I was thinking about love interests in YA this week and how I like to create them for my stories. All of my stories are from the female perspective so I purposely keep boys on the brain. What my character will be attracted to really depends on the personality of the character. If she’s shy, then her love might be a bit of a show-off or a goofball. If she’s tough then I like him to have a bit of a softer side. Physicality doesn’t really matter so much and really just comes to me, but one of the things that I’ve come to demand of myself is that the love interest be a boy of color. I do this because as I’m digging through my vast memory of love interests in YA they are all a little bit the same: tall, white, athletic and brooding.
The images we see and form in our heads when we read are wrapped up in a lot of emotion. With so many black and latino boys and men finding themselves at the mercy of common folk and police who associate some malice with their skin color I want to create a space where that color is an asset, something to appreciate or even desire.
Now, books for reluctant readers are different, but if you’ve read my post on that you know I think that the reluctant reader space is like the ghetto of publishing. This is not to disparage the writers who write to reach kids who haven’t connected to books, rather it shakes a wagging finger at publishing houses that believe that black and latino kids don’t read on grade level and thus don’t deserve stories with more depth and complexity.
What YA books can you think of that have a boy of color as the love interest?
Shout out to Libertad Araceli Thomas who wrote about Interaccial relationships in YA in her Stacked article. Read it Here!
You can also check out a list of YA reads with black love interests at YA Interrobang