Miss Cole: Unromantic and Probably Dead Inside


I don't write YA stories that are explicitly romantic. I prefer romantic subplots. 

(I know, I know.  I'm dead inside)

Now, this doesn't mean I think you should completely avoid romance in YA!!!!!! (I'm not that heartless!)  I just prefer stories that focus on other things (usually great big adventures and EPIC good vs evil battles). I find romance a tad dull ^^;


Romance absolutely has its rightful place in stories and I firmly believe a romantic subplot can add great depth to your characters. But I want to look at wider themes, and I've stated before how YA can offer readers a chance to broaden their horizons, help them grow and inspire strength in the face of adversity (whether that adversity being going to school even though you're being bullied or saving the world from a madman).

When your readers are predominantly teenagers, can't we show them it's a good idea to look deeper and see there's more to a partner than good looks or how popular they are? Shouldn't we be teaching self-respect and self-confidence above all else? Okay, maybe that's all my child development training coming through LOUD AND CLEAR, but stuff like that really matters to me.  And when our characters do enter relationships, shouldn't we help teenagers understand how important it is for their partner to respect them for who they are and, just as importantly, respect their partner in return?

And here's another lesson I think teenagers need to know: it's absolutely fine to remain single and a virgin. There is so much pressure on teenagers to be with someone and be sexually active.  And if they are, that's fine.  Thankfully, YA writers and publishers are really open-minded and there are loads and loads of authors out there doing a fantastic job of writing about sex and sexuality.  But there should be just as many stories saying "hey, if you're not ready, that's fine! Don't feel pressured and wind up making a mistake." And how about stories telling readers "don't worry! You're not the only one who's single!" And another great message to pass on is "there's more to life than getting into a relationship as soon as possible." TEENAGERS! ENJOY BEING SINGLE! You're free!!!!!!

Sometimes, I think YA's willingness to embrace sex and sexuality forgets that teenagers feel pressured to have sex because society seems to be telling you to have sex.  YA needs to pass on the message it's okay to not be in a relationship and be totally happy and content too.

One day, I'll probably surprise myself and write a contemporary romance, but for now I prefer stories when romance takes a step back and lets other plot devices take centre stage - namely arse-kicking.

So, readers, what's your opinion?

Comments

  1. That makes two of us who are unromantic and dead inside then. I prefer romance as a sub-plot too. The first novel in my YA series doesn't have romance in it - only hints at it in future books.

    I also agree that teens need to stop feeling pressured by media (YA novels definitely fall into this) to have sex. Teen pregnancy is high where I live and so many children are neglected, abused, or abandoned because no one helps. There aren't enough people encouraging teens to be careful and responsible.

    Being single and/or virgin shouldn't be a bad thing! When you see five-year-olds worried about having a boyfriend... something needs to change.

    I hope to see more innocent YA that focuses on self-reliance, confidence and of course, butt-kicking.

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  2. At the same time, though, they need to avoid being preachy, because teenagers hate realising they're being taught a lesson ... hehe, I just wondered if I was qualified to talk about teenagers' opinions, since I just turned 20!

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  3. Donelle: High-five! And there really is nothing wrong with taking a step back from outright romance and showing teenagers they don't *have* to be in a relationship if they don't want to be.

    AJ Mullarky: When I was 20, I thought of myself as "Twenteen" :P It's a really weird age! I didn't feel like a twenty-something until quite recently ^^; (And now I'm just in denial that I'm not still 16) And you're right - no one wants to be preached at. The story itself should be an invisible lesson. How many lessons do books like Harry Potter silently teach you? I think as long as you approach it without thinking "THIS IS A LESSON TO BE LEARNED" and instead think "well, here's one experience a reader could relate to", you'll avoid a preachy attitude.

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  4. I could've used someone telling me it was okay to be single and free as a teen! Great post.

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  5. I want to give you a medal! This is a fabulous post!

    I've read so many books about girls falling in love with their soul mates and all and feel rubbish that I've chosen to focus on studying or writing. And I agree that YA is starting to feel more and more like the media Jersey Whore trash that's filling the TV screens. This might just be why I like children's books more than YA. Children's lit tends to be imaginative whereas most of the books I read now in YA focus on love so much it's actually quite depressing.

