10.10.11

Should taboo relationships have happy endings?

Someone on AW wanted to know if it was okay for a taboo relationship to have a happy ending in a YA book. I have been contemplating my answer for a while now and I have finally come up with an answer:

My current wip Things Left Unsaid features a relationship that might not sit well with some people. It's between my main character who is seventeen and a twenty three year old painter. The story isn't about their relationship and...just so you know...they aren't going to run off into the sunset together and live happily ever after?

Why?

Well, because I just don't think it's the right thing for them.

That's the thing you have to keep in mind when you're working on a project that features a romance that doesn't conform to today's society. If it's important to your characters and to your story for the relationship to have a happy ending, then by all means...let them have their happy ending. If not...then feel free to torture your darlings.

I will say that I do not cringe at stories where there is a significant age difference between the two characters. Let's face it...Edward is old enough to be Bella's great-grandpa. If that doesn't freak you out then teenagers being with someone four or six or even ten years older shouldn't bother you either.

I'm not saying that I condone relationships between minors and adults in real life but I am saying that it should be written about. Not for the sake of shock value or anything like that but because...it's realistic.

People fall in love (or like) everyday despite age difference.

Getting back to my wip.

I have asked myself many times why I couldn't just make Sam (the twenty three year old) my main character's age. Why couldn't he be a boy who sits behind her in class or the boy next door? The answer I ended up with was this: it just wouldn't work for the story if Sam was same age as Claire.

Claire needs someone who understands what she's going through. Her sister committed suicide and she was the one who found her body and because of that...everyone is treating her differently. Then she meets Sam, someone who does understand what it's like to lose a sibling to suicide, someone who doesn't judge her and someone who could possibly be a shoulder to lean on...despite the fact that he's almost six years older than her.

I know some people might not like the age difference in my story even after knowing all of this but...at the end of the day if you're going to write a 'taboo' relationship then...by all means go do it.

That being said...make sure you're writing one for all the right reasons, and not the wrong. If you just want to write one for shock-value, then maybe you shouldn't write the story at all.

The whole purpose of my story is to explore how different people deal with grief and death and dying and...Sam is a character who is more than just his age. He brings so much to the story because he has lived just a little bit longer than Claire and...he has his own emotional baggage and I would hate to destroy that by making him sixteen or seventeen or even eighteen.

Though Sam and Claire do not end up together in my book...it doesn't mean that their aren't happy endings in real life or that there shouldn't be ones in books. Stay With Me by Garret Freymann-Weyr (one of my favorite books) is a story that involves a teenage girl who falls in love with a man nearly twice her age. I say involves because the story is not about a teenage girl who falls in love with a man nearly twice twice her age, just as my story isn't about a girl who falls in like (I won't say it's love) with a man who is six years older than her.

I don't want to make this a really long post so let me just end by saying if you want to write a young adult book that involves a taboo relationship then by all means write one. Just just make sure you're not writing it just for shock-value and know that your story doesn't have to center around the relationship.

I know a lot of people will disagree with me but I'm really curious about what you guys think.

Are taboo relationships okay in YA books? Should they have happy endings?

4 comments:

  1. It's interesting that this is listed as taboo. I do get it with teens. But I was 26 when I met my husband, and he was 20. We dated 2 years, and have been married for nine. One of my best friends was 28 when she met her husband, who was 20 at the time. So 6-8 yr age differences don't really bother me. Likewise, I dated guys 6-10 yrs older than myself. When you're 17, it may not be legal, but it does happen--based on my experience--a lot. So, why shouldn't it feature in YA?

    I have a 7 yr old daughter. I intend to read what she reads, as my mother did. Then I'll always be able to talk with her about what she's reading. I hope to be an open minded sounding board for her.

    As a writer, I think it's important to write the story as it needs to be told. As a parent, I think it's *my* responsibility to help my kids navigate the stories they read and the things they come up against in life.

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  2. @Jennifer - I agree that a story should be written "as it needs to be told". I really don't like writing for shock-value or to be scandulous...I just like writing the story that comes naturally.

    I think it's awesome that you're going to become invested in what your daughter reads. I'm 17 and my mom did the same thing for me when I was younger. She trust me more nowadays with what I read but the fact that she didn't try to keep me from reading certain books when I was younger, helped me as a writer, and as a person.

    So, yeah, I think it's good to be open-minded especially when it comes to writing.

    Thanks for commenting! :)

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  3. O_o WOW. Your WiP sounds INTENSE. You know, in an awesome way.

    I think the story just has to work out in a way that makes sense. Readers can smell BS a mile away - and BS is whatever isn't true to your character and their story.

    Keep on keepin' on.

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  4. That's a good question.

    Personally, I like passionate affairs that end in destruction, a la Shakespeare tragedies. :) If the romance falls into place too easily, I feel...dissatisfied, somehow.

    As for taboo relationships, I definitely agree that the writer has to find the right answer for each book in question. For yours, it seems to me like a plot that someone would "expect" to end in love (which is a great reason NOT to have it end in love).

    On a personal note, I have also seen almost exactly that situation play out in my own life, and that makes me doubly glad that it doesn't end in love -- but not because it's taboo. When helping a grieving person cope, they can fixate on you as their savior, even as a replacement for the lost person. This happened to me, and though I felt bad about it, I turned the other person down because I felt like I would have been taking advantage of their vulnerability. I also doubted whether they loved me for me, if that makes sense -- they loved what I was doing for them and how I was helping them. I have also seen a similar situation play out with a friend mourning a loss. They dove into a relationship looking for a distraction, and both parties ended up hurt.

    I'm not saying that people can't find each other in grief or that relationships can't start that way. It just makes me wary when I see the "grieving girl falls for the savior" story trope. Again, everyone has to decide for themselves...

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