Last Friday the Romance Writers of America (RWA) announced their RITA award finalists in 12 categories ranging from best first book and historical romance to paranormal romance and the category I paid most attention to"”young adult. Named after the RWA's first president, Rita Clay Estrada, the award recognizes outstanding romance novels and novellas. The 2011 finalists are (in no specific order):
- Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
- Rules of Attraction By Simone Elkeles
- The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
- The Clearing by Heather Davis
- I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan
- The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells
- Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Shroeder
I unfortunately didn't get a chance to read any of the above in the past year (though all are going to the top of my to-read list now). However with releases like Maggie Stiefvater's Linger and the more recent Matched I was still knee-deep in interspecies cuddling and lingering (no pun intended!) eye contact"”and loving every moment of it. I may be well over eighteen but I still treasure the girl-meets-and-falls-for-boy novels I dog-eared and stuffed in between my Biology and Calculus textbooks. So, I wondered, what about my colleagues? What are their beloved romantic reads? Knowing my co-workers it wasn't a surprise that the titles talked about ranged from classic to contemporary, which is why I opened up the criteria a bit, and asked that they tell me about their favorites read either while they were in high school or that take place in high school.
Miriam responded first to my request, talking up George Eliot's Mill on the Floss. As she explains, "After her father's death, Maggie Tulliver is caught between two men, Philip Wakem, who is physically repugnant but loves her with undying devotion, and her cousin's intended, the handsome playboy Stephen Guest. The romantic tension of forbidden love builds between Maggie and Stephen and the outcome of their attraction becomes her undoing. The scenes where they are fighting their attraction to each other are some of the most compelling romantic moments I've ever read."
Colin also favored a classic--A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, which he first read "at some point" during high school. He explained, "I think it's surprisingly romantic. I can't pinpoint a specific scene: The entire time that Lieutenant Henry is recovering from wounds in Italy and Catherine is caring for him is quite lovely, and their time together in the mountains was also romantic. I know that many would argue that there is nothing romantic about their courtship, but I disagree."
On a more contemporary note Ali really liked the irrepressible classic, Forever, by Judy Blume. "My beloved paperback copy, which has traveled the world with me and still lives in my bookshelf, is so ragged and dog-eared I should be embarrassed. But in those painful early teen years when everyone talks to you like a child but you feel like an adult, Judy Blume shot straight from the hip. Her candid story of 18-year-old Kathy's first sexual relationship was one I inhaled, wide-eyed as I discovered that the things I wanted to know but couldn't ask my mother were available to me courtesy of Ms. Blume, who became a friend and a teacher to me and millions of other awkward adolescents."
Ali then went a little further back (in age), excitedly mentioning Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. "This whole book set the tone for my irrational expectations for true love at a young age. Not only are Jess and Leslie clearly made for each other from the moment they meet, they go on to create an entire kingdom in the woods "“ dubbed Terabithia "“ reached only by swinging on a rope across a creek. Paterson's writing deftly and painstakingly toes the line between childhood and adulthood as tragedy strikes, and I've yet to find a more poignant description of grief as felt by a young man. Perhaps not the most sickly sweet love story around, Bridge to Terabithia is about learning to love, and then let go."
Juliet was particularly impressed (like me) with both Maggie Stiefvater's Linger and Lauren Oliver's Delirium. In Delirium, "Alex takes Lena to a secret place outside the city, beyond the suspicious eyes of the society, and introduces her to poetry"”strictly prohibited for its "dangerous" ideas. Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 makes an appearance ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"), as does Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnet 43 ("How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...."), in a trailer lit by candles and a ceiling made of stars. I. DIED. And then I read it a few more times. (And then we made it one of our Best of the Month picks for February.)" In Linger, Juliet called werewolf Sam and human Grace's love, first introduced in 2009's Shiver, as "sweet and satisfying, and Stiefvater infuses the most quotidian moments with magic and love: Sam and Grace reading books together on an old sofa in a tiny local bookstore (catnip for this book-loving, die-hard romantic), Sam writing songs for Grace on his guitar, Sam and Grace drinking coffee together in a greasy diner. In Linger, we meet new werewolf and former rock star Cole St. Clair, who finds his bad-boy ways being reformed in the most appealing way by Isabel, the high-school ice queen brimming with sarcasm and confidence. As Cole finds himself turning towards a straight and narrow path, he manages to melt Isabel's cool exterior, and you'll melt, too."
Last but not least Juliet also noted that she loved the "mysterious romance between angel Daniel and mortal Luce" in Lauren Kate's Fallen series even though "there are still so many unanswered questions about their past lives and relationships, to be (hopefully!) answered in June's Passion. And let's not forget the chivalrous demon Cam, who makes our heart race every time he saunters into a scene."
As for me, outside of a vague memory that Heathcliff and Catherine's love in Wuthering Heights moved me at seventeen, I think Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver is my most romantic read of the past few years. Sam and Grace's devotion to one another is astounding and achieved through Maggie's vivid prose. Yet what really gets me is the first chapter, which surprisingly takes place while Grace is still a young girl and Sam is a wolf. I especially loved the last two lines:
I remember this: his yellow eyes
I never thought I'd see them again
Innocuous enough at first glance but then, given what happens over the course of Shiver and Linger, the simple words depict what defines many teen romances (and some adult ones as well)"”yearning for the impossible.
So while we wait for the July 1st RWA winners announcement we want to know what your most romantic young adult reads are. Feel free to talk about recent young adult lit, classic teen novels, or something you read in high school.