Young Love

“MS. CHARNES, IN your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of romance and/or relationship in YA Fiction?”

My head bobs up. I had been looking out the window, dozing with my eyes open. “Wha… Huh?”

My professor looks all smug, like catching me daydreaming on a Friday afternoon is oh-so rare. “I’ll repeat the question. In your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of romance and/or relationship in YA Fiction?”

I clear my throat. Time for some industrial strength B.S. “Strengths? It can make a character more empathetic. In the Hunger Games, Katniss’s relationship to Peeta and the little girl from the other district gave her a humanity she would have otherwise lacked. Weakness? It can be an unnecessary distraction from the main plot. Katniss’s love triangle between Peeta and the Hemsworth kid distracted from the more pressing need to overthrow a tyrannical government.” I take a drink of cold coffee to show I’m done.

“Interesting,” my professor murmurs and starts to pace, hands behind her back. “So, then, what impact does it have on readers?”

Didn’t I answer that already? I refrain from an eye roll. “Relationships can make a character either more likable or more obnoxious. It’s a balancing act, I think.”

My professor nods. “All right, then. To you, what are the characteristics of a realistic romance relationship in YA?”

“Realistic?” I don’t bother to hide my smirk. “I thought we were talking about YA.”

There are snickers from my other classmates. My professor shoots me the stink eye. “People who disparage YA do so at their own detriment. Works like The Hate U Give, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars prove YA can be just as profound and thought provoking as any adult work of fiction.”

I don’t point out that two of those three books are by John Green, and I’m not about to argue with her on whether they are realistic or not. “Characteristics of a realistic romantic relationship in a YA book.” I scratch my chin and put on my best thoughtful look. “So, it’s like this. There’s a boy and a girl. They go to school together. They don’t like each other, but they don’t hate each other. It’s all, whatever. The girl starts dating a guy the boy hangs out with. The boy starts dating a girl the girl hangs out with. The girl breaks up with the boy and moves on to another boy. The boy breaks up with the girl and starts dating another girl. This goes on for a while until the boy and girl meet at the food court. The boy’s like, you want to go out? The girl’s like, okay. They go get a Jamba Juice. The end.”

The class breaks out into applause. I stand up and bow.

My professor shakes her head, her lips twisting in a vain attempt to not smile. “All right, all right. There’s realistic, and there’s that. Anybody else want to give it a shot?”

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Photo by Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash

Written for Weekend Writing Prompt #14: Romance/Relationships in YA Fiction

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