing. What else would get you to swoon so hard, though? Am I right?

CiCi Reno: #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker
Kristina Springer
Sterling Children's Books (April 19, 2016)

"Middle school is a test, but Cici Reno has all the answers. She's the go-to girl for advice. She's cool, she's funny, and she's enlightened (thanks to yoga classes at her mom's studio). So when her pretty BFF, Aggie, is too shy to speak to the boy she's crushing on, Cici goes online and does the talking for her. The only problem is, Cici starts to fall for the guy herself! For the first time in her life, she doesn't have a clue what to do."

So first of all, this is definitely hitting a younger target audience (middle school), but I still love it. First of all, how many modern takes of Cyrano de Bergerac have you read? This one works so well. Plus, I got to interview the author about it, which just makes me appreciate it all the more. This is a definite go-to for your younger die-hard romantics.

The Truth About Forever
Sarah Dessen
Viking Books (May 11, 2004)

"Macy’s got her whole summer carefully planned. But her plans didn’t include a job at Wish Catering. And they certainly didn’t include Wes. But Macy soon discovers that the things you expect least are sometimes the things you need most."

Ah, Sarah Dessen. She just won the Shorty Award for Best Author this last year (alongside J. K. Rowling, so yeah). She's got a whole list of deep, swoon-worthy romance books. They're definitely a bit more nitty-gritty, dealing with some of the tough aspects of growing up and life in general. Give it a go and if you like this, you'll know you'll have quite the range to choose from next.

The Princess Diaries
Meg Cabot
HarperTeen (September 19, 2000)

"Mia Thermopolis is pretty sure there's nothing worse than being a five-foot-nine, flat-chested freshman, who also happens to be flunking Algebra. Is she ever in for a surprise. First Mom announces that she's dating Mia's Algebra teacher. Then Dad has to go and reveal that he is the crown prince of Genovia. And guess who still doesn't have a date for the Cultural Diversity Dance?"

Yes, I'm talking about that Princess Diaries. Like, I'm pretty dang sure you've seen the movies. But have you read the book it's based on? Meg Cabot is quick with some dry humor, high school woes, and sweet romance. I will warn you now that not all of her books are the squeakiest of clean, but the ones targetted towards the younger audiences are a bit of a safer bet. So if you liked the movie, give this a try.

Finding Audrey
Sophie Kinsella
Delacorte Press (June 9, 2015)

An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

Here's another one with a bit more grit (and some swearing, if that turns you away) with its dose of cuteness. Obviously, the main story is about Audrey's anxiety and her coping with that, but there's still a hefty dose of Kinsella humor and a deep appreciation for the leading man. Targetted on the older end of young readers, I still give this a hearty recommendation.

Other clean romances in different genres that are favorites of mine for your further perusal if you are so interested

Got any more ideas? Share them in the comments below!


  1. I love this list! I like having clean teen/tween titles handy for my conservative readers, too - this helps me so much, thank you!