I was “doing research” for my novel and somehow found myself on a Facebook group called The Geek Strikes Back (don’t laugh!), and I found this:
“Yes!” I yelled. “That’s exactly what I’m talking about!” In the world of Young Adult literature, with rare exceptions, it doesn’t seem to matter how well the teen girl main character can kick butt, she still spends way too much time wondering if the hot boy likes her. I raised three daughters, one of whom is nationally-ranked in TaeKwonDo, but despite what my wife and I tried to teach at home, my daughters soaked up popular culture that taught them that “all girls” should spend way too much time obsessing about the hot boy (who, often, isn’t worth being the object of anyone’s obsession).
I would have liked to show my girls a book with a teen girl main character who is fascinating in her own right, who is trying to figure out her place in the world but is not desperately looking for a boy, and over time she becomes friends with a young man based on mutual interests and based on him being nice and respectful to her. And then, when we get to the part of the novel where the poop hits the fan, he steps up and chooses to put his life and future on the line for her. I’d never seen a book like this back in October 2016 when I decided to write the novel I’d always wanted my girls to read.
As writers know, one very important part of the query letter you send to agents is the “readers who like this novel will like mine” part. I recently found a novel that, in my opinion, gets this relationship between “strong teen girl” and “boy who is respectful and loyal no matter what the risks” exactly right. The book is You Don’t Know My Name by Kristen Orlando. I found it an exciting and enjoyable read that I couldn’t put down. Reagan and Luke have the relationship I described above, despite both of them having the ability to kick most anyone’s ass. There was action, spycraft, dangerous bad guys, quirky and loyal friends, dysfunctional family, romance: everything that makes life fun. I was thrilled when the next book in the series, You Won’t Know I’m Gone, came out a week or so ago. I loved it too! I plan to preorder Kristen Orlando’s next book as soon as it’s available.
I hope my novel is this good! Kristen raised the bar pretty high!