Unnecessary Snogging – Romance In YA Fiction (Teens Can Write, Too!)


I did a love-themed post already for Valentine’s Day, but found this prompt from February 2011 on Teens Can Write, Too! the other day and thought it would be appropriate to do it this month as well.

“What are your thoughts on romance for your typical genre? Do you tend to have a little, a lot, or none at all?”

I don’t really have the kind of typical genre they seem to be talking about because the type of writing I do most often is the sort of thing you see here – slightly humorous essays. I write fiction, but not a ton of it, and it never has romance. I guess when I do write it, it’s fantasy or science fiction, so I’m going to bend the prompt a bit in order to talk about romance in all subgenres of the YA fiction genre. While writing about that, I’ll mention some fantasy and science fiction books, so I’ll end up talking about those anyway!

My thoughts on romance in YA can be defined thusly (I love that word): sometimes I enjoy it, but it’s not really the sort of thing I seek out. I don’t usually pick up love stories; I think Twilight was one of the few because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. (I was very disappointed.)

One thing I noticed when I thought about romance in the books I read is that it’s definitely there, but not the focus of the books. Let’s use Harry Potter as an example. There’s romance, both for the Hogwarts students and the adults. However, it’s not the main focus of the story. There’s a bit of snogging going on but no one reads the story for that – at least I hope they wouldn’t!

Harry Potter is a good example of how I like my romance in YA fiction. I don’t like there to be much at all, otherwise I consider it to be “unnecessary snogging”. One thing that I love about that series is that none of the main characters get too distracted by love. It irritates me that in Twilight, Bella has basically no life outside of her boyfriend Edward. Harry is never like that. The same goes for Ron and Hermione. I’m wasn’t counting Snape as a main character but of all of them, his story is the most lovey-dovey in the end, but at least he did something with his love! He had the dangerous job of a triple agent for years to save the son of the woman he loved, even though she was gone forever. What does Bella do for Edward when he’s not around? She mopes about. Please excuse me while I go pummel her into the ground.

Alright, back now! While we’re on the topic of Bella, let’s discuss Twilight. It’s an example of the kind of YA romance I hate. It doesn’t set a good example for teenagers. Apparently Edward and Bella’s relationship meets all the criteria needed to classify it as abusive. I’m not really surprised because he’s so possessive of her and she stays with him even though he scares her. At the very least, young people should not develop this crazy idea that obsession equals true love.

Let’s see. What’s another YA series with romance? Hunger Games. (I had to write that as a sentence fragment in order to honor Suzanne Collins.) That trilogy is about midway between my idea of perfection and horror in YA romance. I really like Katniss and Peeta’s relationship, but I did feel like too much time was spent on that, especially in Catching Fire. That may explain why that book is my least favorite of the three. Another complaint I have about Hunger Games is that it was always fairly obvious to my mind who was going to end up with whom. That leads me on to love triangles.

These are popular in YA fiction. At the moment I’m reading several popular series that have, you guessed it, love triangles. It’s driving me nuts – trust me, I’m not continuing with those books for the romance. I don’t think love triangles are bad, but there’s two very important things that every prospective author of them should ask him- or herself. The first is, “Can I create a decent love triangle and maintain it as long as necessary?” If the characters in your love triangle lack chemistry, throw out that idea and start again. If they start out with chemistry but gradually there’s no more who’s-he/she-going-to-choose tension left anymore, then revise! Get this right, YA authors who will be yelled at shortly in some book reviews!

The second and rather more important question is, “Is a love triangle even necessary to my story?” At least Matched – yes, alright, I just revealed the book I’m having a mad about – was justified in its love triangle because otherwise there wouldn’t be a story. (I didn’t say that the story would be any good – see the first question – but there wouldn’t be any point without the love triangle.) Anyway. It frustrates me when I find a YA book that looks good, then I get maybe a third of the way through and discover that not only is there romance, it has a love triangle. I’m going to type the next part in all caps in the crazy hope that a YA author will stumble across this post: YOU CAN HAVE PERFECTLY GOOD STORIES, EVEN LOVE STORIES, WITHOUT LOVE TRIANGLES!

