11 Books That Prove You Can Find Love At Any Age
As Valentine’s Day approaches I usually think a lot about young love.
This is probably a side-effect of my dual status as both a parent and a school principal.
I mean, when you’re around kids, it’s utterly unavoidable:
The cardboard mailboxes that, despite the diligence of their youthful designers, generally turn out looking like they’ve been run over by a truck.
The perforated sheets of Valentines that kids lack the fine motor skills to effectively separate.
The abundance of conversation hearts that, thanks to their chalkiness, should be purely for decoration and certainly not for digestion.
Try as I might, I can’t escape it.
But, as we creep closer to Valentine’s Day this year, it feels… different. For some reason, I’m not mired in the pink and red sea of childhood exchanges of affection. Instead, I find myself contemplating adult love. And, more specifically, how what love looks like changes as we age.
I’m really not positive why I’m preoccupied with this notion this year. The only reason I can deduce is that, perhaps, my own movement through the aging process has me seeing things a bit… differently.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not “old” per-say, but it has recently occurred to me that I’m having to scroll down quite a bit further when selecting my age range from the drop-down menu these days.
And all of this reflection on the fact that I’m now closer to 40 than 30 — and the increasing rate at which my hair is gradually graying — probably does have me thinking about what a difference your age makes in all things — including love.
Because the way that I interact with the world is through literature — as human interactions are generally overrated — I turn to books to help me through this line of thought.
If you, like me, draw your experiences more from the page and less from the real world, I have some love-through-the-ages suggestions for you.
If I had to pick one adjective to describe young love it would easily be “awkward”.
As certainly all of us remember, this first fumblings of youthful affection were confusing and scary.
You didn’t really know what you were doing. Your partner probably didn’t know what he/she was doing. And neither of you could explain why everything was so… moist.
For a book to accurately capture young love, it needs to embrace this awkwardness, presenting real characters who really have no fucking clue what they are doing.
The books in this category do just that.
Looking for Alaska
by John Green
When deep-thinking Miles “Pudge” Halter leaves behind his safe hometown in favor of spending a year at a boarding school, he’s hoping to finally find his “Great Perhaps.”
Given his unfamiliarity with Culver Creek, his new home away from home, he doesn’t have too many preconceived notions of what his year will hold.
What he never could have expected, however, is exactly what happens. He meets the mysterious Alaska Young and finds himself captivated by her charm, drawn into her universe, and utterly changed by just the act of knowing her.
Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging
by Louise Rennison
Georgia has strong feelings about lots of things. She hates thongs, she loves her cat — even though he is clearly possessed — and she’s utterly preoccupied with the notion of full-frontal snogging.
Now that’s she’s a real teen, she might finally get to see what all the fuss is about.
As Georgia starts a new year with her trusty wingwoman, Jas, at her side, she does so resolved to experience true love — or at least true lust — and finally get that first full-frontal snog under her figurative belt.
New adulthood is that generally terrifying period between adolescence, when you bemoaned your dependence on your parents, and full-on adulthood, when you’ll bemoan the fact that there is no one on whom to be dependent.
While most of us have developed some familiarity with romantic love by this point in time, a new issue arises: the realization that you’re not just playing games anymore. I mean, yeah… no one marries their high school sweetheart — except, of course, my college roommate — but lots of people marry their college sweethearts — for example, me!
And, let me tell you, it’s a scary fucking thing when it hits you. When you realize that, ultimately, dating is just auditioning permanent life-partners. Suddenly, the stakes are raised, the consequences of failure more significant, and the rewards for it working out more lasting.
What If It’s Us?
by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Ben has been burned by love before. And he has proof. Specifically, the box of items belonging to his recent ex-boyfriend that he’s lugging down the bustling NYC streets, through the humid summer air, to take to the post-office.
Arthur, on the other hand, still views love in simpler — aka, more broadway-musical-ish — terms.
When the two meet-cute and what starts as a spark of lust promises to grow into something much more, they both realize that neither of them really knows anything about true love after all.
by Colleen Hoover
For some people, life changes gradually. For others, change is abrupt.
Fallon falls into the latter category.
Once a teenage TV star, her life was altered, seemingly forever, when she was caught in a fire at her father’s house. Though she escaped, she was left with burns that changed her appearance and forced her to modify her life goals and career aspirations.
Now, she’s planning to leave behind the looks-obsessed world of LA and head to New York City to become a stage actress.
But, on the day she is to leave, she meets Ben, an aspiring novelist.
Too logical to say “fuck it” to their pre-established plans, but too drawn to each other to part permanently, the pair agrees to meet up, annually, on November 9th.
Depending on the romantic path you’ve followed previously, 30s love tends to be typified by either urgency or regret.
If you have yet to settle down and commit yourself to someone — and, if you want to, because not wanting to is a totally viable option — you’ll probably be urgent (particularly if you’re a woman).
When will I find someone?
Where is he/she?
While I be alone forever?
But there is a whole other subgroup of 30s love-seekers — those who thought they found lasting love when they were younger, but now realize that they were very, very wrong.
