Sunday, September 23, 2012

Not everyone loves a love story

Love can be a hard thing to write about. To truly capture a young adult's heart, it has to include everything they would want in a long-term relationship and more. 

But should writers always include that element, or will the rest of your story be hiding behind it as a result?

Sometimes, the things writers think a young adult wants in a book are not always the right things. Whereas a couple of years ago teens would be chomping at the bit to buy a good romance novel, you have to remember that times have changed and the modern-day woman doesn't always want to get swept off her feet by a male character commonly portrayed as the superior species. 

Take The Hunger Games for example. Katniss is stronger and much more suited to a life in Panem than Peeta will ever be. However, Suzanne Collins still included the age-old 'love triangle' that in my opinion left Katniss looking weaker than she did when her own sister died. I have always thought of this topic as a very controversial one - without the love between the two the movies would not have been as appealing, but because of it the books were made to look a lot less serious than they actually are. 

Just like in real life, love makes everything more complicated and sometimes it is better left alone if you want to get the most out of your book. 

Of course, I'm not telling you to disregard it completely. If you know that your manuscript centres around the couple and their love is the thing bringing both the disequilibrium and fixing it, then go ahead. I'm in no way implying that love is getting boring, because I have read a fair bit of it and thoroughly enjoyed it at the same time. 

But more and more young adults are becoming aware of feminism and they know that a girl can lead a successful life without a man on her arm. If your writing is going smoothly without needing a kiss here or a loving gaze there, I strongly advise you to carry on with what you are doing and never look back. Don't go thinking that without it your book will appeal less to us - in fact a lot of young adults will appreciate it more if you stand up for the modern woman and give her a bit of backbone. 

I hope this advice has helped you, because we would rather see a friendship last a lifetime than a relationship lasting a series. 

The Book Critic x

6 comments:

  1. While I totally agree with what you're saying, I think part of the problem is that while we are writing for teens we also need to write for agents and editors. I know I've read from many agents that there needs to be a love story in YA. It doesn't need to be the focus, but it has to be there.
    I think it's the same problem with books aimed at teen boys. They say there isn't a market for it, because teen boys don't buy YA books. Maybe they don't because YA is all mushy love stories? It's hard to know. And it's hard to figure out what to do about it.

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  2. I'm not saying not to include it - if you think that is what your story needs then I am sure you're right. Maybe some friendly affection is in order instead? A long hug with an old friend might fit in someone's story better than make-out sessions.

    The Book Critic x

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    1. No, I agree! I'm not a big love story person myself, actually. My point was just that we're being told from another end that it'll be a hard sell without it. It's frustrating. I think there is a place for non-love stories with teens, but it seems to be hard to get them out there.

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    2. Yes, I really agree with what you're saying - most of the books I read have a love story involved but many times, as the old saying goes, 'less is more'. I think Twilight would have got much better reviews if Bella stopped with all of that stuff and just concentrated on Edward and the problem of The Volturi. But yes, I know what you mean, it is hard to write without it because that is usually where your main form of physical contact description comes from!

      The Book Critic x

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  3. I agree wholeheartedly with this post. As a big YA reader, I've taken more to looking through old books in the library to the sparkly new books on bookstore shelves, simply because most of what I see is paranormal romance, historical romance, regular romance... since I've never been interested in romance or marriage, it discourages me to see so many "strong female" characters falling in love with the first boy that comes along. In the stories I write it diesn't happen, and therefore in the books I pick up I don't want it to happen.

    Now, not all love should be excluded, because it's a natural part of life. But I see it way to often, and some books I pick up have this romance in it central to the plot but not mentioned in the summary. Or if I do pick up a romance novel, the girl is weak and not exactly modern. More of the "this boy is cute, he's so much better than me, why does he love a loser like me?" sort of thing. I end up turning to middle grade, because it's a problem I see in YA and sometimes adult fiction.

    Gah, now that I'm done with my rant... thank you for this post. This topic is close to my heart, you can tell. It really annoys me.

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    1. Thank you for the lovely comment! It annoys me to a certain extent as well - I think it works well when the romance is the central plot to the book but sometimes I fear authors are including it just for the sake of getting a few more words on paper.

      Thank you for taking the time to write the comment!

      The Book Critic x

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