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.
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!