In June 2023, a contemporary teen romance novel will feature a Palestinian-Canadian girl trying to hide her autism diagnosis while navigating her first year of high school. It’s said to be perfect for fans of To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before (Jenny Han) and Love, Hate & Other Filters (Samira Ahmed) as a coming-of-age story that wonderfully explores the rush of having an adolescent crush. Today, it’s exciting to have Jackie Khalilieh —author of Something More— share books that were some of the biggest influences in the making of this debut novel. This blog post may contain affiliate links. To know more about them, please read my disclaimer.

Credit: Jackie Khalilieh

Four books that influenced Something More by Jackie Khalilieh — if you like these, you may like this debut novel!

It’s not a secret that writers find inspiration in everything they do and everything they consume. A pivotal moment in my path to becoming an author happened just after I’d watched the movie, Love, Simon based on the YA novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. That movie, especially the ending, had transported me back to my teens. Back then, I had quite an obsession (aka special interest) with movie director, and writer, John Hughes. I sat up in bed after the movie was over, my heart warmed with a smile on my face and thought, wow, it’s been a while since I felt this way. That night I had a realization which would change the direction of my life: I want to make people feel the way I feel right now.

That was the seedling that started it all.

From that point on, I began watching more teen movies and consuming young adult novels. I was slowly reintroducing myself back into the world of literature and entertainment. Early motherhood and past careers had kept my creative side simmering and it was all starting to come to a boil. Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop.

Something More by Jackie Khalilieh

Fifteen-year-old Jessie, a quirky loner obsessed with the nineties, is diagnosed as autistic just weeks before starting high school. Determined to make a fresh start and keep her diagnosis a secret, Jessie creates a list of goals that range from acquiring two distinct eyebrows to getting a magical first kiss and landing a spot in the school play. Within the halls of Holy Trinity High, she finds a world where things are no longer black and white and quickly learns that living in color is much more fun. But Jessie gets more than she bargained for when two very different boys steal her heart, forcing her to go off-script.

Buy now: Amazon US | Bookshop UK

With my debut YA contemporary romance novel, Something More coming out June 6th, I thought it would be fun to share some of my biggest influences, in the form of YA novels.

If you liked To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han:

When her secret love letters somehow get mailed to each of her five crushes, Lara Jean finds her quiet high school existence turned upside down.

You may like Something More both novels feature a sweet romance and a different kind of love triangle. Jessie, like Lara Jean, is inexperienced in love and a little (okay, very) starry-eyed about romance. Also, the love interests in both books are pretty swoony.

If you liked Better Than the Movies, Lynn Painter:

A hopeless romantic teen attempts to secure a happily-ever-after moment with her forever crush, but finds herself reluctantly drawn to the boy next door.

You may like Something More — both books feature the friends to lover’s trope, albeit in different ways. Another similarity, in my opinion, is that both are character-driven stories and aren’t focused on the romance alone.

The main character in Better Than the Movies is dealing with the grief of losing her mom, adjusting to her step-mother, and letting go of what she thought she wanted. As for Something More, Jessie is surrounded by a loud but loving family, she learns what it’s like to be in a group of friends for the first time, and she finds out, maybe the long and hard way, that love is not always the fantasy you build up in your head. Oh, and playlists!

Also of note, the amazingly talented Lynn Painter read Something More and provided a fantastic blurb I can’t wait to share. [”One of the best YA’s I’ve ever read!”]

If you liked Brave New Girl, Louisa Luna:

A fourteen-year-old trying to find her way in the world, Doreen is as much an outcast at school as she is at home. Marginalized by her peers, misunderstood by her parents, and mourning the loss of her older brother who disappeared when she was just a child, Doreen finds solace in her fierce love of music and in her best friend. But when her older sister begins dating a bewildering twenty-one-year-old, Doreen must confront feelings she never knew she possessed.

While some of the themes and tones of Brave New Girl (TW: SA) are a lot darker than you’ll find in Something More, what both books share are two young, voice-y, sometimes funny protagonists obsessed with music. I read this book in one day, and it was a rollercoaster of emotions.

If you liked Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld:

Curtis Sittenfeld’s debut is set in an American boarding school, a hotbed of privilege, ambition and neurosis, every bit as snobbish and competitive as anything dreamed up on this side of the Atlantic. Lee Fiora is an intelligent, observant fourteen-year-old when her father drops her off at the prestigious Ault School in Massachusetts; she leaves behind her affectionate family in South Bend, Indiana, her head filled with images from the school’s glossy brochure, in which boys in sweaters chat in front of old brick buildings, girls hold lacrosse sticks on pristine athletics fields, and everyone sings hymns in chapel.

This is an older YA (published in 2005) that some people even hesitate to classify as YA but I’m not sure why as it’s set over the four years of high school. I admit I had many mixed feelings while reading Prep and was not always able to connect to the main character, but when the book was over, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And that, to me, is the mark of a good book. A book that makes you “feel” and “think”.

For me, a five-star book isn’t one that is written the way you would have wanted to see the story go, but instead a book that makes you think about it long after the last page is read. If a book can trigger deep feelings and thoughts, that is a job well done.

Both Prep and Something More are set mostly at school. Even though Jessie is not away at a boarding school, as soon as she begins high school it becomes her entire world. And like Lee Fiora, Jessie is also very observant and introspective and must learn how to navigate this new environment—with the added bonus of a brand-new autism diagnosis. Both books also feature pining for a guy who may or may not be worth pining for.

Jackie Khalilieh

Jackie Khalilieh is a Palestinian-Canadian writer with a love of nineties pop culture, Dad jokes, and warm and fuzzy romance. Like many autistic females, she received her diagnosis as an adult. She is passionate about positive representation within her writing. She currently resides just outside Toronto, Canada with her husband and two daughters, complaining nightly about having to cook dinner. Something More  is her debut YA novel. You can visit her at or find her on Twitter @jackiekhalilieh or Instagram @jackiekhalilieh


Everything stated in this post is independent of any compensation, and the guest writer’s comments and thoughts are solely their opinion; the formatting was done by the blogger but no changes were made in text.

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