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Love, friendship, and fashion

For Valentine’s Day, here are some new YA stories featuring friendship, romance, purported space aliens, and fabulous fashion. See also Katrina Hedeen and Rachel L. Smith’s 2013 Horn Book Magazine article: “What Makes a Good YA Love Story?”

Edan, star of Cecil Castellucci’s Don’t Cosplay with My Heart, is a devotee of the (fictitious) comic series Team Tomorrow, especially the character Gargantua. Wearing a Gargantua mask makes Edan feel braver, and she starts a cosplay (that’s “costume play,” for the uninitiated) club at school called SEW: Superheroes Everywhere. Edan is a relatable character, and interactions among the casually diverse SEW crew (e.g., Edan’s best friend Kasumi likes girls and it’s no big deal) make for a mostly breezy, diverting read. (Scholastic, 12–16 years)

John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down is a combination of mystery, romance, and clear-eyed exploration of mental illness. Sixteen-year-old Aza Holmes (who suffers from obsessive compulsions and anxiety) and her best friend, Daisy Ramirez, investigate the whereabouts of local billionaire Russell Pickett, who’s running from criminal charges. Their sleuthing leads to Pickett’s son Davis, Aza’s childhood friend, with whom Aza begins a tentative romance; Aza’s mental health subsequently deteriorates. Green has proven himself a master manipulator of readers’ feelings, but he is, as ever, benevolent in that role. (Dutton, 14 years and up)

At the start of Eight Days on Planet Earth by Cat Jordan, seventeen-year-old Matty Jones meets a “crazy, crazy girl” out in the field near his rural Pennsylvania home, where a spaceship is said to have landed back in 1965. The girl tells Matty her name is Priya, she’s from a planet near Gliese 581c — and she’s waiting to go home. Though her real story will likely leave readers in tears, they will be glad they got to share “eight days on planet Earth” with Matty and Priya. (HarperTeen, 14 years and up)

With a setting and palette reminiscent of Disney’s Cinderella and a set-up involving a royal ball, Jen Wang’s graphic novel The Prince and the Dressmaker has all the trappings of a rags-to-riches romance. And it is one—in a joyfully subversive and inclusive way. Unconventional seamstress Frances is hired as personal clothier to Prince Sebastian; as he explains, some days he feels comfortable identifying as male, but other days he feels like a princess. The teens struggle to keep Sebastian’s secret, resist the stifling expectations of those around them — and sort out their feelings for each other. (Roaring Brook/First Second, 12–16 years)

From the February 2018 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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