**_Looking For Alaska_ – John Green**
_“I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.”_
John Green’s novel for young adults, _Looking For Alaska_, contains what is undeniably one of the more tragic love stories in the genre. Miles goes to boarding school, seeking change and adventure, and finds both in beautiful, moody, mysterious Alaska. She has a boyfriend, and a past, and a drinking problem, and Miles has an obsession with the dying words of famous people. Classic case of boy meets girl, boy loves girl, girl flirts with boy, boy pretends to move on, girl dies in a suspicious car accident. Beautifully written, incredibly heartfelt, it leaves you empty and broken and so glad you read it.
**_Jane Eyre_ – Charlotte Bronte**
When talking about the greatest love stories, this one has it all: drama, suspense, sexual tension; a class divide that threatens it all and not to mention the original mad woman in the attic. But what makes this love so timeless and special, attempted bigamy aside, is Jane’s unrelenting desire to not only be at one with her love but be seen as an equal. Rochester’s enigmatic charm and games tease both the reader and Jane and the passion between the pair is so palpable that it even causes lightning (if that’s not pathetic fallacy then I don’t know what is!). What Brontë creates is the original feminist, who gets her man on her terms and who loves with such fierce passion that it transcends the centuries to still be one of the nation’s greatest ever love stories.
**_Tess of the D’Urbervilles_ – Thomas Hardy**
Perhaps not the most hopeful ending or plain-sailing romance, _Tess of the D’Urbervilles_ will nonetheless put you in that loving feeling this Valentine’s Day. Whilst the romance of the book may seem to be overshadowed by Eddie Redmayne’s rendition of the controversial hero, Angel Clare, in the 2008 BBC adaptation, this is first and foremost a romantic, heart-breaking and compelling read about two lovers who bind themselves together spiritually, intellectually and sexually. Despite the rather tragic portrayal of missed romantic opportunity, Hardy’s description of Angel and Tess’ love affair drive the narrative and create one of the most convincing and haunting visions of young love in literature.
**_Dangerous Liasons_ – Choderlos de Laclos**
_“You may conquer her love of God: you will never overcome her fear of the devil.”_
Unlike most love stories, Valmont’s relationship with Mme de Tourvel doesn’t begin as a romance, but as a wager. A notorious womaniser, Valmont believes he’s found an easy target in the virtuous, loving wife of the President de Tourvel. However, he soon realises that underneath Mme de Tourvel’s meek piety, she is loyal and fiercely strong-willed.
Valmont resorts to ever more drastic measures, leaving the reader wondering whether he does really care for her, or whether he just can’t bear the idea of losing the wager. Laclos develops their relationship through letters, contrasting Valmont’s cynical wit with Mme de Tourvel’s agonised confessions of increasing love. Scandalous, sexy and darkly funny, their love story has lost none of the tragedy and humour since it was first published in 1782.
**_Paper Towns_ – John Green**
_“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.”_
John Green’s Paper Towns is perhaps one of the most unconventional love stories ever told. It follows Q in his quest to solve and unravel the enigma of Margo Roth Spiegelman – the girl of his dreams who one day vanishes. The beauty of this story lies in Green’s exploration of the fact that we fail to imagine other people complexly enough. We can find ourselves falling in love with the idea of a person, much like Q does. Love that forms when you lock eyes across the room is deep indeed, but what lies behind those eyes?
**_Written on the Body_ – Jeanette Winterson**
Written on the Body is a strikingly well-written exploration of love and loss in a physical context. Far from a traditional love story, the narrator’s name and gender is left deliberately ambiguous, whilst the narrative uses a dream-like stream of consciousness style to reveal details of the narrator’s passionate affair with Louise. Emerging as a series of fractured episodes, Winterson’s poetic description of Louise and the narrator’s involvement, as well as the female body in both sickness and in health is beautiful and unflinching. Perhaps the most beautiful love story I have ever read.
**_Submarine_ – Joe Dunthorne**
“She’s the only person I would allow to be shrunk to microscopic size and explore my body in a tiny submersible machine,” says precocious 15-year-old smart-arse, Oliver Tate, of his pyromaniac girlfriend, Jordana. The pair embark on a fleeting teenage affair in their bucolic Welsh seaside town. Highlights include a contrived love-making session on his parents’ bed and plotting the murder of her pet dog in an attempt to help her come to terms with the possibility of her mother’s death. Tragically, Oliver’s neuroticism gets in the way and it doesn’t work. It’s alright though, he won’t remember it when he’s forty.
**_The Great Gatsby_ – F. Scott Fitzgerald**
The green light of Gatsby’s love for Daisy Buchanan shines as brightly to the modern reader as a symbol of unrequited longing as to its original audience in the 1920s. Set against the backdrop of prohibition, the decadence and luxury of Fitzgerald’s masterpiece has a heart of gold in the devotion and tragedy of its mysterious central character. As a love story, it is about as far from the Nicholas Sparks-brand cheese as you can get. This is literature that exposes the obsessive and damaging aspects of love, as well as its redemptive power.
**_North and South_ – Elizabeth Gaskell**
After hearing all the jokes in university, you may be inclined to smile at the idea of a novel in which a couple miraculously overcome the North/South divide of England. In terms of plot, some readers claim that this is the Victorian equivalent of _Pride and Prejudice_. However, what makes this romance even more interesting is its interaction with the backdrop of Milton and how the social and political tension between Thornton, a mill owner, and Margaret, a sympathizer to the workers, surfaces in their personal relationship. This is a love not only made of fire but also of soot and smoke.
Editor’s Pick: Nicole Davis
**_One Day_ – David Nicholls**
Forget about being carried down the moors with a broken ankle, meeting your one true love on a horse or fighting over him for the next dance at a fancy Regency era ball; One Day is a modern love story you can actually relate to.
Emma and Dexter meet on graduation day at university and proceed to meet on the same day for the following decade. Despite egos, success, drink, boyfriends, wives and children getting in the way of their inevitable romance, their friendship endures through the ups and downs of life. They’re flawed characters who sometimes lack courage, are selfish and make mistakes, but you root for them the entire way through for it to eventually be the case of right person, right time. Because if you were the protagonist of a love story, it would probably be this one.