If you’re familiar with contemporary teen fiction you’ll know that romance features strongly. But it’s worth examining what the majority of today’s publishers and authors seem to consider romance to be.

In the first place, much of it would be better labelled sexual attraction: intense (and often instant) physical chemistry that may or may not extend to emotional attraction.

This chemistry/attraction soon takes over everything else and becomes the purpose (or obsession) of the characters’ lives.

For dramatic tension, authors throw in a love triangle/square/pentagon: a third, fourth or fifth romantic agent who competes for the protagonist’s chemistry. (How often does this happen in real life? And when it does, is it something to be envied?)

So everyone is into the same person, or, as has been apparent more recently, everyone is into everyone, because they’re all attracted to each other, so why can’t they just swap around?

Examples abound but include Twilight, Shatter Me, Halo, Wings, The Romance Diaries, Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood, Lorien Legacies, Wanderlove, False Memory, etc, etc.

Call me a pessimist, but how does this inspire the healthy ‘give and take’ that good relationships require?

And is there an alternative? I believe there is, and it can be termed holistic romance: romance that involves the whole person. It means the (preferably only two) characters know each other well, beyond physical qualities.

Stories featuring holistic romance show the attractiveness of many dimensions of the human person; things like character, intelligence, courage, humility, humour… virtue. They show how real, whole-self-giving romances are so much more interesting, and of course have a better chance of longevity.

Examples are harder to find among recently published titles, but some include A Posse of Princesses, Crown Duel, Princess Academy, Stargirl, Seraphina, A Waltz for Matilda, A Rose for the ANZAC Boys, Secret Letters, The Girl from Snowy River, and Cinder.

Suggestions are welcome! (Recently published titles, if possible)

Clare Cannon is the editor of www.GoodReadingGuide.com and the manager of Portico Books in Sydney.

Clare Cannon lives in Sydney where she is editor of The Good Reading Guide and manager of Portico Books,...