Aquamarine is the story about two teen girls who find a mermaid and are promised any wish if they can help the mermaid find true love (spoilers below). The lesson I want to talk about actually doesn't have much to do with the plot itself, but with a topic I've covered in previous "Lessons from" posts. Mainly, having your characters act age appropriate.
Most of my books have some sort of romance in them even if the main plot isn't a romance - a romance will most likely come in somewhere. With my first young adult fantasy, Horse Charmer, currently out, I've been brainstorming other young adult and middle grade stories. Something I noticed with Horse Charmer was that though the story is young adult because of the age of the heroine and a romantic element, my tone is more middle grade fantasy. The romance was very light and sweet - on purpose.
Lesson 1 - Aquamarine - The two girls, Claire and Haley, have a painful crush on the love interest, Raymond, but a much as they may gush and study him, they don't believe either of them will actually have him. When Aquamarine picks him as the man she wants to love - they set out to help her. The main plot is then launched. My favorite scene in the movie is near the end after they've helped Aquamarine prove that love exists and Raymond comes to talk with them. He gives each girl a kiss on the cheek. The girls are astonished and thrilled. Their first kiss from the boy of their dreams. It was an innocent kiss on Raymond's part - the girls are too young for him. But the point and power of the scene is it's innocence and it's "age appropriateness."
For those of us writing young adult and/or middle grade, I think this is a powerful lesson to consider. Sometimes a romance can be "innocent" and other times it won't be so innocent, but the great thing is we can utilize both methods to tell coming of age stories.