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Genre Guide: Paranormal Romances for Teens

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Definition

Paranormal Romance is a sub-genre of Romance. For a novel to be a Paranormal Romance, a simple thing must occur: love must begin between a human and a supernatural being (whether wholly supernatural or partially, just as long as there are supernatural elements present). However, this can be a broad interpretation. Usually, the protagonist (often the human) in these novels is put in some kind of danger, where they come to realize they can overcome this danger either on their own or with the help of the supernatural love interest.

Authors to Know

Characteristics
Main characters include both humans and supernatural beings. The supernatural being can be wholly supernatural or partly, and include but are not limited by the following “types”: vampire, werewolf, fairy, magician, mermaid, zombie, psychic, ghost, demon hunter, demon, angel, shapeshifter, dragon, and gods or goddesses.  Additionally, the human in Paranormal Romances can have a touch of the paranormal as well.  An example is the teen psychic that can see the ghost. Quite often, when it comes to paranormal romances written for teens, a love triangle is involved.  There could be more than one human, or more than one supernatural being in the triangle.

Plots of supernatural romances are first and foremost about the love, but often the human in the relationship is put in some kind of danger or plays an important role in a dangerous mystery. Traditionally, the lines between the good and the bad characters are well defined in paranormal romances, and heroes and heroic attributes are prominent in the plots and characters.  Settings of Paranormal Romances can be in the past, present, or future (often centering on time travel).  A common theme of reincarnation can be used to create an epic love story.  The tone of Paranormal Romances can be both light and dark.  In other words, Paranormal Romances can range from the funny, lighthearted romance to the dark, horror with an emphasis on the paranormal.

Appeal
The appeal of the Paranormal Romance novel lies not only in the romance itself, but the circumstances around the romance.  It could be the idea of the forbidden romance where two people should not be together, but against all odds they are making it work.  It could also be the idea of supernatural powers and how having those can make the romance more magical and heighten the stakes of love.  The appeal of Paranormal Romance also lies in the scary factor– the love could literally kill you or vice versa.  Finally, Paranormal Romances seem to always be written in a way where the love is more true, more real, and more loving than anything possible between two humans.

Trends
While Paranormal Romance saw it’s heyday about five years ago, it is still a strong genre for teen readers.  Now, Paranormal Romance can be mixed with other genres, like dystopias, but the ones that we see finding interest among teens now are the ones where there is a new twist on the Paranormal Romance.  The more interesting and unique of the paranormal aspect of the novel, the more likely teens are going to be interested in reading it.  As Scott Westerfeld pointed out in his novel, Afterworlds:

“What about a selkie?” Coleman suggested. “YA hasn’t had many selkies.”

“What the hell is a selkie?” Oscar asked…

…”It’s a magical seal you fall in love with,” Darcy explained.

“Just think of it as a portmanteau,” Coleman said. “Combining ‘seal’ and ‘sexy.'”

Oscar raised an eyebrow. “I don’t see the appeal.” (page 57)

Websites

Reference Books

Rocked by Romance: a guide to teen romance fiction by Carolyn Carpan (Libraries Unlimited, 2004).

Fang-Tastic Fiction: twenty first century paranormal reads by Patricia O’Brien Mathews (ALA Editions, 2011).

Forthcoming publication: Perfectly Paranormal:  a guide to adult and teen reading interests by Nanci Milone Hill (Genreflecting, February 2016)

Publishers
Most publishers both large and small produce paranormal romance novels but Entangled publishing, SwoonReads, and Harlequin Teen are examples of publishers who specialize in the teen romance genre.

Awards
The RT Awards for Young Adults has a Young Adult Urban Fantasy/Futuristic/Paranormal category

The Romance Writers of America Awards (RITA Awards) includes a Paranormal Romance and a Young Adult Category

Recommended Titles

— Colleen Seisser, currently reading Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld