Magic in Realistic Romance

Shannon Marshall, Assistant EditorFor the record, I’m a fan of paranormal and fantastical romance.  Dangle the magical, epic love stories within “Evermore,” “The Dark Divine,” “The Forest of Hands and Teeth” or the “Twilight” series before me…and I bite only to get hooked…big time.  This love of epic fantasy has been developing within me since childhood.  Begin with Robinhood and Maid Marian, add a dash of Guinivere and King Arthur (with Morgan le Fay for a bit of scandal), stir in a wildy inappropriate dose of The Lord of the Rings and a Harry Potter obsession…and yes, you could say that my imagination wouldn’t be what it is today without a healthy dose of the fantastical imaginations of others.

When times are tough, and a mere glance at recent headlines will prove that times are tough for just about everyone right now, people love to escape.  Publishers have taken notice…they’re filling the YA sections of our bookstores and libraries with enough paranormal romance literature to satiate even the most voracious reader of the genre.  And while a part of me is cheering on this seemingly endless parade of deserving authors and worthy tales, another part of me has noticed that realistic romance stories for teens have become strangely absent amongst the bookshelves.

Photo courtesy of Shanissinha (

This is short-sighted and here’s why. Teen romance books showcase the magic in everyday life…the sort of magic that occurs when you see the boy next door and fall in love. It’s magic when someone sees everything about you that is ordinary and truly believes that these qualities make you extraordinary.  It’s magic when you get a second chance to make a first impression. It’s magic when every second of every day is charged with the energy of the possibility of romance.  In short, it’s magic when you’re in love…and when someone loves you back.

Author Sarah Dessen has turned this simple message into nine bestselling books.  Dessen knows that a boy doesn’t need Edward Cullen’s good looks, money or immortality to be worthy of love.  Dessen’s books simply and adeptly explore how two people get over past damages and connect. Her thoughtful construction of characters proves that it is possible to learn to count on someone no matter how many people have let you down in the past.  This message–of trust, hope and friendship in a world where half of all marriages end in divorce is magic indeed.

The ABCs of Kissing BoysYARN has been thrilled to feature the work of teen-romance author, Tina Ferraro, whose three books: “Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress,” “How to Hook a Hottie,” and “The ABC’s of Kissing Boys,” explore the spine tingling, blush inducing, adrenaline racing reality of everyday romance.  If you still have doubts about whether a realistic romance can match that of a paranormal tale, take a minute to meet Tristan in “The ABC’s”… spend a few minutes grinning like an idiot…revisit age sixteen (if you’re way past it, like I am), then declare me right.  And I’m not the only one who thinks so…”The ABC’s” was just nominated for a 2010 Romance Writers of America RITA award for Young Adult romance.

The difference between realistic teen romance books and paranormal romance is simply this–the magic in a realistic teen romance book is real. It can happen. There is magic in our everyday lives. And because of this, I think there is room for both of these books on the shelves.

Note: Next week we’ll be publishing “The Flipside Part 2” by Tina Ferraro.  This is a companion story to “The ABC’s.” While you wait, check out “The Flipside Part 1” and enter our contest to win a signed copy of the “The ABC’s of Kissing Boys.” Enter once by declaring yourself as an entrant on our Facebook page or on Twitter.  Want five entries in your name? Write a 140 character poem (or 3 lines) themed around spring romance and submit it to @YaReviewNet on Twitter or on our Facebook homepage.

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3 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Susan Young says:

    I absolutely appreciate realistic fiction, and I know it will “come back” once the glittery vampire fad has faded. The voices of such writers as Sarah Dessen, Judy Blume, and J.D. Salinger will absolutely continue to resonate for anyone who is or was a confused adolescent.
    I admire how YA author Francesca Lia Block seamlessly blends gritty, concrete realism (issues like homosexuality, alienation, etc) with fairy-tale elements. The eloquent, poetic language of her prose makes the magical events that occur seem plausible for her characters.

  2. Shannon Marshall says:

    Excellent point, Susan. Francesca Lia Block does an excellent job of blending realism and fairytales. I’ve just begun to read “Ash” by Malinda Lo, which I believe will be using the language of fantasy and fairytales to heighten the realistic emotions of the main character, as well. Looking forward to it.

  3. Julie says:

    I imagine it is. nice read, glad I found this.

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