Warning; spoilers ahead.
Don’t read if you haven’t read/seen Divergent by Veronica Roth, Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, or The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.
I hate romance novels.
Okay, small lie.
I hate being told that I should love them. I hate having romance forced down my throat. Nothing puts me off a book faster than reading the dreaded ‘Then s/he met (insert love interest)’. I’d much rather have a story line driven by action.
Of course, romance is vital to almost every story. It is, after all, human nature to fight for the people you love. I just don’t want to be told that the story is going to be revolving around their relationship.
Divergent, for example, is a book that, yes, had romance. But the way the society was built, the way Tris was raised, meant that she was quite reserved in her feelings towards Four. In the film, it is so overplayed. It is literally forced so hard down your throat, you choke. What makes it worse is that their romance is played up to the screen, sabotaging some great character’s development.
But that’s all I’ll say in regards to Divergent. Trust me, I can go on an angry rant all day about how the film messed up.
But it’s also true that it is a common theme among Young Adult books. Someone got it in their heads that YA want romance – and we want it bad. But when you look at some of the more successful YA books in the field; Hunger Games, Fifth Wave, and Divergent, none of them are romance heavy.
In Hunger Games, Katniss never really gave romance a thought. To her, love was synonymous with children – something she was adamant she didn’t want. When the whole ‘who will she end up with’ debate began, I was so angry I was frothing at the mouth. Katniss loved no one but Prim. End of discussion. It was only when I re-read the novels that I realized that there was no question about who she would end up with. Yes, she loved Gale – very much in fact. He was initially the one she was probably going to settle with. Not out of romance, but out of convenience. They had similar ideals, similar attitudes. But the moment she was put in the arena with Peeta – the moment her life changed forever – Gale was never in the picture. If she had come out of the games alone, she would never settle with him. She would be a pawn in Snow’s show for the rest of her life. She would become like Haymitch – Suzanne Collins referenced how alike the two were on more than instance, you can’t deny that.
Throughout Katniss’s narrative, you see glimpses into her subconscious. She’s been keeping an eye on Peeta since the day he ‘saved’ her. It was more than out of curiosity. She respected him. Admired him. You could possibly even say she was attracted to him. But because of the circumstances, she would never have let herself be with him. And thus the conflict begins when Peeta proclaims his love for her on TV, because how can the guy she’s been secretly crushing on like her too? It must be for the camera’s.
The reason why I love Hunger Games is because of this analysis. The romance is not key to the story. The key is survival – survival in a world hellbent on seeing you dead. Katniss’s inner conflict towards her feelings is pretty much why I love the book. Every time I read the book, I come to a new conclusion because she is so adamant that Peeta is the enemy.
Divergent was similar. Tris, although she did have a huge crush on Four, tried to repress her feelings because she was raised in Abnegation. The most she ever saw her parents do to show affection, off the top of my head, was hold hands in home. They believed displays of affection, especially in public, were selfish. And, if you know anything about Abnegation, they are the fraction of selflessness.
In the Fifth Wave, we see Cassie struggle. Sure she initially has a crush on a guy in school – who doesn’t? But her drive is finding her brother. The love interest has a role – he’s not there to be hot. To add some steam to a boring plot. He’s there to help her fulfill her desire – to reunite with her brother. Yes, it is hinted at on the blurb that there is something more, but it’s not shoved down your throat.
So why do production companies think YA want romance? I’ll tell you why.
It all comes back to Twilight.
The success of the vampire novel, no matter how much you try to deny it, has influenced the YA genre. Twilight might be one of those books globally hated (and I can see why, although the series doesn’t bother me as much as others), but it impacted teens in a way no other book (exempting Harry Potter of course) had done. It re-marketed the genre. Think of the amount of vampire books that were published after Twilight.
But despite this, YA books are still popular. In fact, it’s reaching far beyond the YA market these days. My mum absolutely loves some of the books I’ve read, like Hunger Games and Divergent. She found them refreshing after years of reading Nora Roberts and the likes.
So why are we constantly being sold romance? On finding true love?