Finding Swoons in Books: Dahlia Adler

Day four! Today we have Dahlia Adler, author of the upcoming Behind the Scenes, and she is awesome and a good friend of mine. She's one of the people I come to when I look for contemporary romance (and NA) recommendations, and she'll be putting her recommending skills to use in today's post; in this post, she'll be discussing her favorite types of romances and romance-related tropes in YA, and shares some recommendations for each romance type and trope. Let us know if you've read any of her recommendations, and any other types of romance and romance tropes you like best!


Oh, YA romance, how I love thee. I may have been a bit slow to finding you as a teen, but in books, I have been hooked on you since Todd and Elizabeth. (I'm just using that as a marker, obviously, since Todd and Elizabeth were terrible. No Sweet Valley High romance was actually shippable until Jessica and Sam.) And I knew that someday I would write you, and oh, look, here I am with my very first one coming out in just four months—how convenient!

But in that time between discovering my love for love and putting it down on paper, I came to realize a whole lot about what makes a romance work, and oftentimes, that' The best romances are those between couples that earn it, that put in the time to get to know each other, and have the fights that need to be had, and contribute to each other's lives and the way they experience the world. And so, for all my romantic fandom, I'm actually pretty picky about which couples make it into my Grand Pantheon of YA Romance. But here's who does, and why:

The Mutual Ability-Respecters: 

Obviously every relationship should be one of mutual respect and admiration, but there are some in YA in which this particular trait just leaps off the page. Katsa and Po in Kristin Cashore's Graceling are exactly that kind of couple, bonded by the way each appreciates the other's skill. And, of course, as I've blogged about ad nauseam, every couple ever written by Melina Marchetta, (particularly in Jellicoe Road, Saving Francesca, and Finnikin of the Rock), because this is what I think she does better than any writer on the planet.

The BFF (Best Friend First):

This isn't quite the same as the friends-to-lovers trope, in which a pair who's been friends forever suddenly realize there's more there. No, for me the most awesome thing is when you get to watch this relationship from start to finish—see a couple meet, spark up a friendship rife with banter, entertainment, non-sexual hanging out, and mutual trust—and then there's more. It's a lot to demand of approximately 300 pages, but that's why I admire so strongly the two books I think do this best: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

The Alpha Girl:

Being approximately equal in seemingly all ways is awesome, and obviously a thing I admire and love in relationships (see above), but sometimes, it's just fun to see the girl be the one in control. Not in a game-playing "I hold all the cards" kind of way, because oh god stop it. But in an "I naturally possess this trait, be it extroversion or cynicism or a general badassery that you cannot control and actually admire, even when it frustrates you" kind of way. Oh, come on, you know the way I mean. Don't you? No? Well then, get to reading some of my favorite examples: Chloe and Duncan in Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell; Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols; and two that would sort of be spoilers so I'm just going to tell you to read both 4-book series in their entirety: Amy and *mmph* in the Secret Society Girl series by Diana Peterfreund (not YA, but whatever, just read it) and Ruby and *blaaargh* in the Ruby Oliver series by E. Lockhart.

So which of these did I aim for in Behind the Scenes? Honestly, a little of each. But really, the key for Liam and Ally can be summed up in this one line: "You make my day not suck, and that's no small thing."

Add to Goodreads

High school senior Ally Duncan's best friend may be the Vanessa Park - star of TV's hottest new teen drama - but Ally's not interested in following in her BFF's Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father's mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van's on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.

Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she's capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can't play by Hollywood's rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.


  1. I LOVE the "best friends first" trope. Really I'm a huge, melty marshmallow for any couple where the two have history / get a second chance at love / etc.

    (Also LOL Todd/Liz. I kinda have a soft spot for them but they were sooo boring. Oh Jessica/Sam. And Jessica/Jeremy. My 14 year old self devoured so many Sweet Valley books mostly for Jessica and her boyfriends.)

    1. Right? It's the best <3 Jessica and Jeremy did totally have their moments, but I was a major Liz and Connor fan ;)

  2. I really need to read Graceling, I have read amazing things about it!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

    1. I only just read a few weeks ago, but everything you've read is true! Now I just need to read FIRE and BITTERBLUE!

  3. Oh hey, Dahlia. Don't mind me stalking your posts round these here internets.

    I never read Sweet Valley High, but I'll just assume that was all very astute and insightful.


    Awwwww, Marchetta. I must read more. Yes, yes, I hear you saying you told me so, etc. Soon. Hopefully. Also, Cashore. So much yes.

    Best friends first isn't my favorite, mostly because I think fiction tends to get a bit When Harry Met Sally sometimes, and that's not a great attitude, but they can be done SUPER well too. But I have read neither of your examples. So. Oh well. OH OH OH actually Coffee Prince. Where could you have heard of that before?

    Yessss, Alpha Girl. I never had a name for this, but I do love when the guys know the girl "wears the pants" and are totally cool with it, and probably rather turned on by it. EARTH GIRL has a great one. BAHAHAHAHA, RUBY AND *BLAAAARGH* I AM DYING.

    1. Hahahahaha like I could ever mind your stalking and also I literally took a break from replying to this comment to tweet at you just now, God that's embarrassing.

      OK, the fact that you have never read Sweet Valley High is infinitely worse than the fact that I do not like Jane Austen. Or at least as bad. Now we are even.

      I'm excited for you to read more Marchetta! I'm excited for everyone to read more Marchetta! Including me - I still have to read FROI and QUINTANA, and I keep hearing the series just gets better, which is awesome.

      I've actually never seen "When Harry Met Sally" but I *was* in love with my best friend for my teen years so I think I'll always be a sucker for that trope. Surprised you've never read ARISTOTLE AND DANTE; LGBT! LGBT! And okay, since you helped me with my NA today, I will watch Coffee Prince as soon as I finish my first draft of it. Deal? DEAL.

      I LOVE ALPHA GIRLS. I've never heard of EARTH GIRL but now I need it in my life.

  4. BLERGH--Todd and Elizabeth. Yeah those two had about as much chemistry as peanut butter and liverwurst. I can't remember Sam, though. Was he the one who tried to untie Jessica's bikini top at the party?

    (We will not discuss why I remember that *scandalous (sing-song voice)*)

    It's official, Ms D. You've broken my awesome scale, and I think my couple might also be a little bit of each of your three types :)

    1. Sam came later and met a tragic end, alas. Untying Jessica's bikini top sounds like Bruce. Ugh, Bruce. Guy didn't even have particularly good game but he got SO MUCH PLAY. You'd think no one in that town had ever seen a Porsche before.

      I like this scandalous side, Ms. Stokes! And now I EXTRA can't wait for your couple!!

  5. Oh! I just started Graceling today, actually. Now I'm extra excited! And I'm also extra excited to read about the romance in Behind the Scenes because of this: "You make my day not suck, and that's no small thing."

    1. Oh, yay - hope you love it! (Well, hope you love both of them, but I feel much more confident about Graceling!!)


Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment on my blog!