It was very obvious to me even as I read the series for the first time that Katniss was not going to end up with Gale. Gale frustrates me because he’s unnecessary. Catching Fire frustrated me because there were Katniss-Gale snogging scenes that were completely pointless because they weren’t going to end up together. I love Collins’ allegory and worldbuilding; I wished she’d focused more on that as well as the tension about the rebellion against the Capitol, rather than on the love triangle. It makes me happy that love triangles were never a thing in Harry Potter because if Harry got Hermione, the major student characters left for Ron are Neville, Luna, and Ginny. Yeah…

Now I’m going to pretend that I didn’t say I was only going to write about YA fiction so that I can write about Lord of the Rings! Feel free to throw rotten tomatoes or heavy things at me if you’re mad about that! Even Tolkien has something of a love triangle going on with Éowyn-Aragorn-Arwen. I think it’s weird because sometimes I feel it’s not strictly necessary to the plot, but sometimes I do. Aragorn is far too nice a dude to say, “You know what? I think I’ll just dump my elf girlfriend, even though we’ve been more or less engaged for several decades!” On the other hand, a big part of the Éowyn-Faramir story is how he says that even if she were married to Aragorn, he would still love her. (Eek! Shades of Severus Snape!) He convinces her to not keep despairing about still not getting Aragorn. But I still don’t know what I think about that love triangle because some people think that Éowyn only fought in a battle so she could die honorably in it since she wasn’t going to get Mr. McDreamypants. I’m still quite new to this fandom so pummel me if I’m wrong, but I interpreted her actions as her desire to finally get to fight (because women weren’t allowed to fight) and if she was a bit suicidal, than it was because she was so depressed by the idea that no one appreciates her as a warrior.

Oops, I just wrote a long paragraph about something I was only going to just mention. So! Moving on to something similar to but infinitely more difficult than love triangles, something I like better! In the style of Suzanne Collins. With sentence fragments.

I prefer things to be more complicated than just a simple love triangle, actually. It’s more fun because the poor characters end up all confused. All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen has this. Below is a map I made of some of the love relationships in the book. Blue is guys; pink is girls. The dashed lines between Ashton and “Ashton” are to show that Violet is pretending to be her brother but if her Illyria friends met her brother, they would be very confused because the two are so different. This isn’t even all the relationships in the book, only the ones that I could fit into the map.

Also, it shows that I have like no hand-eye coordination because I can’t even hold a mouse steady enough to draw decent arrows.


And now I can’t think of a good way to wrap up this post, so I’m going to finish a book. It has romance. And a love triangle. SAVE ME!


About nevillegirl

Elizabeth. University of Iowa class of 2019. Triple majoring in English & Creative Writing, Journalism, and Gender, Women's, & Sexuality Studies. Twenty-one-year-old daydreamer, introvert, voracious reader, aspiring writer, and lesbian. Passionate about feminism, mental health, comic books, and cats.
This entry was posted in Books and Reading!, Harry Potter, Nevillegirl's Adventures!, Non-Neville Posts, Teens Can Write Too!, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to Unnecessary Snogging – Romance In YA Fiction (Teens Can Write, Too!)

  1. Hey! Shakespeare loved him a love triangle — especially the cross-dressing kind (wondering if that book you diagram above was perhaps an homage to Twelfth Night?). But I agree with you — ANY extraneous “issues” in YA novels, be it romance, drug addiction, suicide, abusive relationships, or anything else that feels tacked on or preachy, pisses me off. I have a hard time finding YA novels that I can read and enjoy. Part of the problem is that they ARE “YA” novels. You digress into Tolkien because the solution is read good novels. If they happen to have young characters you can relate to, that’s just a bonus. In the US, I think Harry Potter is technically “Middle Grade” though the reading levels are slugged at 6th grade (12 – 13 years old) and up. We need more good novels — period.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Yes, it’s based off of Twelfth Night and The Importance of Being Earnest.

      I don’t like the extraneous issues either. I think that if you’re going to write about teen “issues”, then make the whole book about the issue! I’ve picked up some fantasy-ish books that were quite good until they brought in a bunch of issues.

      Awesome. No one’s thrown chairs at me for digressing. Ha ha.

