Heartstopper is young love writ large, ostensibly for the YA audience, but there’s something comforting about indulging in media that takes those of us in—ahem—more mature demographics back to what now seem like simpler times. Fans of all ages can and do delight in the beautiful queer romance between Charlie and Nick, the relationship anxieties of their friends and the intense feelings that are the hallmark of teenagehood.
The show’s second season, which largely took its plot from Heartstopper Vol. 3, brought with it new storylines, more romance and even more blue animated butterflies. It hit streaming in early August, which means that by now, even casual fans have crossed it off their must-watch lists. So until season three of Heartstopper drops—possibly as early as summer of 2024—curl up with these cozy queer romcoms, novels that don’t shy away from discussions about mental health and trauma and books that otherwise remind us that navigating teenagehood is tough in a complicated world.
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
Just in time for autumn book season, Mooncakes is as magical as it gets. In a quaint New England town, Nova Huang is a teen witch who works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, assisting in supernatural investigations and loaning out spell books. She discovers her childhood crush, nonbinary werewolf Tam Lang, is being pursued by a demon, and witchcraft, occult rituals, friends-to-lovers and family ties bubble and toil in this wholesome story of self-discovery.
She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick
This is the story of Lippincott and Derrick’s very real, yet highly fictionalized high school romance. Alex Blackwood is a chaotic flirt who seemingly always loses the girl she likes. Molly Parker is all social anxiety with absolutely no chill. Just after a bad breakup, Alex decides to help Molly win the heart of her dream girl (the cool Cora Myers), but their plans dissolve when their functional friendship slowly transforms into a blooming romance.
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
This blast from the Y2K past encapsulates what life feels like when you’re a teenager. Francesca’s mother, Mia, falls into a deep depression not long after her daughter arrives at St. Sebastian’s—a formerly all-boys school that only just opened to girls. Not only does her mother’s depression impact Francesca’s life but it also impacts how she feels about herself and the people around her. In its portrayal of how depression and mental health issues can cut through an entire family, Saving Francesca is unflinchingly real.
Nimona by N.D. Stevenson
Nimona is another webcomic that was turned into a fantastic Netflix production—this time, an animated film. In a world of dragons, knights, heroes and villains, there’s also futuristic tech and normalized queerness. Disgraced knight Ballister Blackheart must fight for justice when a teen shapeshifter who seems hungry for violence shows up demanding to become his sidekick. Blackheart’s heart is gentle—as it turns out, so is Nimona’s. It’s a perfect read for anyone seeking a story that pairs vulnerability and redemption with queer romance and heartfelt gestures.
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
This book following the contemporary teen descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson takes off when Jamie Watson gets a rugby scholarship to a private Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. Also at the school is the volatile Charlotte Holmes, a descendant of the famous detective. When a student dies, Jamie and Charlotte are framed for murder, and until their names are cleared, they must trust each other.
All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was a novel before it was a mega Netflix hit. It follows Lara Jean, who discovers that the secret box of love letters addressed to all her crushes has been mailed, forcing her to confront her past—and all the nerve-wracking, tongue-twisting boys—to come to terms with her feelings. Han weaves piercing romance with larger-than-life emotions and teenage anxiety light in this surprisingly breezy read that feels just as heartwarming and cozy as Heartstopper.
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
Adiba Jaigirdar sweeps readers away once again with a whirlwind rom-com starring two Bengali teens in Ireland. Hani Khan is easygoing and one of the popular girls at school—that is, until she comes out to her friends as bisexual. When those friends demean Hani’s queerness, she pretends to be in a relationship with Ishu Dey, an overachiever who dreams of becoming head girl. The fake dating plot leads to their real feelings developing into something sweeter and more complicated.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
The main character, Liz, rewrites what it means to be Black in a midwestern town in Leah Johnson’s debut YA novel. Liz never felt at home in her upper-class and predominately white suburb, but when her dream of attending an elite college falls apart, she leans into the local prom queen culture in the hopes of winning her school’s scholarship prize. Along the way, she faces her fears and finds love. Tender and sweet, this queer romance is guaranteed to pull Heartstopper fans by their heartstrings.
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Prince Sebastian has a secret life in Paris—at night, he’s the fabulous Lady Crystallia. Frances, his brilliant dressmaker and best friend, is one of the few people who knows the truth about what he does after dark. She supports him, but she has dreams of her own. This is an adorable and beautifully illustrated tale, bursting at the seams with cuteness and plenty of adventures in which the main characters grapple with issues of identity, gender, friendship and fashion.
Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins
Her Royal Highness puts an ordinary teen into extraordinary circumstances. In brief, this contemporary royal romance follows Scottish princess Flora Baird as she falls for her American roommate, Millie, at a boarding school in the Scottish Highlands. Flora and Millie start off practically ripping each other’s throats out, as they use their wits and cunning against each other, but love develops as they realize they’ve fallen for each other deeply. What happens next? Let’s hope Rachel Hawkins releases a sequel soon.