As Valentine's Day draws nearer and nearer, we are bombarded with the commercialized, greeting card notions of romantic love. Simply put, that isn't what Valentine's Day and love mean to me; despite the cultural emphasis on only romantic love being associated with this holiday, I think of various different forms of affection, from romance to friendship and family. Here are books that, for me, showcase love in its many different forms.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I love Pride and Prejudice for so many reasons, but one reason is that it has so many examples of what love should look like (Lizzie and Darcy, Jane and Bingley) and yet what dysfunctional relationships looks like (Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Wickham and anyone). The relationship between Lizzie and Jane is one of the best sister relationships I've read, and I often find myself measuring my relationship with my sister to theirs.
To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
While the book's plot surrounds the idea of romantic love (when the secret letters that the protagonist wrote to every boy she's ever had a crush on have suddenly been mailed off, she's forced to deal with the aftermath), I also love the family dynamics in this book. Lara Jean and her sisters (as well as their father) aren't perfect, but they do love each other, even if one of them occasionally decides to be petty and another reacts less than gracefully.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
I love the growth of the protagonists' relationship, from simply sitting next to one another to bonding over music and comics, becoming friends, and then becoming so much more. Despite the hardships they face, they care about each other so much. Their relationship is the only functional one in their lives, but the fact that they love each other enough to sacrifice their relationship in the end is what truly is admirable.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Cath's character arc as she learns to navigate her various relationships (with her family, roommate, writing partner, roommate's boyfriend,) is tremendous, but her journey to respecting and loving herself is what I truly admire.
Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague
The premise and the backbone of this book is compassion, as the main character must travel back in time to prevent the young Lucas Biggs from becoming the bitter old judge who hands down a death sentence to her falsely accused father. While her empathy is admirable, so is her wonderful relationship with her father and her amazing friendship with her best friend.
The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer
This book exemplifies just how powerful a force for healing a group of people can be when a small town community comes together to help the protagonist slowly find closure after the sudden death of her mother. The love of the community is touching and poignant.
Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear
A modern young working woman, Maisie Dobbs serves as an admirable example of various kinds of love. She shows compassion and empathy to everyone she encounters, and has a solid relationship with her father; additionally, she handles her romantic relationships with maturity and grace, resolving to make her intentions clear and not cling to failings relationships.
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
The girls of the Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place are so committed to sticking together that they hide the murder of their tyrannical headmistress to ensure they can stay together, showing just how powerful a force their friendship can be.
Wisdom's Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
I absolutely adore the character arc of Fortitude, one of the three main characters of the book. An orphaned maid, Fortitude pines away for her best friend Tips, but by the end of the book she realizes that her unrequited love just wasn't meant to be and that she has so many other ambitions to pursue. She has a happy ending completely regardless of her love life, and instead celebrates Tip's new relationship because her friendship with him is really the only relationship between the two of them that she needs and desires.
I hope you enjoyed this list and have a lovely Valentine's Day, however you choose to interpret and celebrate it. If you have a book you would recommend, let me know in the comments or tweet me @YAlitfrenzy .
*note: As I was writing this post I noticed a definite deficit of books showing non-heterosexual romantic relationships - partly because there need to be more books published, and partly because I don't read a whole lot of specifically romance YA or contemporary YA (which tend to be the most inclusive, in my experience). I will endeavor to be more inclusive in my reading habits in the future.