Jo Talks Books: On Reasons Why Romance In YA Fiction Bothers Me

Hey everyone! As I said on my last discussion post, February is going to be romance themed discussion month and for this month, I’m actually going to have weekly discussion posts for you guys, simply because I had more than just two ideas for discussion posts this month (on months when I have lots of ideas for discussion posts, I will do more than just two a month). For this week’s discussion, I’m going to be talking YA romance and why I often have such a problem with romance in YA books, as I’ve noticed in my reviews, one of the biggest issues I often have with the books I read is the romances.

I would like to start off by saying that despite how it may seem sometimes when I rant about all the things that annoy me about romances in books, I don’t hate having a romance element to my books. I understand why YA writers feel the need to add romances to their books, romance is a big part of the experience of being young adult (I’ll admit not for me personally, which might be a contributing factor to why I’m often so iffy with YA romances, having not really experienced romance myself, I can’t really relate to it) and so it’s natural that this is reflected in books that are targeted for that age range. The problem isn’t that romance is included (though sometimes I do wish YA writers would write books that focus more on friendships between characters than romantic relationship), it’s not all YA writers do romance well.

Let’s start with my biggest romance pet peeve and I bet you can all probably guess what it is. Yeah, you guessed it, the dreaded love triangle, a romantic trope that seems appear in almost every YA novel nowadays. I don’t understand why! It’s so frustrating watching these heroines (because they are almost always girls) dithering between these two guys. Maybe it’s meant to add conflict, I don’t know, but it doesn’t really seem necessary, since most YA books I’ve read that have love triangles already have enough conflict going on within the plot without adding conflict in the main protagonist’s romantic relationships as well. Plus, I don’t know if it’s just me, but isn’t it always so obvious which guy the girl is going to choose? I mean if you’re going to go with the love triangle angle, at least make it difficult for the readers to work which guy your protagonist is going to choose. Also maybe it’s just my lack of romance experience kicking in here, but I don’t think love triangles are very realistic, in real life are you really ever in love with two people at once? Sure two people could be in love with you, but chances are you only really love one of them, but love triangles in books usually seem to make out like the girl is in love with both guys at once and has to choose between them. I also feel like love triangles take away for the opportunity for one well developed romance between two characters, which I would much prefer to read about. They’ve just been done so much that I’m tired of seeing them and they’re always so cliche, two guys in love with this one girl. I might be more open to love triangles if they were more interesting, for instance if occasionally we had a guy who had to choose between two girls or if it was a girl who had to choose between a girl and guy or a guy who had to choose between a girl and another guy, that might make me more willing to read love triangles, if they had a more interesting dimension to them, but as it currently stands, I hate the trend of the male/female/male triangle and would like to see it end please!

My other really major pet peeve with romance in YA books is that sometimes, and I’m not saying all the time, because that would be unfair to the YA authors who don’t do this, there is insta-love. I may just be incredibly cynical and please, feel free to tell me if you think I am, but I don’t believe in love at first sight. I always roll my eyes when this happens in books or TV shows, or movies, because it just doesn’t seem real. You don’t just set eyes on a guy and think “Oh I love him” and vice versa for guys with girls. Sure, you can see someone and feel attracted to them from just one look, but fall in love? I don’t think so! Love comes from getting to know someone, not just from one glance and I think just having characters fall in love at first sight is a crappy reason for not developing a relationship between two characters properly and I really hate it. Call me crazy, but when I read about a romance between two characters, I want to see it develop in front of me. I want to see their relationship develop, why they fall for each other, what they have in common not just that they love each other instantly. In fact I’d rather that they hate each other at first and this eventually grows into romance than be instantly in love. Slow burn romance for the win people!

I also hate that romance often (not always but often) seems to take over the plot of a book. I’m talking here books that aren’t billed as primarily romance, obviously it’s fine in romance novels because romance is the plot! If I wanted to read a romance though, I’d pick up one of those books! I don’t like it when a book that’s not labelled as romance has a romance that takes over the entire plot. I picked up the book because I was interested in the plot and if all I get is some crappy romance that I don’t care about, it makes me very angry. It’s fine to have a romance as a side plot in a book, but if all your main character can do is think about their significant other, then it makes me roll my eyes. A lot. For instance, The Hunger Games is fine, the romance is there, but it’s not the be all and end all (at least not in the first book), but in a book such as Slated (dystopian novel by Teri Terry), I feel like the romance takes up far more focus than it should do. Also I hate it when the protagonists are in the middle of a big battle and suddenly kiss! I mean that’s not going to get you killed at all guys! Plus, I hate how the romance sometimes comes off as being the most important thing about the book for some people. Like the whole Team Peeta/Team Gale thing in The Hunger Games, ultimately The Hunger Games is not about whether Katniss chooses Peeta or Gale, it’s about her making an incredible sacrifice to save her sister and I feel like that sometimes gets lost in the whole argument about whether she should have chosen Peeta or Gale. Same with Throne of Glass, and the whole Team Chaol/Team Dorian/Team Rowan argument, the books aren’t about who Aelin chooses, they’re about her coming to terms with her past and her identity and saving her kingdom (at least that’s how I see it).

I also hate how YA books perpetuate the stereotype that girls and guys can’t be friends. I’m not saying all YA books do this, for instance Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series has a girl who is friends with a group of guys and, okay, she does fall in love with one of them, but she’s friends with the other three guys and it’s perfectly natural, the other three boys aren’t all secretly in love with her, they’re just friends. Newsflash YA writers, this does happen! I mean, personally, my best friends are all girls but my best friend is on a course at Uni which has a lot of guys and not so many girls, and so naturally she’s friends with a lot of guys, but that’s all they are, just friends. It does happen in life, so why can’t it happen in books? In most YA books I read, when guys and girls are friends, one is usually secretly in love with the other or if they really are just friends, one of them is normally gay. Now, I don’t mind when friendships develop into romances, in fact, those are my favourite kind (take Percabeth for instance, friends first and then romance which develops over time) because they’re normally better developed, but it would be great, if sometimes in a book which has a male and a female main character, that they didn’t end up falling in love. It would make a nice change! I would love to see more male/female friendships in YA books without it leading to romance! I also hate it when a romance is included just for the sake of it and there doesn’t seem to be any actual chemistry between the characters and the love interest of the main character seems to be there simply to be the love interest. If the romance is not necessary to the plot, then leave it out!

Overall I just tend to find romance in YA books very cliche, it always seems so obvious where the romance is going to go and there will always be at least one of several cliched tropes, whether it be the guy who has been secretly in love with his female friend for years, the love triangle, the insta-love, the girl choosing between two brothers (I know that comes under love triangle but I’ve seen it in a couple of books and wanted to give it a special mention), romance for the sake of including a romance, guys and girls not being able to just be friends etc. I mean I know that it’s difficult to write a fresh romance without any of these tropes, because I’m pretty sure almost every angle on a romantic relationship has been explored in one way or another in books by now, but I would like it if some authors could take some of these tropes and twist them in a fresh new way that would make it seem like they weren’t the same tropes we’re so tired of reading about. Is that really too much to ask? In fact maybe just less romance in books in general? I mean I like it occasionally, but is getting a bit ridiculous that you can’t read a YA book without the main character having a romantic interest these days! Somehow though, I don’t feel like the trend of romance in YA books is going to die down any time soon though, so if I’m going to have to have romance in the books I like to read, then I’d at least like it to be well done. And that, I don’t think, is too much to ask, since it’s what authors should be doing anyway. If you can’t write a good romance between your characters, don’t write one at all, is what I think.

I’m sorry that this post was a little ranty, but I guess I have a lot of ranty feelings about romance in YA books! Plus I like getting to rant a little from time to time, it’s one of the fun parts of doing these discussion posts! So anyway, now it’s over to you. How do you feel about romance in YA books? Are you tired of the same tropes I am? Would you like there to be less romance in YA books? How do you think authors could change up some of the tired old tropes to make them more interesting? What are your favourite romances that you’ve read in YA books? Why? What are your least favourite? Why? Let’s discuss, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Continuing on with my romance themed month of discussions this February, I will have another post for you all next week, all about how I feel that being bookworm has given me unrealistic expectations about love. In the meantime though, my next post will probably be my Top Ten Tuesday post on Tuesday, so make sure you all check that out.


6 thoughts on “Jo Talks Books: On Reasons Why Romance In YA Fiction Bothers Me

  1. Olivia Ashryver 08/02/2016 / 1:23 am

    I agree with you! Those tropes can be annoying, but I’m okay with them if they’re done well. 🙂

    • iloveheartlandx 08/02/2016 / 11:45 am

      I’m also okay with them if they’re done well, the problem is that they rarely are!

  2. lindseyhabets 10/02/2016 / 7:03 pm

    Hi, I agree completely with you! It is very tricky to do romance right in YA and it does often include love triangles, insta-love and other tropes. I always like to have some romance in a book I’m reading, no matter what the genre, but it should never overshadow the plot. And if it’s not done right, it can ruin the entire book.But if it’s done right, then I think it can really elevate a book from good to amazing 🙂

    • iloveheartlandx 10/02/2016 / 8:14 pm

      Thanks! Yeah I do like it there, just because I feel it sometimes helps me be more invested in the characters, but I definitely only want it in the background. I agree!

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