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Star-crossed love

Space, time, war, death, capricious gods: teen protagonists defy cosmic forces to be together in these out-of-the-ordinary love stories.

On a Sunbeam, Tillie Walden’s serial webcomic turned epic graphic novel, follows two alternating, far-future timelines. In the first, eighteen-year-old Mia seeks her place among the tight-knit crewmates of a spacecraft; five years earlier, at an intergalactic boarding school, Mia and Grace fall in love — then lose each other, and finally reunite. Walden immerses readers in a uniquely imagined, compelling universe with a cast that’s matter-of-factly female-centric, orientation-inclusive, and racially diverse. (Roaring Brook/First Second, 14 years and up)

After the Greek god Hephaestus catches his wife Aphrodite, goddess of love, in a passionate affair with his brother Ares, Aphrodite defends her actions by showing the two gods what real love looks like. With pathos and wit, Aphrodite relates two intertwined love stories involving four mortals swept up in World War I. Julie Berry’s poignant Lovely War will make readers by turns laugh, cry, and swoon, but what Aphrodite offers most is hope: “Let them start their dreadful wars, let destruction rain down, and let plague sweep through, but I will still be here, doing my work, holding humankind together with love like this.” (Viking, 14 years and up)

From the opening sentence — “My face is mashed sideways against the trunk of a police cruiser when Kate dies for the third time” — we know that the time-bending contemporary-set love story Opposite of Always will be out of the ordinary. African American teens Jack and Kate meet at a party and fall head-over-heels in love. Then the unthinkable happens: Kate dies of complications from sickle cell disease, and Jack begins to travel back in time over and over trying to save her. Justin A. Reynolds spins a poignant, dizzying tale of love and loss in this page-turning time-travel fantasy. (HarperCollins/Tegen, 14 years and up)

Dante’s allegorical journey to hell echoes throughout Tim Wynne-Jones’s dark adventure tale The Ruinous Sweep. The narrative alternates between Donovan trying to stay alive (weaving in threads of magical realism as Donovan attempts to reconstruct events to understand from whom he is running and why) and his girlfriend Bee’s later efforts to unravel what happened to Donovan, now unconscious and a suspect in his father’s murder. Readers will be engrossed in unraveling the mystery and piecing together events. (Candlewick, 14 years and up)

From the February 2019 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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