After reading Starry Eyes, a teen reader I know told me she’d never read another contemporary romance quite like this. It’s set outdoors. My characters get abandoned in the wilderness after a glamping trip gone wrong. It has maps. It has adventure elements. It was the best book she’d ever read. (Okay, maybe I added that last one.)
Now, to be clear, despite some adventure-y elements, this book isn’t an adventure story. However, it does dip its toes into Adventure Pond. It almost dipped an entire leg in that pond. Luckily, that’s where a good editor does their magic.
When I wrote the first draft of Starry Eyes, there was a scene that got cut in the second draft. In it, Lennon and Zorie stumbled upon a crashed airplane in the woods…and a mountain lion, which they had to confront and chase away. BIG CAT. VERY BIG CAT. It was fine scene, as scenes go, and boy-oh-boy was it fun to write! But when I turned in that draft, my editor read that scene and got a Lost vibe (as in the TV show). It took away from the book’s intent—two people falling in love—and veered from romance into Adventure. Thriller. Action.
Romance is a genre, and a genre book has limitations. In order to fulfill reader expectations, it must share certain elements with others in its group. For example, romances generally have happy endings. If your love interest dies at the end of your book, as in (spoiler alert) The Fault in Our Stars, then that, my friends, is a Love Story—not a Romance. Rules, man. I don’t make ‘em, but I do try to follow them. Usually. Mostly. Sometimes.
My best books—and my favorite ones to read—feature a bit of genre bending. I like it when two things are artfully woven together: a fantasy with a strong murder mystery plot, or a horror with a strong romantic plot. And I think Starry Eyes does a bit of genre bending, which is good thing. Full-on genre bouncing that turns into an episode of Lost? Eh. Probably not the best idea.
So, yes, this book is stronger for eliminating a tense mountain lion standoff on a wrecked plane. How many people can say that? Not many, I’d wager. And even without that scene, this book is still plenty adventurous, and it’s probably, maybe, definitely the best off-trail camping YA romance you’ve ever read.