Friday, June 10, 2011

The Romance Rant

Greetings, writers!

I realize I haven't written on many "random" topics lately––besides my rant about the Wall Street Journal article. So today, I thought I would give my ROMANCE RANT!

I do a lot of (rambling, informal) book reviews (on Goodreads). And especially with recent YA books, I find myself ranting a lot about the romances. Especially because so many of them are the same ... and not very interesting.

Lately, the trend seems to be:

1) The main character is an awkward, and/or insecure teenage girl, who lives in a small town and thinks no one will ever like her and nothing will ever happen to her. In other words, she's a Mary Sue.
2) A mysterious, sexy boy moves into town from some weird foreign place and ends up in one of the girl's classes at school. (And for some reason it always seems to be science class––I guess because ... chemistry? Nyuck nyuck!) OR vice versa: the girl moves into a new town from some weird foreign place, and meets a mysterious, sexy guy at school.
3) Mr. Sexy stalks the Mary Sue for a while, showing up absolutely everywhere she goes. And she's like, "Hmm, that's kinda weird. Lolz. Whatevs." (Because it's not like he's a stalker or anything ... I mean, he's HAWT!)
4) They eventually start making out with each other, usually in a very short period of time. (No need to develop a relationship after all, because they're soul mates!)
5) Somehow the girl ends up mixed up in all the guy's weird problems, and he's all like, "Boohoo! I should have never brought you into this!" ... etc.

I think you get the idea. And we can all probably name about ten (if not more) recent books which follow this outline. But I don't want to seem like I'm pointing fingers here, so I won't. I also see a lot of teenage writers writing this type of story. No, these books/stories aren't necessarily bad ... but they could be less clichéd. And more realistic.

So why is this type of story so popular? Well, because it's what teenage girls wish would happen. I mean, hey––I'm an insecure teenage girl. If some random sexy guy appeared in my life and suddenly fell in love with me, that'd be pretty cool. (Although, I'm not sure I want guys climbing through my window and watching me sleep ... Errrm.)

I guess there's no harm in giving insecure girls hope that one day they'll be in relationships. The only problem is, these types of romances don't happen in real life.

Which is why I prefer much more drawn-out, developed romances. I don't like this idea of "soul mates"; really, it's just an excuse to not adequately develop a relationship between two characters.

I want to care about both characters involved; I'm tired of these stories where the guy is an object to be drooled over, while the girl is just a prop. They both have to have flaws and insecurities. They have to be unsure about their feelings. They have to struggle and argue like normal human beings do––yes, even when/if they officially become a couple. The more you make readers wait, the more badly they'll want the romance to happen ... which is why it pays off more in the end, when it finally does happen! If the two characters get together on page 50, it seems way too rushed and unrealistic.

Some YA books/series with great romances in them (in my opinion):

1) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
2) The Darkest Powers trilogy by Kelley Armstrong
3) The Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan
4) The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness
5) The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
6) North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley
7) Graceling by Kristin Cashore
8) Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (Well, she has several good romance books, this one's just my favorite.)
9) Unwind by Neal Shusterman
10) The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
11) The Host by Stephenie Meyer

So, anyone else have an opinion about YA romance? Have an other reading recommendations? Please share! :)


  1. I totally agree. I actually started writing again because I was disturbed by some of the stuff passing for romance in books. I work really hard to make my writing reflect a more realistic view of love and relationships. I made the hot stranger the creepy villain, as he should be. Stalking should never be a desirable thing. I do find myself falling into cliches, partly by habit, partly by experiences (hey, write what you know!), but I think recognizing them as such is an important first step.

    I must admit, however, that I am a bit of a hypocrite when it comes this subject. I was totally the shy, pale, awkward girl in high school. Totally suck at all things athletic and always had lots of guy friends but never dated. I was nineteen before I had my first kiss. Then I met my now-husband and we were engaged five months later. It wasn't "love at first sight" nor do I believe we're soul-mates, destined to find each other and unable to love anyone else. We just decided to go for it. That was 10 years ago and it was a fabulous decision. I think love is a choice. Love is deciding to grow up together. I try to write that view into my romances, but who knows how well I succeed at that!

