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Suggest A Paranormal Romance!

So let's say that you, in a fit of madness, once wrote ten thousand words of a paranormal romance involving a night gaunt.

And then, in another fit of madness, your agent asked if you'd ever written anything in a YA romancely sort of way, and you sent it to her. Possibly you had been drinking heavily the night before.

And she liked it.

And then as you were noodling around with the city full of saints and the writhing faceless things looking in the windows and the artist who keeps eating his still life fruit and the blood-drinking hummingbird, it occurs to you that you have absolutely no idea what you're doing because what you consider romantic is probably not gonna cut it with a teenage girl. She may want to feel swoony. A young man with wings and a tail putting up with dirty jokes from the heroine's elderly grandmother may not lead to swoonyness, or it may be entirely the wrong sort.

And there is nothing sexy about fungi from Yuggoth. No. There isn't. Don't even try.

In these trying times, we turn to research. We read within the field. (No, not Twilight.) Suggest a paranormal romance that doesn't suck! Bonus points if there are no vampires, because I am reallllly sick of vampires.  Preferably YA.

Truth is, I may be too old and jaded for the genre, and it may just wind up as sexy as long underwear with festive night-taunts embroidered on the butt, but...err....worth a shot?

I'd say, "there's paranormal romance and there's 'paranormal romance'". In that one can be a paranormal story where there is romance (Tamora Pierce comes to mind, though the romance is kind of a side plot, and Seanan McGuire's October Daye books have the paranormal/romance/mystery thing) and then there's....Twilight. Which I judge for the crappy writing and the bad relationship modeling, not for anything else.

Then again, given the kind of kid I was, I'd probably really have enjoyed a non-swoony paranormal story where there is a realistic romance plot. Not much of a swooner, teenage!me was.

That said, Goodreads has a lot of lists about YA paranormal romance. Criminy, there's a lot of vampire porn for teens out there. Also a lot of fa(e)r(y/ie) stories, which are at least less worn-out than vampires and werewolves. Personally, I'd love a story about a lovelorn teenage penanggalan who gets made fun of at school for smelling like vinegar but wants to be "normal" anyway.

Dunno. I read paranormal romance to giggle. The last one I read was subsequently read by my partner, whose comment on the lead male was that "if he were any more manly, he'd be a statue".

I think it was a Jacquelyn Frank *googles* yes, it was Seduce Me In Flames.

As you can guess from the name, one of the main characters is an uncontrolled pyrokinetic. Hot sex ensues.

And yeah, not really YA. But I had to make the pun...

I have kind of liked Laurell Hamilton's Merry Gentry, but it is NOT YA. It's kind of pornariffic.

Ok, sorry. I thought I could be helpful but am discovering I am a bear of Very Little Brain and need to go eat something, dammit.

If you don't read them yet, check out SmartBitchesTrashyBooks.com. Their book reviews are hilarious, and they have tons of recs.

Does War for the Oaks count as YA/paranormal romance? It's more fantasy than romance, but there is a romantic element. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_for_the_Oaks

Edited at 2012-07-16 05:13 am (UTC)

'Tis also an awesome book! /seconds recommendation

Leopard Lord - Alanna Moreland - cursed shapeshifter has to sacrifice his wife to be free, so he marries a commoner he couldn't possibly love. And then falls in love. About half and half hero perspective/heroine perspective.

No Quarter - Tanya Huff - Trained assassin falls for spirit possessing her twin brother's body. 3rd in a tetralogy, but you could get away with only examining the 2nd one, Fifth Quarter, prior to reading No Quarter. Remember how you said there could be no zombie romance? This comes kinda close. Not exactly YA, but maybe if you squint?

These all qualify as romance, as it is a major factor in the plot.

Beastly by Alex Flinn. It's a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but modern... uhmmm....Hm. I don't really read YA romance.
Texas Gothic was good, but it was almost more a ghost story with romance (but not with the ghost) than paranormal. But the heroine does come from a family of witches...
ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD. dude travels the country laying ghosts to rest, usually violently. Story involves voodoo, wicca, teens doing stupid things. I rather enjoyed it.
Ghost and the Goth : Campus queen bee dies and the only one who can see her ghost is the Uber-misfit goth boy.

