Novel Thoughts: Romance in YA

Posted by Jessi (Geo) on February 5, 2014 | 25 Comments



Romance in YA

If you haven’t already figured out by now, I am not a fan of romance. It is extremely rare for me to be fully invested in one, and 90% of the time, I hate them. Why? Because they are (mostly) all the same to me, and seems like they’re getting bogged down with clichés more and more. *coughs* 

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  • When a boy character and a girl character are introduced to a story, you automatically know they are going to fall for each other. Why can’t a boy and girl be just friends? It is possible! IT IS. 
  • They say the L word before 50% of the book. Your average young adult novel is maybe 300-350 pages. Chances are, you are not going to have enough room to fully develop a relationship within 150 pages, especially if there are other aspects of the book (like world).
  • They have seen each other TWICE and all of the sudden they are ‘in love.’ This is one of my biggest problems with romance. Instalove is never okay for me, and 9 times out of 10 it’s going to make me either a) hate the book, or b) not even bother to finish it.
  • I was promised a science fiction or high fantasy with GLORIOUS world building, but the plot is completely dominated by romance. NO, NO, NO. If I read a sci-fi, I want world building! Not romance!! Especially if the synopsis makes me think that’s what I’m going to get!
  • Plain, average Mary Sue has throes of hot boys pursuing her. I think this one speaks for itself.
  • The male love interest is like, totally sexy…and perfect in every way. Is this how it happens in real life? NO. People have flaws, men especially (haha just kidding, there’s my misandrous comment for the day week). Why can’t he be attractive (even if only to the MC) but flawed? That’s much more convincing. 
  • Love triangles. Yes, there are a select few that work for me (Like the Shatter Me series and Splintered), but for the most part they just piss me off. I can’t stand when a girl (or guy) bounces back and forth between love interests!


  • More interaction between the characters so they have time to actually, you know, get to know each other. (Imagine that!)
  • (In sci-fi/high fantasy) A romance that takes a back seat to the world building. Are you really going to be worrying about whether a hot boy thinks you’re pretty when your life is in danger?
  • A good old-fashioned, ONE boy on ONE girl romance. Why are love triangles so appealing? Would you want your significant other to be kissing someone else behind YOUR back? Didn’t think so.
  • A slow developing romance.
  • For the L word to not show up until at least after 75% of the book. Then there’s enough time for some actual development, and the characters truly know each other. 


  • The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. Arin and Kestrel are forced together. They spend a lot of time with each other (and this is over a span of weeks, if not months), and it slowly becomes more. But there is no pining, no lovey-dovey thoughts, and they don’t act on it until the last quarter of the book. Plus, all odds are stacked against them and it’s an unlikely romance.
  • Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. Again, an unlikely romance. It started out with hatred, but when Brittany and Alex got to know each other, the hatred faded and they fell for each other.
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. There is far more world than anything else, and the romance is very minimal. Cassie and Evan weren’t focused on kissing because their world was in dire straits. You know, priorities.
  • These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner. Guess what? Unlikely romance. Seems to be a theme for me, eh? Lilac and Tarver hated each other, were forced together, and slowly became something more.
  • Don’t You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire. Charlie and Annie have that lovely slow burn that I enjoy so much, and the romance takes most of the book to develop.
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. The romance between Puck and Sean was barely there at all, but you could still feel their connection.

Romance is very hit or miss with me, but there is a certain style that I love and will almost always enjoy: Hate to love relationships. (Not to be confused with love/hate relationships! I don’t need to get some mental whiplash!) I am a huge fan of catharsis in stories, so when two characters can’t stand each other, then get to know one another and start to see each other differently, it speaks to me in some unidentifiable way. I also like the Stockholm Syndrome types, as long as they’re done well.

What do you think? What are your deal breakers in romance?

Jessi (Geo)

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25 responses to “Novel Thoughts: Romance in YA

  1. Hate to love romances are my absolute favorites, and I’m so glad you do as well! It makes me so, so happy to see that Perfect Chemistry worked for you. I absolutely love the romance in that one.

    I prefer the L word to show up later in a book too. It’s always an important part of the story, and I don’t want that part to feel underdeveloped.

  2. I must admit, I’m a sucker for romantic stories. But when I read a dystopian or sci-fi, I think the world building and the plot and everything around it is more important than focusing on the love story. But I don’t know. I still adore reading love stories and chick-lits, they are definitely my guilty pleasure.

    I have not read any of the books mentioned that worked for you, so I’m curious to see how I will like them if I read them in the near future.

