YA Love and Breakups

When I was in high school, two things were important to me: friendships and relationships. (Okay, yes, family was important to me as well, but I didn’t daydream about what I was going to eat with my parents when I got home; I daydreamed about what plans my best friend and I had for the weekend, or if Crush saw me in the hallway). Since this is what I know, it’s what I write about. I write about the girl who pines for the guy from afar. I write about the friendship that unexpectedly (but always expectantly to outside observers) blossoms into something more. I write about how a relationship can change a person. I write how relationships (both romantic and not) are essential. I was the girl who got red faced when a guy talked to me, the one who cried when he broke up with me. I was the one who dreamed about what would happen if he’d talk to me.

That was me, and because it’s what I know, what feels real, that’s what I write.

There’s been a lot of hatred towards YA romance lately, and it makes me kind of sad. There are sighs when a love interest is introduced, cringes when a female character cries over a boy. It seems weak and trite to some readers, but to me it feels real.

Because let’s be honest, breakups suck. Unrequited love sucks. Battles with best friends suck and I don’t think it makes a character seem weak or whiny to feel that. I don’t think it’s realistic to have a main character not change after a breakup, or be unfeeling. I don’t think it’s weird for a teenager to be sad. And I would never call any of these problems trivial.

This complaint has kind of had a negative affect on my writing lately, making me feel a bit self-conscious of what I thought was normal. It’s believed that YA books shouldn’t revolve around a relationship. That when hurt a female should be strong and not weep, not be affected by love. And that to portray a character fighting for another is wrong because that’s not a good example to set.

The thing is, when writing, I think of my audience all the time. I think of the teens that volunteer at the library, the ones that come to my programs. I think about what I want them to read, and how I want my characters to be just like them. Because they’re human. And you know what? They have relationship problems, too.

I don’t think a character should CHANGE EVERYTHING AND LOSE EVERYTHING for the person s/he likes, I don’t think they should become someone they’re not, and I don’t think they should DEVOTE themselves to another. And I DON’T think every book should have a relationship. That’s not important to some stories, and I like those books quite a bit, too. But I do think characters should be able to love. And should be affected by love. And get giddy when that guy/girl looks at them in the hallway, and cry when that person decides to date someone else. I think they should be able to have a million flaws because that’s a real teen. They’re full of complexities that are so deep they don’t even know they’re there.

Because I know that when I was a teen, when I started dating Crush, it was the best moment of the year. And when we broke up months later, it was the worst. And I know I felt everything in between, and I want my characters to feel that, too. And not be ashamed to be sad or in love. It doesn’t mean they’re not strong. It means they’re fighting a battle that may not bring down governments or change a dystopian society around, but is still important.

I would never tell a teen they’re wrong or weak for loving.

Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I know this is supposed to be the post when I wax poetic about my first year of marriage, declaring how wonderful it is and how in love I am. While all of that is true enough, I’m not great at expressing emotions. In fiction, SURE! But on my blog? Not so much. So instead, here’s one of my favorite romantic quotes:

“here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)”

-e.e. cummings

When S & I got married, we didn’t have a religious ceremony. (With him being Hindu and me being Jewish/Catholic, it would have been 7,000 days long.) So, instead of a traditional Bible reading, we had my cousin read that e.e. cummings poem. I found it to be more us. 

However, I’ll admit,that was my second choices. My first choice was far too long. I tried cutting it, but it lost so much meaning that way. So, we went with that beautiful poem and no one knew about my original idea.

So I’m letting you all in on it now! While there are so many writings on love that I adore, one of my unexpected favorites is…(drum roll please)….the essay “The End of the Affair” by David Sedaris (found in his book Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim). Weird, right? Have you read it? It’s fantastic. The basic premise is that large attention-grabbing dramatic gestures aren’t needed in true love. While, sure, they’re nice, sitting close to someone in a cafe may be just as lovely. Here’s my favorite part:

“Movie characters might chase each other through the fog or race down the stairs of burning buildings, but that’s for beginners. Real love amounts to withholding the truth, even when you’re offered the perfect opportunity to hurt someone’s feelings…I pulled my chair a few inches closer, and we sat silently at our little table on the square, looking for all the world like two people in love.”

Which is kind of like us, after all. I can’t wax poetic in my blog about him, but he still knows I care.

What’s your favorite romantic bit of writing, unexpected or cliche?