I know in the month of valentine all my thematic post should be rooting for romance and spread the love, but I also want to talk about another important topic regarding romance in books. It seems like many books lately are forcing unecessary romance on the story.
Maybe because I’m not really a romantic type? I rarely reach for contemporary or watch chick flicks. But when I’m in the mood, I do love them! It’s just hard to read about saving the world, or maybe creepy and ruthless ghost, and then suddenly the story turn from dark and twisty into romance where the ruthless ghost became soft to safe the love interest. Or the hero/ine sacrifice her mission to save the interest. As much as “live in the moment” or “might not get another chance”, it just ruins the book for me.
I don’t mind if the romance is mentioned in the synopsis and it is necessary to set the plot forward. In Shatter Me, Adam is the first human contact Juliette had and therefore it’s logical that Juliette would do anything for him. In The Hunger Games, Katniss was stuck in the game of life and death with Peeta TWICE. It’s logical to say that she would do anything to get him back. Now to think about it, basically all dystopia relies on romance to move the plot forward, or backward, depending on the situation. And while they are frustrating most of the time, that’s how the plot goes. And usually it is mentioned at front about this “mysterious boy”, “inexplicably drawn” or “boy with secrets/demons/whatever it is”.
However, I read dystopia because I want to read about the world building, the struggle, and the rebellion spirit. That’s what I’m looking for from the books; I can tolerate romance as the protagonist tend to be teenagers and that’s the age we found our first relationship, right? Unfortunately, what I usually got is the couples getting ready to sacrifice the whole world to save their love. That’s just pretty unrealistic, considering there are a whole nation waiting for you to fight for them but I guess that’s just how it works in the books. You screw up for love and others who suffer for it, who loses everything, just supposed to shrug and “well, it’s all for love.”
This unecessary romance not only prevalent in dystopia/fantasy genre, but also contemporary. The genre become synonymous with romance because of the amount of romance-centric books in the genre. However, the word contemporary itself means “at the time”, meaning that the genre shouldn’t be comprised of romance only. I love how there are more diversity and political jab towards current state of affairs, whether you like it or not, YA contemporary helped to raise awareness in regards of current issue of racism, mental illness, disability, LGBTQ+, and more.
However, it is rare that the book focuses fully on the issue, most of the books will have romance and it will play a significant part on the book. One of the example is “love cures all” trope that is very prevalent in books discussing mental illness. Or the “manic pixie girl/boy” that makes the main character forget their problems and came out from their shell.
There is nothing wrong with the notion of romance during difficult times, after all, having someone to fight for probably give you a reason to live another day, or do things you usually don’t do, or toppling the government so you both could live in a better life. But my point is, can romance take the backseat and let our main characters sort on their issue? Let them develop their stories and characters, the problems they are facing and the choices they have, instead of half-developing the issue and use the romantic plot to conviniently solve all the problems. Often times, instead of resolving the problems and let the readers reflect on the issue the book represented, the romance create other problems such as romanticize mental illness and toxic relationships.
My bottom line is, I really wish authors will stop incorporating romance when they have nothing to do will the plot or the characters. There are so many books out there that actually have amazing plot and characters, but fell short because the author choose to focus on the romance instead of developing the plot ideas and the characters. I know romance probably is a selling point in YA, but hey, there are many successful book that has ZERO romance in it and yet still be a best seller (cough VICIOUS by V.E. Schwab cough), so that may not be the case.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to do not do something mainstream and create a different story.
Enough of me ranting, what do you think on the topic? Let me know in the comment below!