Thursday, March 3, 2016

[Discussion] Romance in YA - Am I Too Critical, or is it Really Too Much?

I wanted to make this post for a long time, to fall around the month of February, because you know, romance. But early March isn't too bad!

One recurring theme in my reviews and something I often discuss (ahem complain) about in my reviews is the nature of YA romance. Often times, the romance is a deciding factor in my reviews, if I like the book or not. 

There aren't that many romances I can say I've liked. I'm really picky when it comes to my ships. And how this discussion idea started came from a talk with a friend. I'm at the point in time where I'm older than many of the YA heroines, so my friend believed that I shouldn't be so harsh on said teenagers, who tend to make decisions willy-nilly. Even now I occasionally make impulsive decisions. Yet here I am, complaining about YA romance. 

What is it about YA romance that makes me roll my eyes? Here, my friends, is a few reasons why.

1. Insta-love
Honestly, you could sum up my sentiments in one gif. 
I'm not even talking about "the moment their eyes met, sparks flew." Nowadays, it's more subtle. If you pick up on cues while reading, those 300 or so pages could have been a week. Or a few days. Slight improvement is a month. These pages equate a limited interaction of protagonist (who is often female) and her love interest to a full-blown romance, complete with the protagonist's first kiss, the first declaration of love, and sometimes even some action under the sheets. All in the span of this one week. Or two. 
And, what makes it even better is that they've just met. Barely know each other. As a matter of fact, do you even know his/her full name? Favorite color of socks? If they're a coke or pepsi person? This sounds more like lust to me. Lust I could buy. But the characters always refer to it as love.
What happened to giving it a few books (if a series) or a few months (if a standalone), before anything major happens? Pacing is always important! 
I wouldn't wait 10 years to get the nerve to ask someone out, but at the same time, if you're planning the names of our kids within weeks, then we got a problem.

2. The Adonis love interest
A major turn off for me. I get that a lot of people are into well-built, muscular guys. But do I have to hear it every chapter that Adonis is able to lift a mere pencill with his pinky muscles?
I just saw Rocky Horror too! 
Not that muscles are necessarily a bad thing. It's just, after awhile, all the muscular guys in YA start to resemble a huge mass of muscles. Because that's all they're know for. Their looks. 
 What also happened to not muscular guys? There are a ton of guys who don't work out and aren't Hercules. Does this imply that my type of guy isn't the muscular type? It definitely does.
Regardless, we need diversity. We need to stop referring to guys by their muscles. 
"His muscular forearm twitched as he swatted a fly."

3. The realism (or lack thereof) of it all
This is where one can question if I'm being a bit too critical. Because maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. Books are always a matter of taste. And really, the genres I'm reading with all this romance oftentimes is fantasy/fiction. Can I really expect to have realistic romance in a book where there are monsters and witches and super powers? Although I like fantasy, I do like a touch of realism with my magic. Kind of funny that I can buy magic and time travel and yet have a hard time wrapping my head around romance between two people with seemingly no chemistry. He's just attractive and she's the main character. Of course it was meant to be! 
As in chemistry, some chemicals produce no reaction. 
Let's equate it to chemistry, since I'm a chemistry major. In order for a reaction to go smoothly, or in the forward direction, you need to be able to know which reactants would produce which products. If you don't know where to draw your arrows, or how many grams/ml you need of your reactants, you might not get your acquired products. This results in no reaction, or worse, a bad reaction. If two reactants, or two love interests, are meant to end up together, then maybe certain steps are needed to be taken before rushing into the final product, lest you want an untimely bad reaction. Or a breakup.

Lest I go on more of a rant about chemistry...

Time to play devil's advocate.

1. Young and in love

We've all been there. We've all done stupid things and rushed into relationships only to quickly realize that it was a bad idea. YA characters can be the same way - after all, they're supposed to be relatable! Especially if the love interest is the first person they've shown genuine interest in - young love, anyone? This is the person they can connect with, the first person who gets them. Maybe all the unpleasant stuff of young love is skipped over in books, because who wants to realize that the guy/girl of their dreams isn't really the best match for them? 

2. We judge books by their covers (at first)
Don't lie. You've done it. When you see a really attractive person, the first thought you have is
And this total stranger probably has the cutest eyes, the nicest smile, or the best abs. You won't stop thinking about them. You might even bring it up in conversation all the time. But, you can't judge this book by his cover forever! Soon or later, you'll talk to him and determine if he's really your knight in shining armor. 

3. Miracles can happen
Yes! You, the girl with the braces and preference for anime and video games can somehow end up with the most popular guy in school. It happens. Maybe you two both like Kingdom Hearts, or watch Gintama, or have a love of Tarantino movies (hey a girl can dream!) Unrealistic situations can become realistic. At the same time, you may have zero chemistry with Mr. Popular, but the situation can be fixed! Or not. Let's keep on believing that miracles indeed can happen.

(It is pretty obvious what side I prefer) 

After this rant, what is your opinion on YA romance? Even with all the bad romances in the world, I still find this genre entertaining, if not also cheesy and unrealistic. And no romance is perfect. But can some be better well written than others? Definitely. Would my maturity and age play a roll in the fact I can't stand certain romance aspects? Potentially. It's ironic that I'm a diehard romantic deep-down. 

Do you have any books that fit this bill? Or books, perhaps, with well-written romance? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

1 comment:

  1. It is quite difficult to wrap yourself around the fact that YA novel romances might never be the same in real life. And that some books tend to make it overly mushy and just unreal, it makes me sick. But happy endings are nice at the same time. And if they tone it down, how would YA work without it? It's still a theme being played with and being tried out by some writers and I think they have tons of balls to pursue something outside of the romance spectrum