11 YA Books with Little to No Romance

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Faith Sunderly and her family move to a small island in the wake of scandal; her father has been accused of forging fossils. When he dies, Faith believes it is murder and set out to find the killer by using the legendary Lie Tree–a tree that feeds on falsehoods and provides secrets in return.  The protagonist ponders setting up some adults in her life, but is not involved in a romance herself.

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

Twelve-year-old Makepeace has always defended herself from the spirits that can invade minds.  But then one gets inside.  Now she must decide if she can use this spirit to help her family survive the civil war that threatens to tear their country apart.

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

Fourteen-year-old Ponyboy is a greaser, a social outcast locked in an endless struggle with the Socs, wealthier kids from the other side of town. He is fairly content with his life, however, because he has his brothers and his friends, a close-knit group who would do anything for each other. Then one night the fight between the greasers and the Socs goes too far and Ponyboy’s life is changed forever.

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

When her mother is shot dead at a checkpoint, Sarah finds herself on the run. But shortly she allies herself with a spy who needs her to infiltrate a Nazi boarding school, befriend the daughter of a high-ranking scientist, and find his notes on a weapon so powerful even Lise Meitner is afraid. Before she does any of that, however, Sarah will have to survive her classmates.  The protagonist attempts to flirt at one point, but does not enter into a relationship.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

In Jonas’s world, there is no choice. Each life follows a predetermined path marked by various ceremonies, culminating in the assignation of jobs to each girl and boy at the age of twelve. Jonas awaits his assignment with trepidation, only to learn that his life, for the first time, is about to diverge wildly from that of his peers. He has been selected as the next Receiver, the vessel who holds the memories of the past and who alone knows true pleasure and true pain. Jonas initially longs to discover the truth about his society, but he may find that some memories are too much bear alone.

Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds

Miles Morales is struggling.  His Spider-Man powers have been off lately, the history teacher seems out to get him, and the girl he has a crush on barely seems to notice him.  Then he’s suspended for a minor infraction and his parents won’t let him forget it.  Can Miles find a way to save the city, but also save himself?

Jackaby by William Ritter

t’s 1892 and Abigail Rook is newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England after having run away from home in search of adventure. First, however, she needs a job. After scouring the city with little luck, Abigail answers an advertisement for an investigative assistant, the specialty of the service being the unexplained. Enter R. F. Jackaby, a detective of sorts who claims that he can see magical creatures no one else can. When the police cannot solve a crime, Jackaby follows the supernatural evidence to find the real culprit–even when the police think he’s crazy.  The protagonist is attracted to a policeman, but no relationship develops.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Humanity now lives in a utopia where hunger, disease, and death can no longer touch them. To keep the population under control, they created the Scythes, individuals who “glean” a certain number of individuals each year. The Scythes must adhere to the highest code of morality, gleaning only when necessary and avoiding bias. But when Citra and Rowan are taken on as apprentice Scythes, they begin to see that corruption is eating the Scythes from within.  The protagonists experience attraction.

OCD, the Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn

High school has been a social minefield for Danielle.  She’s awkward, her crush seems unaware of her existence, and then her English essays lead her straight to the school psychologist.  But when she meets Daniel, who shares her obsession with The Big Lebowski, things start to look up.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

When Verity’s spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France, her worst nightmare comes true.  She is captured and offered her life in exchange for information.  Through scraps of paper, she begins to craft her story, but can she play the fame well enough to survive?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This story is told by Death.  It is World War II and one girl discovers that books possess magic to give people the will to survive.  She shares her stories with her family and the Jewish man they are hiding.

25 thoughts on “11 YA Books with Little to No Romance

  1. jenchaos76 says:

    Yay! More mystery than romance. I believe good stories do not involve romance. I like these on your list. I don’t like YA, but, my daughter will.


    • Krysta says:

      I do think YA could.branch out more. Not every story needs a romance! There are teens who don’t want a romance or who aren’t in a relationship. They need stories, too!


  2. Shannon @ Shelfish For Books says:

    Yay! YA needs more books without romance in them. I know there are plenty where romance is only a subplot and not the main focus, but romance doesn’t have to be in EVERYTHING, right? There are way more important things than being in a relationship. Love this post! 💕😊


  3. Grab the Lapels says:

    Sooooo, the Sweet Valley Twins are totally out, right? 🤣😂

    I have an SVT boardgame in which one objective is to take other girls’ boyfriends to make them lose (you can only win with the right BF)…. Why is nobody gay in Sweet Valley?!?


  4. saraletourneau says:

    YES. Half of those books are ones I’ve read (The Book Thief) or are planning / hoping to read in the future (Outsiders, The Giver, Code Name Verity, and the Frances Hardinge novels). 😀 And just to add a couple recommendations:

    – A.J. Hartley’s Steeplejack series: YA steampunk mysteries set in an Victorian-era setting influenced by South Africa, especially in terms of its sociological and apartheid history. The last book does have a romantic “revelation” of sorts at the end, but the focus in all three books is Anglet solving crimes in her home city and the mounting racial tensions that tie into the big picture.

    – Nova Ren Suma’s books: The Walls Around Us, 17 & Gone, and (from what I’ve read so far) A Room Away from the Wolves focus on complicated friendships, tough subjects, and supernatural happenings. I haven’t read Imaginary Girls yet, but the impression I have based on its synopsis is that it focuses on the relationship between two sisters.


  5. Milliebot says:

    Thanks for this! Most of these I’ve read or are on my wishlist or shelf. I’m glad to see I’ve got some good choices waiting for me, should I ever actually read them lol


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