YA Friday: Tropes Spring Eternal – The Hidden Suitor

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Ah, the hidden suitor. The man behind the mask. The "it was you all along!" I love a good hidden suitor/secret admirer/mysterious pen pal trope.

The most successful ones usually start as a classic enemies-to-friends-to-lovers trope. You have a protagonist who has been writing secret letters/emails/texts to someone who fulfills and comforts them. Someone with whom they share their deepest feelings. They have no idea that their secret confidant is actually the same boy who won the class president vote instead of them the previous week and their most hated rival since kindergarten.

While this trope isn't a new one, it has thrived from a YA resurgence the past few years. So if the thought of leaving a secret note in a book, or opening your inbox to see a swoon-worthy email from a secret pen pal, or combing through pages to try and figure out who is the mysterious admirer before the main character realizes who it is, makes you feel giddy, then enjoy this list of hidden suitor YA books that would make Nora Ephron proud.


Tell Me Three Things, book cover

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Saying Jessie's new life is weird would be an understatement—after she loses her mother to cancer, her dad sells their house, moves them across the country to live with the woman he eloped with during a business trip, and enrolls her in an elite private school where everyone makes her feel even more like an outsider. Back home Jessie was comfortable: she had both her parents, a house she loved, and friends. Here she feels lost in a sea of designer clothing, expensive cars, and people who spend their summer vacations in faraway countries. When the teen gets an anonymous email from Somebody/Nobody offering to teach her to navigate this new school's territory, she registers how strange the situation may be but replies anyway. Who is this mysterious Somebody/Nobody (SN for short)? Will trusting SN lead to success—or make her even more of a target for bullies?

P.S. I Like You, book cover

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

Cade and Lily have been enemies for years: he's rude about her clothes, hair, and whole vibe; she thinks he's a snotty, stuck-up rich kid. Plus, she has her eye on shaggy hipster Lucas, who looks like  he could totally be on her wavelength. But when Lily scribbles some graffiti on top of the desk to combat her boredom in chemistry class, she's surprised to find a reply the next day and even more surprised when the answers continue. Soon, she's corresponding through hidden notes and bonding with her secret pen pal over a mutual interest in indie music. Who's her mysterious new friend?

Alex, Approximately, book cover

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

A year after her mother divorces to marry a lawyer, Bailey Rydell decides to leave Washington, D.C., to live with her father in California. One of her primary motives for going is to track down Alex, a boy she met online but has never seen in person. Like Bailey, Alex  loves old films and, coincidentally enough, he lives in her father’s neighborhood. But after Bailey settles in and starts a job at a quirky local museum, her mission to find her “film-buff soul mate” is sidelined as she becomes absorbed in a love-hate relationship with Porter, her arrogant, surfer coworker. As might be expected, Bailey’s and Porter’s fiery retorts soon kindle passion, and the two start dating despite Bailey’s guilt about keeping him a secret from her online pal.

Geekerella, book cover

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfieldmovie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons — before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake — until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

Letters to the Lost, book cover

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

From Twinkle, With Love, book cover

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

Twinkle Mehra is used to making observations about the world—she wants to be a filmmaker, after all, and that’s what a good filmmaker does. Twinkle has noticed a lot of things: her best friend, Maddie, has started ditching her to hang out with more popular girls. Neil Roy is a hottie who’s never given Twinkle the time of day. And Twinkle’s parents—especially her mother, who misses India—are too preoccupied to pay much attention to her. Twinkle’s determined to be the kind of person worthy of attention, and she gets her chance when Sahil Roy, Neil’s twin brother, asks her to make a movie with him for the Summer Festival. At the same time, Twinkle starts getting emails from a secret admirer called N. They must be from Neil, but is that even what Twinkle wants anymore?

Further Reading