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J is an unpublished author, represented by Carrie Pestritto of Prospect Agency. J's first novel is a YA fantasy horror, regarding a siren who must choose between the haunting life and humanity. J draws on occasion, reads quite often, and is a founding member of the critique group 'Thoughtical Verbosity.'

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On Romance.

Hey internet!

Today, I wanted to talk about romance in Young Adult novels.

In preparation for the official beginning of Libratopia, I have been gorging myself on Young Adult novels. Mostly Dystopian novels, because that is what's hot--and therefore most readily available--on the market right now. Harry Potter came out, and it was all orphans with big destinies. Twilight came out, and we saw nothing but vampire romance novels for a long time. The Hunger Games came out, and now it's Dystopian futures, almost exclusively with female leads.

The thing is, something else has lingered from the 'Twilight' era. Female leads are prevalent in the YA shelves right now, and it seems as if every female lead has to find herself stuck in the middle of a love triangle. I personally do not care much for (see also: loathe) love triangles, because they just don't make much sense to me. If you really, truly, deeply care about someone, and are presumably a good person...are you really going to turn around and play suck-face with their rival at the first opportunity?

If your first thought is "You go, girl," we have nothing further to discuss.

It's not something that gets me rooting for the schmuck who's playing the herp-a-derp-tango with two people's hearts. So that bothers me right off the bat--especially when it is painfully obvious which of the attention-vyers is going to win.

Girl has been with Herp for years, but mysterious and shady Derp keeps catching her eye? Derp wins.

Boy always thought he wanted hot Derpette, and has been in love with her since grade school, whilst Herpina has only ever been a blip on the radar? Just wait 'til Herpina takes her glasses off.

Girl is in some way forced to be with Derp, and bumps into Herp in the woods outside her home...

Basically, it boils down to X wants/has Y, until X meets Z. There is no chance whatsoever that X will remain/choose Y. It's to the point that I wonder why any preview or snippet even bothers posing the question of "What will he/she do when he/she meets him/her?" Um, dur.

So those are my thoughts on love triangles.
Boo! Boo! BOOOOOO!!
But what about romance in general? Given the rant above, you may be expecting a rant below. You will not be disappointed.

As previously stated, most lead characters these days are females. And most of their love interests are dudes. And again, since a certain sparkly-moody-possessive male lead made his appearance, things have changed in the YA world. Almost every male romantic interest I've come across recently has been just like that: mean. Possessive. Pushy. Jealous. Troubled. Self-destructive. Selfish. But oh--so--HAWT.

There have, of course, been characters like this in the past. But they were rounded out by having actual soft sides, or self doubts, or figuring out their issues in the end, or at least getting their just desserts. They were HAWT, of course, but in no way portrayed as being the ideal man.
There may have been a reason I posted a picture of James Dean in this section. But I sort of got lost staring at him and forget what it was.
So somehow, things have changed. What were previously red flags for an abusive relationship are now major turn-ons. And the characters who don't fall under that category? Strawmen. No personalities, no hopes or dreams beyond the hopes and dreams of their designated love, no real...anything except for the proper plumbing and possibly some wimpy tendencies for the hero/ine to save them from.


Obviously, with these weak-sauce characters, the romance that follows is unbelievable and unenjoyable. We're rarely given an actual 'falling in love' story, or any bonding moments. It's just, "Oh! What a HAWT guy/girl/shrub! We are now so totally in love because the author says we are!"

I'm going to let you folks in on a little secret. I'm a romantic at heart. True, it's buried deep under prickly layers of snark and sarcasm and a dislike of idiocy, but it's there. If there's going to be twu wuv in the story I'm reading, I want it to make me feel gooey and sweet on the inside, like a partially melted gumball. I want it to make me sigh and giggle and quietly cheer for the couple when they finally come to terms with each other. I want to be given a reason to read the book when no one is around to hear me do any of those things because it would damage my street cred.

I want real romance! Something organic, earned, and believable. I want to watch someone fall in love...I don't want to just be told that they have.

I want a couple I can cheer for. How about you?
Granted, those are some real deep feelings, which are not things that are often associated with teenagers. But that's what YA is; an acknowledgement and celebration of the depth and abilities of the future masters of the universe.

There's just such an opportunity in the YA world that is being wasted. Granted, there are a few good relationships portrayed in a few good books out there...just as back in the day, there were a few good strong female characters around. Time brings change, and this is a change I'd love to see.

What about you guys? How do you feel about romance in general, or the state of it in today's YA novels?



  1. You've got some solid writing chops, that was fun to read.

    I'm hoping like you are that deep, experiential stories will be published, instead of superficial, "Hey I can see you behind the curtain you lazy wizard" balder-crap.

    I think you were right that story tellers need to prioritize communicating an experience rather than a script. Actors rather than puppets.

  2. I totally agree with you Jenni! I love the way you write! It keeps me completely entertained! In fact, it makes a little jealous that you write so well! :)

  3. Amen!! I love a well written rant! I haven't read the proliferation of recent YA books that you have, but that sort of empty 'crush' romances that are touted as 'love' happen all too often and are the staple of the standard rom-com movies too. Its disturbing, you should change that.

  4. All of your comments made me grin :D

    And I'm glad I'm not the only one that feels this way!

    Josh, you managed to take my entire rant and boil it down to something that can be said in one breath. Props, Bro :D

    Hosanna, I live to entertain!

    Liesel, I love your vocabulary :) And we are of one mind here. Score.