How to balance hot YA Book Boyfriends with positive self-esteem – the electric ‘Obsidian’

Beautiful face. Beautiful body. Horrible attitude. It was the holy trinity of hot boys.

obsidian_coverThis is Katy’s p27 take on Daemon Black, one of the most entertaining Love Interests I’ve met in a while. I’ve been reading ‘Obsidian’ by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and it’s got me thinking about how to create the perfect YA Book Boyfriend.

Adding romance elements to YA can make your book HOT. But this isn’t just about book sales – if you’re writing for teens you need to be considering their self-esteem, and modelling positive relationships.

I also see three elements to a great YA Book Boyfriend, but I think Katy got them wrong. As a character, she’s supposed to get it wrong. We, the readers, are the ones who need to see it right.

Elements of a hot-dayam Love Interest:

  1. Instant (mutual) attraction
  2. He acts like a jerk most of the time
  3. There is a good reason why, and we readers get hints about this early.

I’m not saying this is the only recipe for romantic tension, but it’s one that’s worked time and again. But don’t miss the important fourth element – your MC’s self-esteem.

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How Fornasier Saved the Cat: the beautiful ‘The Things I Didn’t Say’

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If I was Kylie Fornasier, and this was my book, I would be so damn proud. ‘The Things I Didn’t Say‘ had me completely absorbed into the very heart of the narrator. When I put the book down I’d often feel like I couldn’t talk.

Just like Piper.

How did Fornasier do it? Sure, it’s written in first person present, which is a good start. I’ve been known to take a break from a book and be all jittery because somewhere out there Cato and half a dozen other tributes are lurking and all they want to do is knock my bow-and-arrow wielding self into oblivion. So, yes, first person present POV is a great way of immersing a reader.

But there’s more here. I was so taken by this thoughtful and clever book, once I finished and blew my nose a few more times, I analysed the innards out of it to try and pinpoint what made it work for me. Turns out Fornasier Saved the Cat. Don’t know if it was intentional, but it worked.

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Deconstructing the awesome ‘Illuminae’ with a bloodied pair of pinking sheers and a sharpened spoon

illiminaeSeriously. If Unputdownable and Awesome met and had a book baby, it would be ‘Illuminae‘ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. If you’re wondering whether to read it, just take this as a fist-pumpingly enthusiastic, big-brass-band in the background YES!

And go away now and read.

However if, like me, you now want to dissect the story structure and see what made it mind-blowing, then read on my friend.

I think the key areas where ‘Illuminae’ shines are:

  1. Story structure cranking the tension.
  2. Plotty plot plot + plot + more plot
  3. Challenging narrative structure
  4. Characters you bleed for.

And that’s not even mentioning how often it made me laugh out loud.

I cried too. My emotional control is about equal to that of a caterpillar, so this isn’t all that unusual, but there is understated beauty in the way ‘Illuminae’ is written.

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What an assassin taught me about writing – the killer story structure of ‘Throne of Glass’

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The hype is everywhere. There’s not a YA bestseller list that doesn’t seem to have at least two books with the name Sarah J. Maas next to them. I had to investigate.

And I like to start at the beginning, look at the book that began the phenomenon.

So. Then. ‘Throne of Glass’ it was.

I picked it up with two parts excitement, one part expectation, and a dusting of cynic.

Hoping for a great read.

 

And, phew, I got it. This is a fab book. So fab, I didn’t want to just attribute its awesomeness to world-building or characters or clever writing. Because there was something else. Something more.

Tension. Timing.

Ever increasing levels of evil and excitement. Heavy-eyelids, can’t-stop-reading, catch-up-on-sleep-some-other-day kind of something more.

So after I’d read it once, I didn’t just reread it – I plotted out the entire book. What did I find?

  • Exponential increase in gruesome deaths
  • Story and character arcs
  • Kick-ass third act.

If you don’t like spoilers, stop now… otherwise…

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Finding what you’re not looking for

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What sort of book gets named a ‘Notable Book’ by the Children’s Book Council of Australia in their Book of the Year Awards? Well, the awesome ‘Cloudwish’ for one. And here’s another – ‘A Small Madness’ by Dianne Touchell.

So, what does Touchell offer that makes this book so notable? Here’s what I found out. And if you haven’t read the book, be warned. Because I’m here to discover why and how a book worked, and little spoilers escape everywhere when I put my thoughts down.

The Basics – write well about things people want to read about

This book is beautifully written, simply written, intricately written. It involves themes that are important to Young Adults, indeed all society. Sure, having the main two characters going all the way on Page 1 is one heck of an engaging start. Most people agree your first page has to jump out and grab the reader… but you still need to deliver.

And this book does.

It hauls you in because from the very start you dread what you fear you think you know will happen. And then it turns out worse. Continue reading