Jul 27 2010 12:26pm

What about Love: Paranormal Romance, Teens and Happily Ever Afters

As a member of RWA, I’ve come to expect that things labeled as romance come with a Happily Ever After (HEA) or at least a Happily For Now. So, when my characters made it clear in my debut series (starting with the paranormal 13 to Life) that there were significant romantic elements throughout, I had to wonder about teenagers and love.

Although my novels incorporate things well outside of the “norm” (at least I haven’t run into werewolves in the small town I live in—though there is that one neighbor who makes me wonder...) there also has to be a sense of authenticity to my characters. So I sought a balance between memory and my current observations of teens.

When I was growing up it was pretty much understood that teens only suffered from crushes and infatuations. That whole Romeo and Juliet play that dealt with the idea of teens in love? Written by a tights-wearing hack! And what did it teach readers? That teenagers who think they’re in love wind up dead. Yes. What, that wasn’t the message you got? Anyhow. The concept I learned while growing up seemed to be that love—that authentic connection worth building a life around—could only magically happen after someone turned eighteen or, better yet, twenty-one, and was ready to stand before witnesses and register the intent of their emotional connection with their government.

In short, teens couldn’t feel love because they didn’t have the life experience to identify it as being different from a crush.

I accepted that for the most part while I was growing up. Teenagers were just hyped up on hormones. There was a certain logic to it—a safety in the science that was probably a balm to parents. I mean, think about it: if you teach kids that what they’re feeling for each other will just pass like a bad case of acne and couple that information with the dangers of early pregnancy and the crippling impact of venereal disease you should be able to totally avoid the latter two, right? But kids—they aren’t as easily persuaded. They tend to think for themselves (or along with a peer group that regularly contradicts parental standards).

Darn kids.

They even—gasp!—fall in love sometimes. I remember a couple I’d attended Renaissance Faires with as a teen. They fell in love with each other when they were sixteen, got married and are closing in on their twentieth wedding anniversary. Are they the norm? Nope. But is it possible to find your match while you’re still in high school and have that Happily For Closing-In-On-20-Years? Evidently yes.

So, back to the search for the authentic teen voice.

I believe that love—real love—is built. It doesn’t happen like the phrase “love at first sight” suggests. That’s just attraction. Then perhaps there’s chemistry and a spark. But for love, there needs to be a connection that runs deeper than the physical. And often that’s built through joint experiences. Going to the same school can count as such a joint experience (though, between you, me and the worldwide web, there are plenty of folks who went to my high school that I certainly didn’t love—or even like). But generally the things connecting people run deeper still. And that was the lesson my characters clarified for me during the writing of this series.

Can the characters in my YA paranormal series have a Happily Ever After even though they’re teens? Sure. It’s possible. Will they? I honestly won’t know until I’ve sent the final book’s first pass pages back to my editor. But, as an author of paranormal stories I like the idea the possibility exists and can be documented.

Previously a teacher and now a farmer raising heritage livestock in upstate New York, Shannon Delany has always been fascinated by history, myths, legends and paranormal research. Her debut series (including 13 to Life and Secrets and Shadows, coming in February 2011) began as the winner of the first-ever cell phone novel contest in the western world.

This article is part of Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Month: ‹ previous | index | next ›
Jennifer B
1. JennB
This is the first Paranormal Romance article I've read. I guess the teens happily ever after theme attracted my interest because I thought you were going to say how it was impossible. That is the attitude I usually run into.

That said, I know several happily married couples that have been together since high school, my husband and myself included.

Thank you for not writing the article I was expecting to read.
2. JasmineDenton
I agree with you. I met my boyfriend when I was fifteen, and we developed a deep (albeit sexually charged) friendship for about six months before we officially got together. And we've been together ever since, going on six years now. I truly believe we'll be together when one of us dies.
It's love, but it's deeper than that. He's a part of me, you know? Like the air in my lungs or the blood in my veins, and I find it really offensive when adults say it's impossible to find true love in high school. I did!
Michael Morton
3. MobileSalty
Your second-to-last paragraph sums it up. Teens just don't have (for most of them; some have experienced waaay more of life than is good for them, and it's usually not their fault) the experience base to know what is 'love' and what 'love right now'.

Looking back 20+ years to my high school time, if I knew then what I know now... I wouldn't be a teenager.
Rachel Hyland
5. RachelHyland
I love that you're giving teenagers the benefit of the doubt, here. I grow weary of all this horrified "What of the children?"-ing when it comes to the intensity of the relationships in teen paranormal romance, as though it's setting them up for dire disappointment, given the presumed inherent fragility of their real life loves. I, too, know many couples who met at high school (or even as children); they've managed to make it through many a major crisis, and I'm sure even immortality or a sudden need to shapeshift with the full moon wouldn't necessarily break them apart. Teenagers are just as able to develop lasting relationships as anyone -- which is to say, not very.
6. Shannon Delany
JennB: Glad to write something other than what most folks might have expected. Congrats to you and your high school sweetheart!

JasmineDenton: Thank you--I also find it offensive when someone says something's not possible. I believe strongly that love doesn't necessarily play by what we like as clean cut and convenient "rules."

MobileSalty I agree with your "if I knew then" statement. But the great thing about YA novels is we get to imagine a better (or more interesting) teenage existence. And miserable teenage years helps unite us across many other differences.

Thanks, Irene. Ervin Serrano's my cover artist for the series--he does great work!

LOL, Rachel! Having met my husband of nearly 14 years when I was still a teen, I think there's room for lots of possibilities regarding when and how love finds us. Some people may be ready for relationships long before others. And some folks never seem ready. ;-)
7. Mary Melrose
I have been doing a lot of research myself about Teens and Paranormal Romance. I think if you're going to write for the YA market you need to write about what teenagers want. If teenagers are picking up a book or an eBook about Romance, it is love they want. They want to feel fulfilled, not let down in the end. Don't kill the Heroine like what Veronica Roth did in the Divergent series.

I remember when I was a teenager: it might have been a long tima ago, but I do remember feeling like everything was an adventure. Everything was about leading me to the love of my life. Why would teenagers not want this, this is the fairytal that has been read to us over and over again. Think Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, the damsels in distress being rescued by a handsome prince. Children dream about prince charming since childhood. It has always been the same, even though parents don't realize it they condition their children from an early age to think like this. It is human nature to want to be loved, to be beautiful and be "worthy" Why change what has put smiles on the faces of our children and teenagers for decades? Give them the happy ending they crave in books. Let them feel like they are in love.

You never know as a writer, your book could be escapism for young adults who want a happy ending, maybe somthing that isn't relevant in their lives.

Never underestimate the power of love, for most it wont happen so early. The truth is no one knows when cupid's arrow is going to strike. Love can strike at anytime and can mostly certainly happen to teenagers. It happened to me; I met my husband when I was nineteen, now at the age of thirty-seven we are stil together.

Thanks for a great post.

If you have a minute check out:
1.Why are Teenagers Fascinated by Paranormal Romance?
2. What Young Adults Need to Know About Paranormal Fantasy

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