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One of my favorite romantic tropes is enemies-to-lovers. The fact that the other person knows you at your worst and still falls in love with you? You know that this relationship is going to be a forever kinda thing. But sometimes people categorize books as an enemies-to-lovers romance when they’re actually really not. There are various “levels,” if you want to call it that, in an enemies-to-lovers romance, and in this article, we’ll talk a bit about rivals-to-lovers YA books.
For me, a true enemies-to-lovers romance has to be intense with very high stakes. They have to want to end the other one! Think The Cruel Prince, The Wrath and the Dawn, and We Hunt the Flame. Most of the time that doesn’t happen in contemporary romances; instead I see it often in fantasy books. In contemporary books, you can encounter more of a rivalry relationship or a dislike-to-love dynamic between the main characters. Maybe it’s because their families have rival food businesses or maybe they have been aiming for the top spot in the school ranking; either way, these characters can’t see each other without starting to argue immediately.
But you’re not only getting an epic romance in these next books; you’re also going to meet characters who grow before your eyes. I love that in these books, characters learn to apologize and actually get to know the other person in a deeper way even though they had a huge dislike for each other. Teenagers are incredible, they have such a bright future, and in these rivals-to-lovers YA books, you see how they go for their dreams.
My Mechanical Romance by Alexene Farol Follmuth
Are you familiar with Olivie Blake? You’ll find The Atlas Six somewhere in this list as well, but yeah, she’s the author who wrote the sensation that is The Atlas Six. But maybe you didn’t know she also wrote My Mechanical Romance under her real name!
This book follows Bel who has just discovered her talent for engineering at school. Because of this, she’s basically forced to join the robotics club where she doesn’t feel quite at home. Mateo Luna, the captain of the club, recognizes her as an asset, but sadly, they soon start to butt heads. Between long nights at work and annoying each other, Bel and Mateo might find their way to their happily ever after.
A Pho Love Story by Loan Le
Rival family restaurants really make for an epic love story. In A Pho Love Story, you meet Bao Nguyen and Linh Mai, two teens who have been taught since a very early age that they are enemies. Because of this, they have avoided each other to this day, but they start to suspect that this feud stems from something way deeper than just neighboring competition. When Bao and Linh have a chance encounter, sparks immediately fly, making them wonder if it’s possible for them to have a relationship even though their families hate each other.
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Prom Queen Perfect by Clarisse David
Jane Austen meets Gossip Girl in this fabulous YA story about childhood nemeses-turned-lovers.
When I think about Alex dela Cruz, the protagonist of this novel, I instantly think about Blair Waldorf. Think popular high school queen, who comes from a rich family, and has the best fashion sense everyone wants to dress like her. She also has a childhood nemesis, Adam, who is the president of the student council. When Adam calls Alex selfish one day, she is ready to make him see that he’s in the wrong…by transforming Christy Marquez from an invisible misfit into a ruling princess of Asia Pacific Academy! But things don’t come out as planned and it’s up to Alex to figure out how to fix her own mess.
Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon
With prom and high school ending for some teens, this book is perfect to either relive those moments or to accompany you while you go through them in real life.
In this novel, Rowan Roth has decided to beat Neil on Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle. Howl is sort of like a scavenger hunt. Neil beat Rowan on being valedictorian, so Rowan is ready to destroy him in this game. But when she finds out another group is out to get them, they reluctantly pair up in order to win…until they have to destroy each other.
The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You by Lily Anderson
Trixie and Ben have hated each other for the better part of their lives. Being in the same school with the same friends, they constantly compete on placing higher in the school ranking than the other. She’s ready to win against him once and for all!
But when Trixie’s best friend starts dating Ben’s best friend, the two of them have to play nice for once in their lives. Forced to be in the same room whenever their best friends are together, Trixie and Ben start to realize that they have a lot in common.
The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake
The Atlas Six became a hit when it went viral on TikTok. So much so that Tor Books decided to publish it! With a brand new cover, this dark academia fantasy YA novel is going to have you on the edge of your seat.
