YA and Romance

Christine, a librarian, forwarded me a link to this article from the NY Times this past weekend: The Kids’ Books Are All Right, by Pamela Paul. Paul takes a look at adults craving the third installment of The Hunger Games, and who seek out YA books in general.

The themes are serious and the discussions intense, but the books are fast-paced and fun. “A lot of contemporary adult literature is characterized by a real distrust of plot,” Grossman said. “I think young adult fiction is one of the few areas of literature right now where storytelling really thrives.”

Y.A. may also pierce the jadedness and cynicism of our adult selves. “When you talk to people about the books that have meant a lot to them, it’s usually books they read when they were younger because the books have this wonder in everyday things that isn’t bogged down by excessively grown-up concerns or the need to be subtle or coy,” explained Jesse Sheidlower, an editor at large at the Oxford English Dictionary and member of Kidlit. “When you read these books as an adult, it tends to bring back the sense of newness and discovery that I tend not to get from adult fiction.”

Book CoverI’ve long been a fan of YA romance for a number of reasons. First, I think strong emotions are overwhelming at any time, whether you’re an adult or teenager,  but YA deals more with the painful management of feelings that you suspect might take you over entirely, and how to figure out relationships with the people causing those emotions. Since, I think, teenagers are pressured more than anyone to remain blasé about just about everything, negotiating internal conflicts that make it hard to remain calm lends a powerful immediacy to a lot of YA literature. Plus, while some folks dislike YA romance because they don’t believe that a happily-ever-after can start in high school, I absolutely know it can. I met Hubby in high school, and while we didn’t get together until after freshman year of college, my angsty-emo-screwed-up teenager self totally had the “Hold all calls, we have a winner” moment at 17. So I know it can happen, and love to read about it when it does.

Lucky me, Christine also forwarded me a link to Forever Young Adult’s list of YA Dealbreakers – the book plots and cover images that will give you the ixnay on the ookbay faster than anything else. I’m with them on “Vampire Kisses” and anything with poetry.

And Crap in a Crockpot I just lost about two hours of my life reading the achives of ForeverYoungAdult. Here, have a list of their most swoonworthy couples in YA, or the New Moon drinking game, or the Flowers in the Attic drinking game, or What Not To Do with YA Covers (OMG YES with the HALF a FACE covers already. Enough!).

YA’s popularity isn’t news, though it’s in the news thanks to the fact that people are absolutely hopping over The Hunger Games conclusion (Did you see that Dear Author is part of the online district tour? Cool!) I have noticed many, many people on the beaches reading both that series, Twilight, and, oddly, Harry Potter as well. I’m always a-hunting for YA romance to read, and love Elizabeth Scott and Jennifer Echols’ books. I also recently read Wildthorn by Jane Eagland, a historical YA novel about a girl who is sent to an asylum for being way too different. It was chilling and powerful – and I still think about it.

In addition to Suzanne Collins’ series, what YA do you absolutely adore right now? And are you as tired of the red-accented half-a-face covers as I am!? 



Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Lindz says:

    Since I started teaching Middle School two years ago, I’ve been reading a whole lot of YA.  It gives me a good way to talk with the kids about something other than academics.

    A Few of my Favorites of YA lit:

    Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series (I got everyone else at my school hooked on the series as well)

    “The Forest of Hands & Teeth” by Carrie Ryan

    “The Reformed Vampire Support Group” by Catherine Jinks

    “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

  2. 2
    Sophie Gunn says:

    Still sleepy from staying up too late reading “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie. Wow. Just wow. Had to wrestle it from my 13yo’s hands.

    Brought “The Strange Case of Origami Yoda” to the beach and every member of my family from 9 to 89 read and loved it. *chills*

    “Hunger Games,” naturally. Read. Audio-ed. Re-read. 

    “Stargirl” by Jerry Spinelli. Ok, anything by Jerry Spinelli.  I think JS is the greatest writer in any genre writing today.

    Have “Ender’s Game” sitting by my computer. Will NOT read it until work is done. (Maybe.)

    (I read this blog every day, several times a day and this is the first time ever I’ve been moved to comment. Hmmm…)

  3. 3
    heathero says:

    I loved loved loved The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner. But I am reluctant to pick up the sequel because I’m afraid it will ruin the first one for me.

