Throw two characters together with absolutely nothing in common and force them to interact and you’ve got a classic rom-com. Why do opposites attract? Maybe it’s because love stories are more fun when things are a little complicated. Maybe it’s because two very different people can meet and become stronger together than they were on their own.
Or maybe Stiles is right:
Yes, it’s possible I was a Sterek shipper at some point.
Whatever the reason, unlikely pairs with undeniable chemistry are fun to read about. These are some of the best opposites attract stories in YA fiction involving gay romances.
ONE MAN GUY – MICHAEL BARAKIVA
Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Why bother, when their home cooking is far superior to anything “these Americans” could come up with? Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshmen year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.
Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. When Ethan gets Alek to cut school and go to a Rufus Wainwright concert in New York City’s Central Park, Alek embarks on his first adventure outside the confines of his suburban New Jersey existence. He can’t believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again. Michael Barakiva’s One Man Guy is a romantic, moving, laugh-out-loud-funny story about what happens when one person cracks open your world and helps you see everything—and, most of all, yourself–like you never have before.
Writing Style: Third person, one POV, humorous. 274 pages
Topics and Tropes: high school freshman, Armenian culture, coming of age
For those who enjoy: music, first love stories, romantic comedies
What Readers Think:
The story itself was very upbeat. I loved everything about the city (again, it was spot on with the attitude we get when we go into the city- we aren’t tourists, but we’re not New Yorkers). Plus, it was great to get a cute story that didn’t end with suicide or depression. I feel like a lot of LGBT books deal with those heavy topics, and while that is a very important issue, not all people face that. To have a book where the people are accepting is just nice to see.
BY THE CREEK – GEOFF LAUGHTON
Soon-to-be high school junior David Harper hates his family’s move to the country. There’s nothing to do, and he misses his friends in the city. But he doesn’t have a choice. His mother’s job is in Mason County now, so David and his mom are too, and he has to make the best of it.
At first, the only redeeming feature of David’s new home is the swimming hole across the field from his house. Then David meets Benjamin Killinger, and suddenly life stops being so dull.
Benjamin is Amish, and cooling off in the swimming hole is one of the few liberties he and his brothers enjoy. A friendship with an English boy is not—but that doesn’t stop him and David from getting to know each other, as long as it’s on the neutral ground by the creek. After David risks his life to save Benjamin’s father, the boys’ friendship is tolerated, then accepted. But before long, Benjamin’s feelings for David grow beyond the platonic. Benjamin’s family and the rest of the community will never allow a love like that, and a secret this big can’t stay secret forever….
Writing Style: Third person, one perspective, descriptive setting. 180 pages
Topics and Tropes: boys from different backgrounds, friends to lovers, slow build, city boy and country boy, forbidden love
For Those Who Enjoy: coming of age, different cultures, inherent natural drama, unique story
What Readers Think:
Love does not know cultural boundaries, thank God. Two young men meet and fall in love, beliefs are questioned, conflicts occur. Will love be strong enough? Read and find out in a touching story of discovery. There is no need for graphic details of love making, it is not necessary, the story carries well on it’s own. I think it is a great read for young and older adults as well.
Just Relax, Amazon Review
HEAVYWEIGHT – MB MULHALL
Secrets. Their weight can be crushing, but their release can change everything—and not necessarily for the better. Ian is no stranger to secrets. Being a gay teen in a backwater southern town, Ian must keep his orientation under wraps, especially since he spends a lot of time with his hands all over members of the same sex, pinning their sweaty, hard bodies to the wrestling mat.
When he’s trying not to stare at teammates in the locker room, he’s busy hiding another secret—that he starves himself so he doesn’t get bumped to the next weight class.
Enter Julian Yang, an Adonis with mesmerizing looks and punk rocker style. Befriending the flirtatious artist not only raises suspicion among his classmates, but leaves Ian terrified he’ll give in to the desires he’s fought to ignore.
As secrets come to light, Ian’s world crumbles. Disowned, defriended, and deserted by nearly everyone, Ian’s one-way ticket out of town is revoked, leaving him trapped in a world he hates—and one that hates him back.
Writing Style: First person, one perspective. 230 pages
Topics and Tropes: jock/artist dynamic, eating disorders, sports, friends to lovers,
For Those Who Enjoy: interracial romance, adept treatment of serious subjects, rare perspective of male eating disorder, sweet love stories
What Readers Think:
Hate is still alive and well in far too many lunch rooms. This is one of the better books I’ve read in the recent years that truly tackles these subjects. Immense in it’s realism on the subject matters it tackles, M.B. Mulhall deserves every award in the book for not taking the easy route on this. It’s gritty, and at times very hard to handle, but the way Mulhall crafts the story allows it to be the punch in the face it should be.
Rebecca A. , Goodreads Review
NAIL POLISH AND FEATHERS– JO RAMSEY
Deep Secrets and Hope #1
Sixteen-year-old Evan Granger has no problems with being gay. Despite his mother’s objections, he wears nail polish and makeup to school and pursues his goal of becoming a professional drag queen.
