Discussion: Romance and YA

let's talkSorry this is going to be a bit rambly and short. I’m definitely not as eloquent as I could be. Hopefully my message still gets across.

I’m reading The Testing  by Joelle Charbonneau at the moment. I’m really liking the story. I need to do a bit of set up to go into my discussion. I’ll make this as spoiler free as I can.

Cia and her friend Tomas are out in the wilderness trying to survive. They’re getting along really well. The two of them are working hard to survive. Then BOOM we have the romance. With as much YA as I read I couldn’t say I was surprised but I’m definitely annoyed. I then took to Twitter to vent my annoyances.

Here we have two teens struggling to survive. They’re fighting nature and the baddies in the book. They have a lot on their plate. Why must there be stolen glances, racing hearts, or any of that other stuff? If this were happening in reality, I somehow doubt there would this type of romance going on. Obviously they would grow fond of each other but not a romance. (I do have to say it’s not the stupid “You are my entire world” love though. That’s a plus.) It’s still annoying.

So why must there be romance in pretty much all YA books though? I understand to an extent because of the hormones that are going on. It annoys me because I find romantic storylines boring and uninteresting. It also bothers me because of the message it’s sending. It’s projecting the message that you need to be in a relationship. A boy and a girl working side by side to survive can’t be doing this as friends or partners. Surely they must be in love. Why in the world couldn’t they work together without out there being ‘feelings’ between them?

Another aspect of the romance in YA that annoys me is that it feels very forced in. YA romance definitely has its place. I know that. Romance does sell. There’s do denying that. But why stick it in many, many of the books that are out there when it’s unnecessary? I always see it in sci fi/dystopia books. We have the boy and the girl paired up as partners facing danger. Working together they discover they’re in ~love~. The story could have been just as strong if the two were only partners, friends, colleges, coworkers, whatever the case may be. That’s still an interesting story.

How do you feel about romance and YA? Do you feel it’s being pushed everywhere?

Any recommendation of YA books where there’s no romance in it?

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14 thoughts on “Discussion: Romance and YA

  1. I think the ones that bother me most are where it seems like the ‘love interest’ is only added in for the purpose of being a love interest, where the plot could be exactly the same *without* the love interest. It’s what I disliked about Harry/Ginny — them being ‘together’ didn’t effect the plot at all; you could have had the exact same story without them getting together, so why bother? The Ron/Hermione romance at least had some bearing on the plot itself.

    • I’m totally with you there. It seems like a cheap ploy to me. The author couldn’t make the story interesting enough on its own so they have to add romance to keep readers.

  2. I agree completely. It’s rare that you have a YA novel that doesn’t have romance, and generally it adds a lot of bs drama in the middle of other life-and-death situations. That doesn’t mean that romance doesn’t have a place in apocalyptic stories, but when it’s there, it should be more subtle and have a lot less drama. I’m thinking more along the lines of two characters establishing camaraderie and then realizing they have feelings for each other, rather than the typical YA love triangle.

    If you’re looking for a YA novel with no romance, check out “Katya’s World” by Jonathan Howard. I don’t know if the rest of the trilogy will have any romance, but the first book had none at all, and it was quite refreshing.

  3. Well, I actually really like romance in any book, so it never bothers me. Do I think it should be in EVERY YA book, of course not. I think it’s really important to have a wide range of genres in YA. I do think romance is very common in YA these days, though. Perhaps because it’s a great selling point. I mean, if you think of what the really popular books have been lately, there’s been romance. Twilight, of course, but also The Hunger Games, The Lunar Chronicles, etc. I think publishers are probably asking for the romance to be beefed up a lot in books. Also, romance is a HUGE seller in general. Think of the romance genre for adults. They are incredibly popular, even if they are often looked at with scorn. I think a lot of people, like myself, like romance.

    Plus, maybe a lot of authors want to tell stories with romance.

