Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"They're kissing again. Do we have to read the kissing parts?"

There's no denying that romance in the YA market is hot.  It doesn't matter whether it's about vampires, angels, werewolves, mermaids, dystopian futures with reality shows gone awry, or zombies.  Lots of people read YA looking for the kissing parts.  Who's going to pair up with whom?  Is there going to be a triangle?  A quadrangle?  How about an octagon?  Hey, don't knock it, I hear they have love octagons in the Sookie Stackhouse books.  People are looking to be Team Edward or Team Jacob or Team Peeta or Team Gale.  Everyone wants to be on a team.

But the point is that romances are hot.   Except when they're annoying.

Kissing is fine.  It doesn't bother me.  What bothers me is when the plot is a thinly veiled excuse for kissing or when the kissing and mooning occur at the expense of the plot.  I've read so many books where the romantic elements read like someone wrote the book and then looked for places to shoehorn in a fun romance.  Or the romance is so inappropriate that it's laughable.  An example is when you're reading a book where the main characters are running and fighting for their lives.  Literally every breath is a battle against death, but suddenly they have time to make with the smoochies.  That drives me nuts when done poorly.

 HUNGER GAMES is an example of a book that handles this situation really superbly.  You think it's ludicrous that Peeta and Katniss would be falling in love during the most brutal games known to man, but Collins makes it so that falling in love (or pretending to) is part of their plan to survive.  They HAVE to take time to make with the smoochies or they might die.  Collins took something that should have been ridiculous and made it integral to the plot.

Another book that does this is GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD.  I just read it and there's a romantic element in it but Karen Healey never pandered to it.  It was handled gracefully and never, ever was plot sacrificed to cram in some kissing.  I don't want to give anything away.

CANDOR by Pam Bachorz was another wonderful book that had a sweet (and slightly creepy) romance that was deftly worked into the plot.  Oscar spends his time fighting his father for control of Nia while believing he's saving her.  The feelings that each has for the other grow organically from that struggle.  You should read the book, but in a wonderful way, there were three people in that Nia/Oscar relationship.

Let's face it, teens love sucking face.  They like reading books about doomed relationships, about lovers from different sides of the tracks, about loves that triumph even over death.  So it's not like romance in YA is going anywhere.  But it should really have a point.  It should grow naturally from the plot.  It shouldn't be wedged into an otherwise awesome book because "romance sells in YA."  Because no matter how great a plot is, the moment two ridiculously good-looking young characters stop to make out while the giant zombie vampire bunny is about to crash through the door and kill them, is when I close the book.

So tell me:  What are your favorite books where the romantic elements are worked into the plot well?  Why do you think it worked?

MY BIG FAT BUTT UPDATE:  So I'm back UP to 200lbs for some reason.  However I'm not stressing because I've lost a lot of inches and my body fat percentage is way down.  Either way, I have 15 books now.  I have 34 days to keep losing weight.  I doubt I'm going to reach my 175 goal, but I'll have fun trying.  Thanks for all the great tips and advice :)  Keep 'em coming!


  1. I completely agree!!
    I'm a sucker for romance, I really am, but it has to be done right or I want to scream at the book.

  2. You should have put in a pic of The Neverending Story. Yes, I remember that line. This is a great post though, Shaun. I like how well you discuss this topic.

    Oh, and good luck with your weight loss adventure. As long as you're still smiling, staying where you are isn't necessarily the end of the world.

  3. Haha, the title of your post brought me over here lickity split. The Princess Bride was a romance I could handle. Otherwise, I just find myself getting impatient.

    Good luck with your weight loss! I'm struggling with that myself, but I signed myself up for a half-marathon in October. Now I better get with it or they'll find me passed out on mile 5.

  4. I kinda like the kissing parts. I don't like writing them, though, so that's helpful for my WIP.

    As to exercise/weight loss....my recommendation: Break a bone.

    I've never wanted to exercise so much in my entire life. 6 weeks on crutches make walking, ellipticals, and even jazzercise sound like the most fun ever.

    Not that you should take my advice though. I'm not in ANY way a fit person. :)

  5. My answer would've been The Hunger Games. It was perversely thrilling to know that Katniss did it for the viewers, Peeta did it for himself (and survival), and that it might have been killing Gale to watch. I liked the romance in GRACELING, too, because Katsa's ability to kick Po's ass was balanced by his own Grace (don't want to spoil).

  6. What a great topic, and I completely agree. A thing that bugs me more than unnecessary romance is when it WOULD be natural for the characters to hook up and then they don't until the last chapter or three. Makes the whole book drag because it's obvious the author is just trying to build tension but all it does it build boredom.

    Losing inches is terrific! If you're a smaller size but the scale says otherwise, tell the scale to shut up. :-)

  7. Megan: I hear you. I've been turned off to more books by romances gone bad.

    Eric: Thanks! I'm just happy that I'm still able to stick to the working out and stuff. Surprisingly, the closer to the pub date I get, the more I want to work out. Helps keep me sane.

    B.J.: I agree. Wesley and Buttercup were the best. Good luck on the half-marathon. I think I need to sign up for something. LOL. I think they'd find me huddled under a bridge on mile 5 with a spoon and a six pack of pudding cups.

    Flemmily: Oh lordy how I hate writing the kissing parts. I always feel so awkward writing them. Especially first kisses. They're the WORST. You know, I've never broken a single bone in my entire life. I'm hoping to keep that record intact :)

    Shan: You know, I keep meaning to read GRACELING. Your rec is just what I need to put it on my list!

    Margie: Oooooh! I didn't think of that. You're right though, creating that artificial tension is just as bad.

  8. LOL awesome post :) I like the kissy face parts :D Though, it's the Anita Blake books that are really octagonal - Sookie Stackhouse is pretty monogamous :D

    I think I have to go watch Princess Bride now :)

  9. I totally agree! There has to be kissing in books like the Hunger Game. I'm on team Gale and I think I would have screamed if Gale didn't kiss Katniss. It was one of my favorite parts! If books like the Hunger Games trilogy didn't have romance it wouldn't be as good.


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