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?
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?