Showing Romance in YA Fiction


love noteValentine’s Day is tomorrow, so today’s writing tip ties in with the “day of love” – how do you include romance in your story? And another good question might be – what do you think about romance in YA and middle grade fiction? Is it true to life?

One online dictionary I found defines romance as “Love, especially romantic love idealized for its purity or beauty.”

So how is that shown in YA or MG novels, when you don’t want to get into bedroom scenes or other physical things that can get too deep? Many times, we can show it by the physical reactions your characters might have (those stomach flips, pitter-pattering hearts, or heated faces) or the little things they do to show the other character that they care (texting a “<3,” leaving a note in the character’s backpack or locker).

Here are a few examples from MG or YA books I’ve read:

  • Walt Jenkins is looking at me, and his eyes are the same blue as the sky above. He’s a handsome man; I’ve said it before. I remember our one awkward dance at the Avengerette last year and the whispering it caused. I remember the rough warmth of his hand in mine. … I blush furiously, and Walt notices it. (Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith, pg. 264)
  • Turning, Olivia expected to find her mom and Jake, but she ran right into Justin. “Where are you off to so fast?” Piercing blue eyes sparkled just inches from her face. Welcome back, butterflies. (The Wishing Pearl by Nicole O’Dell, pg. 340)
  • Hand in hand, we walk toward the Pit. I monitor the pressure of my hand carefully. One minute, I feel like I’m not gripping hard enough, and the next, I’m squeezing too hard. I never used to understand why people bothered to hold hands as they walked, but then he runs one of his fingertips down my palm, and I shiver and understand it completely. (Divergent by Veronica Roth, pg. 333)

Merchants DaughterSee, you don’t have to go into lots of detail or get super wordy to show romance in YA or MG books. You also don’t have to paint every single detail. After all, readers are smart and can figure out what you’re telling them. Just give them the idea, and it’ll work.

Your turn: Which is your favorite example from above? Which one can you “feel” the most when you read it, or does one seem more realistic to you than the others? Tell us what you think!

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