    Graceling by Kristin Cashore is another one of my favorites.

  4. 4
    JJ says:

    Ohhhhh I have plenty of YA recommendations, since that is all I read outside of work.

    1. SEA by Heidi R. Kling, which is the most recent book to have made me cry. (I don’t cry easily in books.) It’s about a girl who travels to Indonesia to help her father with the tsunami relief. It sounds like an “issues” book, but it’s not—it’s a story about first love, forgiveness, letting go, mother-love, and it GUTTED me. SEA sort of broke every “rule” I have about YA: it’s a contemporary (I prefer spec/fantasy), it has FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELINGS (but so very real), and there’s a love triangle (but the love triangle is different and unique and very deftly drawn).

    2. FIRE by Kristin Cashore, which is a companion novel to GRACELING, but I will admit to liking FIRE a lot more. I thought GRACELING was a little simplistic and cliche, but FIRE is quite sophisticated with a really unusual heroine.

    3. THE DEMON’S LEXICON by Sarah Rees Brennan. But I’ve sung her praises before. The 2nd book in the trilogy—THE DEMON’S COVENANT—also made me cry.

    4. THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak

    5. Oldies but goodies: Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart books. They’re good old-fashioned Victorian potboilers, with a really great heroine. Also, sex! A wee bit more explicit (although not by much) than the ending of THE AMBER SPYGLASS, the ending to which my friends and I still argue over. (I am of the camp that Will and Lyra DID have sex. But anyway.)

  5. 5
    Ashley says:

    Patricia McKillip’s “The Changeling Sea”, just beautifully written, with the best descriptions of grief and magic ever.  And love – “He lost his balance on her tide”. Sigh.  Short book, but sticks with you.  Also her “Alphabet of Thorn”.  I really just love all of her stuff.

  6. 6
    bucko says:

    On my desk is a stack of excellente YAs: Frank Portman’s King Dork and Andromeda Klein, James Fuerst’s Huge, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, and Libba Bray’s Going Bovine. Those I reread and rereread!

  7. 7
    Isabel C. says:

    I adore Tamora Pierce, especially the Protector of the Small series: I like heroines who win through on pluck and stubbornness rather than being the mystical chosen one.

    For much the same reason, I love love love Robin McKinley’s Hero and the Crown. I mean, I love pretty much everything by McKinley, but Aerin has a special place in my heart. McKinley’s prose style also knocks me out of the park just about every time, and she has a knack of describing non-supernatural tasks, like gardening or baking, in a way that makes me want to learn how to do them.

    Terry Pratchett’s YA books, particularly Nation and the Tiffany Aching series, but also Amazing Maurice. He’s funny, and moving, and again with the strong heroines, which are a major sticking point with me. (Not that they have to kick ass physically, but they should have something that they do, do well, and care about. That’s not a guy.)

    I’m currently reading Rachel Vincent’s My Soul To Take, and liking it a lot so far.

  8. 8

    I love Sharon Shinn’s YA novels and recommend all of them freely.  I’m also a fan of Maggie Stiefvater and can’t wait for the next installment in the Mercy Falls series about werewolves in Minnnesota.

    Among the established authors I too have much love for Patricia McKillip.  Her books are on my keeper shelf, and have been for many years.

    And it’s not YA, but for younger romance readers I heartily recommend (again) Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw.  I think Sheftu was my first fictional heartthrob.

  9. 9

    I just finished Beastly by Alex Flinn and loved it, and Beauty by Robin McKinley is one of my favorite books. Both of those are based on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale.

    Other folks have mentioned Kristin Cashore. I thought that Graceling by her was excellent, but I didn’t like Fire nearly as much.

    I loved Hunger Games, although I need to read Catching Fire before Mockingjay comes out.

    As far as classics go, one of my favs is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. I just think that’s a beautiful, touching story on so many levels. It always makes me cry.

    I’ve been thinking about reading The Iron King by Julie Kagawa. Anyone read that one?

  10. 10
    Michelle says:

    Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief series is excellent.  The romance doesn’t hit until book 2-Queen of Attolia.  It has one of the most romantic story lines.  As one blogger had commented-political intrigue was their foreplay.

