Monday, April 5, 2010

On Young Love & All That Jazz

So the question of the Hour: Do Boys Like Sam Really Exist?

Minus the werewolf bit.

This is a question I get asked a lot at school visits and in my email, and I decided, it's time to talk about it. Young love, I mean, in general, and Samlike guys in specific. Because it seems to me that when you write romances aimed at teenagers and up, you need to be sure of what you're talking about before you write them. I don't think it does any good to send out a falsely rosy picture to teens. So. Here it is. My views on Young Love.

First of all, I think it does exist. I met my husband when I was 19, and I knew. Let me tell you, I knew. We were engaged in a month and a half. My parents were understandably unhappy about their previously non-dating daughter suddenly getting engaged and were very dismissive of my declarations of true love. They didn't believe me, and this created a huge rift. Do I think that every relationship started when you're a teen is The One True Love? No. Do I think it's entirely possible? Yes. Depending on how mature you are, if it's the right time/ place -- why not? The only important thing, as I see it, is that you've become that core person of who you're going to be. You're no longer easily swayed by the world's external influences: parents, friends, peer pressure. You've become you. Some people are that person at 17. Some people aren't that person until they're 30.

Second of all, Sam. I put out feelers in my Twitter and Facebook, asking people if they believed that Sam-boys existed in real life. After a few cynics pronounced that Sams were gay, and some other doubters who just didn't think that boys like that existed, period, we started getting into the good stuff -- piles of people who had met their husbands when they were Grace's age, people who knew Sams, girls who were dating Sams, people who had loved and lost Sams. I wasn't surprised because I based Sam on a variety of people in real life. Maybe they didn't all read Rilke and play guitar and turn into werewolves, but they did similar things. They were creative, sensitive, thoughtful, shy. Loyal, loving. What breaks my heart is to read the replies from girls who say that they wished that guys like Sam really existed -- guys who were crazy about the girls they love. And they do. It makes me sad that people would settle for less -- both guys and girls.

Third of all, Sam again. I get emails from folks who are 12-15 and they say that their boyfriends are unhappy with being compared with Sam in SHIVER. Or they say their boyfriends aren't like Sam. Well, they won't be. All the things that make Sam Sam need time. The thing that girls seem to like most about Sam -- his devotion -- shouldn't be expect in a 14 year old, in my opinion. Sam is 18 going on 19 and he's also a very old 18 because of his life. He's ready for commitment and knows who he is far more than someone four or five years younger. SHIVER couldn't happen if Grace and Sam were 14 and 15. It shouldn't happen. Dating is wildly different when you're that age -- independence makes a big difference.

Fourth, would you know a Sam if you saw him? When I wrote SHIVER, I wanted it to portray a love that could actually happen, between a normal girl and a normal guy, not a super-sexy-hot-werewolf-who-also-bench-presses-hundreds-of-pounds-with-his-pinky-finger. So Sam was meant to be understated, loyal, uncertain, unsure. Grace says when she first met him she might have walked past him in the hall without thinking. Love makes people beautiful to us. I see a lot of girls dating guys based purely on looks, when the sweet, loyal, perfect guy for them is right there -- but without shining Prince Charming locks or maybe he's wearing a faded Metallica t-shirt or maybe he's just a little chubby or possibly he is really, really trying hard to get rid of that acne. Looks change. The heart stays the same.

Fifth, and wow is this getting long, belief. I think true love comes if you believe in it. If teens get nothing else from SHIVER, I hope they get this: that if you are open to love and are willing to settle for nothing less than someone who is completely into you and just you, who respects you for who you are, who is happy with your boundaries and interested in keeping you happy, you will find it. I want every teen who reads SHIVER to settle for nothing less than a relationship with that kind of equality and respect. Because you'll get what you demand, and if you go into it knowing that sort of love is possible -- well, you're a heckuva lot more likely to get it. It kills me when I meet teen girls who are dating some jerk who is less than respectful of them or who is making them do things they aren't ready for or who is disinterested or condescending. Real love lets you be the person you're meant to be. It makes you a bigger person, not less of one.

Sixth. So this. Yes. My answer is yes. Sams are out there. Young love is a real thing. It is not for everyone, but it's also not a rare thing only found in novels. This is the reason why I write YA romance. Because real teens are falling in real love every day, and someone ought to tell their story.

I was one of them.

/ maggie out.

ETA: Me and mine in Bologna, Italy, last month.

Bologna Castle laugh


Unknown said...

