“Love,” Shakespeare wrote, “is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs.” This quote appears in a Romeo and Juliet monologue, in which Romeo—one half of literature’s most enduring romantic coupling—attempts to dissect the vicissitudes of the human heart. Love is the most indescribably frustrating and spectacular phenomena in our universe. It has busied writers for centuries. It is the unique compunction that spurred King Nebuchadnezzar II to construct one of the Seven Wonders of the World, a mythic hanging garden in the ancient city of Babylon for his homesick wife. Fascination with love in all its iterations—from the first to the fated to the paranormal—is the driving force behind the box office record-breaking success of the story of a sparkly vampire and an unassuming Washington teen, the thing fattening Nicholas Sparks’ pockets, the reason so many of us write bad poetry in our youth. In tribute to love’s immortal allure, we have devised a reading list for the hopelessly romantic and romantically hopeless alike.
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
This debut novel—and now motion picture—from Nicola Yoon follows the story of Maddy Whittier, a young black teenager with a rare condition, severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), that has kept her confined to her house all her life. Maddy’s entire world revolves around her nurse and her mom who doubles as her doctor. Her life is a closed circuit but she and her mom stay busy by playing phonetic Scrabble and Maddy has a steady hobby of writing book reviews on Tumblr. Until one day when a new boy moves in next door. His name is Olly and he gives Maddy hysterical abdominal rhopalocera, aka butterflies in her stomach. Olly cracks open Maddy’s world with laughter and adventure. Yoon splices their story together with Maddy’s handwritten journal entries, their nightly conversations over instant messenger, and drawings from Yoon’s husband. It is a bittersweet story of young love told from the perspective of an incredibly brave and self-possessed girl with her eyes on the world.