Miss Cole: Unromantic and Probably Dead Inside
I don't write YA stories that are explicitly romantic. I prefer romantic subplots.
(I know, I know. I'm dead inside)
Now, this doesn't mean I think you should completely avoid romance in YA!!!!!! (I'm not that heartless!) I just prefer stories that focus on other things (usually great big adventures and EPIC good vs evil battles). I find romance a tad dull ^^;
Romance absolutely has its rightful place in stories and I firmly believe a romantic subplot can add great depth to your characters. But I want to look at wider themes, and I've stated before how YA can offer readers a chance to broaden their horizons, help them grow and inspire strength in the face of adversity (whether that adversity being going to school even though you're being bullied or saving the world from a madman).
When your readers are predominantly teenagers, can't we show them it's a good idea to look deeper and see there's more to a partner than good looks or how popular they are? Shouldn't we be teaching self-respect and self-confidence above all else? Okay, maybe that's all my child development training coming through LOUD AND CLEAR, but stuff like that really matters to me. And when our characters do enter relationships, shouldn't we help teenagers understand how important it is for their partner to respect them for who they are and, just as importantly, respect their partner in return?
And here's another lesson I think teenagers need to know: it's absolutely fine to remain single and a virgin. There is so much pressure on teenagers to be with someone and be sexually active. And if they are, that's fine. Thankfully, YA writers and publishers are really open-minded and there are loads and loads of authors out there doing a fantastic job of writing about sex and sexuality. But there should be just as many stories saying "hey, if you're not ready, that's fine! Don't feel pressured and wind up making a mistake." And how about stories telling readers "don't worry! You're not the only one who's single!" And another great message to pass on is "there's more to life than getting into a relationship as soon as possible." TEENAGERS! ENJOY BEING SINGLE! You're free!!!!!!
Sometimes, I think YA's willingness to embrace sex and sexuality forgets that teenagers feel pressured to have sex because society seems to be telling you to have sex. YA needs to pass on the message it's okay to not be in a relationship and be totally happy and content too.
One day, I'll probably surprise myself and write a contemporary romance, but for now I prefer stories when romance takes a step back and lets other plot devices take centre stage - namely arse-kicking.
So, readers, what's your opinion?