Several articles reporting on the book industry have noted a healthy rise in romance novel sales during the pandemic, observing that during stressful and unpredictable times, a genre that reliably delivers joy has obvious appeal. The following YA titles will bring hours of pleasurable distraction. These books, many of which have crossover adult reader appeal, are intelligently written and skillfully crafted, feeding the mind and lifting the spirit.

One True Loves by Elise Bryant (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, Jan. 4): It’s the summer before college, and change is in the air for two Southern California teens. Lenore, who is Black, and Alex, who is Black and Korean, are repeatedly thrown together after their families are assigned to the same dining table during a Mediterranean cruise. They have immediate physical chemistry, but things get off to a bumpy start, and there are hurdles to overcome before love prevails and they can sail happily away into the sunset.

When You Get the Chance by Emma Lord (Wednesday Books, Jan. 4): Musical theater fans will eat up this story about New Yorker Millie Price, a White teen who dreams of Broadway. She’s grown up with a single father and no idea who her mother is. The chance online discovery of her dad’s youthful LiveJournal offers three possible candidates for her mother’s identity. Alongside her investigations, there is a charming enemies-to-lovers romance between Millie and Oliver Yang, her school theater’s Chinese American stage manager.

My Fine Fellow by Jennieke Cohen (HarperTeen, Jan. 11): This tribute to My Fair Lady is set in an alternate early-19th–century England ruled by Queen Charlotte and realistically represents London’s ethnic diversity. Snooty Lady Helena Higgins, top student at the royal culinary academy, decides to transform working-class food vendor Elijah Little into a gentleman. Helena’s friend and fellow culinary student Penelope Pickering (who is Filipina and White) and Elijah (who is Jewish) fall for one another in this delightful romp.

Sunny G's Series of Rash Decisions by Navdeep Singh Dhillon (Dial Books, Feb. 8): Prom is a time when emotions run high—especially for Sunny Gill, a Punjabi teen from California who is grieving his brother’s death. He’s also just revealed startling changes for a young Sikh man: He’s stopped wearing his turban and shaved off his beard. When Sunny and Hmong American classmate Mindii Vang spontaneously take off for an event dedicated to his favorite fantasy series, it leads to love—and deep emotional growth.

No Filter and Other Lies by Crystal Maldonado (Holiday House, Feb. 8): Maldonado’s sophomore novel is another thoughtful and uplifting exploration of what it’s like to be a brown girl inhabiting a body that doesn’t fit oppressive dominant beauty standards. Kat Sanchez leads a double life: Online she’s Max, a thin, blond White girl; in real life, she’s a fat Puerto Rican and White teenager struggling with self-acceptance. An online meeting with body-positive Elena, an exuberant, irresistible, pink-haired White girl, shakes everything up as Kat must reckon with the high stakes of hiding who she really is.

Ready When You Are by Gary Lonesborough (Scholastic, March 1): Two boys fall in love in a powerful, immersive coming-out story by debut author Lonesborough (Yuin). Jackson and Tomas, two Indigenous Australian teenagers, are coming of age in a setting where homophobia is rampant and racism toward Aboriginal people is widespread. Despite these obstacles, a beautiful romance develops that will sweep readers away in this novel set against the well-developed backdrop of a tightknit community and a beautiful natural environment.

Laura Simeon is a young readers’ editor.