Here's two big threads in my YA book:
- political: There are two sides to the war going on in the book; one side is numerous, but poorly-equipped and poverty-stricken; the other side has far fewer people, but has limited use of magic (centered in the royal family, of which my protagonist is a lost heir) and somewhat more wealth. Side A sees side B (and I really have to come up with names for these peoples) as brutal invaders. Side B feels culturally superior to side A, and feels like they have the right to rule as a result. There's a lot of rhetoric going on about 'rightful inhabitants', 'pure people', 'culture vs. barbarity', etc. If you were to attempt to map this onto the Sri Lankan civil war, you would not be so far off.
- individual: My protagonist is a lost princess of the royal family; she comes in with massive magical power, and is hailed as a savior. She gets seduced on two fronts, personal and political, to attempt to wed her to their cause. This is successful for a time, but eventually she comes to realize what's going on, that she's been manipulated by people who think they're fighting in a good cause, but that the real situation is much more complex. She actually chooses to step back from her powers, giving up the role of hero. In a way, you could see the book as an argument against the whole hero notion, esp. as it plays out in so many fantasy novels. (Harry Pottter, frex.)
So my question is about the third thread:
- romantic: For my protagonist, romance does not work out well. She is somewhat coerced/seduced into a romantic relationship with the prince, only to find out that he's just using her (with what he thinks of as good intentions, but that's no comfort to her. He's actually in love with someone else, who he feels like he has to give up for the sake of his country). I'm a little worried that this will read as 'girl has sex with boy, gets punished for it', esp. as she is very inexperienced up until this point. But Jed tells me not to worry about it, and she does eventually get to date nice boy who actually likes her, so hopefully that will undercut that idea. But then there's...
- romance #2: My protagonist has a best friend, a sidekick, if you will, who gets separated from her and thus gets a chunk of the book to herself. Right now, what I'd like to do is have her fall for a guy on the other side of the war -- okay, that part's already happened. But then she finds out he's married, which is where I've written up to so far. I have two choices -- one, they become just friends, and the romance thread essentially goes away. Or two, which was my original intent, she gets to know his wife, and falls for her too, and since they come from a culture where multiple wives is common, they see nothing wrong in inviting her to join their marriage. And then she has to decide what to do about it. If she takes them up on it, she'll probably have some sort of discussion of patriarchal assumptions with them, and point out that she's going to want the option of marrying other guys too, if it should come up.
So the question is, does it feel like I'm shoving poly issues into a story where they don't belong, and where they'll overwhelm the political/individual threads, which are much more important to the story, in my mind? I don't want this to be a 'poly' book, in other words -- but it'd be nice for it to be a book in which bi/poly stuff is part of the romantic landscape. Protagonist #1's parents have a v. happy traditional het marriage, which is also what the prince would like with his true love, so there are at least some happy standard models too.
And is all this too much for a YA book of 60-80K?
Do my questions even make sense?