We love a difficult romance trope. If it's tackeling the obstacles of friends-to-lovers, enemies-to-lovers, love triangles, etc., I'm there! But there is nothing quite like the tragedy of a star-crossed lovers trope. Two people in love and forced apart due to family, society, or even death? I'm crying already.
Star-crossed lovers are a staple of literature. In stories that commonly look like a Romeo & Juliet retelling, star-crossed lovers are often foes who come together despite circumstances of their opposition. They may be enemies who are outright forbidden to be together, or who just come from such opposing backgrounds that the "forbidden" nature of their love is implied, or they could be destined for an untimely end.
Please check out these romantic but tragic YA novels below and be sure to bring tissues.
Verona Comics Jennifer Dugan
Jubilee has it all together. She’s an elite cellist, and when she’s not working in her stepmom’s indie comic shop, she’s prepping for the biggest audition of her life.
Ridley is barely holding it together. His parents own the biggest comic-store chain in the country, and Ridley can’t stop disappointing them—that is, when they’re even paying attention.
They meet one fateful night at a comic convention prom, and the two can’t help falling for each other. Too bad their parents are at each other’s throats every chance they get, making a relationship between them nearly impossible…unless they manage to keep it a secret.
Then again, the feud between their families may be the least of their problems. As Ridley’s anxiety spirals, Jubilee tries to help but finds her focus torn between her fast-approaching audition and their intensifying relationship. What if love can’t conquer all? What if each of them needs more than the other can give?
The Midnight Lie Marie Rutkoski
Where Nirrim lives, crime abounds, a harsh tribunal rules, and society’s pleasures are reserved for the High Kith. Life in the Ward is grim and punishing. People of her low status are forbidden from sampling sweets or wearing colors. You either follow the rules, or pay a tithe and suffer the consequences.
Nirrim keeps her head down and a dangerous secret close to her chest.
But then she encounters Sid, a rakish traveler from far away who whispers rumors that the High Caste possesses magic. Sid tempts Nirrim to seek that magic for herself. But to do that, Nirrim must surrender her old life. She must place her trust in this sly stranger who asks, above all, not to be trusted.
The Beauty of the Moment Tanaz Bhathena
Susan is the new girl—she’s sharp and driven, and strives to meet her parents’ expectations of excellence. Malcolm is the bad boy—he started raising hell at age fifteen, after his mom died of cancer, and has had a reputation ever since.
Susan’s parents are on the verge of divorce. Malcolm’s dad is a known adulterer.
Susan hasn’t told anyone, but she wants to be an artist. Malcolm doesn’t know what he wants—until he meets her.
Love is messy and families are messier, but in spite of their burdens, Susan and Malcolm fall for each other. The ways they drift apart and come back together are testaments to family, culture, and being true to who you are.
Since We Last Spoke Brenda Rufener
When Aggi Frank and Max Granger finally admitted their feelings for each other last December, it felt like love was beautiful and endless... until it wasn’t.
A fatal car accident involving their older siblings throws their lives into sudden chaos. And with a restraining order now in place between the two bitter households, Aggi and Max’s love runs cold. Being together again seems like a distant fantasy, even though they share the same driveway.
Still, Plum Lake is a small town, and staying apart can’t last forever. Aggi and Max eventually reunite at a lake-house party hosted by a mutual friend and break the ice after a year of silence. But just as they begin to rebuild their relationship, the unthinkable happens when Aggi’s little sister, Grace, ﬂees from home after their father spirals into a ﬁt of rage. With a support system of friends close by, Aggi and Max must confront each other and their families in the hopes of mending all the broken pieces.
The Weight of Feathers Anna-Marie McLemore
For twenty years, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find.
Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she's been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.
Opposite of Always Justin A. Reynolds
When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack.
But then Kate dies. And their story should end there.
Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind.
Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do to save the people he loves.