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Guys in Love: Great Reads for Tween Boys Who Are Crushing

by Jake Gerhardt

Photo credit: Nivek Neslo, Taxi/Getty Images

The most common question I’m asked when visiting schools is what inspired me to write Me and Miranda Mullaly and My Future Ex-Girlfriend. There’s always a sheepish grin on the face of the inquirer, and it is quite often a query from a boy.

The answer is very simple. The fact is I enjoyed my years in middle school. For many middle school might be thought of as a prison sentence, but for me it was a time filled with discovery, learning, and fun. Even the parts of my books that hit close to home and still make my cheeks blush, like the disasters of the Valentine’s Day Dance and the first date at the movies, have a striking resemblance to my personal life. Although it isn’t an easy time and self-doubt abounds, I look back on the crushes, the heartaches, and the misunderstandings with a smile on my face.

The good news is that you will survive the angst of a first crush and the broken heart. Even better is that you will look back on it and laugh. There’s little else you can do.

Along the way, consider reading some great, fun books on love, just for tweens, to get you through. Hopefully they will help you figure out what to do. Or maybe help you decide what not to do.

  • Goodbye Stranger

    by Rebecca Stead

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    Seventh graders Tabitha, Bridge, and Emily are best buddies who have promised not to fight. But challenges abound for the individuals and their little group as they make their way through the school year. Emily is very interested in Patrick, an eighth grader who may or may not be up to no good. Bridge, who has survived a near-fatal accident years before, begins a special friendship with Sherm, unsure where it will lead. Tabitha seems to be more judgmental than ever and getting on everyone’s nerves. The challenges of seventh grade are pulling them apart. Will their friendship survive?

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  • The Heartbreak Messenger

    by Alexander Vance

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    I’m old enough to remember the song “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” and through experience know that it’s true. But seventh grader Quentin figures it can’t be that hard. So when his best buddy’s older brother offers to pay Quentin twenty bucks to break up with his girlfriend, Quentin — who has never had a girlfriend — jumps at the opportunity. Although clueless at first, Quentin is really good at it. Before he knows it, he’s an expert and soon is the sought-after Heartbreak Messenger. But as he starts to have feelings for his close friend Abby, he must give up his job and deal with the consequences of being the Heartbreak Messenger.

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  • The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4

    by Sue Townsend

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    Few literary characters are as charming and heartbreaking as Adrian Mole. The youngster has a tremendous ego and is in many ways full of self-confidence. Happily for the reader, everything Adrian embarks on is a disaster, and his courtship of and relationship with Pandora is no different. The candor is perfect: “Pandora smiled at me today, but I was choking on a piece of gristle so I couldn’t smile back.” And after he learns the Pandora is interested in him: “I told Nigel to tell Claire to tell Pandora that I return her love.” Like everything in Adrian’s life, it’s a roller coaster. Oh, but what a ride.

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  • Well, That Was Awkward

    by Rachel Vail

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    Gracie Grant has a sort of crush on A.J. But when it’s revealed A.J. is interested in her best buddy Sienna, Gracie does what she can to help move along the awkward first part of the relationship. Of course these days this is done via text messaging, and suddenly Gracie finds herself helping Sienna text with A.J. This touching portrait of teenage angst is all the more poignant as Gracie also deals with the death of her sister, Brett, who passed away before Gracie was even born. I read this with a smile on my face as Vail’s prose completely captures the absurdity of the eighth grade. I only put the book down to check on my daughters, being moved by the parts where Gracie and her parents deal with their still broken hearts over the loss of Brett.

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  • Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice?

    by Paula Danziger

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    I can never leave Paula Danziger out of a list of books like this. Here we have the story of ninth grader Lauren Allen. Recovering from a recent break up (she wishes there were Novocain to numb her broken heart) she finds herself in an elective at school with a new student named Zack. Zack is interested in Lauren, and she is very fond of Zack. The problem, however, is that Zack is an eighth grader and ninth graders just don’t go out with them. Lauren decides to stand up to peer pressure, but can her relationship with Zack survive the pettiness of her school?

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  • The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora

    by Pablo Cartaya

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    It’s summer and Arturo Zamora has a lot on his plate. He’s working at his family’s restaurant, La Cocina de la Isla, under the thumb of Martin. And out of the blue he finds himself in love with Carmen, a family friend. When the family’s restaurant is threatened by a land developer, Arturo does all he can to save the restaurant and win the heart of Carmen too. You can’t help but root for Arturo who, with the help of poet José Martí, takes on the challenges.

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  • In Your Room

    by Jordanna Fraiberg

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    When their parents decide to swap houses for the summer both Charlie and Molly are miserable. Charlie, the outdoorsman, is stuck in Los Angeles while the fashionable Molly has to spend the summer in Boulder, Colorado. And to make matters worse, they’re forced to stay in each other’s rooms. After doing some digging around, Molly and Charlie contact one another via email. Although they’ve never met, their email exchanges get them through their days. Soon they’re good friends and wondering if there’s more on the horizon. This is a fun, honest love story.

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What other books would you recommend to tweens who are crushing big time? Let us know in the comments below!