They often regret their previous romantic choices and, in many cases, are trying to transform these mistakes into growth experiences, determined to head off on a different romantic trajectory than before.
The delectable options in this category offer examples of both of these two potential paths.
Bridget Jones’ Diary
by Helen Fielding
Hapless, hopeless and wholly realistic, Bridget Jones might have entered her 30s single, but she’s determined not to exit them that way.
She’s decided to make a change for the better. She’s going drink less, smoke less, weigh less and love more.
Unfortunately for Bridget, she’s lovably flawed and woefully unable to keep resolutions.
But when a failed set-up by her mother introduces a new man into her acquaintance, it starts to look like things might actually go her way for once.
by Rosie Walsh
When Sarah meets Eddie, her history of romantic failure tells her that she should take it slow.
But she doesn’t.
And doesn’t leave his side for seven days.
When they do reluctantly part so that Eddie can go on a pre-planned holiday, they promise to keep in touch.
But Eddie doesn’t keep that promise.
As the days pass and Sarah continues to fail to reach Eddie, she begins to realize that she’s being ghosted.
But the question remains, why?
The Kiss Quotient
by Helen Hoang
Stella Lang has always had difficulty warming up to people — romantically or otherwise.
But, as a result of her Asperger’s, one thing she does warm up to is math.
Math, with its rigidity and rules is always there for her.
So, when she decides that she does need some love in her life, logically she turns to math for help.
She’s certain that, with the right calculation, she can solve her romance woes once and for all and finally find Mr. Right.
Like some of their decade-less-experienced counterparts, most love seekers in their 40s have acquired a tremendous amount of baggage over the years of love and loss.
Even if they’ve never settled down and formally committed themselves to someone, they’ve almost certainly experienced at least a few serious romances — many of which have left them loathe to dive back into the sea of relationships.
Why would they want to take that dip again, after all? The sea is cold. And risky. There are sharks and jellyfish. And, sure, there are also some wonderful, loving and respectful fish still somehow swimmin’ cluelessly around. But is it worth all of the risk?
It’s pretty comfortable outside of this turbulent ocean. With fuzzy pj pants and amazing books and red wine served in boxes and a cat.
For many singletons in their 40s, it takes something really special, really irresistible, to sway them to willingly make that dive.
The protagonists in the books in this category found just the alluring enticement they needed to weather the risk and slip on their swimsuits.
The Stuff That Never Happened
by Maddie Dawson
Annabelle McKay doesn’t regret her decades-long marriage. She doesn’t regret her experiences. She doesn’t regret the children that have come from it.
What she does regret, however, is that she simply can’t honestly say that she still wants to be married to her husband anymore.
Strengthening this desire to end it all is her memory of an affair she carried on when she was still early in her now-lengthy marriage.
Though years have passed, she’s never quite gotten over her lover. So, when she runs into him again during a trip to New York City, she doesn’t know if she can let him go again and return to the marriage that, to her, feels all but dead.
Nights in Rodanthe
by Nicholas Sparks
Since her divorce three years prior, Adrienne Willis’ life has been understandably stressful. The rigors of raising children on her own and caring for an ailing father have left her little time to relax.
So, when she agrees to watch an inn in a coastal North Carolina town for a weekend, she’s hopeful she’ll finally have some time to herself.
What she gets when she agrees to this request, though, is so much more.
As a fierce storm approaches, a guest arrives.
Paul, a successful surgeon, has some baggage of his own.
With the equally wounded duo riding out the storm together, it seems that the development of deeper connections is all but inevitable.
*Note - I’m pretty sure that there is some law that says that any list of romance-heavy books has to include a Nicholas Sparks book… so consider this me complying.
I am a surprisingly big fan of the saying, “We are the sum of our experiences.”
Because it’s true as fuck.
Honestly, determining your age shouldn’t even be about tallying up the number of years you’ve spent trudging — or, in my case, tripping — around this planet. It should be about calculating how many experience points you’ve managed to accumulate.
And, when it comes to experience points, those in the 50+ range have many people — me included — beat.
They know things that I can’t even begin to guess.
And they apply this knowledge to many things, including their romantic relationships.
I Almost Forgot About You
by Terry McMillan
Though it might currently be light in the love department, Dr. Georgia Young’s life is wonderful.
Despite this, she feels unsettled.
Unable to shake the feeling that she needs a change, she decides to quit her job and move.
As she bravely paves a new path, she finds herself facing unexpected opportunities — including a second chance at love.
The Bridges of Madison County
by Robert James Waller
For years, Italian war-bride Francesca Johnson has done what she vowed to do when she married her husband — cared for him and their children.
Tending house and doing the hard work of a farm wife has certainly brought her some pleasure, but has never really left her feeling fulfilled.
But then, with her husband and children away on a trip, a visitor knocks on her door.
Photographer Robert Kincaid has come to photograph the covered bridges that fill Madison County.
What starts off as simple kindness on Francesca’s part grows into something much more as feelings quickly develop during the stolen time this duo spends together.