TV drag star Taffy Sweet gives encouragement and Evan’s cousin Holly tries to protect him, but school bullies abuse him so badly because of his sexuality and the girly way he dresses that he ends up at the hospital emergency room. After that, even his new crush, a closeted football jock named Moe Garcia, is unhappy about Evan’s choice to live his life openly gay. But even in girly clothes and nail polish, Evan is a force to be reckoned with, and he soon shows the bullies—and everyone else—that beating a drag queen up does not mean the queen is beaten down. (Available on Kindle Unlimited)
Writing Style: First person, one perspective. 210 pages
Topics and Tropes: drag queens, a closeted jock, bullying, gender fulidity
For Those Who Enjoy: character story with a side of romance, teens with a strong sense of self, stories about overcoming adversity
Evan Granger, is adamantly effeminate and not about to hide it. He wants to grow up to be a drag queen. So rare is it that a YA novel really deals with the issue of a boy who simply cannot “pass” in a straight world… The book is about Evan’s agency, and it is surprisingly powerful. I found myself echoing his friends, “why can’t he just tone it down?” And then realizing that I, too, reflect the problem the book is trying to illuminate. It is Even’s refusal to back down that is at the core of this tale.
KING OF SNOWFLAKES – MICHELE FOGAL
West Coast Boys #1
Grade twelve is flying by like a pride parade of gay freedom and love until Skyler finds his gorgeous downtown boyfriend cheating on him over Christmas break. The breakup leaves him raw and not up to ignoring the usual gay taunts from soccer star Ryan and his teammates.
When Skyler loses it, he’s surprised to find a straight jock like Ryan knows what it’s like to have your heart broken and what it’s like not to belong. Behind his cocky smile, Ryan is feeling hopeless about his grades, his chances of getting into university, and his lack of real friends.
When Ryan invites him on a family ski trip, Skyler thinks escaping the city will let him lick his very private wounds in peace. He doesn’t count on Ryan’s warmth and affection amid the grandiose snow-covered mountains with their wonderland white trees, or the magical way Ryan’s silky hair fills with perfect six-point snowflakes. He certainly doesn’t expect Ryan to have secrets of his own that could burn them both–or lead to Skyler’s first truly loving relationship.
Writing Style: Third person, POV alternating, vivid descriptions. 200 pages.
Topics and Tropes: enemies to lovers, sports, whirlwind romance, self discovery,
For those enjoy: compelling romance, bi characters, atmospheric novels, light angst
What Readers Think:
King of Snowflakes is a story that zeroes in to the heart of its characters and drags every secret out into the open. I loved it… KoS takes a very realistic view of sexuality, and takes an incredibly kind and mature approach to the idea of exploration and open communication. It was such a breath of fresh air to see these characters open up to each other and admit what they want and need. I definitely recommend King of Snowflakes for anyone who enjoys LGBT romance, it could make you feel warm inside in 10 feet of snow.
Lala, Amazon Review
LOVE COMPLICATED – Teegan Loy
Game, Set, Match Book 1
Life is all about making choices. Some are complicated. Some are simple. But for eighteen-year-old Jalen Marten, none are easy. Jalen has managed to stay invisible for his entire high school career. He has a small group of friends, and it’s enough for him. He doesn’t want or crave attention from his peers. All Jalen wants is to survive high school.
Austin Suter is the hot, talented tennis player who has the entire school bowing at his feet. Girls routinely throw themselves at him, and boys like Jalen stay the hell out of his way. Austin is destined for greatness on the world stage of professional tennis.
The kiss between them wasn’t supposed to happen. Falling in love definitely hadn’t been part of Jalen’s plan.
And when Austin turns pro, Jalen begins to realize that the choices he makes will affect Austin’s life. One wrong choice and Austin’s career could be over before it really begins. Jalen is not sure where he fits, or even if he fits at all in Austin’s life. But the more complicated things become, the less the idea of being apart appeals. Love should simplify things, not complicate them.
Writing Style: First person, single POV. 280 pages
Topics and Tropes: sports, music, self confidence issues, angst
For those who enjoy: intense romantic relationships, strong supporting characters, a blend of YA/new adult
What Readers Think:
Ok, this is a five star read because it appeals to the ooey-gooey, sappy center of me. It’s exceptionally talented teenagers-in-love who really, genuinely have a sweet relationship and they made me root for them the entire time. It’s the sort of book that makes me want to read a fluffy HEA sequel where they just keep being strong together and triumphing over obstacles. It’s a chicken-soup comfort read sort of warm fuzzy book.
Trace, Goodreads Review
UNDER THE STARS – GEOFF LAUGHTON
Ethan Tanner is an out and proud, fastidious, and fashionable sixteen-year-old vegetarian who likes theater and musicals. This year, it’s his sister’s turn to pick the vacation destination, so he ends up on a dude ranch he knows he is going to hate. What with the dirt, animals, and germs, he can’t possibly be happy.
Jason McCoy is the closeted sixteen-year-old son of the ranch owners and is trying to find his place in a world that doesn’t seem to fit him. He takes an interest in Ethan, shows him around, and gets him to ride a horse. When he invites Ethan camping, Ethan thinks Jason must be joking. But Ethan takes a risk, and the two boys bond under the stars.
After that, Ethan and Jason are inseparable. Their friendship grows into something deeper as they begin to figure out what they want from life. But Ethan’s home is in Chicago, and the distance might be more than the two teenagers—and their blossoming relationship—can withstand.
Writing Style: Third person, one perspective, atmospheric. 180 pages
Topics and Tropes: city boy and country boy dynamic, friends to lovers, long distance relationship
For those who enjoy: coming of age stories, secret relationships, angst
What Readers Think:
Under the Stars is a sweet gay teen romance and coming of age tale about two high school boys who meet at a remote dude ranch – one a guest and one a ranch hand… This is a solid entry in the gay YA coming of age library. While perhaps not as stellar or challenging as some other gay YA books, I found Under the Stars most enjoyable. If you enjoy gay coming of age fiction, you’ll enjoy this book.
William Siwicki, Amazon Review
VANILLA – BILLY MERRELL
Vanilla and Hunter have been dating since seventh grade. They came out together, navigated middle school together, and became that couple in high school that everyone always sees as a couple. There are complications and confusions, for sure. But most of all, they love each other. As high school goes, though, and as their relationship deepens, some cracks begin to show. Hunter thinks they should be having sex. Vanilla isn’t so sure. Hunter doesn’t mind hanging out with loud, obnoxious friends. Vanilla would rather avoid them. If they’re becoming different people, can they be the same couple? Falling in love is hard. Staying in love is harder.
Writing Style: First person, multiple POV, verse, episodic. 325 pages
Contains: asexuality, acephobia, established relationship
For those who enjoy: poetry, unique perspectives, unconventional storytelling
What Readers Think:
Many people are saying this book is aphobic, and I have to say that I couldn’t disagree more. I just finished this book today and found it to be powerful, evocative, and frankly quite good.
Kevin, Goodreads Review
DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER – ROBBIE MICHAELS
Most Popular Guy in the School: Book One
High school can be some of the best years of life—and some of the toughest. Mark Mitchell’s strategy for surviving is to emulate the mighty turtle: pull back inside his protective shell and keep a low profile to avoid trouble. And it works—nobody bothers him. Of course, nobody really knows him, either, even in a town so small it seems like everybody must know everyone else.
Mark certainly knows Bill Cromwell, whom he meets officially when his father volunteers him for manual labor at the school. Bill is his polar opposite: outgoing, gregarious, athletic. But when a massive snowstorm traps the two boys together for three days, Mark learns that being popular doesn’t mean you can’t be bullied or abused—or gay—and that bullying doesn’t stop at the school doors.
Mark isn’t naïve. He’s seen the news reports of gay teen suicides, and he’s determined not to become a statistic. But it’s not himself he’s worried about.
Writing Style: First person, one POV, journal/diary tone. 200 pages
Topics and Tropes: jock/nerd dynamic, thrown together by circumstance, domestic abuse, small town life
For those who enjoy: friends to lovers stories, teen issues, serious topics
What Readers Think:
Mark’s narration is simply addictive. A bit self deprecating (he is classified as a nerd), sometimes funny but totally honest and all heart… I like that Bill is not the typical jock character depicted in most similar stories and the nerd is not the one in need of help here. Bill is the victim and his rescue is the best part of the story.
Dumb Jock – JEFF ERNO
Dumb Jock Book One
Jeff Irwin is short, timid, and studious. A bit of a social outcast, he lives quietly in the shadows of the popular kids at his school, his life ruled by his ever-present fear of rejection or failure.
Enter high school football hero Brett Willson and the chance for Jeff to embark upon the challenge of educating the world’s dumbest jock.
But what develops between Brett and Jeff proves far more challenging than any tutoring session. In 1983, rural Michigan isn’t ready to embrace love between two men, never mind two teenage boys. If they’re going to make a go of it, Jeff will have to come out of his shell—and Brett will have to prove he’s more than just a dumb jock.
Writing Style: First person, one POV, older narrator telling his childhood story. 200 pages
Topics and Tropes: jock/nerd dynamic, small town life, bdsm,
For those who enjoy: coming of age, past setting, high school to college stories
Despite some qualms about the nature of Brett and Jeff’s relationship, the core of the story touched me very deeply. It was written from the heart. I liked seeing Jeff come into his own and working him way through some pretty deep issues – not just the typical teenager issues, but with his family. And darn it, I liked that epilogue.
Crabby Patty, Goodreads Review
Have you read any of these? Tell me what you thought! Are there any other opposites attract stories I should check out?
Under the Stars is one book I’m currently giving away, along with several others. You can click on the banner to go to the contest page.