School will be out soon, so I wanted to recommend a couple of books for teens and pre-teens: Drawn and The London Eye Mystery. Both take place in England, a favorite destination for me and a lot of travelers.
DRAWN by Marie Lamba
Young Adult Time Travel, 2012
Michelle DeFreccio, an American teenager just moved to England, is a talented and sensitive artist. Her father has started teaching at an upscale English academy, which Michelle now attends. She hopes to start over without the baggage of her past, namely her “psychic” mother and schizophrenic brother and the label De-Freak-O.
But life in England has its own challenges. As an American, she’s not always sure how to navigate the social divide within her school. More troubling are the pictures she finds herself sketching of a young man in Medieval garb, a young man named Christopher who refuses to stay on the page. Before Michelle knows it, she is drawn into the past where her presence changes things, not always for the better. Worse, she’s in love with a man who died long ago and there’s nothing she can do to save him. Or is there? She tries to figure out what happened in the past in order to change things, sometimes with terrible consequences.
I was so impressed by this book. I was utterly “drawn” into it by the great story and wonderful writing. One of the best YA novels I’ve read in recent years. Five stars.
THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY
by Siobahn Dowd
Middle Grade mystery, Random House, 2007
Ted Sparks is budding meterologist who sees the world through the language of the weather. A 12-year-old genius, Ted also suffers with high-functioning Asperger’s Syndrome. His brain is wired differently than most people’s which allows him to see connections between things and people that others miss.
This comes in handy when his 13-year-old cousin, Salim, disappears while riding the London Eye. Salim and his mother, Aunt Gloria, come to town to visit with Ted, his parents and his older sister Kat, often referred to by Ted as Katastrophe. Salim and Aunt Gloria are on their way to live in New York, but Salim doesn’t want to go. Is his disappearance from the Eye a crime or the ill-fated prank of a disgruntled teenager?
Ted and Kat work together (somewhat reluctantly at times) to solve the mystery of Salim’s disappearance and are surprised to find that they make a good team. Ted may be the genius, but Kat is pretty smart, too, in a more practical way.
Ted’s narration is a delight. I love his voice and the interesting and strange connections he makes in his brilliant mind. Though he doesn’t have good social skills, he tries to learn appropriate responses, and his quirks become endearing to the reader. Very enjoyable read.
Barb Caffrey is here today to tell us about writing romances for young adults and beyond. Barb and I both have short stories in the new anthology, Exquisite Christmas.
Writing Realistic Romances for Young Adults and Beyond
By Barb Caffrey
I’m delighted to be making an appearance at Linda McLaughlin/Lyndi Lamont’s blog today. I hope you’ll enjoy my stay…and check out Linda/Lyndi’s post over at my blog site, affectionately known as the Elfyverse as well!
When I first started writing the novel that became the Elfy duology (part one being AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, part two being A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE), I had no idea that it was the first step toward writing a realistic take on young love. My hero, Bruno the Elfy, was young, short and not from this Earth at all; he felt he had nothing whatsoever to offer anyone, and was told he was too green to even be looking.
As most readers of romance novels know, that’s often the best type of protagonist for a romantic hero. Someone who is not looking for love, but finds it anyway, can be delightful to read about. And when you see a pair of young lovers like Bruno and his girlfriend, the mostly human Sarah, discovering just what love is about, it reminds us of our own first steps toward finding a romantic partner that suited us way back when.
You see, when you have a pair of teenagers, you have more license to talk about how they feel. They don’t know exactly what it is that they want from their romantic partner just yet, because they don’t have a lot of experience. (In the case of Bruno and Sarah, they had exactly zero experience between them. Neither had so much as kissed another person.) All they know is that they want…something. Affection, assuredly, and friendship, and caring, and maybe if they’re lucky, a deeper commitment…but it all starts with being willing to try to be open, and to try to make some sort of a connection on the friendship level.