I met my Sam when I was 18, so I agree that Sams DO exist in real life. They are devoted, loving, loyal, respectful, and genuinely nice guys. I remember saying to my mom, "He's just such a GOOD guy. How sad is it that's such a rare thing?" Looking back, it's not rare, you just have to wait for the right one. When you put the right guy with the right girl, it's perfect.

Sam is one of the biggest reasons I love Shiver and recommend it and give it as gifts. He's one of the GOOD guys. He's not a jerk, he's not flipping off Grace one minute and snogging her the next. I heart Sam.

(Got my review copy of Linger today - speaking of Sam. She's the best! There is good juju in that name for you, Maggie!)

Daisy Whitney said...

Beautiful. And true love and boys like Sam are totally real and possible!

Annie said...

I met mine at 16. At the time, I didn't necessarly know that we'd be married some day, but I knew he'd be very special and important in my life from the moment he so eloquently said -"Hi I'm Jose, I don't know you."

Stacy said...

AMEN!!! I also met my husband when i was 20 and he was 19. He went to his parents the day that he met me and told them that he met his wife! NOW i'm 30, and still in love. Still get the butterflies every time he kisses me. Girls, there are Sam's out there!! You just have to trust yourself and when you know, you just know. You shouldn't have to question it.

Hay said...

Great post! And how true, I think many adults tend to be dismissive of teenage romances. I met my hubby at 17, and I was married at 19, now we are about to celebrate our 12 year anniversary. Many of my school friends are the same. I love how you say looks change but the heart stays the same, so true!

Thanks for creating Sam, my daughter who is twelve, and I read Shiver, and it's the first male character that she hasn't disliked. It's great for her to know there are good guys out there...

Jen said...

I think you might be right about having to take my husband out to the woods to beat him :)
THis is really a great article though :)
I met my husband when I was 17 - but went our seperate ways - got back together 3 years later and it was still there :) We got married after 6 months - it was great. Ok it took a little longer for the "warewolf" to kick in - but I'm still hopful :)
Great article though! I really love your insight on this matter ♥

Green Faerie said...

*applause* Oh Maggie. I adore this. The twitter comments didn't make me optimistic, but this post did. It's beautiful and i'm going to re read it over and over. *loves*

I like what you said about people becoming who they're meant to be. I feel i've only just reached that point recently (At 23!) I finally realised that I love me, i'm pretty awesome. And all the flaws I thought I had, turned out to just be part of the puzzle that makes me the person I am. I just hope I don't become too egotistical with the self acceptance.

I will definitely keep my eyes peeled and my heart open when I wander around this world. Although at the moment, i'm so happy just being me that I don't even know if i'm ready for a relationship anymore. Lol. But it would actually help me to identify him if he was wearing a faded Metallica T Shirt. : )

This has definitly made me want to re read Shiver & Linger. I may indulge myself with them this week. : )

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear. This is exactly why I read and write YA romance! When an author who truly believes in young love gets it right, I'll read the book a hundred times. When an author who doesn't believe it exists gives it a go anyway... boy. Disaster.

Thank you for believing. Hopefully some of your readers wondering where that kind of love is in their own lives will believe as well because this is VERY true:

"Love makes people beautiful to us. I see a lot of girls dating guys based purely on looks, when the sweet, loyal, perfect guy for them is right there -- but without shining Prince Charming locks or maybe he's wearing a faded Metallica t-shirt or maybe he's just a little chubby or possibly he is really, really trying hard to get rid of that acne. Looks change. The heart stays the same."

Erin said...

Oh, I'm so glad you posted this. I met my husband at 18 and knew almost immediately, though I hadn't dated much before that (we're now almost 29). I think so much of what's out there can make teens cynical - not that they shouldn't be cautious, but love should be hopeful and optimistic. One of the best parts about teaching 8th grade is the newness of it all and the excitement. So much fun.

Gaby G said...

I don't even remember when I first met my boyfriend. We studied together since kindergarten, and believe me, I NEVER thought about dating him (I didn't even liked him xD).

When we are girls, we made ourselves a "prince". And then we start looking for him...and we don't find it. Maybe the guy is great looking, but he is a jerk.

Soo, when I finally understand that...I started seeing THIS guy with different eyes. First we were just friend, but then I realized I was in love. It took me by surprise. I mean, I wasn't planning on loving someone. Besides, I was just 16. But I just knew I wanted to be with him forever and ever.

That was 6 years ago. My parents didn't really believe me when I told them I was in love (don't know why, because they met when they were like 13!). Maybe he wasn't the blue-eyed guy I always dreamed about it...but he is so perfect for me. He respect me, is my best friend, and he loves me! Can you believe it? (and he's sexy too ;P)

So yes...I believe in TRUE YOUNG LOVE. I was one of them too :D

Dawn Embers said...

