Romance is a widely popular genre around the world. It has been a marketable adult genre for a long time now, but young adult romance has proven incredibly successful and is becoming a common trend as the young adult category grows ever more popular. So, what does romance look like in young adult novels, and how does it differ from new adult and adult novels? It often addresses themes of early or first love and explores a wide range of questions about sexuality. Where new adult and adult novels tend to focus on more mature topics, young adult novels are unique in their focus on young characters and developmental experiences. Young adult stories focus on the transition between childhood and becoming an adult, and romance can be a big part of that development. When written well, young adult romance can be incredibly appealing to readers of all ages.
In this article, you’ll find:
- Who does YA romance right
- What goes into YA romance
- Why write YA romance
Who Does YA Romance Right
Writing young adult romance in a believable, relatable way is an art. It takes understanding a young person’s perspective and recognizing what love means to people that age. John Green is famous for writing stories about young love. The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns are just a few examples of how he captures the teenage perspective and develops narratives about first love and the struggles that come with young relationships. Becky Albertalli sets another example of a strong young adult romance in her novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which addresses sexuality as a teen and how that can conflict with the desire to be seen as “normal.” And The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, tells a very raw and real story about teens learning to be comfortable with themselves and their sexuality. Writing young adult romance takes finesse, but when done well, these stories can impact a broad audience.
What Goes into YA Romance
So, how do you write impactful young adult romance? Writing for a young audience requires several considerations. It means looking at the world through young eyes. What might the world look like? How might you perceive love or attraction? Growing up entails a lot of inexperience and uncertainty, and exploring love is no different.
Start by considering the perspective. Teens often feel awkward and self-conscious when experiencing something they’ve never done. That’s true for anyone, but growing up requires having a lot of firsts, and with those firsts comes uncertainty. For example your character could be struggling with their self image or unable to form their words correctly in front of the person they like because they’ve never felt that way before or perhaps never told anyone about their feelings until that moment.
How many of us found the love of our life the first time we set eyes on them in middle school, and that was that? Happily ever after, the end. The odds are astronomical. More often young adults feel attraction toward many people. Their emotions change and shift, allowing for many potential relationships, and that should be true in young adult stories too. Don’t fall back on love at first sight and head straight into a happily ever after. Make your protagonist like multiple characters. Let them learn to love someone they hadn’t realized they would like. These complex emotions and challenging situations are relatable.
Coming of age means asking lots of questions, about sexuality, attraction, how the body works. These moments of growth and learning are important when forming authentic young adult characters. People don’t know exactly how to kiss or have sex well before they’ve done it, and neither should your characters.
A major part of growing up involves relationships with people who are the same age. This is a useful thing to consider when writing a realistic young adult story. Address your character’s peers. What are their relationships, and how do those relationships impact them? Do their friends support their romantic relationships? What romantic relationships are their friends in? Developing the characters around your protagonist will give them depth and add dimension to your story.
Everyone has flaws: physical, emotional, moral. No one is perfect, and your characters shouldn’t be either. They don’t have to have perfect bodies. They can struggle with what it means to fall in love. They could even cheat on their significant other and learn how that choice impacts them. Coming of age stories are about learning and growing, not immediate perfection. And the more your characters learn and grow, the better your readers will relate to them.
Remember to take age into consideration. When writing young adult romance, age differences become more significant. After all, three years doesn’t seem important when one person is thirty-one and the other is thirty-four. But if one person is fifteen, and the other is eighteen, that crosses the line into inappropriate. It is also important to consider the level of physical intimacy that would be right for your character’s age. Think about what kind of affection a thirteen-year-old might attempt. That will be different from someone who’s seventeen.
The attraction has to be believable. Why would your character like the person they do? Are they kind? Funny? Engaging? It’s often a combination of several different attributes that draws one person to another. Avoid physical attraction as the main driving force. The crutch of a hunky guy or a beautiful girl with no other appealing traits is overdone, and the story can fall flat when readers find no depth to the attraction. It’s one thing to fall in love with a pretty face and something else entirely to fall in love with someone who can make you laugh or hold a deep conversation.
It takes time to develop attraction naturally. Realistic relationships require connection, conversation, and the transition into recognizing one’s feelings. Telling someone you like them doesn’t typically happen spontaneously. It takes time and thought and courage. This is true for storybook love as well.
Emotional content is a major part of young adult love. Young love entails a lot of anxiety, yearning, and uncertainty. When writing emotional content, think about how it feels to move past doubt. What would it be like to take that first romantic step? First love is exhilarating and requires daring and confidence. These emotions make the romance multifaceted and realistic.
Make the romance relatable. Vulnerabilities, struggles, and overcoming challenges develop engaging characters. In young adult romance, you want to strive for growth rather than idolization. It’s important to help your characters learn and change as they discover love because that is a major part of what makes a story young adult.
Why Write YA Romance
Young adult books can appeal to a broad audience, ranging from young readers to mature adults, and well-written young adult romance sells. This entails well-rounded scenes, complex characters, and deep emotions. First romances are incredibly relatable and appeal to a wide readership. That is why young adult romance is so popular.
Need help building the romance in your young adult novel? HGW can help! Our staff of skilled ghostwriters can assist in creating a YA romance that your readers will love. Check us out at HotGhostWriter.com, and get started today.