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  6. I favour arse-kicking over romance, romance, and romance with a little bit of conflict in the background. I don't mind it but in some genres I've never thought it worked well to simply focus on that. Like paranormal romance. I prefer the protagonist to worry more about the big bad threatening to kill them rather than which supernatural boy to fall in love with. It's a very strange priority.

    A good balance is needed. Writers need to give teenagers the message that it's their choice. It's okay to wait and it's okay to take that next step if they feel ready. They're in control of their decisions, not society. An old friend used to moan at me for waiting for Mr Right yet when my other friend decided that her current boyfriend was the one she wanted to lose her virginity to our other friends labelled her a slut. Poor teenagers won't have the confidence to decide anything if there are people waiting to verbally attack.

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  7. Rebecca: Thanks :)

    Kamille: YA does seem to have lost some genre diversity.

    Robin: Balance is definitely missing. Teenagers need to a variety. Girls need books without characters choosing inappropriate romances and boys just need more books aimed at them. And your poor friend. It really isn't easy being a teenager ^^;

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  8. "I find romance a tad dull."

    THIS. I mean, if it's a romance novel, obviously I'll expect romance. But I don't like picking up a book with a concept that promises bigger themes and problems but is mostly loaded with romance. Romantic subplots, however--yes. Because that's a big part of real life. But rarely is it ever the main story of someone's life.

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  9. I think you are so right about this. So much of my teenage years were spent boy-chasing instead of building a better me. I also think that YA needs to address this as well. I'm a major romance junkie, so I do like when there's romance in a book, but it should be healthy in the ways that you've mentioned. Great post :)

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  10. I like romance in a book, but as a sub-plot. So I guess that makes me dead on the inside too.

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  11. Interesting! I think romance is for some people and isn't for others. :) My story might be a bigger plot told through a romance...how's that for confusing?

    It's interesting the way you talk about our books teaching teenager lessons. I guess I never thought of it that way. More about the message the book sends...but I hate to judge whether the message is good or bad or what teenagers need to hear. I'd rather them figure that out on their own.

    I am 100% on board with sending positive messages about making choices, especially about sex. Great things to consider. :)

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  12. Francesca: Definitely more to life than romance! Or maybe I'm doing something wrong... ;)

    Jaime: Thanks :)

    Christine: Join the club! *high five*

    Leigh Ann: You're very right about it being for some and not for others. I'm sure you use romance in a really good way to tell a bigger story. I want books to open minds, not close them to other options. I *love* YA because it tackles issues without talking down to teenagers. Teenagers don't need protecting from the world they're stepping into. I just think there's a gap in books telling teenagers "don't worry about it if you're not, because you're not alone!"

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  13. I love a bit of a romance, I really do, but I like the book to have a clever plot revolving around a separate theme. Maybe I'm only half-dead :/

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  14. Amanda: ...does that mean you're a zombie?! :O

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  15. Now, this doesn't mean I think you should completely avoid romance in YA!!!!!! (I'm not that heartless!) I just prefer stories that focus on other things (usually great big adventures and EPIC good vs evil battles).

    THIS! I'm with you that YA romance often gets boring and bit needy or shallow as well. My attitude is you don't know what true love is, baby, till you've stared down that Epic battle together!!

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  16. A-freaking-MEN! And stories that say, "It's okay to have a boyfriend and not sleep with him!" As a teen who chose to wait, I was frustrated by the world telling me that, since I was a hormonal teenager, I needed have sex. So yeah, I'm with you. There need to be books for kids like us, too!
    And I'm like you--dead inside. >:D Seriously though, I don't read Romance for a reason. My next book is a Paranormal Romance, and I'm balking at the idea but I love the idea and the romance is going to be such a big part of it... and of course, I don't know how to write romantic stuff because I'm DED INSYDE so yeah. I'll let you know if I figure anything out!

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    Replies
    1. *Exactly*! There's nothing wrong with waiting.

      Good luck with your next book!

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