What’s more fun than a charming contemporary romance? Only a charming contemporary romance abroad. We loved Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss for the familiar high school romance set against the backdrop of Paris, one of the most romantic cities in the world. As readers, it’s exciting to follow along as Anna discovers romance in Paris and gains confidence exploring the city on her own. If you’re in the mood for another feel-good YA contemporary, here is a list of recommendations filled with quirky characters, travel, and sweet romance. Live vicariously through these characters as they flit around the world finding themselves (and love!).
1. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, by Morgan Matson
When Amy’s mom decides to sell their house and move across the country, she tasks Amy with getting their car from California to Connecticut. But Amy hasn’t driven since her father’s death, so her mom asks a family friend to drive the car—and Amy—across the country. While theirs is not a European adventure, Amy and Roger map their own route across the US in an “epic detour.” As they get to know each other, they realize they’re both struggling to let go of the past and move forward. Their road trip is a beautiful journey of friendship, healing, and self-discovery, and a love letter to some of the most well-traveled parts of the US—Yellowstone National Park, the Loneliest Road in America, and Elvis’ Graceland (just to name a few!).
2. Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins
Isla and the Happily Ever After is a companion novel by Stephanie Perkins featuring familiar characters Josh (St. Clair’s best friend) and Isla from Anna and the French Kiss. Isla has had a longstanding hopeless crush on Josh, and it’s almost too good to be true when they begin dating after a chance encounter over summer break. Unlike Anna and the French Kiss, this book doesn’t chronicle the events leading up to Isla and Josh’s relationship, but rather the challenges they face as a young couple. We return to the School of America in Paris for Isla and Josh’s senior year, as the two find that it’s often our own insecurities and fears that threaten our happiness and our future. While we still get enough of Paris, this book broadens the setting to take us to other exciting cities like New York City and Barcelona.
3. 13 Little Blue Envelopes, by Maureen Johnson
Ginny loved her eccentric Aunt Peg for her larger-than-life personality and interesting stories, something she feels she lacks. When Aunt Peg passes away, she leaves Ginny a package with 13 little blue envelopes, each of which has a task for Ginny to complete. The first envelope takes her to London, where she finds an unlikely tour guide in “starving artist” Keith. What follows is a series of adventures as Ginny and Keith embark on a European scavenger hunt that pushes Ginny outside of her comfort zone and gives her a few interesting stories of her own. Ginny travels to Scotland, Italy, Rome, and Paris following her aunt’s instructions. Not to mention, Maureen Johnson gives us a charming British love interest who is just as dreamy as Etienne St. Clair.
4. Tell Me Three Things, by Julie Buxbaum
Tell Me Three Things is like a YA rendition of the beloved Meg Ryan movie You’ve Got Mail. When Jessie’s father remarries after her mother’s death, she’s uprooted from Chicago and enrolled in a fancy Los Angeles prep school. Much like Anna, Jessie feels like a fish out of water and struggles to adjust. That is until she receives an anonymous email from a fellow student calling himself Somebody/Nobody, who offers to share his inside knowledge of the school as some sort of spirit guide. As they begin exchanging daily messages, Jessie develops feelings for her anonymous ally. Jessie’s grief for her mom is raw and real, adding depth to the novel as she and “SN” bond over the loss of a loved one. But this book is also funny, endearing, and entertaining as Jessie (and us readers alongside her!) attempt to sleuth out SN’s true identity.
5. Love & Gelato, by Jenna Evans Welch
In this sweet YA contemporary, Lina is sent to Tuscany for the summer to live with Howard, the father who has been absent from her life. This was her mother’s dying wish, but Lina is reluctant to get to know him. When she’s given a journal from her mother’s time in Italy, Lina has a chance to learn more about her mom’s past, including her romantic relationships. Lina finds a local guide in Italian boy-next-door Ren, and together they retrace her mother’s steps to discover the people and places her mom knew and loved. Like Anna and the French Kiss, Lina’s story is a delightful adventure for readers who have the pleasure of sightseeing alongside her.
6. Wanderlost, by Jen Malone
Aubree Sadler does not share her sister Elizabeth’s adventurous soul. Aubree enjoys the familiarity and comfort of home and has no intention of leaving her bubble. But when Elizabeth gets into trouble, and it’s partly Aubree’s fault, she agrees to pose as her sister and take on her summer job as a European tour guide for a group of senior citizens. Aubree feels completely out of her depth, and of course, nothing goes according to plan. A newcomer joins their group, the teenage son of the tour owner who Aubree has flirted with over the phone. Oh, but he thinks she’s Elizabeth. Wanderlost is a sweet story about self-discovery and independence. Like Anna, Aubree comes to appreciate her European adventure and embrace the history, art, and culture that surrounds her.
7. Always Never Yours, by Emily Wibberley
When Megan accidentally scores the lead in her school play, the only perk is flirting with her fellow actor and latest crush. To win him over, she enlists the help of quiet playwright Owen, in exchange for giving him insight into the character Rosalind from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Like Rosalind, Megan knows a thing or two about being the girl who comes just before a guy’s “one true love.” Megan’s passion for theatre is reminiscent of Anna’s love for cinema, and hers and Owen’s witty banter gives us the friends-to-something-more story we loved in Anna and the French Kiss.
8. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han
Whenever Lara Jean has an intense crush, she pens a letter pouring out her feelings and tucks it away in a secret hatbox. She never intends to send the letters. When the hatbox goes missing and she realizes her letters have been mailed, she strikes a deal with popular student Peter Kavinsky to mask her feelings for her neighbor Josh (who also happens to be her sister’s boyfriend!). Fake-dating Peter challenges Lara Jean to step outside of her comfort zone and open herself up to new experiences. Like Anna and the French Kiss, this is a charming YA contemporary about the ups and downs of first love. Not to mention, there’s a Netflix movie adaptation to bring Lara Jean’s story and quirky personality to the screen.
9. My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life, by Rachel Cohn
When foster kid Elle Zoellner finds out that her biological father is a rich Japanese hotel mogul, she jet sets across the world on his invitation, where she’s enrolled in The International Collegiate School of Tokyo. Elle wants to fit in, and she wants to please her newfound family, so she befriends a group of popular, pretentious rich kids called the Ex-Brats. But she’s also crushing on a boy named Ryuu, who isn’t a part of the group, and she finds herself struggling to be true to herself when she’s desperate for the approval of her father. Like Anna and the French Kiss, My Almost Flawless Tokyo Dream Life is a book about friendship and family set against the backdrop of an exclusive international prep school.
10. I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You, by Ally Carter
Ally Carter gives readers another larger-than-life, elite boarding school… but the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Women is not your typical all-girls prep school. Cammie Morgan is a spy-in-training, and her classmates call her the “chameleon,” because she’s so good at blending in. When a cute teenage boy notices her during a Covert Ops class mission, she realizes her training hasn’t prepared her for potential romantic relationships. With the help of her loyal friends Liz and Bex, and the new girl Macey McHenry (the daughter of a senator with more experience when it comes to boys), they run their own “mission” to help Cammie spend time with Josh. This is a fun read about a genius teenage girl who’s totally clueless when it comes to relationships (and who hasn’t felt that way?).