    Clare Dunkle’s The Hollow Kingdom was very good.  A Goblin King who is determined to take a bride, and the two sisters who try to outwit him.  Very strong, intelligent heroine.

  11. 11
    Erin says:

    Argh, lost my original post.  To re-cap briefly:

    Love the YA fiction!  Recommend/second the following:

    - LOVED Graceling (have Fire queued up on my kobo for the weekend)
    – Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
    – Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
    – liked the Maggie Stiefvater, Linger is better than the 2nd one
    – LOVED the Forest of Hands and Teeth, companion novel okay, too
    – How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff
    – old-school fave: Tamora Pierce’s ‘Song of the Lioness’ quartet.  Have re-read many times!

    Jumping on the ‘Hunger Games’ train in the near future!

  12. 12
    Donna says:

    I’m in the middle of “Princess of the Midnight Ball” by Jessica Day George & am totally enchanted. Sort of fitting as it is a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, my favorite fairy tale.
    Succumbed to peer pressure & picked up the Hunger Games books and haven’t regretted it.
    And there’s nothing odd about reading Harry Potter books.

  13. 13
    Barb Ferrer says:

    And are you as tired of the red-accented half-a-face covers as I am!?

    Well, now I’m worried…

    I second the recommendations for ALL of Jennifer Echols’ work.

    I also return to A Swiftly Tilting Planet at least once a year.  And of course, the classic that started so much of it, Forever by Judy Blume.

  14. 14

    I read *tons* of YA—like, pretty much everything out there.  The HUNGER GAMES series is among my favorites—but right now I’m totally glomming a lot of excellent contemporary YA.  Some of my faves:  BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver, CRACKED UP TO BE and SOME GIRLS ARE by Courtney Summers, NOTHING LIKE YOU by Lauren Strasnick, and pretty much anything by Sarah Dessen or Elizabeth Scott.

  15. 15
    JamiSings says:

    I’m rather fond of Eion Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series. Also his solo book The Wish List.

    Of course Harry Potter.

    Dragon Slippers and it’s sequels by Jessica Day George.

    On the whole though, not big on YA romance. I just can’t see someone living happily ever after with someone they met as a teenager. I know it happens, but so rarely I can’t suspend my disbelief. I prefer YA adventures.

  16. 16
    Scrin says:

    -Terry Pratchett does good YA books. He does good books anyway.

    -The Percy Jackson books really kick a LOT of ass. I hated that movie for bending so much of the mythology. (Heads up for all those who only saw the movie: The books do a lot of mythology involved). It also has some strong female characters. One thing that made me want to disavow that the Percy Jackson movie exists was how badly they subverted Annabeth. Rick Riordan, y’all. First book is the Lightning Thief

  17. 17
    Ashley says:

    Started reading Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet and was catapulted out of my reading slump.  I have since tried to make it a yearly occurrence to read at least those four if not more of her Tortall universe which I absolutely adore. 

    I work at a library during the summer and I am in close contact with the children’s and teen departments and am constantly told of books to read by librarians and teens.  I’ve been able to discover Twilight, Percy Jackson, and most recently the Hunger Games.  I highly recommend them all.  The Percy Jackson series and The Kane Chronicles (also by Rick Riordan but this involves Egyptian mythology and is just as good!) are really great there’s a bit of everything in them.  While the Hunger Games has yet to grab me the way Harry Potter or Percy Jackson did, I want to know what happens to Katness.  Dystopian books are not my thing at all, but this has me greatly intrigued.

    For a good romance and adventure you really can’t go wrong with Tamora Pierce.  She’s my comfort read and anytime I’m really stressed or really need an escape, I read her, I absolutely love the characters and feel like I’m visiting old friends.

  18. 18
    Linsalot says:

    Kelley Armstrong has a great YA trilogy set in her supernatural world which I really enjoyed.
    Phillip Pullman has the Golden Compass trilogy but also a wonderful series set in Victorian England about a fantastic heroine Sally Lockhart.

  19. 19
    Darlynne says:

    Sabriel, the first in the Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix, gets my vote for YA and romance. Also, the House of Night series by Kristin and P. C. Cast, and Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely.

  20. 20
    Alpha Lyra says:

    Anything by Elizabeth Scott is amazing! Some of her books are lighthearted and sweet (usually with a strong romance element), and some are dark and terrifying. But they all have a geniuneness to them that cuts straight to my heart.

