Friday, March 26, 2010

In Defense of YA Romance

I've been reading a lot of posts lately about the poor depiction of romance in YA lit. More ostensibly, the way women are treated as weak objects desperately needing to be saved by a boy. While I do agree that some YA romances embarrass me- that people think abuse and downright stalking is how love really is and/or should be, there are many romances in YA lit out there that I think are done really well, don't degrade women, and satisfy that sweet tooth for a romantic read that so many of us have.

Here's some pondering points I have:

1. It's OKAY to like romance. It's okay to fall for the gorgeous guy who makes you melt with his smile. It's okay that the female character's self-esteem is invariably raised after meeting him. It's the human experience, it's what we do! And, in most of the novels I read (that I enjoy) the female becomes friends with the gorgeous guy before there's any romance. Which, is the "right" thing to do-and is OKAY.

2. Sometimes I think that people (especially some girls nowadays who think they are feminists) believe that any kind of weakness is BAD BAD BAD. But hey guess what? We are human. We have weaknesses. We fall in love (girls AND guys). And falling in love should not be considered a weakness. I know we as women are tired of being considered the weaker sex-but the way to gain exposure as strong, self-sufficient women isn't to completely ignore the fact that hey, we have emotions. We should embrace them (not abuse them).

Did I cry during The Notebook? Absolutely. Still do. Does that make me a push-over? Or weak? Absolutely not. And be sure to know if a guy ever hit me, verbally abused me, stalked me, or made me feel any type of way inferior to him he would be done, out the door. See you, man, that's not for me.

3. I don't buy the Sarah Dessen Syndrome. I'm not knocking whoever coined the phrase-if that's how you feel, that's how you feel. However, I think she deserves a little defense coming her way. I LOVE Sarah Dessen. She pulled me into reading. Do all of her books revolve around some type of romance? Yes. Do all of her female characters have some type of issue? Yes. Do all of her female characters need a guy to resolve her issues? No. Of course the female character will fall for someone (it wouldn't be a romance if she didn't...duh) and of course the character is going to have worked through her issue(s) in some way (it's called resolution).

In Lock and Key, the female character actually realizes that her male counterpoint needs more help than she does. And where does she get the help for herself? Most importantly through her family. And in Dreamland, her boyfriend absolutely isn't the one solving her problems-he's creating them! And she totally ditches him in order to be rehabilitated. I think Sarah Dessen is brilliant. I like reading real romances where each character is flawed. But it wouldn't be a novel if they stayed stagnantly flawed through til the end. Each of her characters goes through a journey and makes a discovery. Which includes romance, but also includes learning more about themselves.

And that is again, OKAY.

I do agree that there is some sort of weird paranormal romance cliche floating around in so many new books for teens. That's what they enjoy reading...why? Well, I'm not sure, that's a topic for another post. However, I don't think this brand of awful YA romance is cause to hate on all YA romance. I think sometimes we confuse the ideas of bad romance influencing teenagers and romance influencing teenagers. Don't let the stories about sparkly vampires watching you sleep make you pass on the novels about real teenagers falling in love.

And that is my argument. Thoughts?

Happy Reading!


Just Your Typical Book Blog said...


I also don't get the Sarah Dessen Syndrome. I love Sarah Dessen books and have since her first one came out. But I guess to each their own.

I understand that some people are frustrated with certain trends, etc. I get it. There are certain genres that people seem to love where I'm like, really? People read that? But ya know, it doesn't bother me. I'm not going to start knit picking at people or going on and on and on about. I just don't read it. I know, it's an insane concept to have - not read what you don't like, but it works!

Donna said...

One of my favorite YA romances is Sea change by Aimee Friedman. It contains passion and summer romance but also logic and common sense. I think one of the reasons why I liked it so much is because the connection was deeper than superficial looks of the characters involved. There was substance. It was something tangible than books where the female MC falls in love with her stalker.

I don't think people go into reading books they know they're doing to hate. Why would they do that? So the notion of "don't read what you don't like" really doesn't fit. If it sounds like a good book and it sounds interesting, why not read it? You can't tell how the relationship is going to pan out by the blurb on the back. And if a book is getting rave reviews all around, why not? As book bloggers, they have a right (and a platform) to talk about books they were hyped and ended up falling flat for them. They didn't pick it up and say, "hey, this is going to suck so I'm going to torture myself and read it so I have something to piss and moan about." If you believed the hype, thought it was going to be great, but when you picked it up it fell flat for you, and you found yet another relationship go by the way of Bella and Edward, wouldn't you be cranky?

Personally, I'm not a romance fan of any kind. Never have been. So I tend to avoid books with romance as a central plot point. I have read the Twilight series and one of the biggest turn-offs for me was the relationship aspect and how unhealthy it was. I still have the first three on my shelves simply because they are a guilty pleasure. I also don't read them for Edward, Bella or Jacob.

I've read Lament and Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater and I felt the relationships in those books, especially between the chick and her faerie boyfriend, equally as superficial and I didn't get why she "loved" him so much when she didn't really know him.

Considering the front page trend in YA romance, I'm not apt to pick any of those books being pointed out up. But in defense of the dissenters, I don't think they're saying a chick who falls in love is bad and a sign of weakness. The problems they have are that these female characters are falling in love with guys that want to eat them, want to kill them, stalk them, hurt them and treat them like complete shit. Yes, it happens in real life but the repercussions of that kind of relationship are not portrayed realistically in those books, and I think that's what gets a lot of people upset.

Albatross by Josie Bloss was written as a direct rebuttal to all of the weak female YA romances out there. Basically it's a realistic look at the Edward/Bella relationship. And Bloss was a victim of such a relationship. I'll be posting a guest post she did for me on my blog about this very topic and why she wrote Albatross.

linzReads said...

100% agree! I LOVE LOVE LOVE Sarah Dessen and romance is my favorite genre of YA. Yes, not all YA romance books are realistic and when people only read those, they lose faith in the amazing YA romance that is actually out there. A girl falling for a guy doesn't mean that girl is weak, it means she's strong because she allows herself to love. Anyway, I agree fully. Great topic to talk about.

Lost in a Book said...

Donna, I can see your point that if you pick up a book you think is going to be great and it turns out "Edward and Bella" like that that is a reason to be cranky. However, I think I was mostly defending the whole "if a girl falls in love she must be weak" idea. And in some books bloggers think this a truth, and I disagree (like Sarah Dessen's novels).

Related Posts with Thumbnails