In 2018, two new films rocked the world of cinematic entertainment. First was Crazy Rich Asians, directed by Jon M. Chu, based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan. The other was To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, a teen romance film directed by Susan Johnson, based on on Jenny Han‘s 2014 novel of the same name. In addition to indicating the revival of romantic comedies, the two movies herald a new age in which diversity in romance is a priority, not an afterthought.
For so long, when we think about famous romantic movies, the first movies that come to mind are films like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Titantic, etc., usually featuring a certain type of couple, a.k.a. white, cis-het, abled-bodied, and so-forth. While many people continue to enjoy these films to today, there’s a louder call for more diverse romantic stories, and the two aforementioned films clearly demonstrated that it could lead to big-screen success. Crazy Rich Asians is the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade!
So in honor of these two hits and the path they paved, here are five romance books that need to be adapted on the big screen, pronto:
5) The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
“A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.
“Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases—a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.
“It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice—with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan—from foreplay to more-than-missionary position …
“Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic …”
I love the fact the book is #OwnVoices, featuring a protagonist on the autistic spectrum and love interest who is half-Vietnamese. Shoutout to any male Asian heartthrobs that Hollywood may be ignoring, like Daniel Henney maybe. Also, rumor has it that The Kiss Quotient’s cinematic adaption may be closer than expected.
4) The Island of Eternal Love by Daína Chaviano
“An enchanting multigenerational epic of three families—from Africa, Spain, and China—and their bond to one another and the island they call home.
“Cecilia is alone in a city that haunts her. Life in Miami evokes memories of Cuba: a scent in the breeze like the sea at the Malecón; the beat of a clave recalls island evenings when couples danced to forgotten rhythms. Far from her family, her history, and her home, Cecilia seeks refuge in a bar in Little Havana, where a mysterious old woman’s fascinating tale keeps her returning night after night.
“It is a story of three families from opposite corners of the world—from Africa, Spain, and China—that spans more than a century. Within it, a Chinese widow seeks protection for her daughter in her family’s idols; an African slave brings the rhythms of her birth to an enchanted island; and a curse dances before the female descendants of a charmed Spanish matriarch, forming the mythic origins of one family’s indestructible bond. The connection strengthens with each generation into a legendary, unbreakable love. Under the story’s heady sway, Cecilia begins to discover the source of the elusive shadows that plague her and, along with it, a link to the past she cannot shake.
“From Daína Chaviano, a distinctive literary voice available to English-speaking readers for the first time, comes this multifaceted portrait of the Cuba of this century. As haunting as it is tantalizing, The Island of Eternal Love is an ambitious, provocative, and magical novel that uncovers the secrets of a woman, a family, and an island—all in one spellbinding tale.”
This book, written by Cuban-American fantasy/science fiction author Daína Chaviano, is an underrated multicultural literary treasure, featuring a love story that spans over generations and continents.
3) Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore
“Love grows such strange things.
“For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
“The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.”
This queer magical Latinx love story is written by non other the current queen of Young Adult fiction, Anna-Marie McLemore. For fans of Gabriel García Márquez and Daína Chaviano, this novel looks at themes of love, identity, family, and power through the lens of magical realism.
2) Abroad by Liz Jacobs
“Nick Melnikov doesn’t know where he belongs. He was just a kid when his Russian-Jewish family immigrated to Michigan. Now he’s in London for university, overwhelmed by unexpected memories.
“Socially anxious, intensely private, and closeted, Nick doesn’t expect to fall in so quickly with a tight-knit group of students from his college, and it’s both exhilarating and scary. Hanging out with them is a roller coaster of serious awkward and incredible longing, especially when the most intimidating of the group, Dex, looks his way.
“Dex Cartwell knows exactly who he is: a black queer guy who doesn’t give a toss what anybody thinks of him. He is absolutely, one-hundred-percent, totally in control of his life. Apart, maybe, from the stress of his family’s abrupt move to an affluent, largely white town. And worrying about his younger brother feeling increasingly isolated as a result. And the persistent broken heart he’s been nursing for a while . . .
“When Nick and Dex meet, both find themselves intrigued. Countless late-night conversations only sharpen their attraction. But the last thing Nick wants is to face his deepest secret, and the last thing Dex needs is another heartache. Dex has had to fight too hard for his right to be where he is. Nick isn’t even sure where he’s from. So how can either of them tell where this is going?”
Note: I might be a little biased in picking out this book since it hits so close to many parts of my own identity, but it touches on so many important themes, like immigration, the importance of found/chosen families, intersectional identity, self-acceptance, and so much more.
1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
“Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.”
You ever look at a book and think to yourself, “I wish I had written this”? This is that book. The young-adult novel, written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, is without a doubt one of the best books I have ever read and must be considered required reading. Bonus: A film project may already be in the works, with a script written by Henry Alberto and a potential cast.
Shoutout to some other diverse books that have been optioned for films: What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli, Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.
Feel free to mention any other noteworthy novels that you feel deserve a big-screen or small-screen adaption in the comments!
(images: respective publishers)
Michele Kirichanskaya is an intersectional feminist and multi-spectrum geek living in New York. In addition to reading, watching cartoons, and spending time with family, she also spends time trying to write for as any websites as possible, including Lambda Literary, GeeksOut!, ComicsVerse, BLENDtw, Mindfray, Bookstr, and more.
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