Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Prominent Loves of YA Fiction

One can hardly pick up a YA book these days without having romance flow from the pages. Whether star-crossed, triangle-shaped or just plain complicated, love is a major theme in YA fiction. Some books are solely or mostly about love, while others simply have an underlying love story. Here are a few prominent types of love found in YA:

Star-crossed love
Forever immortalized in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed lovers come from opposite sides of something (trenches, tracks, etc). Maybe the teens are different species, like in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Karou is human while Akiva is seraphim (angel) and their attraction is regarded as unnatural by their own kind. Without spoiling it, their love is a serious matter. However star-crossed lovers aren’t always a matter of species, they can be from opposite sides of the track as well. Both human but still from vastly different backgrounds, June and Day are unlikely comrades in Marie Lu’s Legend. Since one is a prodigy for the Republic and the other is its most wanted criminal, any relationship for June and Day will be complicated. And a love, star-crossed.

The Love Triangle
With the popularity of Team Edward vs. Team Jacob in the Twilight series, one can hardly discuss YA love without a section on love triangles. In most cases, this is a situation where the girl has two distinct boys (usually relative opposites) who could potentially be more-than-friends. Themes of triangle-shaped love can be found in the Wings series by Aprilynne Pike between Laurel, Tamani and David. Laurel’s (human) boyfriend is the safe choice while her faerie companion, Tamani has a more dangerous, mysterious edge.  Also, in the Matched series by Ally Condie, Cassia is torn between Xander and Ky. She is matched with Xander, but Ky might be her true love.

Generally Complicated
Although most romances in YA have elements of complication (otherwise why would we keep reading?) there are some that are just generally complicated. There’s no fantasy element or triangles, just straightforward super-complicated love. One such book is Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and its sequel Where She Went. After Manilyn’s family is in a devastating car accident, she has to decide whether to let in the love of her boyfriend, Adam and whether to continue to live at all. Another example of generally complicated love is Kat and Hale’s relationship in Ally Carter’s Heist Society. Kat is the Robin Hood of teen thievery and Hale is her generous benefactor/friend, which makes it hard to have a normal boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.

Just for Fun
Occasionally in YA we stumble across loves that are fun and new, with only a smattering of complication. These usually appear in light-hearted, adventurous reads and I enjoy diving into them. So, just for fun let’s look at the love of Dash and Lily in their holiday NYC extravaganza in Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. If you found a notebook in a bookshop or library, would you be able to say no to its list of dares? Didn’t think so. Also, Morgan Matson wrote a fun, crushable romance between Amy and Roger in Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour. When Amy needs a companion for a cross-country journey, her mom suggests Roger, her friend’s son. Not only does Amy find a little bit of love, but she finds herself as well.

Happy Late Valentine’s Day!

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