YA Novels without the romance?

Thanks to author Karen Kincy for posing this question on Twitter. All I know about her is that she’s smart and snarky and obviously a gifted writer.
Check out her website www.karenkincy.com
and watch out for her young adult urban fantasy novels OTHER (Flux, July 1, 2010) and BLOODBORN (Flux, 2011).
So I ask you, can we have YA books without the touchy-feely lurve stuff????????
My own current YA manuscript is an adventure story primarily but there is a romance angle as well. I wanted my heroine to be very pro-active and strong but also flawed and realistic. You might say she leads with her gut.
The boy in the story is somewhat of a mystery and she decides at their first meeting that she doesn’t like him, or particularly trust him. I put a lot of work into making a realistic relationship which would not compromise my heroine’s independence, and I played with certain stereotypes: weak girl-strong boy, boy rescues girl— you know the drill— the helpless heroine deal.
I hate that.
I wanted my protagonist to stand on her own two feet, and so she does, and she’s almost stubbornly independent which doesn’t always land her in the best situations but she knows herself and she is clear on who she is. She is most definitely not one to lose herself in a boy. Something else which always really bugs me and isn’t the best message to send out there.
Now a boy who accepts her on her own terms is an entirely different thing. She may exasperate him (as he does, her) but he doesn’t want her to change.
I’m thinking about the YA books I’ve read recently- The Hunger Games/Catching Fire, Silver Phoenix, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Thirteen Reasons Why, Fire, Lips Touch Three Times. There are romantic relationships in all of these books. Handled in different ways certainly, sometimes merely hinted at or wished for and often not central to the plot but there all the same.
I think of the books I grew up reading. Narnia; the Hobbit/ LOTR (which had a dearth of relatable female characters except for Eowyn who is mentioned briefly); John Masefield’s Box of Delights, Joan Aikens’ Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Eagle of the Ninth, the Enid Blyton adventure stories, which I read voraciously when I was eight or nine, had girl characters but except for the tomboys (like George aka Georgiana) acted very girl-like and house-wifely, and there was absolutely no hint of romantic entanglement for any of them; horse books; Nancy Drew I guess had her (one-dimensional) boyfriend but I hardly recall him.
I could be mis-remembering. This was quite a number of years ago but I know I read a lot of adventure and fantasy books and most of them skipped the mushy stuff.

Do writers today include romance because most YA novels (particularly in the current crop of paranormal neo-gothicisms) are read by girls? Girls of course think of nothing but boys, clothes and make-up.
Do girls expect a romantic relationship in every book they read? Do they have to have one or the book is lacking in some way?
My current manuscript warranted a little boy/girl action. My middle-grade book had none (Feltus was still at the girl-cootie stage). Of the future WIPs I’ve loosely plotted none of them have a romantic relationship at the center of things or they skip it entirely.
Anyone have any thoughts on the subject?
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5 Responses to YA Novels without the romance?

  1. Simon Kewin says:

    Interesting. My own YA/fantasy novel has a strand of romantic interest but I didn’t feel the need to emphasise it very much. It’s there but it’s not central. I think it’s fine to write a different sort of book if that’s what you want to do.

  2. Jo says:

    Yes, I think sometimes it is central and sometimes it isn’t. I mean, human relationships are often the basis of conflict or action and drive plot. We can’t really write without them.
    Thanks for commenting.

  3. sharon says:

    Romance…it only matters if it is important to moving the plot along. Is the romance the primary reason for the YA? I think if it is there would need to be lots of twists and turns and self-evaluation involved. The YA books I’e been reading lately are about the main character discovering himself or herself. Some have a bit of (perhaps or potential) romance, but definately not the focus. ***my disclaimer*** I am neither a medical doctor or a published YA author, so take my opinion for what it is…my best guess. 🙂

    Good post. I look forward to reading more.

  4. sharon says:

    It’s me again….I can’t figure out how to “follow” your blog? I like what I read, but if I can’t put you on my blog roll, I won’t remember to check out your wonderful words….

    http://www.skmayhew.blogspot.com
    skmayh@q.com

  5. Treggiari says:

    Hi Sharon,
    I have no idea unfortunately. I’m not really tech savvie and I lost my wonderful web designer and question answerer to the more lucrative graphic design business. You could bookmark the site, I guess. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting.