They say you never forget your first love. It makes sense—people all over the world dedicate writing and music and art to the idea of their first loves, hoping to re-create that once-in-a-lifetime experience of passion and wonder. There are lots of different kinds of first loves—from secret affairs to high school romances—and each of these stories is beautiful and profound in its own way. You might find what you’re looking for or, like a first romance, something unexpected.
8 Novels About First Love So Moving Our Hearts Might Burst
In this beautiful novel, Philippe comes across a young man in a hotel in Bordeaux who bears a striking resemblance to the boy he loved when he was in high school. Despite the intensity of their relationship, the pair kept everything a secret: stealing moments in stairwells and sneaking around. Though they know it must come to an end, the affair changes Philippe’s life. Now, as an adult, he revisits one of the most important times of his life—that of his first love—in this heart-wrenching story.
“I remember the movement of his hips pressing against the pinball machine. This one sentence had me in its grip until the end. Two young men find each other, always fearing that life itself might be the villain standing in their way. A stunning and heart-gripping tale.” —André Aciman, author of Call Me by Your Name
A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
The critically acclaimed, internationally beloved novel by Philippe Besson—“this year’s Call Me By Your Name” (Vulture) with raves in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, Vanity Fair, Vogue, O, The Oprah Magazine, and Out—about an affair between two teenage boys in 1984 France, translated with subtle beauty and haunting lyricism by the iconic and internationally acclaimed actress and writer Molly Ringwald.
In this “sexy, pure, and radiant story” (Out), Philippe chances upon a young man outside a hotel in Bordeaux who bears a striking resemblance to his first love. What follows is a look back at the relationship he’s never forgotten, a hidden affair with a boy named Thomas during their last year of high school. Thomas is the son of a farmer; Philippe the son of a school principal. At school, they don’t acknowledge each other. But they steal time to meet in secret, carrying on a passionate, world-altering affair.
Despite the intensity of their attraction, from the beginning Thomas knows how it will end: “Because you will leave and we will stay,” he says. Philippe becomes a writer and travels the world, though as this “tender, sensuous novel” (The New York Times Book Review) shows, he never lets go of the relationship that shaped him, and every story he’s ever told.
“Beautifully translated by Ringwald” (NPR), this is “Philippe Besson’s book of a lifetime...an elegiac tale of first, hidden love” (The New Yorker).
Maddy is a funny, bright sixteen-year-old, and she also has cancer. Maddy and her mother, Eve, try to cope with the diagnosis while also dealing with the usual issues of life. Things get more strained when Maddy seeks her first romantic relationship. Told in Eve’s and Maddy’s alternating perspectives, mother and daughter try to come to terms with their changing reality, and with each other—realizing along the way that they don’t know as much as they thought they did.
A stunning debut novel about a teenage girl and her mother as they grapple with first love, family secrets, and tragedy.
Maddy is sixteen. Smart, funny, and profound, she has loyal friends, a mother with whom she’s unusually close, a father she’s never met, devoted grandparents, and a crush on a boy named Jack. Maddy also has cancer. Living in the shadow of uncertainty, she is forced to grow up fast.
All the Water in the World is the story of a family doing its best when faced with the worst. Told in the alternating voices of Maddy and her mother, Eve, the narrative moves between the family’s lake house in Pennsylvania; their home in Washington, DC; and London, where Maddy’s father, Antonio, lives. Hungry for experience, Maddy seeks out her first romantic relationship, finds solace in music and art, and tracks down Antonio. She continually tests the depths and limits of her closeness with her mother, while Eve has to come to terms with the daughter she only partly knows, in a world she can’t control.
With unforgettable voices that range from tender to funny, despairing to defiant, this novel illuminates the transformative power of love, humor, and hope.
Eve and Ben don’t seem made for each other. Eve is a dreamer. Ben is an engineer. So when they meet, it’s not love at first sight. But as the two continue to meet again and again, fate seems to be bringing them together. Told from both characters’ points of view, this funny, witty, and honest story follows the fragile but all-consuming connection between two people, as they move from a friendship to something more.
