Beth Revis on romance in YA sci-fi books


What goes really well with sci-fi explosions, spaceships and intergalactic conflict? Romance, of course. Beth Revis, author of Shades of Earth, book three in her Across the Universe series, explains …

Beth: I think it surprises a lot of readers that my YA science- fiction novel — with spaceships, explosions, and lots of star-strewn action — actually has quite a bit of romance in it as well.

Romance is a pretty big staple in most young adult (YA) literature today, and for good reason. Elizabeth Wein, author of the amazing YA historical novel Code Name Verity, pointed out that "In a true YA novel, the main characters will be changed forever by the end of the book." I've long struggled with a real definition of YA novels, but I think Wein hits the nail on the head here — dynamic characters are the single most important aspect of YA novels, whether they take place in history (like Code Name Verity) or the future (like my own Across the Universe novels).

And what greater change can a person experience than love? This is why love stories feature so predominantly in YA books, from dystopians and science fiction to contemporary and historical. Love is the game-changer of life.

In fact, while the Across the Universe trilogy is undoubtedly science fiction, there is a very real heart of romance threaded throughout. There are two narrating characters — Amy, from Earth, cryogenically frozen for an interstellar journey; and Elder, born on the spaceship and destined to lead the first colony on another planet. They have almost nothing in common, not their religion, ethnicity, background, history, family experiences, knowledge of the world — nothing. Elder's never seen anything past the metal walls of his spaceship, nor has he had an upbringing that could come close to resembling a proper family. This is very different from Amy, whose loving parents are with her on the interstellar mission.

The thing that ties them together is love.

I might be better known for my explosions (of which there are many in all three books!), but I'm definitely a softy when it comes to romance. I really do believe in the power of true love, and even when there's a whole universe of differences in my characters, it's love that bridges the stars.

Because romance is so prevalent in YA literature today, I did my best to make my novels unique. It's the boy, not the girl, who falls head over heels in love at first sight. It's the girl, not the boy, who hesitates about falling into a relationship. And in the final volume of the trilogy, Shades of Earth, it's the girl who's afraid to say the L-word … but it's also the girl who takes the relationship to the next level.

Despite the tropes I tried to turn on their heads and the classically hard-edged science-fiction genre, anyone who's a romantic at heart will find something to connect with in Shades of Earth. Love is the universal feeling that connects us all — born on Earth or on a spaceship. A kiss is a kiss is a kiss, no matter what planet you're on.


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Well ONTD? Is romance a good story theme or an unnecessary plot point in sci-fi? 

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