  21. 21

    I love the Megan Whalen Turner Queen’s Thief books. The newest one Conspiracy of Kings was excellent.

    I’m also a big fan of Holly Black’s stuff, especially Tithe and the Spiderwick Chronicles. I liked her newest book The White Cat until the ending, which left a bad taste in my mouth.

    I also really love Mara Daughter of the Nile which is about an Egpytian slave and is SO romantic. One of my favorite re-reads ever.

  22. 22
    Jessica says:

    Many great suggestions so far.  Love Tamora Pierce – have since I was not quite a teen and my librarian gave me the books as one of the early ones had won a librarian award (BBYA I think).

    Sabriel and Lirael are some of the best ever and I think do a great job blurring the line between YA and adult. 

    Lost part of the weekend and all day yesterday to reading Robin McKinley’s book coming out later this fall, Pegasus.  Wow.  Possibly her best yet and I’ve all of hers multiple times.  Comes out in November unless you were lucky enough to get an ARC at ComicCon or the American Library Association conference.

  23. 23
    Sarah says:

    You NEED to read Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by debut YA author Morgan Matson. It is absolutely fabulous!!

    I also ADORE completely Jenny Han, Elizabeth Scott and I really liked debut YA author Kody Keplinger’s book, The DUFF.

  24. 24
    KimberlyD says:

    I loved both Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore. I think its funny that some people only liked one or the other.

    Robin McKinley’s books are my favorite YA books (I think technically Sunshine is listed as Adult but its pretty much YA. Totally different take on vampires. Her heroine actually realizes how dangerous vampires are, even though she becomes friends with one-sort of. If you’re tired of the usual teenage vampire romance, read Sunshine!)

    Tamora Pierce, of course.

    Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Dealing with Dragons, etc) and Sorcery and Cecilia.

    Definitely Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers Trilogy (and her next YA trilogy, Darkness Rising, will start coming out next year. Same universe, different teens.)

  25. 25
    Lauren says:

    If I have a longstanding love affair with SBTB, I have a gigantic high school crush on FYA that’s been going on for some time now. The recaps/drinking game for Sweet Valley High are absolutely priceless.
    I’ve always loved YA books – and so many of them are romances too! Madeline L’Engle, Tamora Pierce for SURE (The Immortals Quartet almost as much as the Lioness Quartet), Orson Scott Card is wonderful (I reread Ender’s Game yearly, but his re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty in Enchantment is another fave). The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books always pack an emotional wallop. David Eddings isn’t always consistent, but my YA self will always have an enormous crush on Garion.
    I’m reading Feed by M. T. Anderson right now – it definitely has romance in it, but I’m not sure it will end with an HEA. It’s feeling pretty dystopian and I’m scared the couple may be in for a 1984-style ending.
    I really do love my book reviews with a healthy dose of snark. . . and drinks!

  26. 26
    De says:

    Ally Carter – Heist Society   It’s just light and fun.  I adore heist shows/movies and what could be better than a teenage crew of thieves.

  27. 27
    Liz says:

    a couple of years ago, i took a college class on “childhood in urban settings” and we had to read a few YA books.  The one I really liked was Kiki Strike and the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller, which is about a city built underneath New York City.  There was a sequel: Kiki Strike and the Empress’s Tomb, which I also really liked.  I thought there was going to be a third, but I haven’t been able to find it.

    The other book that we had to read was Its Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, which is apparently being made into a movie.  What i liked about this book was that it explored teen depression and the reactions to it.

  28. 28
    Jennifer says:

    Just chiming in to second the rec for “The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.” I tell my students that Frankie is the anti-Bella. She’s smart, take-charge, and not about to let a boy dictate what she will do or not do. I can’t praise this book enough.

  29. 29
    Sabine says:

    Oh noes! All those amazing books and I don’t have any money! *woe*

    That said, I have to pimp Sarah Rees Brennan’s The Demon’s Lexicon and the Demon’s Covenant! I can’t wait for the third book to come out. I love how she takes well-known tropes and just turns them upside down. And her writing is just wickedly brilliant imho:)

  30. 30
    Francesca too says:

    I’m adding Sherwood Smith “Crown Duel” to the list, a book that I like to reread at least once a year.

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