Edited at 2012-07-16 05:36 am (UTC)

Read sarahtales/Sarah Rees Brennan's TEAM HUMAN and her Demon trilogy. They're not exactly the kind of thing you'd write but they're also...well, she leapt right to mind. :)

I came into the comments to suggest the same thing! Also, I think you would find her Gothic Tuesdays quite enjoyable.

Um... My Life as a White Trash Zombie, by Diana Rowland? There's romance at the end. And her Karen Gillian series is about a demon summoner.

Patricia Briggs and Carrie Vaughn write about shapeshifters and werewolves. Not a LOT of romance, but Vaughn's heroine Kitty Norville gets married in the course of her stories (there are vamps, but not as major characters).

Um. Zoe Archer's Blades of the Rose series is very good.

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire is about a cryptozoologist who really wants to be a professional ballroom dancer.

Ben Aaronovitch writes a series about a London cop who is an apprentice sorcerer. Not a whole lot of romance there, either, but damn good reads.

There's Gail Carringer's Parasol Protectorate series. There are vamps, but they're supporting cast and Terribly Fashionable.

Do superhero stories count as paranormal? I love Mur Lafferty's work, but Marion G. Harmon wrote a couple of corkers called Wearing The Cape and Villains Inc.

The Iron Druid Chronicles are awesome, but there's no romance. Just pure druidic awesome.

Does that help at all?

Patricia Briggs wrote two books previous to the current series that I liked much better: Dragon Bones, followed by Dragon Blood. I found them in the YA dept at the library, but their shelving is erratic and they might not qualify.

There's Justine Larbalestier's Magic or Madness trilogy, that has all kinds of YA characters (including stunningly bad decision making) as well as layers of ambiguity. No vampires or zombies or (really) fae, which was refreshing.

I wanted to recommend one straight-up YA with no fantasy elements that I loved, just because if you wanted to survey the landscape they could help you see the non-traditional characters out there. Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar is from a male perspective; it follows the first year of your basic high school freshman and what he does to be next to the girl he wants to like and what else (and who else) happens to him.

Cheerfully seconding finding Sarah Rees Brennan, both blog and books.

I think you should write what pleases you, and your readers will find you. We don't actually need any more swoony females and posturing males, any more than we need more rich girls at private school in NYC doing back stabby things to eachother or (god forbid) anything else like what we have already. Your idea sounds interesting and fabulous, and I hope it happens because I'd buy it and read it in a New York Minute.

Evernight by Claudia Grey was good, and I don't like romance. Seconded Demon's Lexicon & Team Human.

One of my personal favorites ( I hate romance novels honestly.. but this is listed under "Dark Romance").. is the Black Jewels Trilogy, by Anne Bishop. Absolutely fantastic, heart-rending, and at moments, swoony. Well worth the look-see.

I *love* those books. Very dark but with very good characterizations and reactions *to* the darkness.

I really enjoyed Entwined, by Heather Dixon. It's a fun retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and while it may seem like straight fantasy, it feels like paranormal romance, I think thanks to the Keeper being all alpha-male and creepy.

Mostly I'm just dropping by to say that if you publish this book, I will buy this book. Sight unseen. No questions asked.

eta: Also, not YA, but Jennifer Crusie's "Maybe This Time" is a great retelling of The Turn of the Screw, with romance and snarky dialogue.

Edited at 2012-07-16 06:21 am (UTC)

Mostly I'm just dropping by to say that if you publish this book, I will buy this book. Sight unseen. No questions asked.

This. Should this ever come to fruition I will be first in line to get it. Just sayin'.

I can't recommend something, but how about writing some romance that resembles real life relationships at least a bit? I'm always missing that...

Ditto! (Also, I think having the lead male putting up with grandma's dirty jokes is A) a much better sign for a relationship than most you do see in YA romance and B) sounds like it could be good fun to read)

But I don't need to swoon at someone else's romance, even fictionally, even when I'm reading for the romance. I need to feel like cheering the two people on to get together, like I like them and think they suit each other. (It's nice when it is swoony, but I am not Insert-self-into-heroine's-spot even at the swooniest, and it's not what I want or need in a romance.)

I suppose there is the wanting-to-swoon teenage-girl market (so virulently created/catered to by Twilight) to consider, but honestly, I never sought out books just for romance when I was that age. Sure, it was nice, but I cared more about a good story.