  3. I totally don’t mind romance in books, but I like it to be developed. Not just the: oh gosh pretty boy I LOVE HIM AND I WILL DIE FOR HIM. No. Just no thanks. And I like it when boys/girls can be just friends. Why is that so alien??! It IS possible. But it seems, if there IS a friendship between a boy-and-girl, they have to fall in love eventually. -_-

  4. Romances are my least favourite part of YA novels, nine times out of ten. I cannot stand it when the romance feels forced, as though it’s only put in because agents and editors seem to think it’s a requirement in order to sell books. Instalove, plot domination, love triangles/squares/octagons, are all things that I generally hate. I agree though, they do work on occasion. I actually really like the love triangle in Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. Mostly because I think they should all hook up with each other.

    I definitely like the slowburns, and I think if a couple are together or in love before 70%, it’s way too soon. I would have the love story drawn out even more if there were sequels.

  5. I’m actually kind of the opposite. I feel like no one agrees with me on this but I actually really like romance. I hate love triangles too! Unless they work but they only two that I’ve liked are in Shatter Me and The Infernal Devices. I like the idea of the two people getting to know each other but I don’t like it when they HATE each other. Or when one person is putting in so much effort but they both get the happy ending. I guess the only way to describe it is: I like romance if it’s fair, if everyone puts in the same, and everyone gets out the same. It just makes the most sense to me because I’m a hopeless romantic haha ><

  6. YES! I totally agree with you here, Jessi! While I may love a good romance, there are a lot of the factors that I hate that keep popping up, and I feel like using a hammer to smack them down sometimes! And what really peeves me is when a Mary Sue has a flock of boys chasing after her; the whole world does not have to revolve around her! And what really miffs me is when I see no reason why those boys should go gaga for her :\ It makes no sense! But I love romances that are developed, that actually have a base for happening. I like it when a girl can acknowledge she can live without the boy, because her life line is not tagged onto him!
    Thanks for sharing, Jessi!! <33 Great post, as always ;)

  7. I really love romance in novels, but I don’t want them to override the rest of the story. I would even adore it if the romance started around the last 10% as long as it’s done well, with a non-Mary Sue heroine and a not-so-perfect hero. Although I also like hate to love stories, my favorites are romances between two people who’ve been friends/best friends for a long time. That way, you know that they already know each other and that it technically wouldn’t be “insta-love.” Plus it’s just really cute when the said best friend is protective and knows all the likes/dislikes of the main hero/heroine. :)

  8. I also miss romances where it happens in stages. The “crush” stage, the “like” stage, the “infatuation” stage. Everyone seems to skip straight to love, and there’s no periods where a character can just be giddy over liking someone, or have awkward conversations about “Hey, so, I think you’re swell…and…um, yeah, I just wanted to say that.”

    Or in an action book “Hey, so, I think you’re swell….hope that doesn’t making fighting zombie Cthulhu harder.”

  9. Yes, I totally agree! I feel like, especially in books that aren’t chiefly contemporary romance, a book has so much more to focus on that isn’t the romance. I also hate when someone admits that they love another person before 50% of the book, because it’s completely implausible and most of the time it takes at least four months to properly fall into love. It’s just really annoying because there are so many different factors for love and there’s definitely other things going on in the book. I am so with you on the Mary Sue thing, like most guys are never interested in someone who’s boring and/or plain, and usually only one or two are at a time, not like ten thousand. Fantastic post, Jessi! <33

  10. I couldn’t agree with you more, Jessi! The romance in YA has always been a point of contention with me. Honestly, if I saw a girl/boy in real life going about falling in ‘love’ the way YA characters do, I would probably smack her/him around the head and tell them to wake up to real life, because that’s just not how it’s done.

    The romance in These Broken Stars and the completely platonic relationship Roar & Aria share in the UTNS series are like rare diamonds in the haystack of YA lit with romance. I loved the romance in Jellicoe Road too. It was so understated, but you could positively feel the bond between the two. I’m planning to read Scorpio Races soon, so I cant wait! :D

  11. YES So much! I want to take this post and shove it in the faces of all the writers and say “here, see? learn from this”
    I can’t read regular romance for so many of these reasons- it is like reading the same story over and over. I so enjoy books where the main characters have a slow burn and only fall for each other/admit feelings at the end (example: Grave Mercy).

  12. I hate these too:

    They have seen each other TWICE and all of the sudden they are ‘in love.’
    Plain, average Mary Sue has throes of hot boys pursuing her.

    And sometimes I also hate it when, as you said, a book is marketed as being an “epic sci-fi” but then it gets dominated by romance. As I think you know, I do love romance in books, but sometimes I want something without romance so that’s when I go for the epic sci-fi.. then I’m annoyed when it *does* have romance because that’s not what I was looking for!!

  13. I totally agree with everything you said! I’m not a huge fan of romance for the same reasons. I did love These Broken Stars though! Great post that I really enjoyed reading!

