And she turn’d—her bosom shaken with a sudden storm of sighs—
All the spirit deeply dawning in the dark of hazel eyes—
Saying, “I have hid my feelings, fearing they should do me wrong”;
Saying, “Dost thou love me, cousin?” weeping, “I have loved thee long.”
I was walking to the 4th grade classroom when the 7th grade girls stopped me with a question about the dance posters they were painting.
“Mrs. Kendall, is Sadie Hawkins dance theme? Don’t you think our dance should be a Sadie Hawkins dance?”
“Hmmm.” I quickly caught the eye of the principal and waived him over.
“Sadie Hawkins isn’t really a theme,” he said.
“It’s a type of school dance,” I said.
“Okay, so can we have a Sadie Hawkins dance?”
I smiled, blissful in my complete lack of decision making authority and looked to our principal.
“Well,” he said. “I’m assuming you want it to be a Sadie Hawkins dance because otherwise the boys won’t ask any of the girls to the dance?” There was a murmur of assent among the girls. “In that case, you’re probably right,” he continued. “The boys aren’t really thinking about dates and dances the way the girls are, but a Sadie Hawkins dance might intimidate a few of them. Besides, you’re all strong, modern young ladies, right? You don’t need the title ‘Sadie Hawkins’ to give you permission to ask a boy to a dance! So how about this–let’s call it the 7th and 8th grade dance and if you want to ask a boy to the dance, ask him. Just, you know, be gentle with them and remember that having fun as a community is what’s important.”
I thought his response was brilliant, though I inwardly winced thinking about what some of those utterly clueless boys had coming. The girls were less impressed, but took it in stride. Later that week, I heard a few girls had asked a few boys and, for the most part, it was a comedy of manners where she asked him and he said, “Uh” and she said “Never mind, I’ll ask him,” and he said, “Uh,” and she said, “UGH!”
The principal told me this happens every spring in the 7th grade. The girls all of a sudden think BOYS! while the boys are still thinking RECESS! I’ve even seen it in the library. Every girl in middle school wants to read a romance, and they’re looking to me to bring them into the library. We have all the classics like Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Anne of Green Gables, and the like, but they are not interested. I’m more than willing to bring in contemporary romances, but I have to find books that will work in a Catholic K-8 library. The girls are reading books from home I could never bring in without a fight from a few parents and the diocese. They’re also using apps like Wattpad to read fan fiction and self published books. I have mixed feelings about Wattpad. There’s great literature on Wattpad, but there’s also 300 metric tons of One Direction fan fiction. Reading is reading, I know, but…
As far as age appropriate romances go, I have a few picks for the library. Please recommend more if you know of an author or book that won’t get me kicked out the school gates!
Jennifer E. Smith books work. I’ve read The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and This is What Happy Looks Like. I feel fine putting both in the library. I hear her other books are similar in maturity level, so those will probably make it to the coveted “romance” shelf, too.
Kissing Shakespeare is a book I’m not sure about. I read it, and as far as sexual content goes, it’s completely tame. The problem is that the main character, Miranda, travels back in time with a 16th century boy to Shakespeare’s time to save him from himself. She drinks mead/wine the entire time she is there, and it’s explained to her (and the reader) that it’s necessary because the water during that time wasn’t safe to drink. This is true, and I’m all for historical accuracy, but I can see the underage drinking being a problem with some parents and diocese.
Big is Beautiful is a fantastic book by my friend Kelly Martin. I’ve also read her book, Crossing The Deep. It’s not too much of a romance, but it was good. I’m going to work my way through the rest of her books and see how it goes, though I’m positive they’ll be fine.
Last, and possibly least, is The Selection series. This series is really popular, and it’s the one that flipped the switch on my formally reluctant reader niece, but ugh, it’s the bachelor with tweens and a prince. Blurgh.
Contemporary romances, clean but hip. Hit me with your best shot?
The images in this post are from Brooklyn Gang by the amazing Bruce Davidson.