In the past ten years it has become increasingly normal to have a group of online friends, a group of IRL friends, and a group of online friends that become IRL friends. With so much of our lives lived out on the internet (a debate about which we can get into another day) we meet people from best friends to romantic partners through dating apps, forums and social media. This is perhaps especially true for teens and young adults, who have spent most of their lives connected to their laptops and phone screens, and YA authors have not shied away from telling the stories of interesting online meets offline relationships.
While some of these reads veer more into rom-com territory, still others really explore the ways that the internet has affected both the way we meet people and the way we connect and communicate with them. The books below all take a look at different aspects of internet relationships, from anonymous messengers meeting IRL and getting more than they bargained for, to friends who connect via online gaming and fandoms that allow them to meet in ways they otherwise would not have. If you're interested in the many and varied ways online relationships can change our lives, these picks definitely deserve a place on your TBR.
1'This Is What Happy Looks Like' by Jennifer E. Smith
When young movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small-town girl Ellie O'Neill 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. Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie?
2'The Lost & Found' by Katrina Leno
Frannie and Louis met in an online support group when they were both younger. They have never met face-to-face. They don’t even know each other’s real names. All they know is that they both have a mysterious tendency to lose things. They each receive news in the mail that sets them off on a road trip to Austin, Texas, looking for answers—and each other. Along the way, each one begins to find, as if by magic, important things the other has lost. And by the time they finally meet in person, they realize that the things you lose might be things you weren’t meant to have at all, and that you never know what you might find if you just take a chance.
3'#Famous' by Jilly Gagnon
In this modern-day love story, Girl likes Boy, Girl takes photo of Boy and posts it online, Boy becomes accidentally insta-famous. And what starts out as an innocent joke spirals into a whirlwind adventure that could change both their lives — and their hearts — forever. But are fame and love worth the price? Told in alternating points of view, #famous captures the out-of-control thrill ride of falling for someone in front of everyone.
4'Tell Me Three Things' by Julie Buxbaum
It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her and her pretentious teenage son. Just when she’s thinking about running back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help? Soon, SN becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?
5'Alex, Approximately' by Jenn Bennett
Bailey Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate them until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California town as her online crush. Faced with doubts, Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth. As the summer goes by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to an online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own.
6'Geekerella' by Ashley Poston
Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s determined to win… unless her stepsisters get there first. Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons — now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake — until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.
7'Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda' by Becky Albertalli
16-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised. With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out.
8'Kat And Meg Conquer The World' by Anna Priemaza (November 7, 2017)
Kat and Meg couldn’t be more different. Kat’s anxiety makes it hard for her to talk to people. Meg hates being alone, but her ADHD keeps pushing people away. But when the two girls are thrown together for a year-long science project, they discover they do have one thing in common: They’re both obsessed with the same online gaming star and his hilarious videos. It might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship—if they don’t kill each other first.
9'Tash Hearts Tolstoy' by Kathryn Ormsbee (June 6, 2017)
After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral. And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual. Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top?