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!