I often hear fellow bookworms raise their voices in the agony of despair over how YA books focus on romance so much. We do have rights to whine because — YES, most YA books do feature a romance and a lot of time it is the focus.
But not “all YA books”. NEVER ALL OF THEM.
If anyone says “all YA books do [insert cliche/trope here]” then I honestly believe they have not read very many.
I am not a monstrously romantic person myself. Although I do like to ship* and I often find romances entertaining or squishily nice to read about. I also laugh at them a lot. I also yell at the book “YOU’RE 16 FREAKING YEARS OLD, CALM DOWN” because I’m an old hermit and have legal right to say these things now.
* The term “ship” unfortunately does not mean to captain a crew and become pirates. It means to root for two characters to have a “relationship“. See? SHIP.
So for those of us who are after a YA book that is devoid of the romance category — I AM HERE FOR YOU. I have a glorious list.
(There may be hints of romance. Attraction? But nothing develops into a full fledged googly eyes fest.)
- THERE WILL BE LIES: This is about a…a lot of things. All of which are basically spoilers to say. BUT. There are illegal activities and a deaf protagonist and kidnappings and roadtrips. Zlich on the romance.
- DEMON ROAD: Technically there is a secondary character who’s “in love” wiht the protagonist. But she a) doesn’t love him, b) NEVER loved him, c) in fact she detests him. Ergo, I don’t call it love. Demons and roadtrips and killer cars and friendship — and THAT IS ALL.
- MAGNUS CHASE AND THE SWORD OF SUMMER: After the squishy cuteness that is Percabeth, I honestly expected Magnus and his sidekick, Samirah, to get together. BUT NO. Sam loves someone else! Magnus loves nobody! IT’S A MIRACLE.
- IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY: The focus is basically depression and recovery and while there’s a girl in there alongside the narrator, Craig….it just isn’t a romance.
- CHALLENGER DEEP: This one is about schizophrenia. There is absolutely NO romance in there…which I found really refreshing, because for once it focused on recovery and family and self — instead of smooching your problems away.
- JACKABY: While the protagonist, Abigail, makes googly eyes at a local constable…their relationship never evolves past there. I would say zlich to the romance. Unless you count Jackaby, who is basically a Sherlock Holmes character, being romantically attracted to a duck.
- SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE: This is about a blind girl who “kidnaps” her little brother to fly overseas and find their father. It’s an incredible book!! Also no romance! Because they’re finding their DAD.
- MESSENGER OF FEAR: This book has no time for romance because it’s too busy creeping you out. No complaints, folks, noooo complaints.
- THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO: There is a boy and a girl in this story and I see potential. But they’re like 14 and sort of trying to live. There is no romance. They’ve got priorities.
- CHARM & STRANGE: It’s a confusing mess of a boy who has….eh, who even knows. He is definitely mentally ill. But there is no romance here. Just howling.
- EON: Fantasy, dragons, girl-posing-as-a-guy…you know the drill. Plus Eona has no time for boys when she’s got DRAGONS.
- THE GIRL FROM THE WELL: There are ghosts. GHOSTS. And they kill people and there’s blood everywhere and the protagonist has exactly no love interest. NOT EVEN WITH THE GHOST.
- THE MAZE RUNNER: People might argue that there is a romance…but I honestly don’t think so. In later books — yes. In the first book? Nada. Thomas and Theresa have history but that doesn’t equal attraction.
- ROSE UNDER FIRE: BECAUSE ALL YOU DO IS CRY WHILE YOU READ THIS BOOK. THERE IS NO TIME FOR ROMANCE. ONLY DROWNING IN TEARS. I highly recommend this book. Go read it. Feel pain. Hate me for my recommendation. But secretly be grateful.
Because we need to ask the important questions here. Why? WHYYYYYYY. As an unromantic bean I do ask myself this copiously. For every 30 YA books I read, maybe 1 will have no romance. And as I’m reading, I’m so much more likely to care more about a) Katniss saving Prim instead of whatever-she-feels-for-Peeta, b) for Cinder to rule the moon, c) for Saba to rescue her brother Lugh.
DON’T GET ME WRONG. I do like those romances (particularly Saba and Jack…squeak!) but I’m not sure that every book needs a romance on top of the adventure.
SO I MADE A LIST OF HYPOTHESIS TO WHY ROMANCE IS SO PROMINENT IN BOOKS:
- The author really wishes they’d found a Nice Adorable Person when they were 16 so they’re writing in their own dreams. Total legit. Do you know how often I write about cake? A. lot.
- It creates tension. Tension is good for books. It’s great that the protagonist is fighting zombie sand stuff physically…but how about giving them tension emotionally? Good writing tip, dudes.
- A lot of teenagers think about romance. I mean…I THINK??? I’VE HEARD???? When I was 16 I wrote an epic fantasy with man-eating-horses and murder and torture and bleeding and fun stuff like that. I’m sure that’s…normal too.
- Publishers want what will sell. Which makes sense because they’re earning a living too, right? And people have snabbled up romances since forever. THEY SELL.
- People like to read about other humans’ lives working out. It’s like the most basic story telling! Protagonist defeats the bad guy! Saves the girl/guy! Rides into the sunset! Lives happily ever after with a small herd of babies to raise and name alphabetically! IT’S HAPPINESS. Storytelling has told us this since Eve met Adam, okay? Although they sucked at the whole “ride into the sunset happily” and instead cursed of all mankind. Plot twist.
I, personally, do not have a problem with YA books being romantic. Even if it’s not my favourite thing! I do think it’d be nice if non-romance-orientated books weren’t so blindingly hard to find. I do think it’d be nice if more books promoted the fact that you can be happy without a significant other.
BUT NOT “EVERY” YA BOOK HAS ROMANCE. HA! I just proved it.