The challenges of writing YA romance explained

by
Naomi Rabinowitz
  


For
many, simply expressing the idea of love is difficult enough. Most of us
have said “I love you” to at least one person, but there’s no true
definition for what that means, and it’s the type of statement that has to
be backed by actions. Many turn to cards or poems for help. And I
know several guys who are still too scared to say the actual words to
their significant others.

I
could understand this frustration when crafting the romantic scenes
in my YA novel, REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, because for me, these were the
most difficult to write.

For
starters, teens vary in sexual experience. When you write romantic sections for
an adult book, one can assume that the characters have had other partners, and
that even if someone is a virgin, he or she has at least done some
experimenting. However, you can’t assume this with younger characters. Sure,
teens have sex, but there are just as many 15-year-olds, like my narrator
Melinda, who’ve never even been kissed!

Therefore,
the challenge comes in not only writing about someone’s first kiss with a
particular person, but in writing about a  complete life-changing first for that
character. Writing about a character whose first introduction to romance and sex was, for
me, something that had to be handled gently.

 
An
inexperienced teen wouldn’t necessarily know what he or she’s doing, which
means that several things need to be questioned: Just how explicit should the
romantic scene be? Is it awkward or sweet, or both? What emotions is that
character feeling as the encounter ensues?

All
of these need to be addressed, as well as the fact that your young character’s first kiss — or first time — would be a VERY big deal. This is
why I didn’t have my main characters, Mel and Josh, share a smooch until the
latter half of my story. I wanted readers to savor that lead-up and excitement
to it, right along with my narrator.

That
said, the biggest challenge is in keeping those romance scenes
tasteful, as well as sensual, because you are, after all, writing for a younger
audience. You want them to be able to relate to the things that your characters
are going through and if the characters, and the sexual language, are
steps ahead of them, the scene might just come off as overwhelming. Of course,
you don’t want to patronize your readers, either; the trick is in finding that
balance.

Some
YA books are quite sophisticated, but even the most experienced teens are still
learning about love and romance. In my opinion, the best YA stories capture
that awkward age that’s between childhood and adulthood, love scenes included.




Author Naomi Rabinowitz

Naomi Rabinowitz has always loved being
creative. Raised in Nesconset, NY — a suburb on Long Island — she was
introduced to the arts at an early age.


She had as much passion for music. Though she
began playing piano when she was three, she switched to her “true”
instrument, the flute, when she was nine and eventually added tenor sax and
clarinet to her list so that she could play in jazz band. She performed in
almost every musical group from wind ensemble to orchestra (but never marching
band!). In 2008, she released her jazz album FLUTE PATH.

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Naomi received a B.A. in English from
Binghamton University and an M.A. in magazine journalism from Syracuse
University. From 1998-2012, she worked as a reporter/editor for national TV
magazine Soap Opera Digest.


These days, Naomi writes, plays jazz flute
and designs jewelry for her businesses Naomi’s Designs and MayaGirl Creations.
She lives in Queens, NY with her husband, Jonathan, and their cat, Maya.











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Revenge of a Band Geek Gone Bad
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Shy, overweight sophomore Melinda Rhodes
thinks that her world is falling apart when she loses first chair flute in band
to her nemesis — the beautiful and popular, but nasty Kathy Meadows. Now
doomed to sit second chair, Mel is ready to accept the fact that some people
just aren’t meant to shine.

Her luck changes when she catches the eye of
Josh Kowalski, the rebellious trumpet prodigy and class clown. Josh has also
been hurt by Kathy and persuades Melinda to team up with him so they can take
Kathy down.

At first, the pair’s pranks are harmless, and
as they work together, Mel comes out of her shell. Even better, she finds
herself falling for Josh and it appears as if he might feel the same way about
her.

However, their schemes become more and more
dangerous and Mel is surprised to discover her dark side. Just how far will she
go to get what she wants — and is Josh really worth the risk?