  2. cait says:

    Argh. Matched. There are few books that make me want to hurl them across the room…but Matched ticked me off big time. As for love-triangles, I think you made some excellent points! I’m not opposed or for them. If they’re well written, then fine. *shrug* Just as long as there’s lots of guns (or swords) and action and exploding worlds and all that fun stuff. Romance can be a small side dish. There must be friction and heat! Not just a random kissing session here and there.

  3. littlemarais98 says:

    I agree completely with your opinions on YA (and other) romance, Twilight, and your Éowen interpretation. I don’t believe in unnesscesary romance, and while I have no problem with love triangles, I prefer a mess where many people are all in love with the wrong person and get confused.

    • nevillegirl says:

      *cough* Then read All Men of Genius! I slaved over that map for HOURS, you know. Totally. You can tell by how awful it looks.

      • littlemarais98 says:

        If I don’t read it soon, you’ll start attacking me with love triangles. They’re quite dull, but still dangerous.

        • nevillegirl says:

          I’ll attack you with the AMoG love triangle: a guy, a girl, and her alter ego. See, it does COOL love triangles. It’s so confusing to be in love with someone who doesn’t actually exist and is really this other person you’re in love with.

          Did that make any sense?

  4. I wondered if All Men of Genius was possibly based on Twelfth Night. Amazon informs me that it is, with shades of The Importance of Being Earnest thrown in. No wonder it’s got such a tangled love oblong! Shakespeare was terribly fond of them.

  5. Miriam Joy says:

    My name is in that diagram. I am conflicted between being pleased that my name finally exists somewhere other than on me and like the two other people I know with it, and confused.

    I used to be very, very impatient with romance. These days, I ship EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER anyway, so it doesn’t matter if there’s any romance written in — I’ll see it 😉 That’s what Tumblr has done to me. But there are very few books that have made me care so much about the romantic side of it that I actually wasn’t hugely bothered by the plot, I just wanted them to kiss already. E.g. the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld. It’s brilliant because it plays out so slowly — they become really good friends, he thinks she’s a boy because she’s in disguise and she can’t tell him, they’re very reliant on each other in a platonic way — and transforms into romance in such a realistic way, rather than having it thrown in all at once. Not to mention it takes three books for them to get together. I like that, because in my experience ‘love at first sight’ is fairly ridiculous. I mean, who ACTUALLY gave a damn about Marius and Cosette in Les Mis? Whereas Éponine has lived next door to Marius for years and knows him very well … personally, I root for HER to get with him way more than I root for Cosette. As do most people I know in the fandom, Damn it, Victor Hugo.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Indeed it is, and I hope if you ever read the book you’ll be very happy about that because that Miriam is one of my favorite characters in any book ever. 😀

      I’ve only read the first Leviathan book, but I did like how things were nice and slow. *resists temptation to recommend All Men of Genius again because the world reminded her so strongly of Leviathan*

      I don’t have any opinion on that yet because I haven’t read Les Mis. 🙂 But I hope I won’t be too frustrated and hate the whole book if I think it’s unnecessary.

  6. Okay. Prepare yourself for the extremely long comment. (Because this is something I feel very strongly about).

    Harry Potter romance didn’t bother me either, although, I’ll admit, I think it was unnecessary. Maybe not him being with Ginny, because it showed how strong Harry and Ron’s friendship was. Especially after Ron almost beat up Dean when he and Ginny were snogging. (That word is so awesome). And, come on, Snape is awesome. He has the right to be lovey-dovey. The whole triple-agent thing was awesome. In most stories if someone a character loved died, that character would probably break things, cry, and curl up in their bed for days at a time. Again, Snape is awesome.

    The Hunger Games romance didn’t bother me either. Katniss wasn’t the stereo-typical helpless female. She could take care of herself. Well, she did need Peeta’s help in some of the games because she wasn’t good at acting or pretending to be someone she wasn’t. I appreciated that because it showed that she was genuine. The Gale thing frustrated me, too, though.

    I LOVED Matched. The romance was necessary and it wasn’t cheesy. Again, Cassia was plenty capable of taking care of herself and actually had to save Ky a couple of times. And even though Xander was never going to be with Cassia, he wasn’t the angry jealous type or the depressing jealous type. Xander was one of my favorite characters for that exact reason.

