By Lauren Burnham
Let me first start off by saying that there is nothing wrong with the Romance genre. A good love story gets me right in the heart. However, every love story has a time and a place, and shoving it into a fantasy narrative, or a sci-fi thriller is decidedly neither.
“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. “ said Huffington Post blogger Elizabeth Vail.
I used to go to the library and peruse the young adult aisle in hopes of finding a thrilling adventure novel or a mysterious crime drama. I had my fair pick of most, and it was pretty easy to avoid picking out badly written fantasy-romance that appeared on the shelves every month or so. Now, I have to carefully vet my books before I get them, so I don’t accidentally end up with a book starring a main character who will not quit whining about their dime-a-dozen love triangle.
The romance trope is unfortunately that common in YA novels that line the shelves of libraries, glaringly so in the more popular genres of fantasy and dystopia. Authors think that having a ‘small’ romance in their story will check of their ‘relationship quota’ on their successful-book-check-list. Thanks for that by the way, Stephenie Meyer.
That ‘small’ romance the authors use? Turns out; not so small. The tale is always the same- girl sees boy across room/road/battle field/cross-able area, and absolutely cannot stop thinking about them for the rest of the novel, much to the annoyance of the reader. It takes up a lot of the plot that could be spent overcoming personal obstacles, or even, I dunno, saving the Earth?
In the case of Maximum Ride, by James Patterson, (a horribly written series to begin with, thank you James Patterson), Maximum falls in love with her brooding…co-leader? Science brother? Friend? Nest Mate? In any case, she falls in love with a person she has literally been living with her entire life. Who doesn’t talk much. Who wears black. Who is dazzlingly handsome, only to be overcome by another handsome boy-experiment-thing later in the series. Yay love triangles, I think sarcastically, as I slam-dunk this book into the garbage. None of these relationships had time to grow within the reader’s minds.
That, readers, is how you gracelessly cram a romance into an already horrible plot line, with added complications that take up, say, an entire book. A better example of unneeded romance would be Harry and Ginny, from the much beloved Harry Potter series. That was a plot-line that was definitely shoved in last minute. Their relationship didn’t have time to develop within the plot, and their love felt rushed and awkward at the end.
And I’m not saying that all books are like that; one of my favorite book series, The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, starts the book off with what basically amounts to:”if I kiss my true love, he dies”. Oooh isn’t that just a wonderful way to start off a book? People fall in love, and then they die!
‘But that’s romance,’ you say, ‘aren’t you saying romance is bad?’ Ha! You seem to have misunderstood my intentions! In this case, the book isn’t focused so much on the ‘romance’ or ‘love’ part of the whole deal- it’s focused on character interactions between the main 5-ish characters, other minor characters and antagonists, and the mysterious nature of the plot line.
The character’s who are destined to be each other’s ‘true love’ don’t actually fall in love immediately, they just slowly develop into their relationship with each other and their group. And all the while, we focus on other characters, other issues, other dramas- but the bad-romance you find in other books takes a jump in the incinerator for this book series.
Yarn blogger Kerri said: “We don’t need romance. We need characters that we can’t get out of our heads. We need fast-paced plots that keep us turning those pages. We need settings that make us feel like we are in the world of the book. But romance—with all its drama and insecurity, its insta-love or heartbreak? We can live without that sometimes.” and this, ladies, gentlemen, and various forms of human beings, is my entire point!
I’m saying that since most YA authors and publishing houses are stuck in the mindset that romance is intrinsic to the teenage experience, it must be shoved in every book. But considering how often I have to put down a book because of a slap-dash romance plot, and how my peers scoff at romantic novellas, this is so not the case.
“In literature, as in life, you shouldn’t embark on a romance unless you mean it.” Vail said.
From what I see, none of these fantasy, sci-fi, or mystery books truly incorporate the romance into the plot; the only reason it’s there is to make it appeal to young adults.
Consider dragons, or a plot twist for the ages. But please don’t make me read a stuffy love plot!