Are We Over Romance in YA?
A while ago now, I was talking to someone about more of the same on the publishing market and they told me that publishers will do what makes money. In my personal opinion, that's why we see so many YouTubers writing books: because it's a guaranteed money-maker. But that isn't the point in this article.
Picture yourself a normal bookshop. In this bookshop, you have two sections directly in front of you. You have a Young Adult section, and directly next to it you have the Romance section. That's fine, you know exactly what you're buying when you enter the shop. If it's Young Adult, brilliant. But if it's Romance, then it's also brilliant. No difference.
Already you can start to see the flaw in this argument that I'll come onto in a minute. Picture that the next day you enter the same bookshop and the two sections no longer exist, romance is mixed with Young Adult, Young Adult is mixed with romance. So can you see the flaw? Young Adult itself isn't a genre. It's an umbrella term.
My point in getting you to visualise that is that you might find it confusing to go into a bookshop and see romance in with Young Adult. The news is that it already is. I bring to your attention the works of David Levithan, John Green, Jennifer E. Smith, to name a few. These are all Young Adult authors that write their books with romance at their cores. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Romance itself is a dominating genre. Granted, YA trumped all genres last year in the amount of books it sold, but it still is an incredibly popular genre. It's got varying restrictions, and has given way to several other mini-genres like sick lit for example, where The Fault In Our Stars by John Green and Amy and Matthew by Cammie McGovern can safely call home.
I have nothing against romance in YA books. Believe me: if you can tell the story well, if you can tell it with passion, if you can tell it with enthusiasm, then you've hit it and I'll enjoy it. The Fault In Our Stars was the first YA book I've ever read, and I think we can all say that's a romance novel.
But here's my problem: we're getting to the more of the same stage. You know what I'm talking about: girl meets boy, girls hates boy, girl gets forced with boy, boy gets attracted to girl, they both fall helplessly in love. You know the drill, it may not be that, but it's definitely something similar. Sitting beside me as I write this is an excerpt that was given to me of Love Bomb by Jenny McLachlan, with it's front cover boasting, “Secret letters, first kisses and falling head over heels!” And I for one am getting a bit tired of it.
I've already said it but I will make a point of it again: I like romance. I may get accused of reading soppy novels with soppy storylines and soppy characters and I don't really mind because if I like the book then it really doesn't matter to me. But the pluralisation of novels there should be a key for you.
Isn't it time we brought some originality onto the market? We've had stories of gay couples, and that's a great leap forward into equal representation. But The Art Of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson was the first book I've seen (and dying to read by the way) that actually focuses on trans-gender people and their lives.
This argument isn't just to be applied to romance. You can apply it to every genre that manages to worm its way into Young Adult. But it is romance that's starting to bug me, and I think is starting to bug more people now.
My thinking? Publishers know that this stuff will sell, so they forfeit originality over profit. But my plea to publishers is to start regarding originality over profit. If it's got that same, predictable storyline, I for one am not interested. But if it's got a fresh new take on the genre, or faces the issues of another group of people, then I'm all up for reading it.
Romance: It's really time to change.