Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Romantic YA Novels: Heartbeat, These Broken Stars, and The Beginning of Everything

Many young adult novels, regardless of the genre, include a romance. Whether the book is realistic fiction, sci-fi/fantasy or mystery, it frequently includes male and female protagonists, who are interested in each other romantically.  This month I'd like to recommend three novels that include a teen romance that compliments an intriguing plotline.   In Elizabeth Scott's new novel, Heartbeat, Emma meets Caleb, while she is visiting her mother in the hospital.  Mom is brain dead, but is being kept alive until the fetus she is carrying is viable.  The first novel in Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner's new science fiction series, These Broken Stars, introduces Lilac LaRoux, a spoiled heiress, and Tarver Merendson, a poor war hero, who are the only survivors when their intergalactic space-liner, malfunctions and plummets out of hyperspace, crashing on a nearby planet. Finally, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider explores the struggles tennis star Ezra Faulkner has when he is injured by a distracted driver. Returning to school, he joins the debate team where Cassidy, a transfer student, helps him redefine himself. Three vastly different stories are sweetened by the romantic relationship that develops between the two protagonists.

In Heartbeat Emma’s pregnant mother is brain dead and being kept alive until the baby boy she is carrying becomes viable. Caleb’s little sister died in an accident while he was in charge of her.  Emma is furious with her stepfather for keeping her mother on life support. Caleb is struggling with overwhelming feelings of guilt and is acting out. When they meet at the hospital where Emma is visiting her mother and Caleb is doing community service, they find the strength in each other to work through their issues with grief.

These Broken Stars chronicles the developing relationship between Lilac LaRoux, daughter of a wealthy tycoon, and Tarver Merendson, a soldier, who are the only survivors when the Icarus, an intergalactic space-liner, crashes on a seemingly deserted planet. Using her knowledge of her father's ship’s design, Lilac is able to free the escape pod they make it to when Tarver rescues her from the sea of crazed passengers. They safely land on the planet which has been “terraformed,” the theoretical process of modifying its atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology to be similar to the biosphere of Earth to make it habitable for humans. Although Lilac is attracted to Tarver, she maintains her distance and Tarver finds her arrogance insulting. However, they must work together to make it across the planet's unforgiving terrain to the ship’s carcass where they hope to send a message for help. The dual points of view give the reader an insider's look at the process by which their disdain for each other turns to love.

The Beginning of Everything puts a new twist on the injured athlete story.  Ezra Faulkner has a theory that everyone has a watershed moment that changes his life.  His best friend Toby's changed when a severed head lands in his lap after a decapitation on a roller coaster. Kids shun Toby and Ezra drifts away into the world of jocks.  When Ezra's leg is shattered in a car accident, he avoids his former friends and reconnects with Toby in the debate club where he also meets Cassidy, a transfer student. Although Ezra's athletic friends try to maintain a relationship with him, he shuns them in favor of falling head over heels for Cassidy, a rebellious genius with a mysterious past.  Readers will not want to put the book down until they find out what is haunting her.  Throughout the book Ezra finds parallels in his life to those of the Great Gatsby, which literary teens will love. Fans of John Green's books and Perks of Being a Wallflower will also enjoy the debate club's quirky members whose witty repartee and sarcastic views on high school life are a breath of fresh air in YA literature.

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