You’ve read John Green’s YA crossover, mega-best-seller/tearjerker The Fault in Our Stars, and you’ve read Rainbow Rowell, David Levithan, and all the books on the many “read this YA if you liked this YA” lists out there. And now you’re looking for more fucked-up and/or doomed romances to fuel your insatiable TFIOS fire, and we are here for you. All seven of these books here have the same elements as Green’s story: a star-crossed romance; a shared obsession; the ability to make you cry at the end (and maybe the middle, and maybe the beginning); and crossover appeal. Grab a box of tissues and get ready to pick your favorite meet-cute: cancer group? Bible camp? Middle school? Being held prisoner in space?
1. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
Murray’s novel is set in an Irish boys’ school, and is one of the most accurate and unsentimental portraits of the complete agony and surprising beauty of adolescence I have ever encountered. It’s also very, very funny. The title basically gives young Skippy a terminal diagnosis, but you keep hoping against reason that somehow the course of events will be altered and our unlikely hero will miraculously survive. Sort of like when you rewatch certain movies and think, maybe this time things will turn out different. Or when you read a book about lovestruck teenagers with cancer.
2. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
A tale of one boy and two girls: Toru, a good student who has the occasional one-night stand but feels sort of bad about it; his dead best friend’s girlfriend, Naoko, quiet, lovely, haunted, and damaged; and a lively co-ed, Midori, who drinks in the afternoon and wears short skirts to visit her father in the hospital. Toro must make a choice between the past (Naoko and their mutual sorrow for their lost friend) and the future.
3. Blankets by Craig Thompson
Blankets is on many a list of must-read graphic novels and a great choice if you’ve never dabbled in the medium. A largely autobiographical story of first love, Craig meets his dream girl, Raina, at a Wisconsin Bible camp, but it transcends the dangers of a Bible camp meet-cute. One of the best features of the book is the gorgeously rendered Midwest winters, and the comfort Raina and Craig find in each other. The story is whimsical without being twee, and offers an honest and empathetic portrait of grappling with faith and sweetly obsessive teenage love.
4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Adapted into a pretty good movie, the book is better because of the way the reader slowly begins to understand the absolute impossibility of hope for our lovers. Set in an altered England of the recent past, the story unfurls in a masterful gradual reveal as the characters come to understand who they are and the real purpose of the boarding school they attend. The reader shares the students’ sense of foreboding and willful denial, which doesn’t make it any easier to accept the truth as it seeps out.
5. Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield
Rob Sheffield’s heart-wrenching memoir of the first love of his life. The couple meets through a shared appreciation for rock music, and Sheffield tells their story through the mixtapes they made throughout their romance: compilation as flirtation, soundtracks for road trips, then later mixes for their married life together. Renee dies suddenly of a brain aneurysm, and Rob confronts his devastating grief through the thing that brought them together: music and mixtapes. Undeniably tragic, yet in the end celebratory, as Rob finds ways to remember Renee without retreating from his own life.
6. Citrus County by John Brandon
Citrus County is at once a coming-of-age story, a crime thriller, and a romance. Set in swampy interior Florida, the titular county is home to our young lovers: Toby, a sullen eighth-grade loner wrestling with his compulsion for violence and a nascent, confusing optimism; and Shelby, whip-smart but no kiss-ass, with the verve to tell Toby, “You could kiss me sometime if you wanted.” You hope so badly everyone is going to make it out of the mess they’ve made against all odds, because Brandon’s characters are so heartbreakingly real, funny, and frightening.
7. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Our star-crossed lovers in this addicting comic book series — still ongoing — are Alana, from a planet where the inhabitants boast wings and high-tech weaponry; and Marko, from a moon where the inhabitants sport various kinds of horns and advanced magic. Their daughter even shares a name with our TFIOS heroine — Hazel — and Alana and Marko are first brought together through shared love of a secretly subversive novel. Don’t be scared by the sci-fi/fantasy elements: The central story is so compelling and gorgeously rendered that I’m convinced any human will love this series.