The legendary Judy Blume once wrote, “If being in love means giving up your freedom, not to mention your opportunities, then I haven’t missed anything.” This Valentine’s Day, skip the date, which is sure to disappoint, and instead savor your precious freedom! Use the opportunity to curl up with a book whose target audience is three-quarters your age; it’ll bring you back to simpler times. Pair these titles with candy, naturally: we’ve provided some sweet (and spicy, and sour) suggestions. The only love we have on this overhyped holiday is for these YA gems.
1. “Tiger Eyes” by Judy Blume
When her father is killed in the Jersey City shoot-up, Davey Wexler, along with her mother and her little brother, moves across the country to Los Alamos, New Mexico. There she meets Wolf, a mysterious older man with a ponytail and a secret. “Tiger Eyes” will never break up with you. And bonus: it was recently made into a movie, but it pales in comparison to the book.
Read it with: The Southwestern kick of Tabasco Spicy Dark Chocolate Wedges (available on Amazon) will go perfectly with all the gorgeous New Mexican scenery. Plus, if you cry—and you will—you can simply blame it on the spice.
2. “My Latest Grievance” by Elinor Lipman
Who needs to grieve over a lost love when you can grieve with Elinor Lipman’s hilarious characters? “My Latest Grievance,” the tale of a girl who lives with her hippie houseparent parents at a small women’s college in New England in 1978, is a quick, delightful read that’s way more fun than buying expensive chocolate.
Read it with: Elinor’s crunchy hosts would definitely approve of yogurt pretzels as your treat! The balance of sweet and salty will keep your palate entertained, and yogurt is just so very ’70s.
3. “I Am Charlotte Simmons” by Tom Wolfe
This book is dynamite—and not just because it chronicles Charlotte Simmons’s first semester at the fictional Dupont University, where she tries to shed her country roots (she’s from a Podunk town in North Carolina) and find a boyfriend. Don’t worry: she, like you, has to go through many hardships before she can find love.
Read it with: Pepsi-Cola was founded in the Tar Heel State. Pay homage to Charlotte’s home state by diving into a bag of gummy cola bottles.
4. “The Princess Diaries” by Meg Cabot
Mia Thermopolis is gangly, has yield-sign-shaped hair, and just found out that she’s the princess of a small European country. Oh, and she’s failing algebra. “The Princess Diaries” begins in Mia’s freshman year of high school, and Cabot penned the last novel to cover Mia’s high school graduation. Devour all 14 of these books instead of your date’s face. (There’s a Valentine’s Day installment, but our personal favorite is “Party Princess,” in which Mia embarrasses herself in front of her boyfriend Michael’s cool college friends by wearing a catwoman suit and sexy-dancing at a party for which she has also made some vegan dip.)
Read it with: Be the Mia to your Michael by surprising yourself with M&MS, ideally on top of a pizza.
5. “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” by Ned Vizzini
You know what? It IS kind of a funny story. Vizzini writes from the perspective of a teenage boy who’s depressed and checks himself into a psychiatric hospital for six days. A male protagonist in fiction is much better than a male protagonist in life, right? Besides, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is emotionally complex, deeply real, and poignantly optimistic—just like the perfect boy- or girlfriend.
Read it with: Darrell Lea Soft Eating Liquorice does justice to this book’s mix of dark and playful. Try the original black flavor for the full effect, or green apple if you crave a little tang.
6. “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” by Ann Brashares
A sisterhood at last! Carmen, Tibby, Lena, and Bee will steal your heart away from anyone else who might want it. Brashares achieves a perfect balance between friendship and romance while making it clear which one of the two is way more important (friendship). There are five novels in the series, each one better than the next. What relationship just keeps getting better? Just yours with these books.
Read it with: In the scene where the girls have a ceremony dedicated to the pants, Tibby lays out the equally crucial snacks: “raw cookie dough from a refrigerated tube, strawberry Pop-Tarts with pink icing, the hard, deformed kind of cheese puffs, sour Gummi Worms, and a few bottles of Odwalla.” Ann Brashares did the work for us on this one, though if you’re wary of salmonella, chocolate covered cookie dough bites might be a nice upgrade. And skip the Odwalla—it’s vomitous in texture!
7. “Belzhar” by Meg Wolitzer
In Wolitzer’s latest novel for young adults (she’s the author of “The Interestings”), Jam is sent to a Vermont boarding school for “highly intelligent, emotionally fragile students” to cope with the trauma of losing her boyfriend. There, when tapped to be in a special English class, she and her classmates discover that when they write in their notebooks, they enter a special world in which they can relive the past.
Read it with: Powdery linzer cookies are the perfect tribute to Jam. Have one with a hot cup of coffee while you delve into this enchanting story.
8. “The Bermudez Triangle” by Maureen Johnson
Nina, Avery, and Melanie, dubbed the “Bermudez Triangle” because of Nina’s last name, are best friends. That is, until Melanie and Avery start dating, at which point Nina has a nervous breakdown that’s worsened by the fact that her long-distance boyfriend, Steve, is riding his bicycle and eating avocados in Portland instead of visiting her in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. This book deals with issues surrounding queer teenagers, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Plus, there’s a hay ride. So quaint.
Read it with: Avery and Mel kiss for the first time after doing Jell-o shots at a party, but Jell-o is gross, so break out some candy with a gelatinous texture, like Jujyfruits, à la Elaine Benes.
9. “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things” by Carolyn Mackler
Virginia Shreves is self-conscious about her butt (aren’t we all?). To make matters worse, her perfect older sister is in Africa for the Peace Corps and her perfect older brother has been put on academic probation from Columbia for date-raping a girl. Boys suck. (Except for Froggy Welsh the Fourth, Virginia’s Monday afternoon make-out buddy.)
Read it with: Twinkies play a pretty pivotal role in this one. Other big round things named in the book fit for consumption include Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Hostess Cupcakes.
10. “Forever…” by Judy Blume
Katherine and Michael, together forever…? No, probably not. But Michael’s penis is named Ralph, which is funnier than even the funniest of dates.
Read it with: Fun Dip will bring you back to the days of secretly reading “Forever…” in your older sister’s bedroom. It’ll also last you as long as the book’s title suggests.