So, for lack of anything else to post today, we thought we’d do a discussion and we’ve decided to discuss romance in books. Specifically, in YA books, seeing as we both read them and love them and all that.
...Yes. Done swooning now. Enough of that. Moving on. Discussion:
Romance in YA Books
Is it necessary?
Lanna: I don’t think it’s necessary to be a focus in the stories, it can be a subplot…but I do think it’s rare to find a YA book that is good enough to work without it entirely (even Harry Potter had romance in it when the characters were old enough). Even books that don't actually have romance do have hints of it, they have those characters who flirt and you just know that even if they don't get together in the book, they will eventually.
Love, lust, crushes, heartbreak -- it’s all a part of life and growing up and I think it is necessary for that to be reflected in books. It’s something that people can relate to and if they can’t, then it’s still enjoyable to read about -- getting to live and love vicariously through the characters is fun.
Julie: I agree with Lanna. It's not necessary, but I appreciate it. It's all a part of growing up and it's a part that I'm missing out in my own life. So why not just try and experience it through the characters? I also love how the romance is portrayed in teen books. In adult books, it's all about commitment and/or sex. In young adult books, it's usually a light, fun experience for the characters. The flirting, the butterflies, the way the characters can act totally different. It's pretty damn adorable. But far from necessary.
Thoughts on love triangles?
Julie: Depends on the love triangle. Not many love triangles are really done well. The whole point is that there's a legitimate debate over which guy would be better for the character. There should be inner turmoil over this decision. Not like The Mortal Instruments or anything where we're all rooting for incest because we KNOW who Clary should be with.
Right now, I can think of two love triangles done right. Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready did it SO FREAKING WELL. I read that book a year ago and I still cannot tell you who I'd want Aura to be with. The Personal Demons series by Lisa DesRochers is another good one. We know who Frannie prefers most of the time...but there's still an element of uncertainty and the other guy IS a good guy, but you're still kind of against him but you're kind of against the other guy and it's just very confusing.
The thing about the love triangle for me is that I need to like both guys, preferably equally but there might be a bit of a preference for one guy, but both guys also need flaws. And the main character should be genuinely conflicted, even if one guy is picked. There should always be that opening for the other guy until the very end.
Lanna: They’re fun to read about. But I’ve found that in the majority of books I read with love triangles, they barely even count as love triangles because it’s always blatantly obvious from the start who the protagonist is going to end up with. It’s always obvious which one they love more…and they tend to follow the same formula of having the main character settle for the one they love less for a portion of the story just to create conflict. It’s rare to see a love triangle where the main character genuinely loves two people almost equally and choosing between them is a real struggle.
Basically, I think love triangles are fun to read, but most of the ones in YA shouldn’t even be counted as “love” triangles because to me, a true love triangle is one person being in love with two people…not being in love with one person and being in lust/like with another. Most of the love triangles in books tend not to be "I'm in love with these two guys" -- it's usually spun in a different way, more "this is the guy I love, but this one is probably the healthier option." but we all know the one that wins.
Something else I just want to add: anyone else noticed how in love triangles, the one who doesn’t get chosen is always the nice guy? It’s the one who could be your best friend, the one who would treat you right and always show up on time and take you out on dates and all that…the genuinely good guy. And the one who wins is often a bad boy, the one who maybe isn’t the best choice -- but there’s a spark there, there’s passion and so the main character always chooses that in the end. I get why, but I wish the underdog, the good guy, would be given a bit more credit in stories instead of so obviously being the second choice.
Romance pet peeves:
Lanna: Love at first sight is probably one of my biggest pet peeves in books. It can work if it’s executed well or explained in some way (example: the characters were in love in their past lives or the world is one where magic exists and soul mates happen, so they’re not actually in love at first sight and they’re just feeling that connection and knowing they’re meant for each other and that it will be love).
But in general, it bugs me. You can’t love someone until you really know them, if you claim that you do then you’re talking out of your ass -- it’s lust and maybe you’re in love with the idea of that person. Sometimes when you get to know a person, they will meet or exceed your expectations, they will live up to the fantasy you had of them and the love will become real…but that doesn’t mean it was real from the start and I hate it when it’s written as if it was in fiction.
Good example of a badly executed romance: Twilight. Bella had a girl boner for Edward because he was attractive and seemed to hate her, he wasn’t nice to her like everyone else was and so she wanted him because people have a tendency to crave the unattainable. But she was saying she loved him and would die without him when she barely knew him -- when they had only had a handful of conversations.
Romeo and Juliet is another example, except that one only counts if you consider it a love story. To me, it’s a tragedy. The story is about the tragedy, it’s not about love…they were in lust and in love with the idea of being in love with each other and it consumed them.
Insta-love kills me. I just...I can't even explain it. It can ruin a book for me. I can only think of one book where it didn't annoy me greatly.
I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's not exactly LIKELY. There is lust at first sight and all, but love? That's a little more complex for a first meeting. At most, a strong attraction.
Then I need at least SOME kind of reasoning for the love. There has to be a connection, some actual interaction. It can't just be "He's pretty and mysterious. I WILL LURVE HIM FOREVA." Give me a reason for them to be in love.
Also, Romeo and Juliet pisses me off like no other. So let's just not talk about that any more.
Romance guilty pleasures/clichés we love:
Lanna: I have a lot of these and I’m kind of a sucker for taboo romances. Brother/sister, or step siblings, for example. The incest one, it’s because it’s the ultimate forbidden romance -- there is literally no way to overcome what is forbidden about those relationships because it’s not an outside factor that is making it forbidden, it’s not something that can change, it’s in their very blood. (If the subject matter makes you go, "Ewwww!" - read Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma, it may change your perspective.)
I love the bad boy/good girl cliché. The teacher/student one (but only really male teacher/female student -- for some reason it bothers me when the woman is older, it’s just…gross to me that way, but that’s probably just a projection of the fact I wouldn’t be likely to date someone much younger). I like the popular girl/nerdy guy and the goth/preppy cliché. I love, love, love the Romeo and Juliet cliché - the forbidden aspect of it. And hate turning to love.
Basically, forbidden romances are probably my favourites. Something about how the love is such a struggle and yet it’s shown to be worth it…and how love can conquer all, even if it’s only in fiction.
Julie: I am a fan of the forbidden, but not the taboo kind of forbidden. The kind of forbidden where it's social classes, which you can really only find in historical romance and occasionally high fantasy. Or the kind where, you know, one of them has to die...especially when it involves killing the other person. And, I'll admit, I've read a book about a teacher/student relationship...alright there's SOME taboo, but really that book was the only one I'd read and my friend read others and those just seemed awkward.
But at the same time, I like the easy romances, they just fall into. Ones where it's an accidental love or a love that evolved unexpectedly. The ones where they LOATHE each other, learn a bit about the other, and slowly fall in love. Be in Pride and Prejudice or Lizzie McGuire, the accidental romances sing to my soul. I'm always on the prowl for more Pride and Prejudice ones.
What about you guys? What are your answers to those questions? Agree with us? Disagree? Let us know in the comments. To recap, discussion questions:Also, credit for the topic goes to And Anything Bookish, who said she wanted us to discuss love triangles, which we do - we've just gone a bit further and did romance in general).
1. Is romance necessary in YA books?
2. Your thoughts on love triangles in books?
3. Romance pet peeves?
4. Favourite cliches/guilty pleasures in romance?