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Between Worlds: YA Books Without Romance

Between Worlds: YA Books Without Romance

Between Worlds is a dual-timeline series about two teen girls—Juliana and Elisabeth—who grow up a century apart. As much as I wanted to explore how teens have lived differently, I also wanted to provide a series that didn’t try to convince girls that a boyfriend was needed to have a fulfilling teen life, a series of YA Books without romance. So, how does that play out in the series? I explain below.

Are Boyfriends Bad?

Lori Wolf-Heffner sits in front of a brick wall, writing in a journal
Photo by Erin Watt Photography

I had my first boyfriend when I was just shy of 16. I agreed to go out with him for two reasons: 1) He kept persisting at the library, where we met, and 2) the TV shows I watched and magazines I read said a boyfriend was something I needed as a teen.

Life would’ve been easier without him, and when he tried to French me about three months later (I’d turned 16 by then), I realized this was not what I wanted.

End of relationship.

On the other end of the spectrum, I know real-life high-school sweethearts who are a little older than me and still happily married. If they hadn’t been allowed to date, who knows what life would’ve been like for them?

What’s important to me now as a forty-something is that, although a relationship filled with passion and respect can add something beautiful to life, beginning dating while in high school isn’t a requirement for a beautiful life.

So, as they say, if you can’t find the books you want to read, write them.

Focused on Other Goals in Life: Juliana

The true protagonist of this series of YA books without romance is Juliana Roth, who starts the series at age fourteen, when she’s hauled across the country by her parents so they can live with and care for her grandfather. He’s in the early stages of dementia, and other family aren’t available.

In the series, Juliana simply isn’t interested in boys because she has other goals that take up her time. Yes, she may find the odd boy here or there cute, but she has no desire to date. Not only does she have to adjust to life in a new city, halfway across Canada, but she wants to do well in school and in dance.

This portion of the YA series has no romance because Juliana’s too focused on her own growth.

Wanting Her Own Family: Elisabeth

Elisabeth is Juliana’s great-grandmother. We meet her at the tail end of 1919 and follow her through to the middle of 1920. She, too, starts the series as a fourteen-year-old.

However, unlike Juliana, who doesn’t know what life will bring, Elisabeth knows exactly what it will (or should) bring: she’ll spend her adult years as a housewife, looking after hearth and home and helping on the farm, while her husband earns his money with more farm work and possibly another business.

Although I believe it’s important that girls today figure out a way to earn their own keep that doesn’t rely on a partner earning all the money, I also believe that becoming a mother and homemaker are perfectly acceptable life goals. (In my youth, that was frowned upon because women were fighting for more equality in the workplace.)

When creating protagonists, though, you need to create a person who stands out in some way. Aiming to become the matriarch of a household is not unique in Elisabeth’s time.

She stands out because she wants to choose her husband. In Between Worlds 3: The First Step, for example, her mother and grandmother try to match her up with a young man close in age to Elisabeth, but she doesn’t like how he treats her or how his father treats him. Elisabeth is looking for someone who will treat her with respect, stay committed, and not act like—forgive the farming pun—an ass. 

But there’s no hiding behind a haystack and making out, or even a gentle kiss throughout this series. Furthermore, Elisabeth’s desire for a husband is secondary to her main goal: helping her mom and family through her father’s sojourn in Pennsylvania, where he tries to earn more money.

So, that’s why I still consider these YA books to have no romance. 

Who Are These YA Books Without Romance For?

Lori Wolf-Heffner holds a copy of Between Worlds 3: The First Step in front of the Belmont Village sign.

I wrote the series for three reasons:

  1. to give Little Lori the series she would’ve loved, one that offered different ways to carry out a spiritual life; 
  2. to let girls enjoy YA books without romance because a boyfriend is not needed for a fulfilling teen life; and 
  3. to show that, for girls to truly grow up and be what they want to be, any future is fine, whether it’s being the head of the family or a physiotherapist (Juliana doesn’t know yet).

Although I write for a 12-14-year-old audience, many adults read and enjoy these YA books without romance, too. Ultimately, if you’re interested in history, teen life, and a series that focuses on family (I take a liberal view on what family means), then try Between Worlds 1: The Move and let me know what you think.

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