Do you remember the first time you fell in love? The embarrassing flush of heat to your cheeks, the flock of hummingbirds in your stomach, and the way your heartbeat suddenly skyrocketed every time the object of your affection was near? Oh, young love! Had we only known that it was all just a chemical reaction in our brains—nothing more than a surge of hormones and the effects of thousands of years of DNA encoded survival mechanisms. Even if we’d known, we wouldn’t have believed it. Have you ever tried convincing a sixteen-year-old that they aren’t “in love”?
Thanks for hosting me today, Babette. I’d like to chat with your readers about Young Adult Romance. What is it that draws us in, even though most of us are far beyond our teens? Is it the quicker pace? Is it the emotional angst? Or does it come down to that innate desire to fall in love for the first time, over and over again?
As the author of young adult fiction, I write somewhat gritty stories about teens in crisis—usually from dysfunctional families. But at the heart of every story, I can’t help but have a sweet romance. Those first kisses, steamy “almost” moments, and the inherent family drama that comes with teen life are all perfect fodder for engaging fiction. And who doesn’t love a “hopefully ever after” ending? The sense that there is so much more to come after we’ve turned the last page, and the idea that if these crazy mixed-up teenagers can figure it out and find love, maybe we can too.
From the time we’re little, fairy tales give us princes and princesses searching for that one true love who will lead them to their happy ending. Heroes who will fight dragons and wicked queens, sail the high seas, or endure whatever torment is necessary to reach their beloved, believing that their souls will remain incomplete until they are reunited. And then there were those pining princesses who awaited rescue in the tower. Only in our most romantic, hormone addled brains does this seem plausible. It seems impossible that so many of us have been conditioned to believe in this truth and that we seek it out in our earliest relationships. But we have—for generations.
It’s no wonder the divorce rate is so high! Talk about a let-down! Thanks to those hormones and propagation of the species genes, we still fall in love and vow to share our lives “til death do us part”, but no one ever mentioned that Prince Charming snores, has bad breath on occasion, or smells like a goat when he comes home after a long day of dragon slaying. Or that the Princess looks a whole lot different without the tiara, eyeliner, and ball gown. Yes, every princess has a bad hair day now and then, but no one mentioned cellulite! The reality is far from the fairy tale, yet we keep yearning for it to be true and we want to escape into worlds where that truth exists. It’s why we keep reading romance, no matter our age.
But today’s romances aren’t our mother’s romances—especially now that up and coming authors are challenging the myth and young adult books offer so much more. With the state of our current culture, I think today’s teenagers—and readers in general—are a bit more skeptical and a lot savvier. Books and writers are adapting to that change. Hormones and DNA will always mean that humans still want the fairy tale ending, but today’s youth have seen the consequences of wearing rose-colored glasses. With many parents working on a second or third marriage, let’s face it, teenagers are growing up in a very different world than we did and they are tired of broken promises and lies. Even when they are escaping into TV, blasting their music, or reading a book, they want to find the truth of who they are and what life can be. They need to know that there are heroes and heroines who can stand on their own—characters who will fight together for a common cause and win because they are better together than apart, not because they can’t live without each other or are somehow incomplete in and of themselves.
The fact is, nothing defeats us as humans more than unrealistic expectations. Romance novels, whether for adults or teens, have come a long way in this regard. Yes, they continue to stand on the same platform of true love conquers all (because really, doesn’t it?), and that it’s possible to find lasting happiness with another person (there are still plenty of couples who stay together for a lifetime). But these days, largely thanks to reading tons of great YA books, I’m reading novels with strong heroines, equal partnerships, and more than just the chemical reaction that is ignited when pheromones collide(although there’s a lot of very steamy YA out there). Lately I’m finding more characters with depth who respect each other and allow individuality to shine. Characters who encourage each other to be the best they can be. Characters who are willing to make sacrifices, compromise on occasion, and who are willing to learn and grow. The kind of adults I think we all want our kids to grow up to be. Kudos to the authors writing these kinds of role models for our teen readers!
Of course they all start out stubborn, somewhat foolish, and starry-eyed, but eventually, they come to their senses and see what it takes to build on a foundation of friendship and create a love that lasts forever…and isn’t that what true love really is? I like to think I’m imparting those messages in all of my books.
My recent release, PIECES of LOVE, is no exception.
Sixteen year-old Alexis Hartman wants nothing more than to smoke pot and play guitar. Getting high and escaping into her music seems the perfect solution when her world is shattered by her sister’s death. But when she’s arrested for possession a second time, life couldn’t get any more complicated. Her mother’s breakdown is the final straw that forces Lexi to spend the summer on the West Coast with her grandmother, Maddie. When Lexi steps over the line one too many times, she’s certain her life is over and that she’s destined for juvenile detention—until Maddie decides that desperate measures are called for. A three week Mediterranean cruise—for seniors.
Eighteen year-old Ethan Kaswell, the poster child for good sons, is stranded on the cruise when his father, a famous heart surgeon, is called away. With his own life perfectly mapped out, Ethan finds Lexi’s unpredictability irresistible. Although he’s smart enough to see that there is no future in falling for a “vacation crush,” Lexi’s edgy dark side draws him like an anchor to the bottom of the sea. As the two embark on the journey of a lifetime, will Lexi finally learn to love someone—even when she has to let them go?
What is it about young love that sucks you in? Any favorite YA romances? What about it did you like the most?
PJ is happy to gift an e-book copy of one of her other YA Novels, including HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES, ON THIN ICE, SAVAGE CINDERELLA, WANING MOON, or WESTERN DESERT. Reader’s choice! Contest ends Saturday, August 16TH at midnight. Simply leave a comment below and a valid email address to be entered.
Read the first chapter of Pieces of Love on Wattpad:
You can buy Pieces of Love at:
Award winning author of young adult books, Massage Therapist, Personal Trainer, and Yogi, PJ Sharon has been called “a powerhouse of positivity and productivity.” Her mantra is “find balance in all things, and live every day to the fullest.” A black belt in the art of Shaolin Kempo Karate, avid kayaker, and singer of Italian art songs, PJ has two grown sons and lives with her brilliant engineer husband in the Berkshire Hills of Western MA where she writes YA…because every teen deserves a hopefully ever after.
You can find PJ at: