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TWSB--On Reading, Romance, and my YA pet peeves

"Read, read, read. Read everything." - William Faulkner

What I just finished: 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King *shiver*

What I'm reading now: Longitude by Dava Sobel; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie; Across the Wall by Garth Nix; Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.

On my reading list for later: The Count of Monte Cristo, Four Plays by Oscar Wilde, and Vanity Fair. What can I say, Barnes and Noble had a deal on classics--buy two get one free. Whether and when I will actually finish them is another question.

Favorite genre: I like epic fantasy, but there's surprisingly little of it in YA. Perhaps the People in Charge think teens can't handle the complexity or the length, or something. Who knows. I read an interview with Tamora Pierce, author of many YA fantasy quartets--she was asked why she'd switched to writing pairs of books instead of quartets. Her dryly humorous answer was that Harry Potter had proved kids were willing and able to reading longer books.

I'm a little insulted, but there is a stigma that teens hate reading. Is this true? If so, why? Personally, I think teens hate reading assigned books--usually classics with archaic language, complicated syntax, and (sorry, English teachers everywhere) uninteresting plotlines. And there's no incentive other than grades to read them. But while YA is a genre written for teens, that doesn't mean it has to be written down for teens. What do you think?

Least favorite genre: One thing I don't like about YA is the recent flooding of the market with vampires. And when vampires became passe, zombies--and then werewolves, angels, demons, etc. I guess I'm tired of paranormal...and especially paranormal romance. It's not that I hate paranormal YA--there are some paranormal titles I really enjoyed. 

My problem with paranormal romance is that I like the paranormal but not the romance. Actually, my least favorite genre in YA is romance in general. This is because I am, unabashedly, a cynic. Usually YA protags are high-school-aged, and for me, that means the stakes aren't high enough. So what, high school romance. It seems like the world at the time, but you're probably going to break up after graduation, go to separate colleges, and hook up with other people.

And now everyone else in this blogfest hates me. Darned idealists. :P If it makes you feel any better, my favorite novel of all time is a romance--and ironically, an assigned book for AP Lit: Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hursten.

Returning to the topic of YA romance, I am also hugely annoyed by this plot setup: Girl with problems meets dream boy, falls in love, boy shows her the light and helps her overcome her problems. Are relationships confidence-building? Yes. Should you use relationships as a crutch to overcome your insecurities? Hell fuck to the no (pardon my French). I had a boyfriend who tried to do this with me. And it's not as warm and fuzzy as it looks on paper. I'm also something of a feminist, and this setup bothers me because girl with problems needs dream boy to "show her the way." Being the realist I am, I wonder what happens when she breaks up with dream boy. Do all her insecurities return--or even get worse? Does she jump into the arms of another dream boy to fill the hole in her heart and boost her self-esteem? After watching friends do this to themselves, I can't stand to read it in YA without wanting to scream "What, what, WHAT are you doing?!?"

The other bothersome plot setup in YA romance is balanced girl meets moody boy with troubled past, falls in love, and sticks around no matter what he does to her. Think Twilight (except Twilight is really a combination of this plot and the one described above). It reminds me of a sarcastic article I read somewhere that said if Satan came to Earth, he’d have a posse of fans. “He’s the Devil!” “But I love him!” “He’s Satan!” “I can change him!”

And that's my two cents on reading. :)


  1. The whole thing about how teens never read insults me too. I know there are teens who hate reading and would never pick up a book- that's just the way they are. Still, there are a LOT of teens who are avid readers, boys and girls.

    I agree with you on the YA paranormal romance and YA romance cliches- I think writers of YA romance need to focus on creating real love interests who are also insecure, flawed, or awkward.

  2. By the way I loved The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and I think it's a great example of realistic love interests- I won't give you any specific examples in case you're not that far into it, but both Junior and his love interest are realistic teenagers. Their relationship doesn't have high stakes since they're so young, and they don't act like it does.

  3. It's true... I have pretty much hated every book I've ever had to read for school (except for The Outsiders).

    And that last thing about Satan... both hilarious and sad. :D

  4. I love The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian---I'm almost finished with it, so I know what you mean, Brittany.

    Interestingly enough, I read The Outsiders outside of school, and didn't like it. Weird, haha. I guess it just wasn't my thing.

  5. Well I for one love romance novels haha. Although I know that they are ridiculously cliche, very predictable, and support a lot of stereotypes, I just can't help loving them. But I am picky; if I read a romance novel, it has to be a.) set in the past and/or b.) fantasy/supernatural/paranormal. Modern-day, normal people romance books just aren't as exciting :P I know, I have terrible taste! haha

  6. Gracie: Same here (The Outsiders was awesome), though I also found 1984 pretty interesting if a bit depressing.

    I like the last bit, but I also find it rather tragic since it's a pretty good estimation of what would probably happen. I can also agree that the romance genre is kind of asking for it right now. My WIP's main character has a girlfriend, but you know what? They don't have that "all over each other" or "cutesy" relationship at all. They're basically just friends. And before they have the chance to devolve into that kind of painful mockery of a romance, (spoiler alert) she dies.

    Maybe it's just me, but I prefer the implicit relationships. The ones where while it may be obvious two people like each other, they rarely admit it or enter into a relationship and if they do, it's never the kind you'd see in books like Twilight. I don't write softcore porn.

  7. @Kirsten: Nothing wrong with liking romance! I think part of the appeal of romance is exactly the cliches you were talking about. It's predictable and ideal, easy for people to escape into.

    @Will: Softcore porn, LOL. I'm glad your MC's don't have "that" kind of a relationship.

  8. I agree so much with the romance. I love YA romance but I also tend to be very picky when it comes to the genre. It's definitely my escapist genre.

    I actually liked most of the books I read for school even though I never finished the majority. I think the only ones I actually finished were 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm, the Giver, and the Outsiders, all of which I loved.

  9. AH!?!?! I wrote about the same problem in YA romance here

    And I feel the same way about vampires now, which sucks because I LOVED them growing up (reading wise), and I feel that I still could one day, when it comes back down to quality, not quantity. Werewolves though? SO hard for me to swallow.

  10. I loved vampires as a kid, but the vampire books I was reading were stuff like Cirque du Freak and My Teacher is a Vampire (lol) and stuff by Brian Jacques...things like that. Not overly sexualized vampires, because that wasn't age appropriate. It's like Stephanie Meyer tried to be Anne Rice and failed...LOL. I love Interview With A Vampire, by the way.


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