Friday, August 31, 2012

Where's the Romance?

I've noticed something lately in the books I've read. I guess I was under the impression that YA books all had romance in them. I was wrong. About a week and a half ago, I was reading three books at once. Why? Well I review over at YA Bound and for those of you who follow that blog, you know we do a SWOON Thursday post every week, where we highlight swoon-worthy passages in the books we're reading. Well, I was reading a book and there was no romance in sight. So I started another. I thought why not? I've read multiple books before. Well, I read that one and the romance was only hinted at. Not a single swoon-worthy moment. So I started a third book that I thought had to have romance in it. Well, it took forever to get to it.

This got me thinking. Don't all YA books have some romance in them? Romance seems like such a huge part of the teen experience, so I naturally assumed every book would have at least a kiss or two. Not so. Now I'm wondering if this is a new trend?

Have any of you noticed a lack of swoon-worthy moments in the books you're reading? Do you expect YA books to have romance?

78 comments:

  1. Regarding the latter question-

    "Do you expect YA books to have romance?"

    Short Answer: No.

    Longer answer below-

    I know I'd like more people to realize that not all animal fantasy has to be clan-based like Redwall or Warriors.

    Nor is it ONLY for preschoolers. Despite what some people (parents or teachers, particular) would try to lead you to believe, it's not true, at all.

    So why can't YA be romance free? While I know you and most of the writers I know read more children's/YA than writing for adults, there are many books I love I wouldn't necessarily recommend to the average young reader, but that doesn't mean it's not a great read to you personally.

    As much as I love and respect most of the children's books I read, there are times when I just need to read about someone closer to my actual age, which in my case is over 18, period.

    There are some things that don't work on a child's level, but that doesn't mean those stories should NEVER be written (I know you didn't say or imply that, I'm just making a point in line with what your asking), and I think people I've known who are snobs to ALL books for adults are being extremely insensitive and short-sighted.

    Why would I want to be denied the next Elizabeth Berg novel or poetry book by Billy Collins, just because it's not accessible to the average kid or teen?

    I do think it's more rare to find YA in popular circles with no romance at all, however innocent or just vague, but for those of us (Myself included) who aren't comfortable writing about physical intimacy and/or don't write sex well at all, how else could we co-exist with the Sherrilyn Kenyons and Nora Roberts in the same industry, if you know what I mean...

    I have to admit I'm a bit burnt out of the whole paranormal thing in general, yet given what's published lately, I'm in the minority, but that's how I feel, I can't help that.

    Not all historical fiction has to involve a war or be about political issues. If reading's as subjective as you and others express it, than we NEED books that break away from tradition and respect it, even if we wouldn't make the same choice.


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    1. I agree that it's good to have books that don't fit the typical mold. I was stumped by the books I was reading because the blurbs implied romance and yet there was none or very little. I should've clarified that. Sorry.

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    2. I understand, I make these kind of snafus all the time, as you know...

      So, maybe you should do a post next week about "Inaccurate blurbs" that seems to be where the logical tie-in to this goes to me.

      With all the books you have coming out the next 5+ years, how are you staying sane writing cover copy? Next to tight deadlines, that's the biggest fear I have when I finally sell something, even with the support you have, aren't you at least a little concerned?

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    3. LOL. I sometimes think I'm crazy, Taurean. I love to be busy and I love working on my books. I don't mind the cover copy. My agent helps with it initially and then my editors help after that. I'm not alone.

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    4. Wish I could say that about this aspect of writing.

      I can with baking though. While hearing the word "Knead" make scare those primary box mix-only folks, not me.

      While it's not an absolute requirement, women who love to bake from scratch is a perk to footnote in my little (Black sounds too "dirty" for my life) red book book.

      (I'm not actively looking for a date, but thought I'd share a tidbit to tie-in to the topic a little)

      I think more people would like baking from scratch more if their jobs weren't 4 AM to Midnight, and yes I exaggerated to make my point, but I frankly wouldn't be surprised to know someone really does have a hard job with those kinds of hours.

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    5. Taurean, I struggled with the blurb in my own query for a long time. I'm relieved my agent handles that now.

      My mom bakes from scratch. She's amazing. Me... not so much. ;)

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    6. If it helps, this stuff can sometimes skip a generation or two, maybe your daughter will break the cycle when she's older.

      If she can learn to make at least one thing she loves well, she'll be ahead of most people who've gone through life never knowing the joy of homemade food.