Now, when you write a romance meant for adult readers, a wholly different set of circumstances comes into play. For example, my characters Marja and Tomas from “Marja’s Victory” and “To Hunt the Hunter” in the Exquisite Christmas anthology are both at least middle-aged. Marja is a shapeshifter and a woman of size who makes no bones about the fact that she’s not beautiful – she doesn’t even want to be. (When she takes on other forms that are conventionally attractive, she does so because it helps her profession as a detective and bounty hunter, that’s all.) And Tomas, her lover, is a telepathic mountain Troll who doesn’t like to wear shoes and apparently doesn’t care much for the company of other Trolls.
How did these two end up together? My hunch is that they became business partners first, and found they were congenial in other ways later.
All I knew for certain when I started writing “Marja’s Victory” (the first of the two stories in Exquisite Christmas) is that both had been hurt by others in love. But somehow, some way, they became close to one another, and fell in love, warts and all.
But perhaps I should show you what I mean by giving you a few examples of the difference between writing Bruno and Sarah’s more innocent romance and Marja and Tomas’s adult tale.
First, here’s an excerpt from A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE from p. 277-8:
Sarah turned to him, and said, “I know you love me, Bruno. And I haven’t said it back to you, not yet.”
“You haven’t felt well, either,” Bruno pointed out. “We have been through a lot.”
“That doesn’t matter. Just so you know,” she glanced up through her eyelashes, “I do love you. I did from the moment I saw you, even when I thought I was too young and you were too old, and that you’d probably not wait for me even if we were both Human, or both Elfy. And I want to be with you, now and forever.”
“Same here,” Bruno breathed. He felt as if his heart would burst. She’d finally said that she loved him! How much better could it get?
Next, here’s an excerpt from To Hunt the Hunter:
I looked down at the snake. “You may as well change, Stefan. I know who you are, and I know why you’re here.”
A dark-haired teenaged boy coalesced out of the air. He was dressed in a dark mage-robe, his eyes were dark with pupil, and his face wore the oddest smile I’d ever seen. “Have you seen Megyn?”
“No, I haven’t,” I said shortly. I assumed Megyn was one of those rare beauties that everyone adored. “But she’s promised to another.”
“I love her, though. So, so much…” He sat down unceremoniously on a nearby sopha.
“That doesn’t matter. She doesn’t love you, Stefan.” I couldn’t afford to show him any empathy—the man was a thief—but inside, I understood. It hurt to be rejected by someone you thought you loved.
::I’m here now, and I love you. Those other fools who passed on you do not matter anymore. So who cares about them?:: Tomas’s voice whispered into my mind.
Note that both stories have a great deal of action, but as A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE is a novel, it was easier for me to find a straight-up romantic scene. (As soon as I can figure out how to write a longer story about Marja and Tomas, I should be able to rectify that problem!) But you can see at least a few differences here, if you look closely.
First, Bruno and Sarah are obviously young. This is their first and only serious relationship, and they are both respectful of one another and innocent, to boot. (They both like to think they’re not, of course. But that comes with the territory.)
Marja and Tomas, on the other hand, are not young. They have been in a serious relationship for quite some time and work well together. But there is genuine love there, and genuine understanding, besides – note that Tomas says, “Those other fools who passed on you do not matter anymore.” No male of any species would ever say that to a woman if he didn’t truly and deeply love her. And no woman would smile just for him (as Marja does, though I ended the excerpt before she smiled for the sake of brevity) after hearing something like that unless there was genuine love on her part as well.
So, to my mind, the main difference between writing a young adult romance and one between older and more mature lovers is simply this: A young couple doesn’t know exactly what they want out of each other, but they know they want something. Whereas an older couple understands the physical act quite well, and usually knows exactly what they want from a romantic partner — but may have years of bad experiences to get past before making the attempt.
But the magic of love, of belonging, of believing in yourself and your partner, and being understood and appreciated for yourself, is exactly the same regardless of age — which is one reason writing about romance is so very much fun!