I am a bitter romance reader. Not that I do not enjoy a good romance…. It just has to be good. And, good romances are very difficult to find. Pride and Prejudice has issues, but is, I believe, one of the better romance novels out there. (Sorry, but Sense and Sensibility , Cyrano de Bergerac, and The Eragon are my favorite novels with either romance plots or slow-build romance.
There’s nothing wrong with Young Adult romances. After all, first loves and hormones are all part of the teenage experience. However, looking at the last couple of years of YA novels, it seems that romance has shifted from being a genre trend to a genre requirement — and the genre has suffered for it.
— Elizabeth Vail
Too often in YA (let’s be honest, most books) there is this idea that there has to be romance. There has to be a love triangle. There has to be a romance-orientated plot
I am so tired of it.
The Mortal Instruments is one of the rare love triangles I could stomach. In fact, The Hunger Games… I was cool with that love triangle… until book three.
Even TV shows and movies have similar issues.
For every one YA novel with a well-integrated and beautiful romantic element, there seem to be three where a romance or, worse, a love triangle is gracelessly shoehorned into a story that neither requires nor develops it. As a result, you get novels with underdeveloped characters, abbreviated plots, romantic progression that relies on irrational and often abusive behavior, and the dreadful phenomenon described by reviewers as “instalove.” The shy, outcast girl looks across a room and catches the eye of a mysterious, moody loner boy and bam! Instant romance! Just in time to fight the Evil Cow Zombie Overlords of your Dystopian Future Setting.
These tropes are particularly noticeable in the subgenres of science fiction, fantasy, and dystopian YA novels, where there’s already a “serious plot” that requires the lion’s share of the narrative — leaving little enough room for a romance. Using “instalove” seems like an easy way to market your novel as “The Next Twilight“ and land a girl in a flowing prom dress on your cover without having to waste words actually developing a relationship.
Here’s the thing, though — you shouldn’t write a multi-genre novel if you only respect one of those genres. I cut my book reviewer teeth on romance novels before venturing into Young Adult territory and I can tell you that your futuristic revolutionaries, genetically modified cheerleaders and half-angel Mathletes could learn a thing or two from those raven-haired hoydens and scandalous Dukes.
Romantic stories are ultimately character-driven rather than plot-driven — they depend on character progression and escalating interaction. A lazy romantic plotline can still have a negative impact on the “serious plot” if it compromises the realism and development of the characters.
— Elizabeth Vail
Thing is, too often, these are unhealthy relationships. Relationships that create a “norm” for the teen readers – a “norm” that is (too often) abusive or neglectful. (I mean… Twilight, anyone?)
In some of these YA novels, it is forced love.
Which is, essentially, rape.
“[Rape is] the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
— United States Department of Justice
One of the things they made us listen to during my Freshman Orientation at college was what exactly rape is. The speaker made a very good point (other than any touching that is not okay-ed is a form of rape or assault) that was, essentially, even the manipulation of someone’s emotions to get them to return affections is rape.
Now, as Hannah Heath (another blogger) has mentioned several times: teen dating, as a generalization, often leads to some questionable situations. Mix hormones and angst together with romance and you have a recipe for disaster.
Sometimes, there are amazing characters in these YA teen romances! I cannot list any off the top of my head, but certain characters from The Ranger’s Apprentice come to mind. There are sometimes well-developed, well-rounded characters in these books, but you have to sift through a ton of crap to get to the good stuff. My favorites are the ones where the couple were friends for even just a little bit before they fell in love – which is (most of the time) the basis for a healthy relationship.
“Love at first sight” is total crap.
I understand that sometimes there is this chemical (or whatever) attraction that hits ya like a bus, but, as someone with her feet solidly on the ground, this is unrealistic.
It is, at its base, a physical attraction. Which leads to other issues…. MOVING ON.
A lot of times, the attraction the boy character feels for the girl is based upon how she does not see her worth. But he does.
Boy, oh, boy! Issues.
As someone who once suffered from an eating disorder, I realize how freaking terrible trying to build a relationship when one has such massive insecurities can be. Do I still have body issues? Yes. But, I realize I have at least a little bit of worth. Heck, FRIENDSHIPS are hard enough during that part of your life.
Trying to build anything as important as a romantic relationship during that time of such insecurity is a terrible life choice.
Now, let’s talk about rape in YA.
Oooooooh… it is there.
A huge freaking red flag in YA is how these young men are attracted to these girls with massive insecurities or mental health issues. This is preying on weakness – a total caveman mentality.
It’s like a group of guys having a bet on who a girl’s first kiss is gunna be or who is going to sleep with her first.
“You’re cute when you’re angry” needs to stop. She has every reason to feel that way. Her emotions are just as valid as yours. If you want to fix her, help her fix HER – not “us.”
Let us start writing strong characters with solid morals and romance that is healthy.
Love you all,