What is love? ~ A Valentine to Young Adult Novels

Love is blind. It conquers all. And, apparently, it’s a many splendored thing. In short, love pretty much looks like this:

Thor in Sparkly Tutu
Thor cut-out by Sam Howzit, Flickr. Blinded and bedazzled by Mary Crockett.

Here, friends, is the reason we can’t depend on such time-tested sayings about love. Because we end up with Thor in an eye patch, wearing a many splendored tutu.

Then what, in these love-troubled times, can we depend on?

Young adult novels, of course!

In celebration of Valentines Day, writers from the BookYArd are looking to their novels to define the true meaning of luvvvvvvvvvv.

Now, petty, tiny humans, take heed–for here is our Valentine.

~  W H A T  I S  L O V E ?  ~

Tavin Barnes, 17-year-old illiterate trash boy and main character of WORDLESS by AdriAnne Strickland, answers:

wordless“Gods, I already feel like enough of an ignoramus without attempting to answer something like this. But here goes: Love is strange, intoxicating, wonderful… and utterly terrifying. It’s sort of like riding a roller coaster drunk. I want to laugh, scream and puke all at the same time.”


DREAM BOY by Mary Crockett and Madelyn RosenbergAnnabelle Manning, the main character of Mary Crockett’s DREAM BOY, is a small-town dreamer who comes to understand love as the ultimate acceptance of another person.

She might say love is the mirror that sees all your flaws and thinks you’re perfect anyway.


Ward Ravenscroft, one of the main characters in A MURDER OF MAGPIES, believes:

Love is knowing that the person you’re with could go to a dark place and still wanting to go with them. No matter how ugly it gets, you hang on because you can’t imagine letting go. You know you’re both gonna be all messed up and different than you were going in, and yet that doesn’t seem so bad. Life, love, whatever, none of it’s supposed to be perfect.


Jae Hwa, the main character of Christina Farley’s GILDED, would tell you that love isn’t simple. It’s full of layers and it requires great sacrifice. In the final scene of the novel, she must make the greatest sacrifice of all. Palk, the god of light, explains it the best when he speaks to Jae:

b2ap3_thumbnail_Gilded_final-cvr-comp_12-11-13“Bravery can only accomplish so much,” Palk says,apparently oblivious to Marc’s panic. “It was your sacrifice for the ones you loved that helped you succeed. That was the difference between you and the others before you.”


girlfromthewellRin Chupeco’s undead protagonist in THE GIRL FROM THE WELL has been a ghost for so long that the concept of love is almost alien to her. But as she relearns how to deal with humans, she also discovers that love means sacrifice, to give up what’s left of you for someone else. It’s a lesson she’s been living with for a long, long time, though she’s only beginning to understand this. She says it best – poignantly, if somewhat ambiguously:

“It is not in my nature, to be interested in the living. But there are many things, I have found, that defy nature.”


Caroline Richmond’s protagonist in ANOMALY, Zara St. James, has hardened herself to love. Growing up in Nazi-occupied America, she has lost so many friends and family to the Germans that she’s afraid to open her heart to anyone.

But if you really prodded Zara about what love means to her, she would tell you that love is her uncle’s laugh. Love is a warm hug from her friend Mrs. Talley. And love is the gentle eyes of Bastian Eckhart, a boy who should be her enemy but who surprises her at every turn.


b2ap3_thumbnail_FallsTheShadow_CVRfinalStefanie Gaither’s main character in FALLS THE SHADOW, Catelyn, struggles throughout the book with concepts of family love and loyalty–both of which are put to the test when her cloned sister turns out to be a lot different than the person she expected her to be (to say the least).

So if you asked her, she might tell you that sometimes love is readjusting expectations, understanding that just because someone isn’t showing love the way you wanted them to, it doesn’t mean they aren’t doing the best they can. And also that sometimes you can still love your sister even when she is annoying the absolute $#%@ out of you.


Danielle Ellison’s main character in FOLLOW ME THROUGH DARKNESS is trying to answer this exact question because love is at the core for what she’s fighting to save, and every decision or regret or question.

At first, Neely never questions love; she has a branding, a mark that all in her community are given, and her branding is connected to Thorne and allows them to feel each other’s emotions. So for her whole life love was always a solidity that she could literally feel.

But then a lot of stuff happens and she learns that her world is a facade…and that may include her feelings for Thorne. Then, her whole concept of love is tested and I think she’s still learning what exactly love is. She used to think that love was a person and solid belief in that person, in what you stood for together, and what you would do to be with that person. It was what she knew. But after, it changes.

Her doubt changes her definition of love and part of her story trying to determine if she loves Thorne because she loves him, or if she loves him because of the bond they share. It may be something else entirely that she’s still trying to define, and love can’t really be defined in miles or hours. It just is.

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