      There's still a time and place for takeout and occasional frozen pizza, but you get better control and quality, not to mention quantity for the money, when you make something yourself.

      That said, I still can't make fried chicken well myself. I have to rely on Popeye's when I crave it.


      Half my family's southern for heaven's sake, yet I can't make decent fried chicken at home. I've tried eight times this year alone.

      I've made cakes, muffins, even brioche from scratch and it rocks, but fried chicken continues to be my mocking nemesis.

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    7. I have a handful of dishes I make well. I usually default to stir frying things because that's easy. ;)

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  2. That's interesting! I don't know that I have read any YA recently that DIDN'T have romance in it. I guess I've sort of grown to expect it, but I wouldn't mine reading one without it.

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    1. I should mention that I did enjoy all three of those books. I was just a little surprised by the lack of romance based on their blurbs.

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    2. Is it good marketing or bad marketing when the blurbs misrepresent the books? Promising romance sells books. But it also disorients the reader.

      As the mother of one teen and one former teen, I know there's way more to the teen experience than romance. All of it deserves attention.

      Thanks for another thought-provoking post!

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    3. I'm glad you enjoyed it. And that's a great question. In this case I did get the books under the assumption that they'd be romance in the story. So they did get me to read it that way.

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  3. I would say that strong romantic themes are relatively new to YA-- at least in non-contemporary titles. I believe Twilight was the beginning of that. Most of the teen books that I had read before Twilight only hinted at romance. There was always a larger plot going on and the romance was more of a side note. After Twilight, romance became the main plot and everything else became the side note. I think now that might be changing back, or at least there might be more of a blending of the two. Romance is good, but it's pretty much been done to death, I think there needs to be more than that to keep us turning the pages now.

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    1. Oh, I agree. I like more than just romance. Romance should be a part of the story but not the entire story—though, that's just my preference. To each his own, right? ;)

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    2. BTW, my 16-year old daughter thinks Twilight is a crashing bore.

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    3. Yeah, it's not for everyone, but no book is.

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    4. I like romance from time to time. I loved Twilight when I first read it too, as I'd never read a romance before it was a whole new and exciting experience. But now that the novelty of romance has worn off on me, I like books that use romance as a way of highlighting the story. The only thing that I want a lot of in a book is a strong female lead who kicks some series butt ;P

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    5. I'm with you! I love strong female characters and romance to enhance an already great plot.

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  4. Interesting thought! I don't think I expect it, but it does make me just a tad happy when there's at least a little :)

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    1. Same here. I only expected it because of the blurbs. I really should've made that clear.

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    2. As someone who often sings the "I NEVER want to write another query letter" blues, I can understand how hard these "blurbs" are on writers who may know full well how to tell a story, but simply struggle with "advertising" said story.

      This is why I always say writing a book and writing ABOUT a book are two different things.

      The same as reading about a book is not the proxy for reading any given book, as much as writers harp on how vital a role these things play.

      I'm not excusing these writers for misleading you, Kelly, but since you and I know how hard writing blurbs are in general, I still empathize with those writers, provided the books were still good reads.

      Unless you have a marketing background, It's hard to entice people while still being accurate, and all without revealing too much for the end reader, which I mean the consumer (Agents and editors always want MORE fleshed out and descriptive outlines than the lay reader needs, in theory...) to avoid confusion among writers)


      My early attempts at these "blurbs" kept misleading the reader, too. I'm still trying to get why readers expect something in the vein or Redwall or Stuart Little when my story doesn't have battles, swords, or anything that

      That said, sorry you were misled, sometimes stories that do that are fun, but it can be a pain, too. But I don't think we should always expect romance to be in all YA books. That's not what teens think about ALL the time, whether or not that's a "new development"

      I agree with Kelly that if that's the only point to the story, unless I know it's primary billing is romance in the first place, I'd feel let down as well.

      But Kelly, you're the one who once told me "YA doesn't have to be edgy and somber" anymore than animal fantasy is only limited to preschoolers, who demand and require a level of simplicity I'm not yet able to give them.

      My problem's knowing how to rally people to read my story beyond query letters and (Shivers) synopses.

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    3. Taurean, just so you know, I don't blame the writers or publishers for the blurbs. I think blurbs are written certain ways for a reason, and I get that. I wasn't disappointed in any of these books. I enjoyed all three. I was surprised both by the blurbs mentioning the romance element and then barely seeing it and also the fact that I was coincidentally reading three books that didn't have much romance if any. That didn't really fit with the YA books I've read in the past that have a lot of romance in them. I know coincidence played a big part. And I love to find books that differ from the norm.

