Another of my favourite authors, Diana Peterfreund, is kindly guest posting today. I couldn't put her Secret Society Girl series down and now she's got me addicted to killer unicorns! Thanks for sharing Diana and I'm completely with you on this one.
Thanks so much, Alexa, for inviting me to the blog! Usually I could go on at length about my favorite couples but when I went to compile a list for this year, I realized something: this has NOT been a year for romance for me.
This is not the year I discovered Val and Ravus from Holly Black’s Valiant (2005) or the one where I fell head over heels for Logan Echols and Veronica Mars (2006). I’ve seen some fun movies this year, and though I found the Spock/Uhura smooching pleasant, it wasn’t exactly an OMGromancefortheages. Robin and Barney from How I Met Your Mother? Eh, better off apart, IMO. I’ve barely read any actual romance novels this year, and despite the plethora of young adult romance novels on the shelves, none of them left much of an impression on my psyche. Instead, I found I gravitated toward books featuring strong friendships or family relationships, such as Dull Boy, by Sarah Cross. The Forest of Hands and Teeth had a romance, but I read it in 2007.
So this blog post was harder to put together than I’d thought. Who was my favorite couple of the year? My initial thought was actually to name John and Abigail Adams. Spurred on by my love of the Paul Giamatti miniseries (which I saw this year), I read a biography of the second First Lady of the United States and a collection of the letters she and her husband wrote to one another (called “Dearest Friend” and “My Dearest Friend,” respectively, after their most common salutation). The Adamses had a long and extremely loving marriage, and their letters paint a portrait of a true romance.
Early this spring, I had a late-night conversation with a fellow writer where she argued that a vital ingredient in romance was what she called “an essential wrongness” – that the thing keeping the characters apart has to be fundamentally insurmountable – Montagues and Capulets, etc. I feel the opposite way. To me the key ingredient to a romance is the essential rightness. No matter what obstacles are keeping the couple apart, the magnetic draw has to involve the fact that you absolutely know they belong together and once they get to that point, the surmounting of said obstacles will have been the right thing to do.
We swoon over the romance of Darcy and Elizabeth – there’s no essential wrongness there. They are kept apart by Pride and Prejudice, but once they get past that, they are far better together. Ditto for my favorite Austen romance, Anne and Wentworth in Persuasion. It’s the rightness I’m drawn to – recognizing that Veronica is as damaged and cynical and loyal and prickly as Logan, seeing how Po is Katsa from Graceling’s one true match.
It’s the kind of romance I like to write myself. I realized, while writing the sequel to Secret Society Girl, that neither of the love interests I’d introduced in the first book were a match for Amy. Brandon, her sweet ex-boyfriend, was too guileless; George, the campus hottie, was too undemanding. I needed someone who not only accepted Amy for who she was, but made her a better version of herself.
And that’s why I’m drawn to love stories like the Adamses’. So there was a bit of resistance to their marriage (Abigail’s rich mom threw a fit when she found out her daughter wanted to marry a simple country lawyer), and of course, Mr. Adams’s political career kept him separated from his wife for years at a time. But as a result, we get all of their lovely letters. We witness the depth of their partnership, the equality of their intellect and patriotism, as well as their affection and respect for one another. It’s clear that John and Abigail are “dearest friends” in large part because they are better people as a result of having the other in their lives.
This is also the reason I’m “Team Peeta” when it comes to The Hunger Games series. Time and time again, we are shown how Peeta’s quiet strength is the match of Katniss’s. Yes, she can outshoot him, yes she is crueler and harder – but Peeta is no pushover, he can be every bit as manipulative as her, and his kindness and steadfast affection disarm Katniss at even her toughest moments. Repeatedly throughout the series, it’s Peeta who forces Katniss to see beyond the moment, to plan an alternate solution, to become the leader that he and the rest of Panem believe her to be. (Though Katniss knows Peeta is far better suited to that job.)
And despite the emphasis on equilateral love triangles in the current YA marketing realm, “Team Peeta/Team Gale” is actually a false dichotomy. What most impressed me about Catching Fire, the sequel out this year, was the way the relationships of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale deepened. They don’t live in simple times, so their relationships aren’t simple either, and all parties involved are mature enough to recognize the importance of the other. At the same time, all the scenes between Katniss and Gale seemed steeped less in romance than nostalgia. The games changed Katniss, changed her to the point that her childhood boyfriend, though someone she would always care for, was not longer a good match. Peeta is the man who comforts her in the night – not because their public expects it, but because he knows where she’s coming from and believes in who she is.
Those are beautiful romances, and if they are all I read this year, it might be enough. However, I still have the month of December, and some books that have been staring at me balefully from my TBR pile: ICE, ASH, LEVIATHAN, A CLOCKWORK HEART, WICKED GAME… I might change my mind by New Year’s Eve. I’ll let you know. :-)
Diana Peterfreund is the author of the Secret Society Girl series. Her first young adult novel, Rampant, an adventure fantasy about killer unicorns and the virgin descendents of Alexander the Great who hunt them, is on sale now. When she’s not writing, Diana volunteers at the National Zoo, adds movies she has no intention of watching to her Netflix queue, and plays with her puppy, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever named Rio.
Remember to enter the contest, where among other things you can win a signed copy of The Rites of Spring (break), No.3 in the SSG series.