What’s a Young Adult Romance?
Posted by Amanda Brice Nov 5 2012, 12:01 am
Tomorrow Americans head to the polls to choose our next president (as well as a bunch of other elections and ballot initiatives). For me this holds another milestone…8 years since I started writing my first manuscript!
But I’m not going to talk about politics today. I’m going to talk about something equally controversial — the change to the Golden Heart and RITA category known as “Young Adult Romance.”
The Romance Writers of America board recently made waves in the writing world by rewriting the category definitions for the prestigious Golden Heart® (for unpublished manuscripts by unpublished writers) and RITA® (for traditionally-published books).
It’s long been understood that a genre romance novel required a happily ever after (HEA), and that the main plot focused on the romance. Other elements could be at play, but the story was the journey of the hero and the heroine as they overcame obstacles together to grow in their relationship and end up together.
Within the larger genre of Romance, there are many subgenres (contemporary, historical, suspense, paranormal, inspirational, etc), but at focus, a romance required certain elements. RWA has also long acknowledged that much of women’s fiction could have a strong emphasis on romance, but that the heroine’s journey might be primary, with the romance playing an important role, what used to be termed Novel with Strong Romantic Elements. This category was eliminated entirely from the Golden Heart® and RITA® categories.
But the Young Adult category has also been changed drastically, with a lot less fanfare than the elimination of the Romantic Elements category or the combining of Regency with Historical.
Here’s what it used to be:
“Novels with a strong romantic theme geared toward young adult readers. In this category, the love story is an important element of the novel, and the end of the book is emotionally satisfying and optimistic.”
Here’s what it is beginning this coming year:
“Romance manuscripts geared toward young adult readers. In this category, the love story is the main focus of the manuscript, and the resolution of the romance is emotionally satisfying and optimistic.”
That’s actually a pretty big difference. With the stroke of a pen and the change of just a few words, RWA has essentially eliminated the vast majority of published and unpublished young adult novels from eligibility for either of their awards. Though there are some YA books that are straight-up pure romance, that’s not the typical YA story these days.
Let’s face it. Teens are busy. They have school, jobs, friends, battles with their parents, and oodles of personal growth going on. While love and romance is undeniably important to this age group, it’s rarely the most important thing going on in their lives.
And do we really want to be telling a bunch of 12-to-18-year-olds that romance should be the central focus of their lives? Seriously?
I think Beth Langston said it best in the discussion on the Ruby blog back in August:
“I don’t want the 2 young adults at my house to view romance as central to their lives. And I don’t want my fictional heroines to do that either. I want them to be multi-faceted. I want them to have qualities and interests that make it likely they could be a strong partner in a romantic relationship.”
Anyway, apparently I don’t write YA Romance after all, despite finaling twice in the YA Romance category in the Golden Heart. At least according to RWA — this week. But neither do the vast majority of YA authors in today’s market, even many of those with a traditional romance arc in their books. And frankly, I think readers are better off when there’s diversity in our stories.
What do you think of this change? Good? Bad? Indifferent?
Remember: The Golden Heart opens for entries on Thursday, November 15, 2012 and closes on Wednesday, January 2, 2013.