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Realistic Romance

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I wouldn’t consider myself a romance novelist, but when I began to work on my first young adult novel, I realized romance is important. I’ve made a point to study it. At the Oklahoma Retreat last fall (PS don’t forget to register for this fall), Sonia Gensler spoke about writing Romance and Friendship. Two pit falls she gave were insta-love and creepy love. Immediately I thought of Twilight for insta-love and 50 Shades of Grey for creepy love (every time I read Christian’s dialogue I heard Hannibal Lector and I could never finish the book). Those relationships didn’t cut it for me. I wanted to connect with something real. So I reflected on the best relationship I know, my own.

I remember my first date with my husband. It wasn’t insta-love. I thought to myself this guy is sharp looking. He showed up in a Lincoln LS, dressed in boots, jeans, and a nice ironed shirt. He had no facial hair and the longest military cut he could get away with. I would later learn that he actually bought the car an hour earlier to impress me, and I accidently peeled off a little tint (I’d mistaken it for scotch tape), oops. For our first date, he took me to Barnes and Nobles and to a local spot that made great messy nachos (He knew they were a favorite). What more could a girl want? To top it off when we were dating the NY Giants won every playoff game and the Super Bowl. It was apparent I needed to marry this guy. Or at least that’s the story I tell. But honestly, it’s because we grew as people and continue to grow as people. It’s been messy at times and he challenges me to be my best. I love that I am here to help him build his dreams and he is here for mine. I move from state to state for him and he reads all my crappy rough drafts. Together we grow.

Characters in general need to grow. Characters in romantic relationships need difficulties, growth, and change because that’s what makes them real. Quality book relationships are sloppy like my nachos and as readers we can’t help but devour them. I’ve found real romance in both John Greene’s An Abundance of Katherines and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park.

“Spoiler Alert” In An Abundance of Katherines, the main character, Colin is a child prodigy who recently went through a break up with Katherine, the 19th Katherine to break up with him. His best friend Hassan convinces him to go on a road trip to get his mind off of her. Colin meets Lindsey in a town called Gunshot where her Mom gives him a job. She has a boyfriend and Colin is still obsessed with Katherine the 19th, yet these two are forced to work together. Colin realizes Lindsey is putting on a show for everyone else and he gets her to open up about her private self. Lindsey teaches Colin, a child prodigy lacking social skills, to tell stories properly. There you have it, together they grow and change.

“Spoiler Alert” In Eleanor and Park it is definitely not insta-love. Park considers himself an outsider, a half Korean in a very, 1980s, Omaha, Nebraska. Even in his family all the men are tall, but he takes after his mother. Then Eleanor gets on the bus and she’s an even bigger outsider — chubby with bright, crazy red hair, and she dresses in men’s clothing. She’ll be bullied and Park wants nothing to do with her to save his own face. Together they are forced to share a bus seat. He realizes she is reading his comics over his shoulder and he starts to let her borrow them. They talk comics and he makes her mixed tapes. He learns that she’s poor and afraid of her step dad. Park invites her over, away from her pain and she enjoys normal family dinners. Eleanor inspires him to be different, to be himself. Park loves her, he’s told her so. But would park protect her even if it means losing her? You should go read the book, seriously, it’s beautiful.

Both these stories had me laugh out loud and cry. These authors nailed real romance, do you know of any others?

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