If you are even remotely tapped into the world of books – which you most likely are given that you’re reading this at a book review site – you know that Young Adult fiction has been hot for the past few years. Indeed, YA titles are everywhere you turn, and I personally think that this is fantastic. I may be long past my YA years, but I’m a YA at heart.
While YA might not have existed in the same form back in the 1980s when I was a true YA, there were certainly books aimed at us YA folks. Books like The Outsiders by SE Hinton and The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier are classics today, and many of us had our formative years validated by the works of Judy Blume, Paula Danziger and their contemporaries. However, many of my fondest reading memories involve curling up on a warm summer afternoon with something a lot lighter and romantic. While I cut my romance teeth on grown-up novels by Kathleen Woodiwiss, Johanna Lindsey and Rosemary Rogers, I credit my real love for the genre to the category books aimed directly at the teens of the 1980s. Leave it to Silhouette Books (later acquired by Harlequin) to consistently tap into the young adult market some twenty-five years before the rest of the world.
Every month, my friends and I would haunt the bookstores waiting with baited breath for the new First Love from Silhouette titles to hit the shelves. With four new books issued every month, we’d snatch them up, devour them, trade them with each other, and then start all over again. While all stories centered on a romance, First Love books also contained themes that are timeless, as applicable to teens today as they were back in the 1980s. Popularity, friendship, finding out who you are, dealing with parents, school pressures, and a host of other teen issues were tackled in the 236 titles released between the fall of 1981 and spring of 1987. The books didn’t shy away from some particularly difficult topics. One book – Janine (#145) – dealt with the first months after having a new baby. In Golden Girl (#17), heroine Tobey must cope with her boyfriend’s debilitating accident. For every interest out there – horseback riding to karate to cooking – there was a story for you.
I have about twenty copies of the old Silhouette books on a shelf, and there are a handful that I still pull out to this day for a quick, sweet, comfort read.
My favorite of them all has to be Alabama Moon (#60) by Brenda Cole. Stacy is horrified when her parents announce that they are getting a divorce. But her life gets even worse when they inform her that they are sending her to spend the summer on her aunt’s farm in Alabama. City-girl Stacy can’t imagine what she’s going to do on a farm. As an only child, living with her young cousins is a huge adjustments, as is getting up at the crack of dawn, the constant list of chores that need to be done to keep the farm running, and trying to stay out of the way of surly Lane, Stacy’s “kissing cousin” who sees her as pretty much useless. But when Stacy’s Aunt Sara breaks her leg, Stacy finds out that she has the strength to step up and do what’s needed to get things done. Slowly she makes friends and earns the admiration of Lane. Before she knows it, the summer is over and it’s time for Stacy to return to her old life. She’s just not sure if she wants to.
Tobey, the heroine of A Passing Game (#74) by Beverly Sommers, loves one thing – playing football. She’s realistic enough to know that, at least in those days, a girl can’t play positions where she might get tackled. But that’s okay, because Tobey’s true skill is in kicking the football over the goalposts. When she makes the high school team, she’s thrilled that her dreams seem to be coming true. Even better, cute, popular quarterback Wynn seems to be interested in her off the field as well as on. Sure, not everyone seems thrilled to have her on the team, especially her lifelong nemesis Billy Rafferty. But Tobey’s not about to quit, especially after scoring her first goal.
One on One (#36) by Pam Ketter tackles the timeless teenage issue – popularity. Jana has worked so hard to cultivate her popularity, and she’s finally made it to the top of the social ladder. Everything she does is carefully orchestrated to maintain her image. The last thing she needs is to become involved with a nobody who wears off-brand clothes and doesn’t seem to care what people think about him. But Brian Baylor is a hard guy to forget. Jana has to figure out what’s more important, being true to herself or being what other people tell her she should be if she wants to be popular.
In One of the Guys (#98) by Kathryn Markis, heroine Kelly has always been a tomboy, just “one of the guys” who can’t imagine herself ever being as feminine as her best friend, Kristel. When she meets Brook Barrett in her karate class, she just assumes that he will see her as another buddy, not as a potential girlfriend. So why does it bother her so much when she thinks that Brook might be interested in Kristel? And why are some of her best guy friends suddenly acting so strange around her?
For a list of the titles in the First Love from Silhouette line as well as some interesting statistics, including information about some of the authors, this site has a lot of information. Were any of you fans of this line? What were some of your first YA romance reads?
- Jenna Harper