Expert Picks
Expert Picks

10 Weirdly Romantic Books

February 16, 2024
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Have you ever finished a book and thought, "What did I just read?!" Mostly, those books are awful and we regret their presence. Other times, we are charmed by their astounding absurdity and daft existence. Since Valentine's Day has come and gone, let's turn those romantic XOs on their head. Let's extend the l-o-v-e theme to weird and speculative fiction and critical nonfiction, where a multitude of romantically ambiguous, disastrous, violent, and even splendid and resourceful characters interact in weird and whacky hellscapes. Business, romantic, or platonic—relationships take many forms.

Here are our favorite Weirdly Romantic books, for when life hands us a box of chocolates, and we never really know what we're gonna get....

1. They Both Die At The End, by Adam Silvera

Young Adult Fiction
Sci-Fi/Fantasy
LGBTQ+

Here we find two strangers who accompany each other to their graves. Yes, Mateo and Rufus receive horrible news from Death-Cast: they're going to die that day. Luckily, an app called "Last Friend" matched them to spend their End Day together. They meet up for a final grand adventure—but for completely different reasons. This "Black Mirror"-esque bestseller and multiple award-winning novel does have a spoiler: they both will, in fact, die at the end.

2. The Pisces, by Melissa Broder

Magical Realism
Literary Fiction
Adult Romance

Fish sex, but make it literary. Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction, this absurdly funny trope of Lady x Merman is an eye-opening mix of vivid realism, innocence, fantasy, and eroticism. While writing a dissertation on Sappho, the Greek poet, Lucy is at wit's end with her partner. They break up, she moves in with her sister in Venice Beach, attends love addiction therapy between Tinder dates, but not even her sister's precious pup can dissipate her anxiety. One night, while sitting alone on a rock on the beach, Lucy witnesses an eerie swimmer in the water. Once she discovers who he really is, she questions what love actually looks like, and her life takes a fated turn.

3. Butcher & Blackbird, by Brynne Weaver

Supernatural Fiction
Friends to Lovers
Touch Him/Her You Die

What do rival murderers, Sloane and Rowan, have in common? They just love to kill. As their pitch-black souls hunt the most gruesome monsters in the country, a romance full of our favorite tropes emerges. But so do the ghosts of the monsters they've killed, who aren't far behind them, ready to exact their revenge! This viral TikTok bestseller is a dark romcom you won't soon forget.

4. Monsters: A Fan's Dilemma, by Claire Dederer

Nonfiction Essays
Art & Criticism Philosophy

A work of nonfiction that helps to, dare we say, defend the monsters from the previous selection? Look, we've all had one: a severe fandom, art school crush, or life-changing influence from the work of a famous artist who we later found out is totally abysmal at being human (and treating others like humans, too). Dederer doesn't defend the awful behavior of influential artists like Roman Polanski, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Kanye West; she defends our adoration of their better side, their art. How do we separate the art from the artist? Were they only products of their time? Should we appreciate art created by monsters?

5. The Intuitionist, by Colson Whitehead

Sci-Fi/Mystery Black Dystopian Literary Fiction

A seriously funny account of a dreadfully dystopian world: a world of elevator workers split into two warring factions, the Empiricists and the Intuitionists. Lila Mae Watson, the city’s first Black female elevator inspector and a devout Intuitionist with the highest accuracy rate in the department, receives scrutiny when an elevator crashes under her watch. So, where's the romance? Lila Mae dives into the depths of a weird relationship with her job, her title, and her reputation. She's practically obsessed with it. How far will Lila Mae go to prove she's worthy? Morality, race, politics, and acts of self-love seep through these pages.

6. Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt

Cozy Fiction
Mystery
Magical Realism
Binge Read

Marcellus: to know him is to love him. An octopus with a plan, Marcellus narrates intermittent chapters in this delightful debut by Shelby Van Pelt. The human visitors at the Seattle aquarium in which Marcellus is housed are far too simple-minded for such an intelligent beast. Thankfully there's Tova, the aquarium's retired cleaning lady, who forms a special bond with Marcellus after hours. She's the only one who knows that Marcellus escapes his tank every night, but for what reasons, she's unsure. Get ready for a tearjerker!

7. The Emperor and the Endless Palace, by Justinian Huang

Adult Romantasy
LGBTQ+
Historical Fiction

This book releases in late March, so we haven't read it! Here's an excerpt from the publisher: "What if I told you that the feeling we call love is actually the feeling of metaphysical recognition, when your soul remembers someone from a previous life?" Want more? Of course you do: "Across these seemingly unrelated timelines woven together only by the twists and turns of fate, two men are reborn, lifetime after lifetime. Within the treacherous walls of an ancient palace and the boundless forests of the Asian wilderness to the heart-pounding cement floors of underground rave scenes, our lovers are inexplicably drawn to each other, constantly tested by the worlds around them."

8. Bride, by Ali Hazelwood - BAM! Exclusive

Adult Romantasy Paranormal Fiction  Urban Fantasy

Werewolf x Vampyre arranged marriage: can you imagine all of the bitemarks and broken china in this domestic space? This odd couple of the night has a necessary goal—to maintain the historic peace treaty between their species. Can these two ever get along, despite reasons that have nothing to do with politics or alliances, and everything to do with the only thing she's ever cared about and is willing to do whatever it takes to get back what's hers...or nah?

Our BAM! Exclusive Edition comes with a bonus essay, "A Slightly Unhinged Soundtrack for Bride," outlining the perfect playlist for readers.

9. Slouching Towards Bethlehem, by Joan Didion

Journalism
Classics
Memoir

It's weird, dipping your toes into the idyllic spheres of 1960s California. In Didion's first piece of nonfiction, considered a watershed moment in American writing, she explores growing up in California, John Wayne and Howard Hughes, the nature of good and evil in a Death Valley motel room, and, especially, the essence of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury, the heart of the counterculture. It's a privilege to peer through Didion's eyes. To see America's weirdly romantic obsession with the film industry, convenience economy, and live music dystopias, expressed in the post-war, pre-tech era, at the height of her time, before social media overtook our culture completely, is an absolute trip. First published in 1968, this essay collection was critically praised as one of the "best prose written in this country."

10. All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven

Mental Health Realistic Fiction Young Adult Romance

TW: We're not here to glamorize unaliving yourself. We're here to glamorize not doing it. Enter Violet and Finch, two teens who meet on the edge—one that is six stories above the ground. Ever since they saved each other, Finch is somewhat interested in living again, and only feels like himself when she's around. With Finch's company, Violet finally learns how to go after what she wants. Her world expands as a result, but Finch's world shrinks. How can she love someone who only wants to die? Suicide is cringe; don't do it.

Life is weird. We're thankful we get to read and learn from these incredible authors. Show them some love and buy their books! <3

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