I read somewhere that young adult plots tend to concentrate on finding love, while middle grade novels depend on character development. I understand why 9-12 audiences are not interested in romantic endings. I also completely get why young adults would find the process of finding love more fascinating than almost any other subject. Love in YA novels, however, often comes hand in hand with the search for an inner truth and independence, an attempt to understand and find a place in a confusing world.
A friend of mine told me that she decided at eighteen to discover who she is alone before finding out who she was in a relationship. I appreciated what she said. I think it is a good lesson to learn, and I tried to follow it after my divorce. I met my ex husband at nineteen, when I did not have the presence of mine or inner strength yet to insist on what I want in the midst of my desire to please him, my craving for his love, and my fear of being alone. I hope, through my writing, to impart to girls the knowledge that facing these fears and needs and finding the “I” behind is possibly the most important and transforming experience in growing up.
I just finished reading Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs. Fluid and fabulous, the novel is a great example to YA love trends. The protagonist, Lily, is a mermaid living on land who must bond with a guy (for life) before her eighteenth birthday, or else she will not inherit her father’s throne. Lily has carefully selected a boy for this purpose. But it’s just so hard to tell him who she is and how she feels! Then Lily’s plans fall apart by another boy who she accidentally bonds with, and now she needs to find a way to put everything to rights again.
I had so much fun reading this novel. I loved Lily, her friends, and Quince, the boy next door. I loved the many fish expressions (like “That Blowfish!” and “curl my fins”). Lily had to find out not only who her true love is, but also what she wants from her life, and in Tera Lynn Childs’ novel the two were inexorably tied together. So maybe Lily doesn’t learn any other life lesson in the novel than that love is stronger than anything. But is that really such a bad lesson to learn? Lily learns to welcome the unconditional and rare love she is given not only from where she least expected it, but from her best friend in the sea and best friend in land and from her father — all of whom are willing to set Lily free so that she can follow her dream.
And what better lesson is there in the world? What more could I want my teenaged child to know than that love conquers all? In my opinion, there is none.