    The romance in the DIvergent series (I don’t know if you’ve read it) drives me crazy. It’s really not the point of the story and the characters spend more time fighting than they do getting along. They fight, they kiss, and then they fight some more. It’s a never ending cycle and I really would rather read about the rest of the story.

    Thank you for listening to my rant.

    • nevillegirl says:

      I never really thought that Harry and Ginny had that much chemistry, although admittedly they have much more in the books than in the movies. The films’ snogging scenes were so awkward…

      Did I give the impression that I don’t think Snape is awesome? Because I adore him. *pats his greasy hair* *thoroughly washes her hands afterwards*

      What I really liked in THG is that their roles are reversed. Katniss isn’t the damsel in distress; she saves Peeta, not the other way around. And in general they’re a team, which is what I like about Eowyn and Faramir as well. (OK, we don’t see much of them together, but it’s the impression I got.) Whereas in Twilight, it’s all about Edward.

      There wouldn’t have been any plot to Matched if not for the romance! 😀 But I’m also reading Divergent and I like the romance in it much better than what’s in Matched. It is a bit unnecessary, but I detest Ky. Four is so much better.

      Thank you for reading this rant.

  7. Lev AC Rosen says:

    Mind if I share this with twitter/FB/etc? I love the chart.

  8. Wow, that’s one complicated chart. I feel bad for Jack; no one loves him.
    I agree with how unnecessary love triangles suck. You know how much better Catching Fire would have been if Gale had spontaneously exploded in the first scene?

    • nevillegirl says:

      Actually, Cecily does. The chart’s messed up; there should be an arrow towards him. I didn’t realized that until after I’d published the post and I’m too lazy to change it.

      I would have loved that so much. *claps*

    • Mom says:

      Actually, Catching Fire would have been even better had Katniss, Gale, and Peeta ALL spontaneously exploded in the first scene. Especially that whiner, Katniss. (See, my own tribute to Collins’ sentence fragments!)

  9. Charley R says:

    I only let Romance in when I really, really need it – and then I keep it pretty minimal because I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING. In capitals. Which is exactly why my most recent novel gave me the gyp, because romance came in where I REALLY did not want it to go. But as it stayed out of the way of the main story, and actually made it more interesting in places, I let it stay, and probably will do, now I’m editing.

    And people say WHAT!? about Eowyn’s motivation to go to battle? Oh right. So the “daughter of kings” suddenly went wheezy over a guy and decided to lay a precident for Bella Swan and die without him? Ha. Ha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
    I don’t know whether to scream or die laughing.

  10. Taylor Lynn says:

    “My thoughts on romance in YA can be defined thusly: sometimes I enjoy it, but it’s not really the sort of thing I seek out.”

    That’s pretty much the way I feel about it, as well. I read a TON of YA, and sometimes it feels like most authors consider romance a must-have in every book. I don’t always mind that, but I also don’t go for most YA romance novels, and when I come across a book with little to no romance it really sticks out to me and helps endears me to said book! Harry Potter is a good example of this; there’s some romance, but it doesn’t take over. Some others that pop to my head are The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and The Girls of No Return by Erin Saldin–The Scorpio Races has a quiet background romance that doesn’t take over the story, Code Name Verity is focused around a strong friendship, and The Girls of No Return is more about the main character’s personal journey than anything else. In the last two, romance is only hinted at if it even exists at all. And all three books are five-star reads from me. 🙂

    Ironically, my current WIP is has romance as a vital plot thread, so I’m a big ol’ hypocrite. *hangs head in shame* I justify it by saying that I kind of use the romance as a way for the MC to grow, but the relevancy of that argument could be debated.

    When I’m reading, though, I just feel that SO MUCH FOCUS on the romance gets old. (Especially with love triangles.) So I enjoyed this post!

    With that said, I’ll stop clogging up your comment feed now. 😉

    Hugs from a fellow homeschooler,
    Taylor Lynn ❤

    • nevillegirl says:

      I can’t believe I forgot about The Scorpio Races! It was a good book in other respects too, but I liked that the romance wasn’t the focus.

      I’m glad that you thought Code Name Verity was good. I’ve heard a bit about it and thought I might read it.