      This experience made me wonder about a lot of things, one being if a new trend of less romance and more heavy issues or even action is emerging. I'm not complaining at all. Merely thinking aloud.

      I'm a book lover. I can read just about anything. :)

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    4. I know you weren't complaining, I'm not either, just sharing my take on the topic, and I do think it's because we came to books in very different ways.

      Because I came to (pleasure) reading later than you, I just wanted books to entertain me, and share some insight to lives I can still only dream about (Particularly the ones where families get along, despite the usual fights and feuds)

      Yes, I was an unapologetic romantic, still am, but I was more strict about that with movies and television than books. It also wasn't my only area of interest, cooking and food is another, and still is, and more recently poetry's entered my world in a big way.

      Maybe this is also because I've NEVER been on a date, like Kelly, that I feel differently, sure I had my crazy crushes, but never a real date.

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    5. I was the girl who was always in a relationship. I wish I would've taken more time for myself.

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    6. Well, it obviously worked out okay in your case, you married a sane, caring person, and got a healthy daughter, more than most in our age bracket can say, and certainly not for lack of trying for many of them I'm sure.

      I guess we have opposite problems in this regard. You wish you had more you time, and I'd like to feel less alone, and trust me there's a difference to alone time you need and want, and just have no other options, and there's only so much your online-only pals can do, and I hope you know what I mean here, I know I've been uptight and no fun lately, but it was never your or other's fault, and I'm sorry if you ever felt put off by me.

      I've had to keep to myself the last few weeks to retain an even keel, for my own sake at least, and that's why I've been MIA lately. I'm glad your writing's going well.

      Anyway, all I was t saying was I wanted a first "date." I don't think that's rushing too fast, I guess you were thinking of something different, or I misread you again.

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    7. I understand what you mean. I hope you find that person for you, Taurean. I really do.

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  5. I know romance is one of the things I look for when I'm selecting YA, so I can't say I've come across any books lately that didn't have romance. But then again, I'm not looking for those books either. I'm sure they're out there - especially "issue" novels.
    BTW - if you're looking for swoon-worthy passages, try Chelsea Fine's Archers of Avalon series. Love it!

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    1. Ooh, thanks for the suggestion, Jessie!

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  6. I love LOVE, so I usually read YA Romance. However, I'm sure there are books out there that don't even hint at it. Although I can't think of one. It's ironic that you came across 3 in a row.

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    1. I know, right? It was very unusual that I ended up with 3 at one time. I think that's why I was so surprised.

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  7. I love romance in YA, really I do. ALOT. :D I also enjoy a story which doesn't necessarily focus on romance. A while back I read Maria V Snyder's Touch Of Power. Romance came nearly at the end, and it was such a small dose, but satisfying. What kept me reading was the action and the characters.

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    1. Yeah, I like romance to support the rest of the story, not necessary as the focus. You use romance well in your book. :)

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  8. I confess, I do not read YA, but sort of assumed their would be some romance in almost all of the books. I, like you, thought romance was a big part of the teenage years. It was when a fossil like me was young. :)

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    1. LOL. You're not anywhere near a fossil, Karen. Romance was a big part of my teen years, so I guess that's what's swaying my opinion here.

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  9. sound like whoever blurbed these books were more interested in tapping into the twihard market than accurately representing the stories... ugh.

    personally, i think it all depends on the character and their journey. you're right about romance and sexual awakening being a key part of many adolescent's lives, but there are always those who are too busy/ traumatized/ oblivious/ whatever that they don't really have romantic entanglements.

    i'm with several of the other commenters. i think that the romance has become overdone in YA. there are so many OTHER integral things teens are facing- deciding about their own moralities, or balancing extracurriculars, or familial strife, or planning for their futures, or worrying about their friends troubles... i think these things could easily steal the subplot of a novel away from a romantic one.

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    1. I agree, Vic. Like I said, I think the blurbs misled me, and maybe you are correct about why the blurbs were written that way.

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  10. Good question. I haven't read any YA novels recently but come to think of it, all the YA books I've read did have romance in them. I never expected it but liked that it was included. I wouldn't say romance is a big part of teenage years, at least it wasn't for me. I always looked at romance in YA book as a beacon of light for all those who'd like a guy to notice them but doesn't believe it'll ever happen. I like romance in my books, whether YA or adult fiction, because it lightens up what could be a very dark and disturbing book.