Piper Calloway seems like she has everything going for her. She’s a twenty-nine-year-old VP at her dad’s real estate–development company and lives with her best friends in a stylish downtown penthouse. But just as Piper is trying to prove herself at work, she meets her company’s new security guard—who just happens to be the guy she fell in love with more than ten years ago, when they were summer camp counselors. What’s worse, he doesn’t even remember her. This steamy and fast-paced romance has it all—long-lost love, a great story, and a main character you can root for.
The bestselling author of The Simple Wild and Keep Her Safe and “master of steamy romance” (Kirkus Reviews) delivers a sizzling novel about an ambitious and high-powered executive who reconnects with her first love: the boy who broke her heart.
Life is a mixed bag for Piper Calloway.
On the one hand, she’s a twenty-nine-year-old VP at her dad’s multibillion-dollar real estate development firm, and living the high single life with her two best friends in a swanky downtown penthouse. On the other hand, she’s considered a pair of sexy legs in a male-dominated world and constantly has to prove her worth. Plus she’s stuck seeing her narcissistic ex-fiancé—a fellow VP—on the other side of her glass office wall every day.
Things get exponentially more complicated for Piper when she runs into Kyle Miller—the handsome new security guard at Calloway Group, and coincidentally the first love of her life.
The guy she hasn’t seen or heard from since they were summer camp counselors together. The guy from the wrong side of the tracks. The guy who apparently doesn’t even remember her name.
Piper may be a high-powered businesswoman now, but she soon realizes that her schoolgirl crush is still alive and strong, and crippling her concentration. What’s more, despite Kyle’s distant attitude, she’s convinced their reunion isn’t at all coincidental, and that his feelings for her still run deep. And she’s determined to make him admit to them, no matter the consequences.
In 1986, Eleanor and Park, two social outcasts, are falling in love. Both super smart and just on the outside of their school’s social circle, they know that first love almost never lasts—but are willing to try. Follow Eleanor and Park’s love story over the course of the school year that changed their lives, and all the strange, wonderful parts of first love that will take you right back to your own first love.
If your favorite character is Mike Wheeler
This young adult novel is also set in the 1980s and deals with first love between two outsiders. Except in Rainbow Rowell’s book, the kids are older and the monster isn’t a tulip-headed child-eater but an abusive stepfather.
Hazel is terminally ill. Despite the new treatment that gave her a few more years, Hazel has always known that she doesn’t have much time left. And as she tries to find her purpose and live her life on her terms, she meets a boy named Augustus Waters at a Cancer Kid Support group. For Hazel, falling in love was never in her plans. But now, Augustus shows her that there may be more to life than her impending death. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is an international bestseller and was made into a major motion picture. It’s a bold, heartbreaking, and brave story that is a must-read.
It appears that even hard-bodied hot dudes have a soft spot—and it comes in the form of John Green’s novel THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. When Hazel’s terminal cancer lands her at Cancer Kid Support Group, the last thing she expected to find was love. But when Augustus shows up, she gets to experience all the thrills, the heartbreak, and the raw emotion of being alive and being in love.
Eight-year-old Wavy is the daughter of a meth dealer and is the only responsible one in her house. She struggles to get by and is only comforted by the vast Midwestern sky and all the possibilities it holds. Then Wavy sees her father’s associate Kellen wreck his motorcycle. Kellen, an ex-con whose story runs deeper than his tattoos, forms an unbreakable bond with Wavy, and the story that follows binds them further. Heartbreaking, hopeful, and sometimes disturbing, ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL THINGS doesn’t shy away from the realities of Wavy’s life, or who she wants to become.
Ifemelu and Obinze are in love, but when they leave military-ruled Nigeria, they go their separate ways. Ifemelu goes to America, where she finds that she has to grapple with what it means to be black in academia. Obinze is unable to join her in a post–9/11 world, and instead winds up in a dangerous and undocumented life in London. When the two finally reunite fifteen years later in a newly democratic Nigeria, they rekindle their passion for each other and their country.
This powerful story of race and gender is centered on Ifemelu, a brilliant and self-assured young woman who departs military-ruled Nigeria for an American university where, for the first time, she is forced to grapple with her identity as a black woman. Ifemelu faces difficult choices and challenges, suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, and eventually achieves success as the writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. Fearless and gripping, Americanah is a richly told story set in today’s globalized world.
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