When I first started writing teen romances my kids were much younger. My son was just entering middle school and my daughter was in elementary school. They still played outside, got dirty and skinned their knees. They weren’t interested in the opposite sex, they hadn’t gone through puberty, hadn’t developed at all. It was easy to separate them from my characters.
Now my daughter is thirteen, and so gorgeous it scares me. But scarier than that is the fact that my son is almost sixteen. That’s the same age as some of my characters. And my characters are dating, kissing, and falling in love. I don’t want to picture my son doing any of those things. And I definitely don’t want to picture a boy doing those things with my daughter (although I don’t feel as strongly about this as my husband does, trust me). I’m not saying that I’m naive enough to think that my kids aren’t or won’t do these things. I just don’t want to encourage it.
As my kids get older it’s harder to separate them from my characters. I’ve always taken my responsibility as an author seriously. But I take it even more seriously now. When I write a scene I think: Do I want my kids to read this? Or: Do I want my kids doing this? Don’t get me wrong. My books aren’t filled with perfect characters who do nothing wrong. That would be boring. But I do always think about the message my books are sending.
Since I write teen romances, I also read teen romances. Lately I’ve read numerous books with an alarming trend. In the past two weeks I’ve read three books about good girls who fall in love with gang members. Now, I love the bad boy/good girl type of romance as much as the next person. Who doesn’t love reading about the tortured boy who needs saving and the girl who saves him? And these books were great. I read them swiftly, some even in as little as a day. They were filled with swoony romance and heart thumping action. But I’m an adult. A married woman. A woman who isn’t looking to fall in love. I’ve already done that. I’m just looking for a great story to get sucked into. I know these books aren’t real. They’re written by an author like me. They’re made up. I get that.
But I can’t help but worry about the impressionable teenage girl reading these books who is looking to fall in love. Because, let me tell you, falling in love with the bad boy who deals drugs isn’t going to end well for anyone in real life. It may play out well in a novel, but in real life it’s going to destroy you.
In all three of these books the characters snuck around behind their parents’ back and even went against their better judgment and the advice of close friends. And in two of the books the characters had sex. To make matters worse, the sex happened before the guy even admitted he cared for the girl. In both books the girl practically threw herself at the guy in an effort to make him like her.
And it’s fiction. I understand that.
However, what kind of message are these books sending? In all of these books the boys were redeemable. They had big hearts underneath that tough exterior. And by the end of the book they had given up their criminal ways. It was beautiful, and made me feel all tingly inside. But I’m not innocent enough to think it would ever happen like this in real life. In my experience if a guy is a jerk, he doesn’t suddenly become the sweetest guy ever in the span of 300 pages. That’s the beauty of fiction.
But is it also the danger of it?
I’m certainly not trying to deter you from reading these books. I’m just trying to get you to think. I’m only making a point: Girls, you are precious. You were made in the image of God. You deserve kindness and respect. Fall for a boy who treats you well from the very beginning. Don’t hold out hope that you can change him, because chances are you can’t. Life is not a romance novel.
But you can find love. You just have to find the right guy.
And I know you will find him. Hand picked by a God who knows you inside and out.