    Anyway, there is hope for us insecure, bookish girls. But let's set our standards higher than creepy strangers who will completely destroy our sense of self. Real love should make you more yourself, not less.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your opinion, Jenny!

    Exactly! I really don't see what is so attractive about stalkers. Stalking is such a creepy/possessive trait. Eek.

    Ha, sounds like me! Except for the husband part ... I'm at the awkward "I'm 18 and never even made eye contact with a boy" stage. Hopefully things will get more interesting in college. :P I think that's a good view on romance. Love is a decision in a lot of ways, mostly deciding to put up with each other's crap no matter what! And the thing about the soul-mate idea is that there's no "crap" to put up with, which defeats the purpose.

    Hear, hear! Ah, that's a great quote there. I should write that down somewhere. :D

  3. I very much agree with you! I wonder if those authors all have the same formula to write those identical romance stories. A lot of young women are insecure and focus on romances, wanting a guy to treat them nice, whether they are the mystery or the guy is the mystery. They are longing for someone. I honestly don't read a lot of those romances for that reason. Those romances aren't real and sadly girls fall for it.

    I think we should be writing and reading stories that empower women to fight crime or help others! Women need to be encouraged to follow their dreams, not wait for a guy to fulfill them.

    Great post!

  4. I totally agree! I much prefer stories with kickass heroines who know what they want. If there's a love interest along the way, that's fine. But the heroine should have a more important goal than just getting together with someone.

  5. One of the romances you are forgetting is the "My guy friend turned out to be the one I love." For some reason, they annoy me no matter how much I squeal when reading about them. Lol. That type of relationship is really better than the ones you pointed out in your blog, but I just see them too often. They're fun to read about especially Clary and Simon or even Annabeth and Percy. What is your opinion on them? They're realistic, but I don't know. I want to say that they're cliche because they seem to be. But I can't decide. Well, "My guy friend is the one I love" relationships are way better than the pathetic relationships with "Hot guys" and "Mary Sues."

  6. I thought about including that one, but I decided not to mention it––because like you said, it's a tad more realistic than the Hot Guy/Mary Sue relationship. Also I didn't want to overcomplicate my post too much.

    You're right. It is a total cliché, and it's usually quite predictable, but at least it doesn't send out such a negative message––unless the guy friend happens to be a possessive stalker. But anyway, ending up with your guy friend is probably more plausible than the chance that a mysterious hottie will fall out of the sky and fall madly in love with you.

  7. Too many "dark stranger turns into your true love" for my comfort these days. Also, too many Edward Cullen knock-offs! For the love of God, he can be a vampire, but he doesn't have to be a complete clone to be successful in the market!

    Also, I've heard a lot about Anna and the French Kiss. Was it really that good?

    Following you now. :)

  8. Hello, Kaye! Thanks for following. :) You're right, there are far too many Edward Cullen wannabes in YA fiction these days. It really gets on my nerves. I prefer sensitive guys. :)

    Yes, I really enjoyed Anna and the French Kiss––and I was surprised! I thought it would be another stalker-romance, but the male and female leads are both very realistic and compelling characters in my opinion. I thought it was a great book!

  9. I write adult romance, but I can tell you that #4 is just as much a problem there, too. Readers want you to put the two main characters together as early in the story as possible -- but how do you have them develop a real romance, without them going at each other physically way earlier than reasonable people would? It just doesn't work for me when the leads lock lips within days or even hours of meeting.

  10. Thanks for commenting, Mark! Yes, I imagine you would face similar problems as a writer of romance for adults. You don't want your readers to have to wait too long, but you have to be realistic also. Personally, I trust that my readers are patient enough to wait a while and enjoy watching the romance develop. And as a reader I prefer to wait so that when it comes to the physical aspect it's more satisfying and believable.

  11. I believe that being with a guy friend is way more realistic than the "Edward Cullen" cliche. That's pretty much true because I DO have a crush on my guy friend.


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