I love romantic books and movies as much as the next person. The tension, the pining, the eventual realization and the happily ever after. It can be the perfect escape from a terrible week.
But sometimes, I can’t handle the will-they-won’t-they and I end up yelling “JUST KISS ALREADY” at the poor book. Sometimes, I’d much rather read a book that, yes, has a romance, but other things are going on that are much more important, thank you very much.
When I’m in this kind of mood, a nice non-romantic romantic book might have a good explosion or assassination plot can distact me from a miscommunication between characters (why don’t they just talk to each other??).
For all my non-romance readers, tired romance readers, or straight up romance lovers who like their flirting with their twisted plots, here are five non-romantic, romantic books.
- “Heartless” by Marissa Meyer
This reimagining of “Alice in Wonderland” tells us the origin story of the Queen of Hearts and how she became the beloved villain we all know and love. Set in the fictional kingdom of Hearts, Meyer introduces us to Cath, a young noblewoman with a talent for baking and a desire to open up a bakery.
Unfortunately, she is expected to marry in her social class, and running a business is not suitable for a woman of her status. To make matters worse, the king is showing an interest in her when she clearly has no interest in him. Attacks by the fearsome Jabberwock are on the rise, and the mysterious and handsome court joker might have a hand to play in all this…
“Heartless” is an easy read for those who want to get lost in a magical kingdom. The writing style is uncomplicated, and the content is geared toward a young adult (YA) audience. Plus, the cover is gorgeous and I’m such a sucker for a pretty cover.
- “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
But wait, isn’t this a romance? You said this was non-romance! Well, hold your horses dear reader because this book has made the list for a reason.
Austen’s iconic book has romance as a feature plot point, but, as the title suggests, the main theme revolves around personal pride and prejudices. What do first impressions really tell us? Is it possible for someone to change? Mr. Darcy really can be awkward and rude, and Lizzie is sure that he’ll stay that way.
Lizzie’s mother is desperate for all her daughters to marry, so we get fun side plots that include ignoring your crush at a party, getting sick at your crushes house kind of on purpose, surprise elopement, making fun of your mom with your dad, fumbled marriage proposal, and sitting in a living room making small talk with the most insufferable people.
If you haven’t read this before, I won’t spoil the ending. But the payoff is huge and it’s much easier to read and understand than most classics. I’d 100% recommend this book to everyone. At 281 pages it’s not too long, it’s got universal themes, and the jokes are top-notch.
- “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Oh my word. I read this book last month and I can’t stop thinking about it. Ari and Dante are two teenage boys who become fast friends one summer. Their families are different, their personalities are different, and the way they see the universe can’t be more different.
This coming of age book is on the shorter side, making it a great choice for readers who have a hard time making it through longer books. It reads like a nonfiction essay, and there were several times where I actually teared up.
It deals with growing up, PTSD, family, secrets, and what it means to be a person. Less soft and gooey than a typical romance, this book has sharp edges and brutal questions, but the final scene makes all the questioning worth it.
- “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
Hear me out. I can fully recognize that I’m biased because I love this series. But, it belongs on this list because not only is romance not a main concern at all, it is done so gradually and carefully over three books that I keep coming back to re-read it.
The best part about the romance between Katniss and Peeta is that it really isn’t a traditional romance at all. We have to dig through layers of trauma, PTSD, and cultural fear to even get at the possibility of romantic feelings. What does it mean to trust someone? How do attachments form? The series is less love triangle and more love tangle, with the love itself having very little importance to the plot. There’s a war going on, Katniss is the unintentional symbol of rebellion being manipulated by adults much smarter than her, and she’s just trying to stay alive.
With a consistent first-person POV and a stripped-down writing style, “The Hunger Games” is a dystopian series that forces you to question your definition of love.
- “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller
This is a rare example of the popular booktok/bookstagram book that is actually really good. Seriously, it lives up to the hype.
This reimagining of the story of Achilles and Patroclus starts when they are kids and ends with the fall of Troy. Probably the most romantic of this list, “The Song of Achilles” focuses on Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship from the perspective of Patroclus.
I’ve included this book because although the romance/relationship is quite central, we visit powerful themes such as legacy, eternity, fate, war, and conflict. In particular, I find Patroclus’ status as an outsider to be very compelling. Anyone who’s ever lived in someone else’s shadow will relate strongly to this story.
With another first person POV and a lyrical writing style, “The Song of Achilles” is a masterpiece worthy of multiple readings.
Written By: Emma McCoy