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    1. That's a great point. Romance can be used to lighten a dark story. I never even thought of that.

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  11. The YA books my daughter shares are usually about different types of friendships. The prep girl who befriends a goth chick and they both discover each other's strengths, weaknesses, and secrets. She really does enjoy the moments when kids do extraordinary things in books, like a girl who stands by a friend who is dying.

    I don't read YA books myself, but I wouldn't expect them to have romance, crushes maybe. :) I'm old though. haha!

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    1. Maybe it's because I taught in a high school and I saw how romance was dominating many students' lives. I think I was more innocent than a lot of teens today, but I still had boyfriends throughout high school. And a first love at 16.

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  12. It could be the books I gravitate too but I don't there are many that have little to no romance. There was one book about fae that has little to no romance until the last 2 chapters. Even then it was weak and not really romance. The book was still good. Maybe it was that i read on still hoping for some for some romance.

    I have come to expect romance in YA. I have a hard time getting through ANY book, but defiantly YA that don't have some kind of romantic interests or elements. I think most women love the young love aspect which is why so many gravitate to the YA market.

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    1. Yeah, I think being female does have something to do with it. ;)

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  13. I am a romance junkie (he he) and proud of it, so yeah, I think I'm naturally drawn to YA books that at least have a romance subplot in them. I don't always go out and look for that, though when I hear the word romance, I come a-runnning lol....but I can't think of a single book I've read off hand that didn't have a romance subplot. Very strange indeed that you came across three in a row, especially if they hinted at one in the blurb.

    And I agree, romance--whether the real thing or wishing for it--was a huge part of my teen years, and it's that way for all the teen girls I know today, too =)

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    1. Yeah, I've become a romance junkie too. I just love a good romance. :)

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  14. Teenage years is all about discoveries, who you are and how you fit in this vast world. It is also about physcial and emotional changes, so needless to say, you tend to see romance in YA books. Even though there are a lot of things that teens are interested in, romance is a big part of this age-group

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  15. I've noticed this recently too. Not a trend I'm a fan of.

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    1. I enjoy books without romance too, but I like to have a clue that there won't be romance. Otherwise, I've kind of come to expect at least a little.

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  16. My current WIP only has hints at romance and it's not at all swoonish (is that a word, if not can we made it one). I enjoy romance in my YA, but it doesn't have to be there.

    I spent much of my teens admiring cute boys from afar with only little snippets of actual romance in between. While I like to read the romance, the prevalence of it (in it's current HEA form) in YA is probably a little unrealistic.

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    1. Don't get me wrong, some books need only have crushes or no romance at all. I was just baffled by the blurbs that mentioned it was a romance and then there wasn't romance.

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  17. I like a dash of romance, but not the heavy handed kind. I prefer my romance to be a series of mini coffee dates, with no passionate moments in darkness. However, if a book promised romance in the blurb, and didn't give the romance as much in the book, I'd feel a bit cheated.

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    1. Yeah, I guess I did feel cheated. They were good books, just not what I anticipated from the blurbs.

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  18. I found that younger YA books--aimed at 13-15 instead of the 15+ age range--are easier on the romance, if it's there at all. The romantic content also seems to depend on genre. I've read a couple YA thrillers this year and none of them had romances, like Tim Bowler's FROZEN FIRE. There was just too much life-threatening thriller/mystery action for there to be any romance element. It was hinted at, but barely.

    As for the book blurbs, I think it's pretty clear who's buying YA books: teen girls. And who doesn't love romance more than a teen girl? It's unfortunate and pretty misleading to put such on the dust jacket, but it seems the book blurbs are trying to hook an audience they wouldn't otherwise get.

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    1. I hear you. And just so we're clear, I do love books without romance too. I don't want anyone to think I don't. I read just about everything and can appreciate a good story whether it has romance or not.

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    2. Oh, holla, me too. It was, frankly, kind of a nice reprieve from the usual. Sometimes authors seem so desperate to cram in the romance that it feels unnatural and totally lacking in chemistry.

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    3. I always say you have to be true to the story. I don't think about what's trending or what's selling. I go by what is necessary and true to my characters and story. Otherwise, readers will spot the inconsistencies or the abnormalities right away.

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    4. Or in my world, people who feel we need to be "National Geographic" about every thing our animals do so we can overlook the talking part.

      Did these people not watch cartoons or read comics? If I can't use the research in a way that serves the characters and/or story, why include it?

