Do Young Adult books need to have romance?



        If the book blurb hints at romance, are you more likely to buy or read the book?   
Do you expect most YA books to have a romantic storyline? 
Do YA books need an element of romance in order to sell?
 
I decided to re-post this diverse topic among YA readers and book reviewers after reading a few reviews of my own work. Some reviewers even gave my books a lower rating because of the lack of a stronger romantic storyline. In my books, the YA couples have fights, misunderstandings, and bad communication, like real life young couples often do.

I thought there was a fair amount of romance, although it was not the focus of the story. 

Writing realistic romance in any genre isn't easy. As a teenager, most of my relationships were pretty turbulent. Lotta drama and confusion, and like most young girls, I tended to Read-Too-Much-Into-Things. There was bouts of jealousy. Each new love was exhilarating and every break up was the end-of-the-world. 

Do most female teenage readers prefer an element of romance? 

I believe they do. But the romance needs to be portrayed realistically (like Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire), and as a writer, the hardest part of writing romance is making the relationship seem as realistic as possible between the two main characters. No insta-love. Which happens a lot in young adult novels. Instant lust and attraction—yes. Love? No. It is even harder trying to capture the true essence of the turbulence associated with teen romance. Plus, you gotta have tension in any good story. 

Physical attraction or infatuation can be very intense, especially during the early stages of a relationship, so extreme that it can be confused for real love. Romantic love is formed when attraction, friendship, and intimacy are combined. Most relationships began with an initial attraction (a crush or “lust at first sight”) and then develop into something more. 

Some reviewers didn’t like the up-and-down relationship between the two main characters in my novel, Beautifully Broken. Sure, they had chemistry and attraction. But they also had a few arguments and misunderstandings that naturally happen in the beginning stages of most relationships. And let’s not forget the fact that the heroine in my book has to deal with a vengeful wraith, the usual teen traumas, a dysfunctional family she loves to hate, and a demon trying to kill her. But she still had time to fit in romance! ;-D

Yet each young character in my series is emotionally flawed in their own way. 

For example, my heroine is not perfect. She has flaws. A hard time trusting people. And she has some serious mommy issues. Shiloh's cardinal trait is her emotional intensity. Otherwise, she wouldn't be able to push the story forward as a realistic character should.

For Shiloh, well, her mother has never really been the “motherly” type. She is cold and indifferent. As a child, Shiloh was seriously injured and her mother didn't even bother to come to the hospital to see her. It wounded her deeply. Shiloh strives in school to get grades and earn some praise from her mother. This doesn’t work.


    

And the hero, Trent is a hot mess, too. He has been hurt and neglected by his family. His mother died at a young age and his father abandoned him after her death. His arrogance is his shield against getting to close to anyone, because he is afraid of getting hurt.

In a way, both characters in my young adult novel, Beautifully Broken     are very needy of parental love and acceptance. Openness and honesty is hard for them. When they find each other, it’s difficult to let down their carefully built walls and just trust their hearts. I've always thought that one of the most interesting insights that character relationships offer is how a character acts differently around other characters. Sometimes the chemistry between the two main characters can strengthen one character but weaken the other.

Besides, I’ve always thought the hottest romances were the ones with a little friction, passion, and tension. If we’re being honest, when you meet someone new and are getting to know that person, you don’t know what subjects are off-limits or what questions they might be touchy about. Sure, most of the quarrels between the hero and heroine could've easily been solved by better communication. But instead of having the characters find instant love—the romance includes the awkwardness and insecurity that comes with first love and dating.

Shiloh and Trent's love story expresses loss and pain. A series of confusing emotions and old festering wounds. Lust and attraction. But at its core it is a story about the power of first love, and the courage of two hearts that were meant to beat tremendous odds just to be together…but will destiny split them apart?
    
Teenage girls ride an emotional roller coaster that begins during puberty. There are a lot of emotional highs and lows. One of the most obviously dramatized aspects of high school is teen romance. While every relationship has its problems, during the adolescent years the ups and downs seem to be magnified due to raging hormones and inexperience.

Teen relationships are a complex subject…if you’re a girl in a relationship, there’s a gazillion questions that will fill your mind: Am I happy? Does he really like me? When he says that he really cares about me how do I know if he means it? He mentioned his ex-girlfriend, is he still thinking about her? He didn’t call when he said he would, am I losing him?