Every decade, six magicians are chosen by the Alexandrian Society (yes, a secret society!) to compete for a chance to win a place. But only five will become the victors.
After they’ve been chosen, the six magicians will have to spend one year together to qualify for initiation. During this time, they have to prove they are the best at what they do.
Not Here to Be Liked by Michelle Quach
Eliza Quan knows she’s the perfect candidate for editor-in-chief of her school newspaper. But everything comes crashing down when ex-jock Len DiMartile decides to run against her!
After that shock, Eliza spills out all of her frustration on a viral essay that inspires a feminist movement. But not everyone thinks the same way as her. Amid the growing tension, the school asks Eliza and Len to play nice and demonstrate civility. When they start to spend more and more time together, Eliza soon finds out that maybe Len isn’t that bad after all.
What’s Not to Love by Emily Wibberley, Austin Siegemund-Broka
One of the best rivals-to-lovers YA books has to be What’s Not to Love, an entertaining story about rivals who have to pair up to plan a ten-year reunion at their school.
Throughout most of their lives, Alison Sanger and Ethan Molloy have competed against each other. Be it for the school paper or community service, Alison and Ethan are never able to avoid each other. When being valedictorian and going to Harvard is on the line, they agree to plan a ten-year reunion. But all this extra time in closed quarters…with only each other for companionship…starts to feel a lot like friendship.
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
Nishat, a lesbian Bengali-Irish teen, has just come out to her family and it didn’t go well. So, when a school project comes up, she takes that opportunity to put her mind in another place. In this project, they have to start their own businesses and Nishat has chosen to do a henna business. Unfortunately for her, the girl she has a crush on has also chosen to do the same thing.
Flip the Script by Lyla Lee
Hana just got the lead role in a new drama. She can handle the responsibilities and avoid certain things she knows are going to make her fail, like falling in love with the second lead. And even though she agreed to fake date her co-star, Hana knows it isn’t that simple.
Especially when the showrunners hire a new girl to become Hana’s rival in the show. And she just happens to be Hana’s former best friend. Sparks fly when they reunite and things start to get a lot messier.
Salt and Sugar by Rebecca Carvalho (Nov. 1)
Let’s get ready to swoon with this delicious and fun rivals-to-lovers YA book.
In Salt and Sugar, Lari Ramires knows not to trust the Molinas. I mean, her family’s bakery has always been at war with the Molinas’ bakery. When her beloved grandmother dies and a big supermarket chain decides to move to town, Lari has to make tough decisions. Like working alongside Pedro Molina to save both of their bakeries before it’s too late.
If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang (Oct. 11)
If You Could See the Sun is a genre-bending YA novel where you’ll see fantasy and contemporary meet. It follows Alice Sun who feels invisible at her elite Beijing international boarding school. She’s the only scholarship student in a school filled with rich and influential teens.
Then, she actually starts to turn invisible.
With these newfound powers and the news of her parents not being able to afford her tuition, Alice plans to monetize her powers to discover her classmates’ scandalous secrets.
I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
This exciting new Casey McQuiston book will keep you up at night until you’re on the very last page. I Kissed Shara Wheeler is all about Chloe Green. She’s so close to winning valedictorian. If it wasn’t for Shara Wheeler, her only rival and the principal’s perfect progeny.
One month before graduation, Shara Wheeler kisses Chloe and vanishes.
It’s clear Chloe is very confused. But she’s not the only one. There’s Smith, Shara’s quarterback boyfriend; and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor. Chloe has nothing in common with the other two, except Shara Wheeler and the mysterious notes she left behind.
If you’re looking for books with mature themes, this list of the best enemies-to-lovers romances can work for you perfectly. Or what if you want to read books with other tropes? Maybe fake dating books or books where there is only one bed. Worry not, because there are so many amazing, spectacular books with very diverse romantic tropes out there. And we’ll help you find them!