November 19, 2011
It's Week 3 of Just Contemporary month — a blog event devoted to contemporary YA reads, co-hosted by Ashley of Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing and Shanyn of Chick Loves Lit — and I'm swapping guest posts with Bonnie of A Backwards Story! The topic this week is "Romance," and here's Bonnie's thoughts on it...
Romance is a tricky topic. Normally, I would say that I don’t read romance novels. In reality, that isn’t true. I may not peruse the romance aisle at my local bookstore or buy books from such authors, but almost everything we read has romance in it. My favorite type of romance is one that doesn’t overpower the story. I don’t want something shallow tied up with a bow where you know exactly what you’re getting from beginning to end. Even in fairy tales, there’s a lot of action, adventure, and fantasy along the way. It’s not just “Knight meets princess/they fall in love/they live happily ever after.
That being said, my feelings on this topic are why I steered away from YA Contemporary Fiction for so long. I thought all the books were straight-forward romances. And when I was growing up, more often than not they were. But today, there are so many types of fiction and romance isn’t necessarily the central plot. Even when it is, the development isn’t necessarily easy or straight-forward.
Take, for example, one of the most heart-wrenching novels I’ve read in a long time: FORBIDDEN by Tabitha Suzuma. This novel tore me to shreds and left my heart festering on the table in jagged hunks upon reaching the end. Its effect on me was profound. Initially, I didn’t even want to read the book because the subject matter is so taboo, but a much-trusted blogger friend convinced me to give it a try (She previously had the same concerns). This is one book I’m infinitely glad to have read despite everything. This is one book where the relationship is never easy or right. Lochan and Maya, the two central characters, even know that their love is squicky and forbidden, but they can’t help it, and by voicing the reader’s own thoughts, they are embraced and loved. I found myself rooting for them and for a happy ending because they truly deserved one.
Granted, I don’t always read such painful novels (unless, of course, I’m reading the latest book by my favorite adult author, Jodi Picoult, but that’s another story altogether). Sometimes, I find that I still have room in my heart to embrace lighter titles. I never thought I’d read something called ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS...let alone love it...but Stephanie Perkins knows how to hook readers in and pull them along for the ride. While the book sounds—and looks, if you judge a book by its cover—like a traditional romance novel, there’s so much more to Anna and Étienne’s story. While it is a book where you know the main couple will ultimately wind up together, the journey is more important than the pivotal moment. The ambiance of Paris, the scariness of being away from home for the first time and forced to live at boarding school, and the joys of a close-knit group of friends play more of a part in a novel with the word KISS in the title than you might otherwise think. In this book’s case, I almost think there was too little romance. The characters worked so hard to get together that I would have liked to spend more time in the “happily ever after” bubble that most romances have in surplus. But a book such as ANNA is the exception for me, not the norm.
There are still plenty of contemporary YA romances I haven’t read and, truth be told, probably won’t read. Maybe even titles I should be regretting not having read. I regretted not reading ANNA before this past spring after realizing how amazing it was. I’m more open to the genre than I was before, especially since I’m writing my own novel and finding it has more contemporary elements and more romance than I’m used to. It’s always good to read in one’s own genre. At this point in time, I’m most likely to pick up a more straight-forward romance if it’s been recommended by others who love it and/or been compared to books I love. Two books that I picked up/will pick up due to ANNA are RHYMES WITH CUPID by Anna Humphrey, which I recently read and enjoyed, and upcoming 2012 debut novel THE FINE ART OF TRUTH OR DARE by Melissa Jensen.
So... I’m open to suggestions. What would you recommend to a gal like me?
Note: Mark your calendars! A Backwards Story will be participating in Book Savvy Babe’s Black Friday Blog Hop from Nov. 25th to Nov. 27th. Don’t miss your chance to stop by my blog and enter to win the adorable contemporary YA romance novel RHYMES WITH CUPID by Anna Humphrey!!!
I was very impressed with both Forbidden and Anna and the French Kiss, so we are in complete agreement, Bonnie! :)
If you'd like to read my list of dos and don'ts for romance in contemp YA, hop on over to Bonnie's blog here!