The only thing I have read recently that might qualify is Laura Anne Gilman's Paranormal Scene Investigators series, the first of which is Hard Magic. I found them very entertaining, with a fun magic-is-among-us premise and a fairly charming group of main characters attempting to pretend that they have some idea of how to investigate magical crimes (...they don't, really).

But now that I think of it, it's less a romance-romance and more a "lead character has the hots for her boss" kind of thing. Have only read the first two books so I don't know if it progresses beyond that or not.

When I was younger, I loved The Hunter's Moon by O.R. Melling, which is about a girl who has to rescue her cousin who is kidnapped by faeries while they're visiting Ireland. There's definitely some romance in that, although skimming through my copy it seems a bit of a younger read to me. At the time I thought it was a great exciting story, and it made me love fairies and Ireland for some time.

I also loved The Hunter's Moon, in large part because the protagonist is a girl figuring out how to save the day by herself. People help her along the way, but they're helping her in the sense that they give her a ride or let her crash on their couch, and sometimes they have useful advice. She calls them up to help even more later, when she needs a band of ordinary heroes, but the important part is this: At no point are they solving her adventure for her. And yeah, it's definitely YA.

Edited at 2012-07-16 03:20 pm (UTC)

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I loved Francesca Lia Block's Dangerous Angels, as well as I Was a Teenage Fairy and her fairytale retellings in Rose and Beast. However, she's sort of a weird fit because she's not so much paranormal as magical realism/surrealist/dreaminess. It's a little fluffy, but I loved it as a teenager.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Laini Taylor: yes YA, yes paranormal romance (in the sense that romance is one of primary driving forces of plot, not an obligatory-to-YA-fantasy sidenote). I didn't like it—it's pretty heavy on the Mary Sue, and in my eyes overwritten—but it did pretty well among fans of the genre, generally lauded for strong female protagonist and intense, lush language. No vampires! The fantasy/mythology is actually pretty unique, angels/demons in a nontraditional sense.

Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls), Maggie Stiefvater: yes YA, yes paranormal romance (even moreso: romance is the driving force of plot). Successful in a limited scope, which is to say I was sold on the romance but didn't see the story as anything more than that. Whether or not it needs to be is a personal thing, though, I guess. Fairly successful book overall, strong atmosphere/sense of place, fairly original werewolves, yay; but nothing standout. Haven't read rest of the series.

Blood and Chocolate, Annette Curtis Klause: yes YA, 50/50 pararom vs. fantasy. Really what makes it an exception is that it's from 1999, before my-magical-boyfriend was the default; this time she's magical (werewolf) and he's a pretty normal human being. The book didn't age well for me, but is an enormous classic for the genre and honestly a now-welcome deviation from genre conventions. But if you're looking at what's popular now, the answer is: not this.

Wicked Lovely (and sequels), Melissa Marr; Tithe and Ironside, Holly Black: yes YA, not paranormal romance but now-obligatory YA-fantasy-romance/love triangles ahoy. And fairies. And fairly good, desperately lush but compelling nonetheless. They're a bit early in the current iteration of genre, so their obligatory romances aren't as shallow as what you see these days—there's actually some fairly evocative adolescent tension, here.

But for better or worse worse worse, you cannot swing a dead cat near the YA fiction/fantasy section of a bookstore without knocking off a dozen my-magical-boyfriend books. They may be worth reading—any random number of them—just to know what the genre looks like; on the other hand, I think it'd be almost as worth avoiding all of them so that you don't duplicate it because part of what the genre looks like is really bad. There's a triteness in fantasy romance right now that we could all do without, and much of that comes from the Edwardian prissy diamond glitter espoused by Twilight and its army of me-toos ... but it also comes from Wicked Lovely et al's brooding dark fairy kings: angst angst improbable lovetriangle teenage truw wuv with breathtakingly handsome men, and no vampire had yet sparkled in the sun. Absolutely those things can spark a teen girl (or sympathetic reader) to swooning, but man they can't be the only thing that does.

"on the other hand, I think it'd be almost as worth avoiding all of them so that you don't duplicate it because part of what the genre looks like is really bad."

This. Oh so very much this. I'm very interested in an Ursula YA paranormal romance, if only because at this point it's probably the only thing that could redeem the genre in my mind. (Not just YA, really - paranormal romance in general. Laurell Hamilton has an awful lot to answer for.)