Very interesting post.

I haven't had a chance to read the book yet but it's on my large "to read" list. In high school, I was the chubby girl who liked the nice guy but he didn't notice and went for the thin, more popular girl.

I don't have the experience of love as a teen but I also spent a few years volunteering with teens, so I've been able to watch them interact and such. Helps when writing my YA book, for sure.

Very good points in this post. Look forward to meeting the character when I read the book.

a flight of minds said...

Thank you so much for this. It gives me some sort of hope, even as someone who is very much in love with her boyfriend, I know we won't be together forever and it makes me so glad to know that someday, I will find that guy. :)

Kat Heckenbach said...

"...that if you are open to love and are willing to settle for nothing less than someone who is completely into you and just you, who respects you for who you are, who is happy with your boundaries and interested in keeping you happy, you will find it."

That statement is so true--you can never meet a Sam if you are too busy devoting your time to some other guy who treats you wrong and doesn't respect you.

Phoebe North said...

Hey Maggie, great post. I met my now-husband at 18 (26 now!) and to this day, some friends roll their eyes and act like I'm deluded when I tell them it really is possible to marry your best friend. I recently read Shiver (my first of your books! loved it!) and I adored that aspect of the romance--Sam and Grace are such realistic friends, and truly respect one another. I think we need more of that in YA. It's such a great model, and so important, I think, for girls to know that it is possible.

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

Awww I love this post, but sadly still waiting for a Sam. Or a James...

Sydney said...

Aww, I love you more for this Ms Maggie! This is amazing and I literally *sighed* while reading it. <3 lovelovelove!

Angel said...

Fabulous post and very pop culture relevant considering all of the recent comparisons between the men in books versus the men of the real world. I do find that you read about these sort of men and go looking for them in the real world. Perhaps the men we see in movies and read about in books do influence our ideals and expectations in what we are looking for in a partner. I do believe men like Sam exist but perhaps everyone isn't meant to find one. Those lucky enough to find someone of that caliber should hold on tight and be grateful for such a wonderful gift. Love can come at any time and shouldn't be discarded because of age. Here's to everyone finding a Sam for their very own.

Phoebe North said...

Depending on how mature you are, if it's the right time/ place -- why not? The only important thing, as I see it, is that you've become that core person of who you're going to be.

Oh, I do have to say, though, our relationship went through a lot of growing pains because it was my first real one--and I wasn't very mature at 18! I think of the person I was then, and while I admire many things about her, I do wonder how my husband (who was older and more experienced/settled) did it. The late teens can be pretty tumultuous, which doesn't make those early relationships any easier! Which isn't to say it's not worth it, of course. It certainly was for me!

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, there are Sam's. My son is one, he just turned twenty and the way he treats his girlfriend melts my heart. They write poetry to each other, he sings to her with his guitar, he is the most utterly devoted and loyal person I know. Also, he's good looking in a completely normal way.

The wonderful thing is, my daughter's boyfriend is also a Sam and I think that they've got a very good shot of making things last too.

I'm lucky because my kids tell me everything. I'm part of it all and I get to know what relationships they're having and with whom and believe me, I treat those relationships with the respect they deserve. I never make them hide away and wish they'd never shared their lives with me.

Sam's alive and well and living in the heart of many a boy. Thank goodness.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this, Maggie! I'm 17 and have never dated anyone, nor met a guy I've wanted to date. I'd contently accepted my fate, written off the possibility of Real Good Guys and settled for living vicariously through fictional girls like Grace. Your post gives me hope that someday I'll meet a real Sam. Thanks so much. -Kat

Donna Gambale said...

Thankfully it only took me until 17 to stop crushing on the wrong guys, and at 18 I began dating my now-fiance. He's a Sam, and I try to never take that for granted.

Finding each other was a complete fluke, though not as serendipitously random as your story. By the time we get married in 2011, we'll have been together 7 years.

You're completely right -- love like that exists, but at different times for different people. I didn't become "me" until I was 20 or 21, a couple years into our relationship. After that point, I just knew.

Unknown said...

I love this post!! and Sams do exist!! I met my husband when we were in high school I was 17 and he was 16, we got married when I was 19 and he was 18 and we've been together for 10 years and have two wonderful children. We love each other more than we did before.. so I know for a fact that young love truly exists. BTW he is very sensitive and protective and romantic to me! =) a true SAM!

Roko said...

I met Sam when I was 17 and we were together until 22. Actually Im 26 and I do believe that SAM can be met again maybe not with hte same look but I do believe

I just have to let go the first one

Thanks for everything, this post made me undertand a lot of things


swiggett said...

What a wonderful post! Guys can be like that, and while I didn't meet mine till I was almost 21 (still married at younger age - 22), they are out there.

I also think that you are being realistic in your post - that not everyone will be ready for that kind of love or commitment at 17/18/19. But, when you know, you know.

Sara {Rhapsody and Chaos} said...

Awesome post Maggie =) There are DEFINITELY teen boys who have similar qualities to Sam (um, sans werewolf of course). I'm really glad you posted about this!

TL Sumner said...

I met my Sam at 17, and have been happily married to him for fifteen years. (Together for 21.) Maybe that's why I loved SHIVER so much. :-)

Unknown said...

I do think it's possible. Though I've known my husband my whole life, at 15 I realized he was something special. A few months later, the boy I was seeing and I split up, and I was free to date my now husband. We were engaged in high school and got married after I had some college under my belt. Closing in on 15 years as a couple and 10 of marriage, we're still happily together.

And I think you're right. Not at all kids are ready at that age, not by a long shot, but life circumstances can certainly accelerate your maturity.

Crystal Cook said...

Just beautiful Maggie :) I don't think I can say anything else to add to what everyone else said other than thank you :) for your heart and how much of it is put into your writing. You are making a difference, you should be so proud of what you do.

And I'll add my name to the list, I met my Sam at 18. I didn't believe in love at the time, but he changed my mind. We've been together for 10 years now, happier and better every day.

Sorry I couldn't contain the sappiness :)
Thanks Maggie.

Jonathon Arntson said...

I wish Sam were gay.

Dara said...

I met a Sam too when I was 18, my first year of college. He was the first and only guy I dated. After three years of dating, we were engaged and then married.

They do exist. Sometimes it takes longer to find one.

Anonymous said...

I've never met a Sam in my life. I know people who have met Sams, and I know people who have dated Sams. I've read about lots and lots of Sams. I've passed people on the street who I think might be Sams--boys who carry guitar cases and speak softly, paperback books tucked into the pockets of their worn coats.

But I believe they exist. They must exist. They exist the way I know that, half a world a way, there are countries I've never seen. And maybe I'll go my whole life without ever meeting one, or dating one, or falling in love with one, at least, but that doesn't mean that they're not out there. The second we allow ourselves to believe they're not out there, is the second we begin to settle, and I've never settled for anything in my life.

Sam exists.

Staar84 said...

I didn't want to say this on my facebook boyfriend has his Sam-like moments, but I have a male friend who is totally a Sam. He wrote love notes in kindergarten! He's just painfully shy, but he is one of the sweetest men I know. So men like Sam exist, they are just very, very rare. :)

Arianna said...

so... i know that Sams exist. There is enough proof right here on this page. But why can't I find mine?

Anonymous said...

I met my Sam last year and I knew that he meant more to me than any other guy had meant to me before. My Sam, who is ironicly named Sam, Is perfect to me. I don't know if he is my ture love or not, But I think he is. I am only 13 and I know you guys are thinking that I am way to young for this stuff, but I believe that true love can happen at any age.

P.S. Yes, I read Shiver because the main guys name was Sam. No I am not dating My Sam just because his name is Sam :)

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Arianna, sometimes you just aren't ready for yours! Or he is shy and invisible. :)

Anon, LOL!!!

Anonymous said...

I also belive sam excists and infact have met 2 people I consider a strong connection of sorts one however I only see as a friend the other only wants to be friends 0o *sigh* so relitivly speaking I'm still looking for my sam that guy(third guy) who I have a strong connection with who as soon as we see eachother its like..well.. a love story


Annabeth said...

I met a guy who might possibly be like Sam. And ironically enough, his name IS Sam. We've been going to school together since elementary school, but last year (before i read shiver) i started thinking of him in a different way. I think I might really like him, but he already has a girlfriend. And even if he was single, he would never notice me anyway.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Annabeth, that's NOT TRUE! You are as noticeable as you believe yourself to be. And also, the guy you ought to date is the one that notices you, not the one you have to change for. /end preaching

Manda said...

I was one of the girls on Facebook that said they didn't believe Sam existed. I was wrong. He already knows who he is. It's up to me to figure out who I am. I'm getting there.

Tom M Franklin said...

I grew up a good guy. Shy, respectful, good sense of humor (if I say so myself) and I found that very few girls were interested in me. I was boring in comparison to the more exciting bad boys out there.

If you're wanting a good guy, you might need to make the first move. Most of us are shy and we've been so rejected by girls for so long that we're not willing to risk the rejection again. So, talk to that good guy. Be the one that asks him out.

After all, he's only human.

-- Tom

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