Best friends who shouldn’t be lovers, rivals and enemies who fall in love, and stories where the relationship crosses ethical lines are all through the classics: Lolita, Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, The Great Gatsby, Anna Karenina. One of the fascinating things about these stories, to me, is that they aren’t just complicated romances—the barriers between these people could destroy the relationship and could be the downfall of the characters.
High-stakes romances like this happen in modern young adult fiction, too. One of the things people ask me most commonly after they hear I wrote a first cousins YA romance is why I wanted to. I've always been fascinated by out-of-the-ordinary relationships, because they can be such a challenge for the characters. Falling in love as a teen is rarely smooth sailing—often it’s confusing and impossible and not at all what we’d expected it to be. So, just because it's such an interesting area of storytelling for me, here are eight really excellent novels featuring teens and forbidden relationships:
Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
Four children hidden away in an attic, and something tragic between Cathy and her brother, Chris.
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
Covering for their alcoholic mother and sharing the role of parents for their younger siblings brings Lochan and Maya together in a way that’s perfect but impossible.
How I Live Now by Meg Rusoff
When fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent to England to live with cousins she’s never met, war breaks out across the country. Daisy and her cousin Edmond’s love might be the only thing that saves them.
Unteachable by Leah Raedar
Also classified as NA, this romance between high school senior Maise and her teacher, Evan, is what happens when a love story goes off-script.
The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott
Sarah has had a crush on Ryan for years, but he’s dating Sarah’s best friend. Falling in love with her best friend’s boyfriend isn’t an option, but Sarah can’t help breaking the rules.
No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace
When Olivia starts to fall for her brother’s girlfriend, Olivia has to choose between her friendship with her brother and a love that could change her life.
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
He has no name and no pulse, but R is a little different from his fellow zombies, and this thing he’s feeling for the girl he rescued might be love.
And of course, there’s mine, just released last month.
How We Fall by Kate Brauning
In the wake of her best friend’s disappearance, 17-year-old Jackie throws herself into an obsessive relationship with her cousin, only to find out her best friend’s secrets might take him, too.
Have you read any of these, or do you know any other great YA taboo/forbidden romances?