      Doing the "impossible" is a big part of why most of us fantasy writers do what we do, so we can avoid the constraints being true to life in the way good documentaries and nonfiction books are by their inherent nature.

      Just because I take the non-scientific route, doesn't mean I didn't do any research at all.

      For my last books I did tons of research about rats, but I couldn't, nor wanted, to use it all.

      Besides, if you wanted to know anything and everything about a rat's sex drive or digestive system, consult a different (Ahem, Nonfiction) source.

      Currently, I'm doing a lot of research on camel training and desert life for one book and weasels (different story than the former) for another, but in neither case can I use it all, or it's not relevant the way the folks who'd rather I be more accurate think it is, and it's REALLY HARD to make peace with that.

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    5. There's a ton of research involved in fiction. We have to know the facts in order to know how we can alter them. I know what you're saying, Taurean. Completely made up characters/beings would probably be the easiest things to write about because there isn't something to judge them against in real life. It shouldn't be this way, but it is. I think this is why I don't use real towns as my settings. I'll name a general area, but the town is always fictional. I don't want people to pick about everything about the town if I were to change something small.

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  19. I have no romance in my Y/A novels. The first reason is that I would be terrible at writing it. The second, because my characters have much more fun pretending to their friends that it's just for girls while secretly wanting it.

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    1. More proof that not all YA books need romance. :)

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  20. Most of the books I read have a romantic element to them. Some of the thrillers and mysteries I read don't have romance, though.

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  21. I don't read as much YA as most of your readers here because I don't write YA, but I do read YA if the characters are strong and writing wows me.

    Girls become women at an early age these days and for most (sadly) they don't have any idea about passions, love, and all those heady feelings that overwhelm them so early. A high percentage of women remain uncomfortable talking to their tweens and teens about the subject, thus girls turn to girlfriends for answers. I call it cliff notes texting. Not how I wanted my daughter to learn.

    I resorted to 'borrowing' Last Tango in Paris to learn about the forbidden subject because my mom when deaf, dumb, and blind, when I became of age. Since there were few age appropriate books with strong female characters who talked honestly about the changes in their bodies, their desires, the rush of first love, etc., I am thrilled there are YA novels out there for young women. I think a little romance if written honestly in a book can't be a bad thing. My hope is the stories also tell the reader,,, it;s ok if it doesn't work out the first time.. as well as to love deeply, you have to love yourself, too.

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    1. It usually doesn't work out the first time. That's a very rare thing. Of course, in the moment we are convinced our first love is "the one".

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  22. Seems as if many YA novels have a slow development of a bond between a girl and a guy, but it's more about them getting to know each other and going through adventure than hot romance. Not sure that is a trend as much as the trend for hot romance was a trend.

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    1. That's an interesting way to look at it, Catherine. Thanks for chiming in. :)

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  23. I guess I've been missing out on YA books because of the focus on PBs and MGs lately. I wouldn't assume all to carry romance (so far, The Catcher in the Rye comes to mind and there was a bit on a prostitute, but nothing on romance), but then it all boils down to the protagonists and what they want or problems they have. Maybe a romantic interest and some heartfelt-connection moments but nothing physical if that scene really isn't necessary to the plot? That'd totally work for me.

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    1. I definitely think there are books that don't need romance. I've just grown so used to it in YA.

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  24. I feel like a lot of YA books have romance in them- but I do not expect them to have it. I like to have a mixture of things when I am reading- so it is nice to have variety. :)
    ~Jess

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    1. You're right. It is nice to have variety.

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  25. I have never had the expectation that YA novels should have romance in them. I guess so many of them do, though.

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    1. I don't think YA needs to have romance. I was just shocked that I'd picked up 3 books at the same time that didn't have romance. Usually most do, even if only a little.

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  26. I agree that three books in a row is a bit surprising. I usually think of no romance in YA as an anomaly! It doesn't bother me either way, especially as I love it when authors can highlight relationships really well -- whether they're romantic or simply fantastic friendships. Although...I admit that I prefer my readings to have a bit of a love triangle to them. ;0)

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    1. I like love triangles too. I know some people are very much over them, but they don't bother me.

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  27. It's not usually the genre I read in, so I'll have to defer to the others on this one....

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  28. I'm terrible at writing romance, and it kind of bores me actually, so you would probably never find much romance in anything I write, whether it is for adults or young adults. But you're right, it does seem like, when I was a teenager, every book geared towards my age group had some sort of romance going on ss a subplot!

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    1. Yeah, it does seem that way, but I guess I found out it's not really the case. LOL

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