When I was younger, I could barely read a book without some sort of love story involved. I would zoom through plot to get to the parts where the heroine and hero would finally reveal their love for each other, finally realize they were soul mates. The soul mate principle, as explored by many authors with various theories and ideas within the context of YA lit, was a passion. At night, I would wish to the world that I would find my truest love. My teen years were filled with the idea that some day I would find that person who would defy death for even me. I'll never forget in middle school we were reading some love story, and our teacher asked us to pen an answer to the question, "Is love worth dying for?" This was a time when Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was my newest and favorite-st movie and Bryan Adam's "Everything I do, I do it for you," made my heart fill so much I felt it would burst. Yes! I fervishly wrote my answer, love is worth dying for!
You think you'll never change, your beliefs will always be the same. That your passionate believe in something so true will last forever. Then, suddenly you're in your thirties, much wiser, and you laugh a little at your silly younger self, all the while feeling guilty for letting that idealistic, naive girl down.
When did I stop believing in the "soul mate"? While I'm not sure, it could be when I met my husband—my life mate, which I believe to be based on something much stronger. And yet, while my reading tastes have broadened through the years and my love of plot is evident in my own writing and thought processes, I still embrace the love stories—fantasy, contemporary lit, chick lit, YA—whatever the genre. I will never understand the hate-on of the "insta-love" in books, because to me it's escape, fantasy, idealized versions of love, cosmic connections, and allowing yourself to believe that the worst thing that could tear you from your soul mate is some apocalyptic war that will ultimately be stopped in the end. The belief that goodness prevails and happiness can be found. Love is love, and I'm all in.
YA love stories allows those of who are older to relive that passion, and even though many would scoff at the "insta-love" connections, instant attraction and connections happen every day—in real life. YA love stories are often truly reflective of the big emotions of youth and a breakup can seem like the world is ending, that true love has been thwarted. But trust me, it hasn't.
While I'm reflective on the wisdom that has come from age and experience, some beliefs may have shifted, yet they remain the same. I do believe in true love. I see it every day in the face of my son. I do believe in spending the rest of your life with someone. My husband and I have laughter and new adventures planned for our silver years. I do believe in dying for love, not in the jump-off-a-bridge-because-I-got-dumped, which is ridiculous and even as a teen I had better presence of mind. But I would put myself in harm's way if the people I love were in danger, as would many people. #mamabear
The truth is, I will always be a sucker for a good love story, whether it's realistic or riddled in fantasy, in life and in the pages of stories. After all, great love between lovers, family, and friends is what life is truly about. That's why reading is so magical, because for a short time we find new adventures and characters to love, ones that can help us find insights within ourselves or provide a relaxing or stimulating escape from reality.
“Where there is love there is life.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Don't miss the Valentine's Day-themed episode of the Quirky Book Sirens, where we'll talk about what makes a good love story in literature. Feel free to chime in with any suggestions!
When I was in middle school the most risky, scintillating book we read covertly in the hallways and during study halls was Go Ask Alice. This book about a teenage girl who spirals into drug addiction was about much deeper issues, obviously. But I can remember reading alongside my friends passages filled with cursing and sex. It was horrifying and yet at the same time, exciting to read such gritty, dark stuff. A cursory look at Amazon shows me it's still a bestseller. But I wonder if teens have the same reaction me and my peers had back in the day, or do they possibly read it now for it's true content? Because I've noticed a shift in YA that's more mature and sexual in nature.
Back in my day when I was reading the likes of RL Stine, Christopher Pike, Richie Tankersley Cusick, and LJ Smith, the teens in those books stayed pretty clean. There were no sex scenes, nor were they ever really implied. Pike bordered a little bit more on the risky side of sex, but it was still fairly chaste. Flash forward and as a woman in my thirties, I've read a number of YA books that have sex. Take the House of Night series by Kristin and PC Cast, which even goes so far as to portray oral sex in scenes. I recently read the Goddess Test series by Aimee Carter, and while there's no sex scenes, sex is definitely happening and is heavily implied.
When I wrote Fractured Dream, the first in my epic fantasy series, I did not write directly for any age group. My intention was to just write a high fantasy adventure novel, much like the ones I'd read growing up found in the Fantasy/Sci-fi section of the book store. So when I put one sex scene in it, I assumed it would be marketed for more adult audiences even though I'd increasingly been reading YA books with sex in them.
Once it was out in the market, however, Fractured Dream began to get slotted into the YA category by readers and bloggers. And while there have been a couple of readers I've noticed who thought perhaps the sexual content was more adult than it should be in the YA genre, sex seems to be a more accepted element in YA books overall.
And yet, had I been writing with a strictly teen audience in mind, I would have left that scene out, truthfully. Even despite knowing that I read all sorts of graphic sex scenes as a young reader from books outside the YA genre. When I started writing The Reaper's Daughter I always had a YA audience in mind for it and like the books of my day, it's more Christopher Pike-ish in the sex department.
I do think the change going on in YA of today, however, is an attempt to be realistic. Teens do have sex. They deal in all sorts of situations and to portray them all as virgins or never really addressing sex between young characters is not based in reality. This shift in YA makes writing it a bit more exciting, because there can be a more gritty factor, and that's what I like to do best, write fantasy and paranormal around relationships based in a real context.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? IS YA GROWING UP?
K.M. Randall writes fantasy and paranormal for both a general and young adult audience. Her debut novel, an epic fantasy called Fractured Dream, launched in June 2014, and her second book, The Reaper's Daughter, launched May 2015. Randall also published Fairytale Lost, a prequel to Fractured Dream, as an exclusive on Wattpad. She blogs about dreams, female heroines, and activism and its relevancy to the literary and fictional world. And when in the season, sometimes she just likes to talk about Halloween. She is currently hard at work on the second book in the Dreamer Saga series, Shattered World.