And I’m back with another discussion for the month of February! Valentine’s Day has long since passed and love has most likely dissipated from the air, but since it’s still the month of love, I thought I’d center my discussion topic around it! I was also supposed to post this on Friday, but I posted my last discussion post around this time, so why not do it again?
Imagine you’re reading a book. It’s a thriller, a fantasy, a sci-fi, a dystopian, pretty much any genre except contemporary. You’re completely entranced in the world the author has created. The main character is the perfect main character, tailored just for you, a character you’ve always dreamed of. The writing is absolutely stunning. Literally everything about this book is perfect, every element is coming together so wonderfully…and then the Generic Love Interest enters the building and entrances your hero/heroine into insta-love. You sigh, you scream, you throw your book against the wall, because, damn it, why does EVERY YA book have to have a stupid romance in it, when there doesn’t even need to be one? Can there ever be a YA book without a romance? Is that possible?
Pictured Above: Everyone Reading Insta-Love
Which introduces the discussion topic: Is the Romance Really Necessary in YA Books and Why is It There in the First Place?
I’ve mentioned before in other posts that I just hate when romance comes in and ruins a perfectly good premise. It’s one of my main problems with YA mysteries/thrillers: it’s so damn good, so gory, but the author decides to focus more on the angsty backstory between the heroine and the love interest rather than, you know, solving the mystery. But this isn’t even just a problem in the mystery/thriller genre. This is basically a problem in all different types of genres, whether it be the assassin that’s too busy falling in love to actually do anything in fantasy or the revolutionary symbol who can’t choose between two hot guys in dystopians.
I definitely am not against all romance that takes place in a different genre other than contemporary. Take Sarah J. Maas, for instance. I know some people hate her books, but I’m a huge fangirl of them, and if you know anything about her books, you know they create the biggest shipping wars the world has ever seen. Both Feyre and Aelin go have at least two different love interests in each of their respective series – the ACOTAR trilogy and the TOG series – but never have I ever felt that that the romance has gone first before the plot. The world-building is epic, the plot is complex, and the characters all shine in their own respective ways, and, yeah, there are hot sex scenes going along with that. Same with series such as the Raven Cycle, where even though the entire premise of the series is surrounding a forbidden kiss, relies more on friendship and magic than romance, or the novels These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner and The Program by Suzanne Young, that both feature gorgeous romances, but also take the time to deliver on their promising premises and push them to their full potential, even beyond what I thought I’d be given.
But with the good, comes the bad. There are two series that I think would’ve been absolutely fantastic if not for the romance – the 5th Wave trilogy by Rick Yancey and The Selection by Kiera Cass. My love for the 5th Wave trilogy waned as the books went on, and, unfortunately, completely halted once I finished The Last Star, and I remember that when writing my review, I realized that the series could have done without the romance. Evan and Cassie weren’t the adorable ship they had been when they first met, instead fighting and partaking in one of the worst sex scenes ever, and Ringer and Ben came out of absolutely nowhere (and you guys know how much I hate ships with zero build-up). And concerning The Selection, it’s probably one of the best examples of a dystomance I’ve seen in recent years. During the rise in popularity of books like The Hunger Games and Divergent, most authors decided to write their own dystopian novels, where they basically all ended up being about a world where a basic right is taken away and a sixteen-year-old girl has to serve as both a revolution symbol and a love interest at the same time, but focuses more on the romance than the world-building or the plot or basic realisticness, hence dystomance. The Selection could definitely have potential, as expressed much better than I ever could in this Goodreads review from a user named Kiki, but is instead wasted on an infuriatingly stupid heroine and a love triangle between the Boring Prince and the Boring Ex.
This goes without mentioning other popular and extremely loved series whose premises were ruined by romance, in my opinion, namely the Shatter Me trilogy, the Mara Dyer trilogy, and the Winner’s trilogy. All series that had such amazing plots and a great cast of characters, but ruined it with love triangles, crappy love interests, and boring forbidden love subplots.
And then you have to wonder why it’s there in the first place. And the answer is consumerism, that’s why! We, as readers, usually consume these types of books, hence every new debut that comes out that now explicitly states that we’re in for a “steamy” or “forbidden” romance with a “mysterious stranger.” And though it might be met with snarky pre-reviews or eye-rolls, it really doesn’t matter when it comes down to the sales. It’s sort of the same thing when reviewers complain that books are super cliche, so why are they still being published? Well, of course they’re being published when there are five-star reviews for the book plastered everywhere on Goodreads.
To conclude this discussion, I thought it’d be nice to include some books that have no romance at all, or little to none to the point where it doesn’t really affect the plot. I haven’t read all of these listed here, most of them have good reviews, and even if they don’t, I believe in reading it for yourself because you never know what you’ll like, so feel free to explore! There are a lot of genres included, so no one should feel left out!
And if you want even more recommendations, here’s Cait @ Paper Fury’s post recommending YA books without romance! I haven’t read many of those either, so, obviously onto the TBR list they go!
This wouldn’t be a proper discussion post without asking your opinion, so here it is: What do you think about romance in YA books? Do you prefer romance or plot? What are some series that you think balanced the romance well or did it horribly?