Something to whet your appetite
Josh followed me into the hallway and fell
into step beside me.  “How’d you
like to get your seat back?” he asked. 
Only he said it really quickly so it sounded more like “Howdylikegetaseatack?”
   
“Huh?” 
   
“How’d you like to get your seat back?” he said more slowly.  “How’d you like to knock Kathy back down
to second chair —- or even lower than that?”
    I
sighed and kept walking.  “I’m not
really sure I’m the person you want.”
   
“The Hindemith Sonata,” he blurted, snapping his fingers.  “That’s what you played last year at the
band recital.  It was very good.”
    I
stopped walking, surprised by the compliment. 
“Thanks.”
   
“Kathy played a Mozart piece and wasn’t nearly as good as
you,” he went on.  “I remember
that, too.  That’s how I know she
shouldn’t have beaten you today.”
    I
was beginning to understand why Josh was so popular; he had this way of making
you feel at ease and like everything you say is important.  My initial nervousness at being around him
washed away.  Yet I wasn’t entirely
convinced that this guy was on my side. 
How could I trust someone who tormented Mr. Francis on almost a daily
basis?
    He
bit his lip and was quiet for a moment. 
“Look, I have some issues with Kathy, too,” he admitted.  “I asked her out this summer at a party we
were both at.  And you know what she
did?  She didn’t just say no.  She spilled a large Coke on my head in front
of everyone and then posted photos of me online.  Can you believe that?”
    I’d
missed seeing these photos, but couldn’t help laughing at the thought of him
dripping with Coke, his ego shattered.  I
covered my mouth so he couldn’t see me, but he did.  “Yeah, yeah, it was hilarious,” he
said, rolling his eyes.  “She
apparently had some boyfriend there with her who I didn’t know about so she was
mad at me for daring to approach her. 
But she didn’t have to be such a beyotch.”  He shook his head, obviously still pained by
the memory.  “My point is, she
messed with me and now she messed with you. 
If we don’t stop her, she’ll do it to someone else.”
   
“I guess.  But to be fair,
Kathy didn’t really do anything today,” I said.  “It was Mr. Francis who flipped out and
I should probably be thankful that he didn’t make me last chair.”
   
Josh’s blue eyes narrowed. 
“So you think Kathy’s innocent in this?  Oh, please. 
Who do you think snapped your spring out of place?
   
“What?”  This hadn’t
even crossed my mind.  Could Kathy have
done that to me?  No, there was no
way.  The spring was really small and she
would’ve had to have gotten really close to my instrument in order to do
that.  “She didn’t,” I
said.  “If she did, I would’ve felt
it.”
   
Josh held up the wallet which I kept in my purse.  “You didn’t feel me taking this.”
    I
angrily snatched it out of his hand and stuffed it back into my bag.  I then realized I’d been so busy listening to
Josh  that I’d missed my bus.  “Damn it!”  I muttered.
   
“What?”  He held up his
hands.  “I swear, I didn’t take
anything from your wallet!”
   
“No, it’s not that,” I explained.  “I missed my bus.”
   
Josh smiled.  “Hey, no
problem.  I can give you a ride.”
   
“Really?  It’s no big
deal.  I can just walk…”
   
“Well, I don’t think you can really walk in those jeans.”
    He
was right.  I didn’t need everyone else
to see my granny panties and I could be doing worse things than riding home
with a hot guy.  “Okay,
thanks.”
   
“But there’s just one condition,” he said, as we made our way
to the parking lot.  “In exchange
for this ride, you give me just one chance to help you get your seat back.  If it doesn’t work or you don’t like what I’m
doing, I’ll leave you alone.”
   
“I don’t know…”
   
“Oh, come on.  I gave you my
jacket.  I’m giving you a ride home…
it’s the least you can do.  Do it for the
guy who got a bucket of soda dumped over him?”
    I laughed despite myself.  “Okay, one chance.”
   
“Oh, good!”  he said,
clapping his hands.  “Let’s get
ready to bring Kathy down.”

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