As a teen, romance and dating, mingled with new emotions can be confusing. Teens can become overwhelmed with all sorts of emerging feelings, such as anticipation, happiness, and uncertainty.
My newest novel, LOST IN STARLIGHT is a VERY romantic love story about a seventeen year old girl, and the brooding eighteen year old boy that she loves.

Don’t get me wrong, I like some romance in most of my books, too. But I think for YA insta-lust or insta-attraction can actually be more accurate and realistic, because of all those raging teen hormones! LOL However, I don't believe that romance should be the focus of every YA story.

My style is more urban fantasy with a dash of romance. Personally, I prefer to create quirky female characters with sassy assertiveness that don’t need love or a boyfriend, but sometimes find it nonetheless. Once my heroines learn to trust themselves, and that asking for help doesn’t make them weak, and it’s okay to be emotionally vulnerable, they become strong and resilient. And sometimes its with the help of a love interest, sometimes its not.

At the end of Beautifully Broken, this type of realization gives the main character, Shiloh the wisdom to understand that while she does not have all the answers, she does know that she can overcome any obstacle that might darken her path. But my heroines, certainly don’t need a guy to rescue them, these girls can do that all by themselves. 

So, my questions are these...

Why is having a love interest so important to most readers and the majority of book reviewers in the storyline? 

Do you expect YA books to have romance woven into the plot?

Do teenage readers enjoy a romance subplot?

I'd love to hear what you think in the comments! 


5 comments

  1. I want to say first of all, I haven't had a chance to read your book yet. It's in the next 10 of my TBR pile, but I've been too busy to start the pile and It's driving me nuts.

    When it comes to YA, I think the romance is important to the readers because that is what is important to them in their lives. Since the genre if aimed at young adults, we have to remember high school. I remember in high school I believed in the whole true love Disney stereotype. Love at first sight was totally possible, and the love you felt was pure and true and intense... until it ended. You could be with them and honestly believe they were your soul mates, though in the back of your mind you probably knew that wasn't true. You had love, and that was all that mattered to you. For most young adults the world is so big that you can hardly see past a few years in the future, no matter how mature you may be for your age. You might be able to see the world for what it will be while you are in college, but even then, most of them don't really know what to expect in college. The end of high school is the end of such a huge time in your life that anything in it can easily be branded as something that is forever. You don't think about what friends you won't be speaking to in ten years, or what boy you will be dating or even married to. What matters is the here and now.

    So when they read, they want that love. They want things to be centered around love with the other stuff on the side because so many are like that. I'm not saying everyone puts love first and foremost, but many do. Even the smartest ones who might understand that meeting your soul mate in high school is a foolish dream for most people would still want to experience a love that could fool them into believing it's possible.

    Now, I'm not a young adult anymore, but the genre is still my favorite. When I read, I like the romance, but I look at young adult stories like popcorn and romance like M&Ms. I love eating my popcorn, but it's always better with M&Ms in there! I just see the romance as a bonus. Sometimes I do want a heavy romance story, but those are usually easy to find, so I don't mind when stories focus more on the story and less on the romance. I am finding lately that I prefer stories that have more tension and passion than those who have flat out romance. The insta-love is becoming more of a guilty pleasure to me.

    Stories that have no romance in them at all usually bug me. I may not always expect them to get together, but attraction and flirting at the very least are one of those things I've come to expect. I wouldn't want to read a story where two characters have such perfect chemistry but they never even consider the idea of a relationship. So I guess in a way, some time of a romance is important to me.

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  2. Wow. Excellent point! And I totally agree, especially about M&M's (peanut M&Ms) and popcorn—yum! ;-)

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  3. Well, I think Ariel summed it up quite nicely! I certainly want that steamy romance that's lacking in my own life, lol. Yeah, married for 14 yrs with 2 kids. Love my hubby, but he's nothing like the romantic guys I write/read about!

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  4. Personally for me the romance doesn't have to be the main reason to read a YA novel. Take for instance Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Power's trilogy, yes there's romance but that's not the focus, that's not what drives the plot forward. Hope you find what you need for your characters. After all it's not what the critics need, it's what your characters need. You're writing their stories, not the stories a critic prefers.

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  5. Nicely stated, Cherry Neko! I agree!

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