Young Adult Literature = Romance?

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve been closely following the #yalitchat trend on twitter, but I’m fairly sure that they’ve been discussing some pretty interesting topics, namely sex and romance. There’s also talk of violence and all that casual everyday business, but let’s not focus on that right now.

Cue semi-serious blog.

Like I said, I’m not really following the trend but some people have tweeted some pretty interesting things (pointless repetition). One thing that I noticed was that the topics that they were discussing mainly focused on sex, romance and stuff like that, and you know something? I’m sure there are plenty, but in my limited collection of books, there are very few YA books that I’ve read that don’t have a single bit of romance in them. I mean, does every book nowadays have to have a main character who has a love interest? Is romance the essential thing to have in stories now, lest it not be published? Do you need your hero to hook up with someone else? Do you need romance in your story, or are you only putting it in there because damn near every story you may have read has some elements of romance in it?

Why yes, I am, in fact, being quite a hypocrite, albeit a very little one. It seems I’m doing that a lot lately. Do I have romance in my novel about people with abilities? Well, would I redeem myself if I said that it’s not shoved in your face? I don’t know; say you go to the bookstore and go to the sci-fi section, you buy a book about some spaceship captain who goes around saving planets and destroying deathstars and all the jazz (don’t ask where I’m going with this). You’re expecting an epic 60000 or so words about space battling (I should quit while I can) but instead, you get half a book of sappiness about the relationship between the spaceship captain and his wife, and their relationship or something not related to the main plot.

Did I have a point? Probably. Hell if I know what it was, now. It was probably stupid anyway. But yeah, I think people are far too ready to not bother coming up with unique or intriguing subplots, so just stroke their imaginary beards and say, “Well . . . why don’t I just give the hero a love interest? Other stories do it, so that makes it okay.” Um . . . no. That does not make it okay, in the slightest. All that does is throw in romance where it’s pointless and stupid and doesn’t, in anyway whatsoever, progress the plot. I’ve definitely got a specific best-selling author in mind. And please, don’t get me wrong, romantic subplots can be done well, but I feel as if they’re just so common now that it’s the default option when your brain says, “Okay, we need a subplot. What would work? Oh, of course! RANDOM ROMANCE!!!!1!!!!1!!”

If it progresses the plot, if it’s essential to the story, if it’s there for an actual reason, then that’s great and I have no problem there. If it looks as if you just squeezed it in there for the sake of it being there, if it contributes nothing, if it looks so forced to the point that you want to cut your eyes out, then that is not great and I do have a problem. Perhaps you should remove all elements of romance from it and insert a subplot that actually makes sense within the context of the story. And of course, I’m sure I don’t need to say that none of this applies to those of you actually writing a romance novel. I mean . . . unless I’m really missing something, that’s kind of the point of a romance, right?

Anywho, that’s my rant of the week (Note that I most likely will not be doing this weekly, ’cause you know . . . What? You don’t know? Hmm . . . )

Laurence out.

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