Teen themes and Harlequin TEEN
by Natashya Wilson, senior editor, HQ TEEN
Welcome to the latest stop on the Harlequin TEEN blog tour, and many thanks to In Bed with Books for hosting us today!
One thing I tell agents and authors when I attempt to explain what we’re looking for in Harlequin TEEN is a story that is “more than” a good, solid story—a tale that offers something extra, something universal that the reader will continue to think about after finishing the book. A strong theme is one thing that can make that happen. Coming of age, friendship, loyalty, peer pressure, challenging authority, puberty, first love, popularity…these are some popular themes often found in YA stories, and many of them are at work in Harlequin TEEN books.
Coming of age is one such theme, whether a story focuses on a literal age and rite of passage a character goes through to be considered adult or, less specifically, shows a character learn important lessons and attain a new sense of self by the end of the story. One thing that is marvelous about a series of connected titles is the opportunity to see a character come of age over time.
When Rachel Vincent’s My Soul to Take (August 2009) opens, Kaylee Cavanaugh doesn’t yet know why she can sense when someone is about to die—or why she can’t stop herself from screaming nearly hysterically when that happens. Watching Kaylee learn that she’s a banshee and learn to handle the responsibilities that entails over the course of three books is part of what resonates throughout the Soul Screamers series and makes it stand out in the crowd.
Other Harlequin TEEN titles that bring out this theme are Elphame’s Choice (October 2009) by P. C. Cast, in which the heroine journeys far from home to find her true calling and true love, and The Iron King (February 2010) by Julie Kagawa, the first of three books throughout which the heroine learns about her faery heritage and surprising destiny.
Friendship is another timeless theme with powerful resonance. Friends are there for the best and worst times of our lives. They can lift us up…or bring us down. What does it mean to be a true friend, why do we get along with some people so well and with others not at all? And where is the line between friendship and love?
One of the things I found so intriguing about Gena Showalter’s , Intertwined (September 2009) is that the two main characters, Aden and Mary Ann, do not wind up as each other’s love interest. Instead, once they meet, they feel an undeniable rightness of being together…as friends. Exploring that friendship and the connection they have is one theme that resonates throughout the Intertwined Novels.
First love—as they say, you never forget it. As of right now, all Harlequin TEEN titles contain a romance or romantic element. But so do many good stories. So what made this theme stand out in the titles we have acquired? Well, in Tagged (March 2010) by Mara Purnhagen, the author developed the heroine’s romance alongside the mystery that drives the plot as well as the heroine’s run-ins with the popular crowd, another favorite theme. The way the author made use of these themes helped the story stand out.
In The Oracle of Dating (May 2010) by Allison van Diepen, the heroine faces the consequences of anonymously giving her own friends dating advice—and having it go awry—while trying to get a handle on her own runaway romance. The parallels and contradictions in the simultaneous situations helped to make this story more than just another fun romance.
Challenging authority is part of growing up. And no one does it better than Trella, the heroine of Maria V. Snyder’s Inside Out (April 2010). Though she means only to carry on her own personal rebellion quietly, sneaking into forbidden places and keeping to herself, Trella’s actions eventually spark a revolution and create an unforgettable read.
What are some of your favorite themes in YA books? What makes a story stand out in your crowd? We’d love to hear! Comment here for a chance to win a copy of My Soul to Take or Intertwined, or a fun Harlequin TEEN T-shirt. And we hope to see you next week on our tour, with a more personal post about me at Kay Cassidy’s blog on 8/26 followed by a trip to The Page Flipper on 8/28!
Harlequin TEEN is offering two of each MY SOUL TO TAKE and INTERTWINED, as well as one each of the shirts, which means there will be six winners. Pretty good odds, no? This contest will remain open until for two weeks, until September 2 - the day after INTERTWINED comes out.