Good YA rom-coms are as much about the characters figuring out (and accepting) who they are as they are about romance. I’m eternally figuring out who I am (especially in uncertain times) which makes YA rom-coms so satisfying now.
As a writer, I enjoy following the artistic journeys of characters who are dealing with issues like rejection or loud inner critics. Following actors, filmmakers, and set designers lets me see the common obstacles all artists share. But the beauty of reading about the artists in a rom-com is that they have a guaranteed happy ending, which is just what I need during a pandemic.
Many of the books take place in interesting locations I’ve never been to: Ireland, a train trip across the U.S., or a fan convention. I was able to travel vicariously through the pages without leaving my house or putting on a mask.
Turns out there are a handful of delightful YA rom-coms that revolve around filmmaking. Here are five of my favorites:
Everything Leads to You, by Nina LaCour
17-year-old Emi is getting over a painful breakup with her older girlfriend while she interns for an indie film as a production designer. While checking out estate sales for the film’s set pieces, she finds a mysterious letter from a famous movie star that reveals he had a secret child, and Emi decides to track them down.
Before I read this novel, I didn’t know what a production designer does. It’s the person who puts together the interior sets for a movie, based on the characters and script. Although I have little interest in interior design, I was totally pulled in by Emi’s dedication and passion for all the details of production design, which made the sweet romance even more appealing. This novel made me look at filming a movie in a whole new light. I love it when a novel does that.
Now a Major Motion Picture, by Cori McCarthy
It sounds like a dream come true to fly to Ireland to watch the filming of M.E.Thorne’s Elementia, a wildly popular fantasy series’ that’s considered the “feminist response to Tolkien.” But 17-year old Iris has no interest being seen as the granddaughter of the famous author she barely knew. There’s no way she can say no to her father’s request that she watch her younger brother on the set. Ever since his thwarted kidnapping by a rabid Elementia fan, Ryder has been obsessed with the series.
Iris is a witty, relatable character grappling with her own inner critic issues while dreaming of being a songwriter. In addition to a satisfying romance, almost every character in the novel has their own internal arc—from the female director who has to prove to the studio she can head a major motion picture, to all the endearing actors on the enchanting Irish set. I wanted to follow these characters forever.
Geekerella, by Ashley Poston
A delightfully nerdy Cinderella retelling that revolves around the movie reboot of the fictional TV show Starfield and the fandom that supports/criticizes the movie. Elle is a hardcore fan who blogs about Starfield under a pen name, while mourning that her dad will never get to see the movie with her. Darien is an up-and-coming actor hoping that the rabid Starfield fandom accepts him as the newest version of the beloved Federation Prince Carmindor.
Geekerella captures the joy of loving a TV show and is chock-full of delightfully geeky updated Cinderella details, like a pumpkin-themed vegan food truck driven by a wanna-be fashion designer with green hair. It was a refreshing change to have both Cinderella and the prince’s viewpoints throughout the story, so the prince is more than a trophy at the end.
The Princess and the Fangirl, by Ashley Poston
This equally charming sequel is a retelling of The Prince and the Pauper, featuring two more characters from the same Starfield world. Super fan Imogen Lovelace is determined to save her favorite Starfield character, Princess Amara, from being killed off. Jessica Stone, the actor who played Amara, is glad to be free of the princess so she can focus on roles the press will take seriously. When people at the fan convention mistake Imogen for Jessica, Imogen realizes she may have a way to save her favorite princess after all.
I loved how this sequel allowed us to see another side to Jessica Stone, a character who wasn’t seen in such a good light in Geekerella. This time, we get to see the no-win situations young women often feel when trying to build an acting career. I especially loved the diverse LGBTQ+ representation in Imogen’s family and the greater convention world. Imogen’s unapologetic geeky passion was a joy to read about, too.
Field Notes On Love, by Jennifer E. Smith
Two high school graduates end up on a train trip from New York City to San Francisco at the end of the summer before they go to college. British Hugo is one of the famous Surrey sextuplets and trying to figure out who he is without his siblings. Mae Campbell is on her way from New York to USC for college. She got into the school but not the film program and she’s still stinging from the rejection. She wants to use the trip to make a new film to convince the audition committee she belongs in film school.
I absolutely loved this novel! First, it’s about train travel! Second, Hugo and Mae are likable, interesting people with relatable identity issues. I wanted to follow them even after their trip ended.
I love a good rom-com any day, but during uncertain times YA rom-coms about filmmaking are especially good reads because they focus on the characters figuring out who they are, take place in interesting locations that don’t require a mask, and are guaranteed to have a happy ending.
What are your favorite rom-coms about film making?