“Pop Goes My Heart” author panel discusses romance in YA novels

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Love was in the air or at least on the pages during the “Pop Goes My Heart” author panel presented at the South Irving Library on Wednesday, Aug. 16.

The library invited three young adult (YA) authors, Maurene Goo, Sandhya Menon and Ashley Poston, to discuss their latest romance novels. Sara Roberts, co-host of the “Adventures in YA” podcast served as the moderator. The three women shared their experiences with the characters, their own experience in love and high school, and the fandoms they are passionate about that led them to write these books.

“I Believe In a Thing Called Love,” is Maurene Goo’s second YA novel, following her debut novel, “Since You Asked.” Her new book tells the story of Desi, a girl who attempts to use what she has learned watching Korean dramas (K-dramas) to try and find a boyfriend. In contrast with her previous book, writing a believable romance turned out to be quite a challenge.

“For me, [love is] this ephemeral thing that is very hard to capture and to describe why a romance works in a book, which is why it was very hard for me to write this book,” Goo said. “It’s this magical thing for two characters to have chemistry and for you as a reader to care about them, and to not just care about them, but want to see them end up together and feel those feels.

Sandhya Menon’s debut book, “When Dimple Met Rishi,” has become both a National Indie and New York Times bestseller. In the book, the two titular Indian-American teens learn that they are to be wed to one another in an arranged marriage. Menon particularly enjoyed writing a more outspoken female lead, something she hopes to see more of in YA novels.

“I love Dimple’s fierceness,” Menon said. “I think a lot of times we shy away from making girls really fierce or independent, or girls who speak their minds. But I really like that she came out on the page super aggressive and just says whatever she’s thinking, but she’s also very adorable.”

Ashley Poston is the author of the sci-fi action novel, “Heart of Iron,” as well as the Radio Hearts Duology. Her latest novel, “Geekarella,” is a Cinderella story set in the middle of science fiction convention. Poston wanted to make a geekier version of the classic Cinderella story, where the heroine ends up saving herself.

“What I like most about the two main characters, Elle and Darien, is that Elle saves herself in this one,” Poston said. “In the Cinderella fairy tale, Cinderella always gets saved. When I wrote ‘Geekarella,’ I wanted Elle to do the saving, so she had to have a certain amount of moxy, and I just fell in love with that.”

One of the underlying themes of all three novels is the main characters’ love of fandoms. Mary Hinson, senior librarian at the South Irving Library, said these novels reflect a growing trend towards “geekier” protagonists.

“A trend in the past couple of years is having characters who engross different kinds of fandom,” Hinson said. “There have been a lot of geekier stories and characters who really love and embrace TV shows or movie fandoms. I think in real life, it’s OK now to be interested in typically nerdy things. It’s cool to go to Comic-Con, and it’s cool to really love K-dramas and things like that and just embrace fandom life.”

Earlier this summer, the library hosted another YA panel, focused on sci-fi and drama, as part of their teen Summer Reading Challenge. Hinson wants to introduce teens to a variety of different kinds of story, and with the Pop Goes My Heart panel, she wanted to show that not all stories have to be overly serious to be impactful.

“It’s important to show stories don’t always have to be super serious and about saving the world,” Hinson said. “Sometimes, it can just be a story about two characters as they come together and accept themselves, and accept one another. It’s important to show that those stories can be really powerful and important,” Hinson said.

About the Author

Ariel Graham
Ariel Graham is a freelance reporter and blogger. She graduated from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electronic Media & Communication in December of 2011. Prior to moving to Dallas, she worked for AM 790 KFYO in Lubbock, Texas, as a commercial voiceover actress, board operator, and producer for “Lubbock’s First News” & “The Chad Hasty Show.” She also wrote a weekly technology blog “The Geek Girl Report,” as well as various news stories and podcasts for the station. She is currently working on her new blog “Super Geek Girl Report,” and in her free time, she enjoys drawing, video editing, and playing video games.