    Again, I’m not saying that every book should have romance, because I don’t feel that way. And I’ve read a decent amount of books with no real romance plot. For example, I’m listening to I Hunt Killers right now (it’s AWESOME) and there isn’t a romance plot at all. Also, White Cat by Holly Black. There really isn’t a romance in that one either. Or Code Name Verity. I do like the romance, though, so I tend to gravitate towards them, and I never really have a hard time finding them.

    I’m not sure if I agree with you about the romance in books sending a message about how you can’t be complete if you’re not in a relationship. I’ve never really felt that with romance in books. I mean, I’m single (and have been for a very long time) and I don’t feel like I’m wasting my life, or that my life isn’t complete, and I read romance all the time. Of course, that’s just my experience. But I’m not sure if I feel like having people fall in love sends a message about how you need to be in a relationship. If a main character was all miserable, and then gets in a relationship, and is all happy after it, then I guess I could see that. But otherwise, I’m just not sure I agree.

    Of course, this is coming from someone who loves the romance 🙂

    • My biggest problem is authors treat romance as a critical element of a story. It’s NOT an essential part of a story. It doesn’t need to be in everything out there. I’ve read some books that have to romance shoved in there very oddly as if someone told them a romance was needed at the last minute.

      Maybe projecting the message isn’t the best way to say it. It just feels like that a lot of time and books are focused on romance and those relationships. But what about people who have no interest in romance right now or ever? Why isn’t that story being told more often? There are a lot of people out there perfectly content with being single. It would just be nice to have that come up more often and more characters (and authors) treating it normally.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Quinn! 🙂

  4. I agree!! I really don’t like it when two people are like in serious peril and they’re like blushing when the other person looks at them. I just don’t see myself caring about what a boy thinks of me when I might die at any moment. I like a good romance in the right books, but when it’s forced in there it gets on my nerves!

  5. I completely agree with most of what you say here, but take it one step further. Beyond the fact that it’s unlikely that every single male-female pairing must eventually fall in love regardless its relevance to the plot, I think that there’s a lot to be said about what that’s telling young readers about love and romance. There’s this kind of implication that love stems from this grand destiny of “being together”… and close proximity. It’s almost as though these books are denying the possibility for friendship, or even platonic love between two members of the opposite sex (which is in itself somewhat problematic – what, gays/late-bloomers/straight-members-of-the-same-sex are never going to be alone in a post-apocalyptic world?). These are fairly bad messages to send to young adults, however unintentional they may be.

    There’s also just the cliched matter. Like you say, sometimes a romance can make sense within the context of the plot. For example, The Hunger Games. Ironically enough, it’s often misused as a counterexample, but it has an ambiguous “romance” that is entirely necessary according to the plot. The later books blur that line a bit, but it still started off plot relevant. Sometimes romances really make sense, but they’ve sparked the across-the-board trope of love stories that just don’t.

  6. I don’t mind the romance aspect as much if it happens naturally. It’s the fact that the romance is often forced that bugs me. If a romance develops in a believable way, and it doesn’t feel like it was thrown in for the sake of having a romance, then it works for me.

    What bugs me even more about YA are the love triangles. How often in real life are you involved in a love triangle?? If you read YA books, you’d think that’s the norm. What makes it even worse is that the girl (isn’t it always a girl choosing between two boys?) usually goes for the bad/mysterious boy rather than the nice boy who you think will be better for her. What kind of message does that send to girls? I don’t want my daughter to date the bad boy. I’d much rather she date nice boys who will treat her well and with respect.

  7. It’s not that I mind romance in YA novels, or anywhere else for that matter, but like you I’m exhausted with its pervasiveness. At some point, it’s worthwhile to tell a different story instead of the same one we’ve been getting over and over again. And so so often, I can’t see any reason for the romance, like any reason that these specific two people would be interested in each other; but then suddenly they’re all dire about each other. Boring.

What are your thoughts? (Comments are moderated. Yours will be up as soon as I read it!)

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