      I checked out your blog and it’s great! *wonders how so many cool people find Musings From Neville’s Navel*

      • Taylor Lynn says:

        Definitely–I LOVED the Scorpio Races for so many reasons, not least because of the atmospheric setting and interpreted mythology. *sigh* Perfection. And the romance between Puck and Sean was one I actually loved, precisely because it WASN’T a main focus; instead, it was gradual, in the background, quiet and simple. In that respect, I think it was even more romantic than most YA romances!

        And yes, do try Code Name Verity if you get the chance! I’ve actually got a review of it set to go up on my blog, hopefully tomorrow or the next day. It’ll tell you all you need to know about my opinion on it, haha!

        ALSO, I forgot a good book WITHOUT romance: Witchlanders by Lena Coakley! Fabulous high fantasy and not even a hint of romance. I thought it was an awesome novel! (I’ve thought of a few more, but this comment is already getting too long, haha. 😉
        My review of the book is here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/354888710

        PS: I found your blog through the sidebar of Charley’s blog, The Leaning Tower of Plot. (Which, side note, her book St. Mallory’s Forever is a great read without much focus on romance…score!) Anyway, this post title caught my eye immediately and I just had to check it out. 🙂 Thank you so much for taking a peek at MY blog–I can’t wait for the second Raven Boys book, either. ;D

        • nevillegirl says:

          *sighs* And the capaill uisce. They’d be fascinating to observe, but I think I’d be too terrified to get close to them because they’d rip my arm off.

          Ha ha, that doesn’t surprise me since both Charley and Miriam commented on this post and said they don’t like too much romance. I’ve been thinking about asking my mom if I can get St. Mall’s on her Kindle…

          • Taylor Lynn says:

            YES THE CAPAILL UISCE. Love them to death; so magical. I kind of want to live on Thisby…except for, you know, the annoying gender roles and the fact that your cat might get eaten by a water horse. O.o

            I’d recommend snagging that Kindle–I borrowed my sister’s to read St. Mall’s and really enjoyed it! Hope you get a chance to read it! (Although you can also buy it as a paperback now, so there’s always that option.)

  11. Miss Alexandrina says:

    Duuude, that was a long post (and there are a lot of comments aside from mine), and I can’t think of anything better to say than: yup. And you managed to write about all of your favourite books. That’s pretty awesome blogging.

    I’ve never read ‘All Men of Genius’, but I’m guessing it’s some modern version of Twelth Night?

    I always thought that Eowyn sacrificed herself in battle because of the whole woman can fight thing. Whilst I didn’t dislike the triangle there, I always felt that Eowyn was never going to get Aragorn – she just never seemed right for him in my mind. Unnecessary almost snogging? Tolkien was such a great writer that it’s difficult to say.

    I laughed when you mentioned that Bella and Edward’s relationship is abusive! *hating Twilight vibes* I wonder what Meyers thinks when she sees article like that? Ha. And. Haven’t read Hungry Games. But that paragraph pretty much sums up that dislike of triangles (doing some special sentence fragments for you and Suzanne Collins!): if done properly, they can work well, otherwise… *pulls unimpressed face*

    What do you think about love triangles in classics, such as Jane Austen?

    • nevillegirl says:

      My posts tend to run quite long if I let them… 😛

      Yes, it’s a mash-up of Twelfth Night and The Importance Of Being Ernest (Oscar Wilde).

      I thought so too. It was pretty obvious that Eowyn wasn’t going to get Aragorn, and yet I don’t mind that Tolkien wrote about it. It created tension. Somehow he pulled it off.

      I liked the romance in Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy were quite amusing – gosh, everyone was – and otherwise I probably wouldnt’ve liked it. I would’ve thought it was mushy.

  12. Pingback: 5 YA Staples That Need To GTFO | Eymi Dijan

  13. magicfishy says:

    Okay, confession time: I write YA and I DO sometimes put a bit of romance in my novels. Not much at all, granted, and not always involving the main character/s, but it’s sometimes there. I think the key is if it fits the characters or not, really. If it advances their development and doesn’t interfere with the plot, go for it.

    No love triangles, though. I despise those with the power of a thousand flaming suns.

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