Before we start, it should be noted that I’m about as romantic as a potato (according to my partner). My idea of romance involves my partner bringing home dinner and letting me run wild in a bookstore. Or playing one-on-one football. He doesn’t bring me flowers, because you can’t eat them so they’re a waste of money. He’s about the same though, so it works for us. Just so you are forewarned about how this is going to go.
But I’ve been thinking on this topic of late because 1) a friend of mine is in the early relationship stages with a girl, 2) because every single book has to have a love story it seems, and 3) I’ve heard about five times this week along from authors/writers ‘what’s with the hate when it comes to instalove?’ So let’s talk about this.
If you’ve followed my stuff for a while, you probably know that I’m not big on the whole love story stuff. I won’t read most books that revolve around romantic relationships, I regularly criticize sex being used in books, and I complain about instalove on a fairly often. If you don’t, now you do know. So this discussion is going to lean towards that direction of things.
The Ubiquitous Romance/Falling in Love Story in Every. Single. YA. Book.
I cannot be the only person who has noticed this. Sometimes, it’s the main focus of the book, sometimes it’s a subplot, sometimes it just this thing that happens for one chapter and is mostly ignored through the rest of the book. But it’s always there.
In terms of YA, it’s almost impossible in find a book where there’s no love story. And when someone finally writes one, it’s their selling point. ‘THIS BOOK HAS NO ROMANCE’ the author proclaims, as if this should be the reason we all go out and buy their book. And the fact that this catches all of our attention and causes discussion just goes to show how common love stories are in YA.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a good teenaged romance as much as the next person. But I also like variety. When you’ve read the same ‘falling in love and they’re perfect for each other’ story a hundred and one times, it gets a little old. One of my favourite guilty pleasure series involves one girl falling in love with ten guys. It’s a nice change. Some other great books involve no one falling in love with anyone, which is also nice.
And here’s the other thing: YA books are for teenagers, and not everyone dates in their teenaged years. I didn’t, and I don’t feel like I missed out on anything by not dating in high school. I honestly think it was one of my better decisions. But where are the books for the teenagers that don’t want to date in high school? Because I haven’t found any yet, and that’s leaving out a good chunk of people who can’t find books they relate to.
Romance and Love in Adult Fiction
Now things chance a bit when we get into adult fiction. I’ve found that things fall into one of two categories, when it comes to romantic plots in these books: they either meet someone and fall madly in love, or their previously relationship falls apart (they may or may not find someone else, it depends).
For once, I would love to see a strong, single main character who power through a book without the help of a romantic relationship, and kicks butt anyway. I get that it is generally acknowledged that adult life is more fun when you’ve got a partner in crime (or so I find, anyway), but there are worse things in life than being alone. There are pluses to the single life that could really enhance a plot, if only someone would actually write it.
I would also love to see a couple go through a tragedy or thriller plot line and come out stronger than before. I can’t remember the last time I read a book where a family lost a kid/found out that someone had secrets/gained superpowers/whatever, and didn’t split, if only temporarily before getting back together at the end. Why are you all running away from your problems? That’s not going to solve shit. Grow a pair and work together, and this book would probably be better.
You knew this was coming, right?
It should be no surprise by now that I am not a huge fan of instalove, if you’ve been following my stuff for a while. In my real life, this just isn’t a thing. You can’t fall in love with people you don’t know know – attraction, sure, but not love.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes instalove is fun. You get this great story where the characters just hit it off, and fall in love and it’s sweet and cute and fun. But the key to these stories is that it has to be done right. It’s got to fit into the plot and make sense in the story. Got an impulsive character that dives headfirst into everything, and the situation is set up just so for it? Instalove makes perfect sense. But if you don’t have this perfect situation, it just feels funny when it happens.
I think another problem with instalove is that it’s too common. Based on a quick Google search, a little over half the Canadian population believes in love at first site. However, when you look at how soon people can tell they are just attracted to their date in the first five minutes, 1 in 4 over 65 will say they can, but that drops to 19% with those around 40. I couldn’t find numbers for millennials, but if I had to guess, I’d say we’re closer to the 40 year olds. And if we can’t figure out attraction at first site, can we figure out love? Someone needs to do a study on that.
I think the major issue with instalove is how common it is, especially in YA. It’s the same old story every time, and it’s often not developed enough to really make sense. If we had more variety or there was more focus on development, maybe instalove wouldn’t be such an issue around the YA community. In the mean time, though, I’ll keep hunting down well developed romances and hoping for the best.
Not Everyone Ends Up Partnered Up For Life
Some people are happier on their own. I’ve talked to quite a few older people who strongly believe that ‘there are far worse things than being alone’. My grandfather passed away when my dad was three, and my grandmother never felt the need to remarry or even really date. Some people don’t experience romantic or sexual attraction. Some choose to live as hermits. We’ve all got our things.
So why are characters in books never content on their own? Everyone has to be partnered up, or splitting up and heartbroken over being alone? I wanna read books where people are happy being alone and maybe go on dates but don’t feel the need to couple up.
This is especially true for YA. How do all these teenagers end up with some amazing life partner at 17? For these books, I’m more forgiving about everyone wanting a partner, because that’s normal when you’re a teenager. You’re excited about dating and you want that first kiss or first love (unless that’s not your thing, in which case, we need those books too), so it makes sense that people are looking for it. But lots of people don’t date in high school, as previously mentioned, so it seems super weird that everyone in YA gets partnered up.
I think we need more variety and more development as a general when it comes to romance in books. There’s some great stuff out there, but I would love to see more romance cop-outs in books, and more unique relationships, rather than the same old stuff.
What do you think? Fan of romance in books, or no? What do you want to see when it comes to romantic plots in books? Let me know in the comments below!