A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
The email arrived on a particularly cold and grey day. Could I cover ‘Summer loving for Romance Week’? Well, yes I was one hundred per cent up for that. I love a bit of romance – Darcy ruined me for real men and I wouldn’t change a thing. But what is it about the summer loving romance that teenagers find so irresistible?
Maybe it starts with the harsh reality of the life of the average teenager in the dark months leading up to summer. You’ve spent two months revising for and doing exams. You’ve barely brushed your hair. You’re vitamin D deficient. You’ve seen far too much of your family. You haven’t seen anyone of the opposite sex apart from your father and your maths’ teacher since Easter (this is a shockingly gender normative piece, please adjust to suit). You need something to get you through.
You need The Summer Love Dream.You know, the dream where one minute you’re burning your notes on vectors, a shivering wreck and the next, phoenix like, you’re a new golden, glowing you, surrounded by friends and ready, so ready, for romance. In The Summer Love Dream you’re going to go on holiday to someplace where you don’t speak the language (as proven by your recent oral exam) but that’s fine because everyone knows that this particular destination is a hotspot for love. Or, if you’re staying in Britain that’s ok too because the sun is going to shine every day and you’re going to dance at festivals with flowers threaded through your hair. And you’re going to come back after the holidays changed in some undefinable yet glamorous way.
It never works out that way.
In real life you go abroad but you’re sharing a bedroom with your much younger sibling. Through the walls you can hear your parents arguing. The arguments are definitely worse during the long weekend when your auntie, her four toddlers and your grandmother are with you. And there are lots of families in this busy resort. Unfortunately with one exception every person under forty is also under seven. The one exception is ‘only’ a year or so younger than you and everyone takes every opportunity to throw you together. He is not what you dreamed of. Or maybe you’re an only child and you’re so bored on holiday that you have to resort to writing a teen novel complete with a practically perfect boyfriend – with your mother (the real life, somewhat odd, genesis of Waiting for Callback). Either way, you have sunburn. You also have mosquito bites and an unfortunate allergy to sorbet. To cover up the allergy rash you are now wearing the head to toe clothes that you last wore when revising for vectors. You’re too hot so have retreated indoors. You are probably still Vitamin D deficient. Or maybe you go to…the Reading festival – I don’t even need to elaborate do I?
It’s so much easier just to read the books and lie about the reality – everyone else will. Book boyfriends are the way to go and there are some excellent ones out there – Levi from Fangirl, Laurie from Little Women, Leo from Sunkissed (and that book deserves a special mention for its perfect summer dream book cover)). You can go a bit mad – if you really want a boyfriend that glitters and is an ancient vampire then stick with Edward from Twilight, don’t go and search that sort of thing out in real life because it’s too weird. And all that time on holiday means you can have more than one on the go without the complications. You can spend the morning with Rupert Campbell-Black (he makes Darcy look like a pussy cat) and the afternoon with Mr. Rochester. And the answer to running out of books is to plunder everyone else’s stash (that’s how in the last decade I got so familiar with, amongst many others, the brilliant Louise Rennison, Meg Cabot and Sophia Bennett, thank you Honor). Read widely enough and you will come back changed after the holidays after all.
And lots of my favourite summer UK YA reads have plenty of realism thrown in with the romance. Let me also push Lobsters (Lucy Ivison and Tom Ellen) and Remix (Non Pratt) your way. You’ve probably already read them but if you haven’t don’t even wait for the holidays.