These Small Town YA Romances Will Get Your Heart Racing

By Kerri Jarema

If you're into small-town romance, quaint communities, and neighborhoods small enough that everyone knows everything about everyone else... and a heavy dose of dramatic young love, then this list is definitely for you. Maybe the summer makes you desperate to spend some time with your nose in a contemporary, or you just generally love the charm of fictional tiny town and all of its inhabitants, Stars Hollow style; either way, these are the perfect books to add onto your TBR, especially if you're looking for a quick read for a long weekend.

More importantly, though these books don't shy away from looking at the dark side of small towns: fear of outsiders, not accepting of perceived differences, the pressure of small-town saviors in the form of high school sports stars, and more. That combination of real-to-life exploring the highs and lows of suburban and rural life makes these reads not only obsession-worthy page-turners, but ones that will both give you the feels and keep you thinking. So, if you're looking for the ideal read to pack along on that road trip to that cute vacation spot or just need to escape from the comforts of your own couch, check out the 11 picks below.


'I'll Meet You There' by Heather Demetrios

If Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, Skylar is heading to art school… until Skylar’s mother loses her job, and Skylar realizes her dreams may be slipping out of reach. Josh had a different escape route: the Marines. But after losing his leg in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and, soon, something deeper.

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'Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson has always been at home in her own skin. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked… until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back. Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant.

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'Play On' by Michelle Smith

In the small town of Lewis Creek, baseball is everything. Especially for all-star pitcher Austin Braxton, who has a one-way ticket out of town with his scholarship to a top university. All that stands between him and a new start is one final season. But when Austin starts flunking Chemistry, his future is in jeopardy. Enter Marisa Marlowe, the new girl in town. Not only is Marisa a super-genius, she’s also a baseball fanatic and more than willing to help Austin study. As the two grow closer, there’s something about Marisa that makes Austin want more than just baseball and out of Lewis Creek. But Marisa has a past that still haunts her, one that she ran all the way to South Carolina to escape.

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'The Last Boy And Girl In The World' by Siobhan Vivian

What if your town was sliding underwater and everyone was ordered to pack up and leave? While the adults plan for the future, box up their possessions, and find new places to live, Keeley Hewitt and her friends decide to go out with a bang. And for Keeley, that means taking one last shot at the boy she’s loved forever. It’s the end of Aberdeen, but the beginning of Keeley’s first love story. It just might not turn out the way she thought. Because it’s not always clear what’s worth fighting for and what you should let become a memory.

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'Between Two Skies' by Joanne O'Sullivan

Bayou Perdu, a tiny fishing town way, way down in Louisiana, is home to 16-year-old Evangeline Riley. She has her best friends, Kendra and Danielle; her wise, beloved Mamere; and back-to-back titles in the under-sixteen fishing rodeo. But, dearest to her heart, she has the peace that only comes when she takes her skiff out to where there is nothing but sky and air and water and wings. It’s a small life, but it is Evangeline’s. And then the storm comes, and everything changes. Amid the chaos and pain and destruction comes Tru — a fellow refugee, a budding bluesman, a balm for Evangeline’s aching heart.

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'Second Chance Summer' by Morgan Matson

Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit, but, for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer all together at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend… and he’s much cuter at 17 than he was at 12. As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock.

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'Emmy & Oliver' by Robin Benway

Emmy wants to live without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared. Oliver thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Now returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling. Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. To Emmy, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

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'This Is What Happy Looks Like' by Jennifer E. Smith

When a young movie star accidentally sends a small-town girl an email about his pet pig, the two teens strike up a witty correspondence during which they share their views on everything without revealing their actual identities, an episode that causes a relationship to develop which ultimately transforms when the actor chooses the girl's hometown for the setting of his latest film.

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'South of Sunshine' by Dana Elmendorf

Kaycee Jean McCoy has lived her entire life in Sunshine, Tennessee. In Sunshine, going to church is basically mandatory, and gay had better be your mood and not your sexual orientation. Kaycee may not agree with the town’s socially accepted bigotry, but she’d rather fit in than make waves. That is, until the beautiful, sexy, impossibly cool Bren Dawson moves into town. Kaycee is swept up in a whirlwind of exciting new emotions. One night Kaycee’s best friend catches them kissing, and Kaycee’s whole world goes to hell in a handbasket. What is she willing to risk for the sake of love? And what will she risk for acceptance?

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'The Distance Between Us' by Kasie West

Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing — spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop. So when Xander Spence walks into the store it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she's beginning to enjoy his company.

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'Until Friday Night' by Abbi Glines

West Ashby has always been the cocky, popular, way-too-handsome-for-his-own-good football god. But on the inside he’s battling the grief that comes with watching his father die of cancer. Two years ago, Maggie Carleton’s life fell apart when her father murdered her mother. After that, she stopped speaking and hasn’t spoken since. As West’s pain becomes too much to handle, in the dark shadows of a post-game party, he opens up to the one girl who knows won’t tell anyone. West expected that talking about his dad would bring some relief...but he never expected the quiet new girl to reveal a pain even deeper than his own—or for them to form a connection.

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