  14. I agree with you. I mostly read contemporary YA, which I love. However, I am getting tired of these love at first sight, first love/my only love romances. Reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and The Beginning of Everything Else by Robyn Schneider was a breath of fresh air for me. They approached those kind of feelings differently; the end was different, too (not sure if I’m spoiling it, sorry!).

    These books are becoming too heavy on love at first intensity for me. There is hope, though. There is!

    Happy reading!

    -indie reader girl0329

  15. There’s a lot of things on your hate list that strike a chord with me too, mostly the super hot guy and the Mary Sue girl, and the fact that every YA romance has to be a love triangle.

    Hate to love romances are definitely my favourite – I love watching them realize that they actually really care about each other, or that they fight all the time because they’re so similar! Haha

  16. I do enjoy a good romance – but like you insta love really turns me off and love triangles have to be done really well for them to not bother me. That’s why I read a lot more urban fantasy than paranormal romance – give me romance as a backdrop is a win almost every time. I just finished listening Univited by Sophie Jordan and I felt like the way she handled the romance between Davy and Sean was spot on – that’s the way I wish it was handled more often.

  17. I think romance is a tricky subject in general. I happen to be a sucker for it – but even I have my limits. Instalove? Nope. I can believe instalust. But that’s totally a different issue.
    My favorite part about romance would be the getting-to-know-each-other phase. Hands down, that’s the part I enjoy the most. So when that part is taken from me, the book has lost me. There’s no way around that. And it does seem like the focus is on romance, when it should be just about different universes or wizards or something o.o
    And as for love triangles – that depends for me, too. It’s entirely possible to care about two guys (or girls). But your point is very valid – having feelings and acting on feelings are totally different.
    The only books I’ve read from that list are These Broken Stars and Perfect Chemistry.
    These Broken Stars definitely implied the romance from the beginning. But it was so natural, I couldn’t begrudge it. Hell, it was beautiful. They wouldn’t even have known each other otherwise. That speaks volumes
    And Perfect Chemistry is obviously a romance. But that hate to love thing gets me every time, too. It just shows how you don’t really know somebody, until, well, the last 25% of the book! Haha

  18. I’m with you. Romance is not my thing. I prefer a good adventure. Sometimes I have to read a few middle grade books just to have adventures without romance.

    Although I didn’t like the romance in These Broken Stars. I felt like there was nothing happening but them denying their feelings. But I’m about halfway through The Winner’s Curse and am enjoying that one so far.

  19. While I don’t think it bothers me as much as it bothers you, I’m definitely more for books that focus on plot and world-building rather than the romance. It depends what I’m in the mood for, but most of the time the romance aspects seem so OLD to me. Like every book nowadays seems to have instalove and love triangles. Can’t we just focus on the plot and not he-likes-me-he-likes-me-not? Sometimes I want the romance aspect, but when I’m reading dystopians/sci-fi I usually would rather the book be more focused on the world-building.

  20. Totally agreed! I hate when romance dominates the plot; it always ruins a great book with an awesome premise!
    Love triangles also just needs to STOP. So does insta-love.
    And you got me wanting to read The Winner’s Curse SO badly right now! You also got me wanting to reread Perfect Chemistry. :P

  21. Trayche

    As a male reader, the romance part for me is never something that makes the book special. I’ve never really cared for it, but I do want it to be written nicely, not cliche and cheesy. I hate love triangles. And instalove. The Chaos Walking trilogy has had two main characters, a boy and a girl, as best friends. And they’never shown emotions in the romantic love way. And I like their relationship. I hope other books had this more often.

  22. I actually love romance. I think I’m the fan you’re talking about when you wonder “who likes this stuff?” Me (hand in the air) I know it’s silly and often times shallow, and when I’m done, I sometimes feel slightly ashamed (fifty shades of grey) because of the pure unrealistic story line. But I can’t deny how absolutely addicting I find it. Especially a well written love triangle. I usually end up losing all respect for the heroine, and roll my eyes continuously when she’s acting like a damsel in distress. But many times, I find myself getting completely obsessed with the story. And I enjoy the unrealistic entertainment because reality can get quite depressing. I’m happy we can at least agree on perfect chemistry. I think one book that really nailed it for me was Elfland by Freda Warrington. I wasn’t into it until almost halfway through (probably because they focused too much on world building for me) but then I was deeply in love.

  23. I’d be so in for a girl-guy friendship! Or for a geek guy, who is nice and good-looking, but has flaws and weaknesses and most of all, NOT an Adonis. What galls me the most is that very mushy, cheesy romance where the heroine flings herself in her knigh in shiny armor’s hands on every page twice. It makes me want to claw my eyes out. Seriously. That phenomenon is usually accompanied with insta-love which annoys the hell out of me, too. I can deal with good, reasonable love-triangles though. I actually made a similar post once:

    Great post!

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