As part of "Camp Eve" over at Eve's Fan Garden, I was asked to share a few thoughts on romance in Young Adult novels, so...
I started to write this really long, issue-driven post about romance in YA, its potential boundaries, how it relates to the definition of the genre…all that stuff. Honestly, I started to bore myself. Or maybe I’m just tired from working on my new manuscript. Anyway, I decided to try the old writer trick of going the memory route.
At my first backward glance, I thought, "Gee, I wasn’t a romantic kid." My dreams were about being a great performer or playwright. Honestly, I didn’t have a serious boyfriend until college. Can you say uber-ballerina-geek? But, if I squeeze my eyes shut more tightly, dig back into that dark miasma of unpleasant high school years, a thousand memories of THINKING about romance float into my mind. I thought about romance a lot. I had a crush on somebody almost every day. I swooned over smart boys, theatre geeks, jocks (very occasionally), student council types, sometimes even teachers. When a boy occasionally flirted back, I retreated. Oh, the stories I could tell about embarrassing retreats… Ah, for another day.
What I came to realize is that all that time, I was looking to grow up. My crushes were a timid way of wanting to see myself reflected in other (er, handsome) people. I admired the talent of the boy with the lead in the school play, thus I was in love with him. I envied the way the boy in the front row of math class raced through what (to me) were agonizing calculus problems, ergo, heart palpitations. Small children mature by understanding their separateness from their parents, discovering their own agency. In young adulthood (and partly thanks to hormones), we re-attach our independent self to another person of our choosing: Someone with a talent we admire, an attitude we wish we had, or even, sometimes, someone who just drives us inexplicably crazy.
I raise my eyes to a shelf laden with books by Sarah Dessen, Courtney Summers, Jandy Nelson, Gayle Forman, and Judy Blundell. What I admire in these books is what the romantic relationships they feature reveal about their main characters. In the boy (or girl) we love, we see the dream we almost don’t dare to dream, the rebellion in which we may or may not enlist, the answers we seek about ourselves.
For more authors' thoughts on romance in YA, click on over to Eve's Fan Garden today!