Sunday, October 9, 2011

Romance in YA Fantasy

Are the current romance trends really such a big deal?

Fuck Yeah Pretty Girls Reading!

Fuck Yeah Pretty Girls Reading!   (clipped to

There has been a lot of controversy of late about whether books are acceptable for certain ages and the banning of books, but what I want to discuss is how some readers have been reacting to another "issue" in teen literature. Romance is one element that is incorporated into many stories for the entertainment value and to encourage interest in a book, but  some teens argue that people are left with unrealistic values when it comes to picking out possible suitors or that the way the romance plays out is unrealistic and instead attracts girls to the wrong guys. Are fantasy authors really at fault?

Prince charming; He was in fairy tales when we were children, he was Mr Darcy in the 1800s and he is known as either Edward or Jacob today. Who is prince charming and what makes him so appealing to teenage girls? Many people argue that the type of male depicted in YA Romance does not exist or really isn't that charming... My mother always taught me that it's what's on the inside that counts. Yes he may have super powers and a hot body, but if he treats girls like trash then he's not the sort of man you want to be pining for. If you're looking for a guy with a beautiful body and face he may not be the nicest guy and vice versa, no one is perfect. Those tales with "perfect" guys are a work of fiction, these girls need to remember that.

Sometimes critics to go overboard with this by saying that the likes of Edward Cullen is one of these men that treats women badly. I  don't think so. Yes he has rejected a few girls at his high school, but would you want to go out with someone you didn't have feelings for? Yes he has had the odd spat with/at Bella, but if you were a bloodthirsty vampire trying to hold back from a human you loved, you would be pretty cranky too. Let's face it classic romantic heroes like Mr Darcy, Heathcliff and Mr Rochester weren't exactly the nicest acting guys out there either.

These novels aren't much different from teen movies and adult chick-lit novels. They are all works of fiction where the unlikely happens and people fall in love. For some reason people seem to be constantly bagging out these teenage fantasy stories when there are so many other occurrences of unlikely romance in other genres of entertainment. One could even argue that many love songs are false and stupendous. These are all things that are good in moderation. Much like the argument about the type of males that teenagers are drawn to maybe the impact of the book on the reader has more to do with the reader's sense of reality.

Another problem that I see reviewers having with these novels is the similarities in story-line. Love at first sight, that typical guy hero that would die for his girlfriend and the tragic recurring timeline. Yes I agree that the whole concept of love-at-first-sight is a little dodgy and does occur a little too frequently in this genre, but these are teenagers we are talking about. To them love has a different meaning. They love Justin Timberlake or Puck from 'Glee'. They love some guy they have been dating for two weeks and soon enough they have broken up with him and 'love' someone else. It's pretty silly really, because many of these characters do have a fair amount of arguing or playing hard to get with these love interests in the story. Really the whole love-at-first-sight thing is just the main character admiring the hero's appearance and nothing more. They fall in love later.

The next typical story line is the tough macho guy who has to save the damsel in distress even if that means dying for her. I definitely agree with this. It's nice that he cares about her and all, but sometimes a woman can stand up for herself. We are in the 21st century and I believe a movement called 'Feminism' is very real and has been very real in our society for a fair while now. So I definitely agree with this concern. It does sometimes seem a little bit like we are being encouraged to think otherwise. It doesn't bother me though if the two characters are just working through it together doing an equal amount of work to save the day or if the heroine becomes hurt and needs rescuing.

Another typical story-line is one which involves reincarnation. Either  two characters are reincarnated and meet again in other lifetimes where tragedy occurs each time because they are cursed and they must break the curse or one character is reincarnated whilst the other is immortal and they try to find each other in each lifetime so the other one can be immortal too. Characters either have a special 'memory' or dream about past-lives and have that instant attraction to each other. It does bother me how common this story-line is in books because it doesn't seem very original. Then again how many different story-lines are there? There are a lot of YA novels and many stories do seem very similar. They all have an introduction a problem and then an end.

There is a book called 'The Seven Basic Plots' which I have not read, but assume covers most story-lines in great detail. I have gotten to the point where I am more interested in the unique touches authors add to these story-lines to make it different. If someone really enjoys that type of story then they should get to read it over and over again. Why do these critics who continually winge about paranormal romance continue to read these types of books. After reading the blurb or a few chapters you can normally tell what sort of story it is going to be.

There always seems to be something else though. If  a reader finds a smidgen of romance they get annoyed. Why couldn't the book just be fantasy? I don't know what the problem is. Romance occurs in real life so why wouldn't it occur in make-believe? Why the love-hating?

In Conclusion I think that authors are really not at fault for these trends and the consequences of them. I think that there is a big market for these kinds of novels because teens are drawn to them. I believe that the novels are harmless and that any 'harm' created was probably the reader's own doing. They can think for themselves. I also think this 'harm' is exaggerated by cranky critics who are stuck in the wrong genre and like to take everything too seriously. Personally I judge a book  based on the characters, the atmosphere, the quality of the writing and the unique touches rather than the story line. What do you think about romance in YA Fantasy novels?

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