An Alternative to the Love Triangle: 8 Books with Minimal or No Romance

kissing book


There are several reasons why someone might not want a super romancey, I SHIP THE SHIP sort of book. One might be you are talking with a teen whose parents would prefer that they not read anything about the kissing type of relationships (they might also call these “clean reads;” however, the books I am feature may also have language, drug use, or other possibly objectionable content. I’m only talking about a marked lack of romance). Another reason might be that they are just burned out on love, maybe for personal reasons or just because they binge-read a super romantic series recently. Here are 8 books that are good to have in your back pocket for recommendations when you don’t feel like having all the feels. Or just having very minimal feels.

  1. A Season of Daring Greatly by Ellen Emerson White. Yes, I am aware that this is the second time I’ve done a book list with this title, but I so very highly recommend it. The concept of the book–a young woman is the first female ever drafted by a pro MLB team–seems like it would lend itself to romantic hijinks, but Jill really doesn’t want to get involved with the guys on her team, even the nice, cute ones.

  2. The Lie Tree (or Cuckoo Song; both are excellent) by Francis Hardinge. Hardinge writes compelling characters that wrestle with extremely twisted family relationships–and you really don’t need to toss romance in the picture with the gothic tension she creates.

  3. Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier. This historical novel with a dash of the supernatural follows Kelpie, a street urchin, and Dymphna, a Sydney madam’s “best girl” as they evade gangsters and murderers in a slum called Razorhurst. Dymphna’s ex appears in the story, but as he is quite dead, there isn’t much of a romance going. A phenomenal book about violence and survival.

  4. The Walled City by Ryan Graudin. In the Walled City, people are abandoned and become human refuse. With no government, they create their own sort of laws, enforced by pimps and drug lords. In this dangerous warren, Graudin tells the tales of three young people–Jin, Min Lee, and Dai. This is a fascinating look at a city that was stranger than fiction when it existed.

  5. Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman. Be warned: this book is a slow mover. Rituals and beliefs are described with exactitude. BUT it’s a fabulous fantasy about a girl named Eona who passes as a boy in order to be matched with a dragon to wield magic. It’s also a thoughtful exploration of gender roles.

  6. A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis. Give up any notions of the 19th century being the good old days of propriety. Raped and impregnated by her father, Grace Mae is stashed in an asylum for the duration of her pregnancy. The book moves from the complete horrors of the asylum in the city to a bucolic sanitarium in the Midwest. Unfortunately, tragedy and death seem to follow Grace, and she poses as a madwoman in order to solve murders.
  7. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. This is probably one of the greatest friendship novels ever written. Yes, there’s a little flirting going on, but the focus here is on female resilience, strength, and love.

  8. Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King. I am an unabashed fan of King, and this one definitely skews more toward the surrealist side of her oeuvre. However, it’s a stunning meditation on art, self, and abuse within a family.


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