Do YA Books need Romance?

12 Apr

I came across a blog the other day that caught my attention. 

The author was wondering if YA books require an element of romance in them in order to sell.  She was bemoaning the fact that it seems that in some YA books, the protagonist doesn’t come into her own until she explores a relationship with a ‘significant other’, thus making her a whiny, co- dependent MC.   (I think we can all think of one MC off the top of our heads that matches THAT description, right?)

The thing is… I don’t think that those two things are mutually exclusive.  In real life, falling in love doesn’t necessarily mean becoming co-dependent and whiny.  So, why do so many MC’s seem to fall into that trap?  I don’t know.  And I guess that is a huge topic that should be addressed in a later entry.  

As for the coming-into-her-own thing… well, unfortunately, in real life, girls learn about themselves by experience.  This includes learning our own strengths and weaknesses– some of which we learn through our experiences with significant others.   How do we know how far we can bend until someone tests our boundaries?  By interactingwith others.  It’s all part of growing up. 

But coming back to my original question- Do YA books require Romance?  My answer is… I think that…  Yes, they do.  Most of the time.   

Why?  Because of our target audience, obviously.  What does the normal teenage girl think about a great deal of the time?  Boys.  Love.  Butterflies-in-the-stomach Romance.  So obviously, books targeted to them should include an element of that in order to snag and hold their attention… otherwise, they will put it down and seek out another book that has what they want.     

There are exceptions, of course.  There are action books, high fantasy books, etc, that are clearly not outlined with love in mind.  And they each have their own fan base.   But in my humble opinion, the average teeange girl is at various times hormonal, moody, in love, in a break-up, crushing on someone, etc… and they want an MC who can identify with those things.  And that, friends, is why YA Romance sells.

There is no shame in that.    And as promised, we’ll discuss whiny, weak, co-dependent MC’s in a later post.  🙂

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4 Responses to “Do YA Books need Romance?”

  1. Stacy April 13, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    It’s nice to see new authors! a friend of mine pointed me in your direction and I can’t wait to read your new books. i agree with everything you said here. I hate it when the lead girl in a YA novel is whiny and weak, but I still want a male interest- it always seems so boring without it. And I admit it- I’m 16 and yes, i’m hormonal sometimes. you called it.

  2. Wren Emerson April 13, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    I don’t think a romantic element is unique to just the YA genre. Even in the most action packed summer blockbusters there’s usually a love interest. In some cases, they turn a fiance or a spouse into a villain just so that the girl in peril can become Action Guy’s new squeeze.

    I’ve thought about it a lot from a plotting perspective. To have a love interest or not to have a love interest? I think it adds dimension to a character because it’s like having a mirror for her to examine herself. The readers get to see her beauty, personal strengths, and character flaws through the eyes of the relationship she tries to navigate.

    I suppose you could get similar results with an elderly grandmother, little brother, or best friend, but as you pointed out, the curiosity about love and physical relationships on the part of readers adds some nice tension because there’s a lot more riding on those interactions. A friend or family member might get made at you, but will usually forgive you. A potential lover might lose interest in you “that way” forever. Higher stakes means more tension.

  3. Adam N Leonard April 14, 2011 at 8:19 pm #

    Hi. I have the first of a YA trilogy coming out this November called The Rift Riders. It’s a series originally written specifically for teen boys. I was getting tired of vampire romance type YA novels and figured the teen guys out there might like a novel written just for them.
    I’m a high school teacher, so when I was writing my novel- I’d give the first few chapters to my students and they’d give me their opinion. I love the response you get from teens because they’re brutally honest. Anyway, guess what they said?
    “Mr. Leonard, you need to put some romance in there between the boy and girl characters…”
    I was surprised, but hey, give them what they want, right?
    So that’s what I did and it made the story and characters so much better. So my answer to your question is- yes, straight from the teens themselves.

  4. jesse May 25, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

    actually if u read vampire hunter D (a book series from japan translated into english) he never falls in love but all the female roles fall in love with him and he always ends up leaving them or killing them (because they were turned). and i love the series because of it

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