Editorial: Is Romance in YA Really Necessary?

I’ll be the first to admit I like shipping and I read a lot of books for the romance.  I know I complain a lot about how romance is handled in YA, but I do like getting feels and reading fluff.  That being said, I think some books are better without romance.  And I thought I’d talk today about when romance should be off the table in YA.  And recommend some non-ship central books as well as discuss books that might’ve been better-say had there not been a hot and heavy ship.

When Romance Should Be Avoided:

1) When the Character Is Dealing With a Life Crisis:

Okay, yes, sometimes I wish these girls or guys would find their OTL, BUT when you deal with a life crisis romance isn’t what you’re going to be looking for and it sort of drives away from the story.  I feel like in stories that deal with these events it’s important to explore character development more than romance.  And if you include a romance, well, it’s just going to detract from said development.  And the romance feels out of place.  So, not only does it detract me from the story but in the end it makes me NOT like the ship.

2) When the Character is a “Young” Teen:

When a character reads young, sometimes the romance just freaks me out.  This character just doesn’t seem ready for a long term relationship or any relationship really.  I have the same feelings with middle grade books as well when they include romance.  Luckily, this rarely occurs in middle grade or if it does the romance is handled at a more appropriate level than YA where I feel like the character is getting way over her head.  I get it, teens mature at different rates, but it seems like often in YA their love lives all mature at the same levels.

3) When the Character is Saving the World, has a task to do, has to be an all aroundBAMF.

This applies to a lot of the fantasies out there today.  Which sucks because I ship a lot of these books.  I feel like that realistically if you’re going to give a character a savior complex it might work better without a ship.  The ship is just going to come second.  Look at Harry Potter.  I don’t think anyone read the series to see him get with Weaselette.  Yes, some people liked Harry and Ginny but it wasn’t why they were intrigued with the book.  It was more or less an afterthought.  And I think if savior complex stories are going to work, they need to be light or have a non-existance romance.  After all, how can you save the day when you’re trying to figure out if he likes you or not.  Of course, sometimes savior complex and love interests really work like in Cinder.  BUT that book doesn’t really focus itself on said ship.  The ship is more or less an after thought.

4) Issue Books:

Yes, I said issue books. There are so many problems in the world and while romance might be nice, in stories about said issues it might diminish what the book is trying to accomplish or get overwhelmed in it.  This sort of goes back to number one, but with issue books I really think adding a romance is really out of place.

5) It Just Doesn’t Make Sense

Because we don’t need everyone in a ship to have a complete story.  Seriously in some books the romance just feels out of place.  Again sort of goes back to points 1 and 4 BUT there are some lighter books where I’d say throwing in a romance just doesn’t make any sense.  Either the romance is not that much of a point or you’re just like huh well that’s nice but thinking the guy was just sort of random.


No to Little Romance Involvement YA Books:

Honestly, I had a hard time coming up with this list.  You really have to look HARD.  Some of these might have a little bit of romance, but if they do it’s more or less an afterthought and the book doesn’t focus on the relationship. Note, some of these books I haven’t read but have been told by word of mouth that they don’t have romance.  Also, some of these books I wouldn’t necessary recommend but if you are looking for a romance free book you might want to give them a try:

I haven’t read this, yet, but I’ve been spoiled that it doesn’t involve a lot of romance which I’m really glad about.  Escaping a Duggar like cult is hard enough with romance.  So, I’m looking forward to character introspection.

Yeah, there is a little bit of romance here, but it is more or less a subplot than the actual story.  The story focuses on the main character reconnecting with her roots in Greece and that’s really the best part of the book.

Lois hasn’t actually met Clark yet, so the relationship is some nice subtle internet flirtation at best.  The story mainly focuses on Lois finding out what she is meant to do-be a kick ass reporter.  If you want a version of Lois Lane that’s on the spunky side this is your book.

The ONE saving grace this book had was that there were NO relationships in it for Colby.  And at the time I sort of felt bad for her, because girl could use a nice hunky shoulder to cry on.  But she is emotionally NOT ready for a boyfriend yet, so it was probably for the best that she was single.

I figure that one of the possible ships will be developed in future installments, but it was nice to see in the first one that there was no rush with the romance because that would’ve stunk. The main character is no way near for a relationship yet, even if she’s being forced to marry a guy who’s like a century younger than her.

Food For Thought Better Without Romance:

Here are some books that I think would’ve been a lot better if the romance would’ve been yanked completely:

This isn’t because I have a case of sour ships, I really think this series would’ve been better if there would’ve been NO romance because almost all the ships in this series were cringe worthy and I really didn’t pay attention to them or otherwise I probably wouldn’t have read the last book (obviously I am not a Heron or Hinny fan).  Still though, you read Harry Potter for the action and to see if he was going to live or die.

While I liked how this book introduced the medical condition/s known as intersex, I really didn’t care for the romance in this book.  It felt like it was tact on and honestly the main character wasn’t ready for another romance in her life at this point.  I would’ve been happier if the book ended on a note hinting that yeah, maybe a relationship between the main character and the love interest could happen, but having it NOT happen yet.

I really think this book would’ve worked for me better if Celaena was asexual or at least not in an active or soon to be active relationship.  She is suppose to be an assassin.  Assassins don’t have time for relationships.  And aren’t suppose to give a fuck about anyone.  Not get moony eyes over boys.  Then again, Celaena was sort of a lame assassin given her extreme vanity.

This book had a ship that should’ve been golden, but I think it was one of the weakest things about this book.  I really wanted to Sarlet to be a strong character and she wasn’t, and I blame Robin and their constant will they or won’t theys.  Plus, he was such an obnoxious ass in the second book it’s one of the reasons I haven’t been tempted to pick up the third.

I really think this book would’ve been better if there wasn’t the so called hot cowboys.  If it was an adventure focusing on friendship more than very bad gender bending I might’ve could’ve gotten into it better.  I would’ve really have gotten it had the girl developed feelings with each other too, but whatever.

So, any good single YA recs.  Are there any books you were annoyed that the author randomly decided to pair the character off with someone?  Discuss away if you want.


6 thoughts on “Editorial: Is Romance in YA Really Necessary?

  1. I agree, I don’t really read romance so i like it when it’s just in the background. I recently read Akarnae by Lynette Noni, it had very little romance and that wasn’t until the end, it worked well. Great post 🙂

    • Oh, cool. I’ll check that one out. As soon as I posted this I realized I forgot to mention the Circle of Magic series and it’s corresponding series that spawned from it by Tamora Pierce. I think some of the later ones might have bits and pieces of romance in it, but it’s not out of place or overwhelming to the plot of the series.

      • Cool, I haven’t read that one. if it works in the plot it’s fine but since I don’t read straight romance I don’t like too much of it. I prefer when they focus on other relationships. 🙂

      • Well, if it helps the plot takes full center stage and any romance it has later in the series is background at best. I think what I liked most about it, was (and I haven’t read the last few so this might not hold true for the whole thing) that none of the leads were pairing off with each other so it didn’t appear as if there was going to be a stupid love triangle or anything.

      • Ye I am sick of love triangles, they can be good of they are done well but they can be done badly. There’s a series I love but it has 4 love interests for one person, far too many.

  2. I’m so glad to read this! Your article helped shed light on a something that’s been bothering me about the main character in the YA fantasy novel I’m working on. Like you, I enjoy a story with some romance; however, my protagonist had zero romantic inclinations. Toward anyone. Is she asexual? I wondered. In the closet? No, she’s just a character for whom, at this time in her life, a romantic situation makes no sense, for exactly the reasons you detailed in #1, #2, and #3. Thanks!

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