Recently I have been reading posts and comments about people complaining about “overused-clichés and tropes” in novels, and particularly in Young Adult (YA) novels.
And “romance” is one that seems to be really getting people worked up (you can hear the way their lips twist in disgust when they write the word – yes, that’s the way those things work together, senses are strange things.)
They want writers to stay far away from it. Like the Plague. Or socks in sandals.
It seems to really bother them that romance is such a big part of these stories. (If you’d like to read more about other clichés, and why I think they’re important to storytelling, you can do so here)
So I may be voicing an unpopular opinion here (you can build the pyre later, there will be plenty of time), but as a sucker for a good romance story (especially when it’s not the main focus of the book), I decided to speak up in its defense.
The target market for Young Adult is, well, young adults
First of all, when your target audience is young adults, you should recognize that you need to write about what is important to them as an audience, not to you as an author (this is true for every audience, incidentally).
You should ask yourself about what your potential readers want to read. What are they worried about? What preoccupies them?
In this age group, your readers will very often be preoccupied with their place in the world, newfound responsibilities (which is also why these elements are very present in YA novels) and, of course, love.
It may bother you as an author. You may be thinking “but I wasn’t dating all throughout high school. I’m sure there are a ton of people who don’t want to read about romance.”
And you may be right; I’m sure there are some people who don’t want to read about it. But chances are it’s not a majority. I’m also pretty sure that (though they may not admit to it) just because people are not dating all through high school doesn’t mean they didn’t want to. And they still want to read about it.
Think about high school; was it the majority of kids who didn’t care about dating? Or was it perhaps just a few? I think that if you look back, you’ll find that it was probably a minority who didn’t care about it. The rest were happily worrying about how to dress to impress this guy, or what to say to ask this girl out.
And once again, it may bother you, but it’s such a vital part of becoming an adult.
So, (get the pitchforks ready, but please make sure they’re nice and sharp. And clean.) if you really despise writing about romance, maybe you should consider writing for another audience?
Transitioning from child to adult
As I’m sure many of you will remember, tween and teen years can be some of delightful torture. You’re trying to figure out a million things at the same time. Like trying to find that tricky balance of trying to get your parents to stay just enough off your back that you get to do some really stupid stuff that’ll keep you up at night cringing later in life, but enough on your back that they’ll still feed you.
And amid all this tight-rope walking, teens are supposed to figure out how to interact with their love interest (this is an exquisitely fine branch of torture all to itself).
It’s such an excruciatingly awkward problem, that many of them would much rather burrow into the flower bed than have to actually talk to someone to ask for advice.
So what actual better way than through a book they love?
When you read a book as a teenager, and the hero(in) has the same worries you do, it validates them. When they get nervous the same way you do, when their hands get sweaty and their hearts start beating frantically, it validates your reactions too.
Reading a YA novel with a romance in it is like getting advice from a friend, from a peer, without being worried about being judged or laughed at.
It’s a beautiful thing to empower our young ones through our stories.
And this isn’t to say that the minority, people who don’t want to read about romance, shouldn’t be catered to. By all means, if you don’t like romance, write a book without it! But if this is the case, you can’t be disappointed when it doesn’t do as well as YA with romance.
Writing to the Young Adult market
If you want your books to sell, then you, as an author, have to write to the market (write what readers want to read). The market will never adapt to you; that’s just a fact of life, not only for writing but for every single venture, no matter what you’re trying to sell. (If you’re interested in reading more on this subject, then I recommend reading an article from Derek Murphy here, very eye-opening!)
And I can already hear you guys yelling, burning torches held high: “but I don’t want to sell out, I write for myself, I don’t
Once again, 100% fine. But I personally don’t see it as selling out. If your purpose is to make your message heard, which would you prefer? To get your message in front of 10 people, or in front of 1000? Writing to market can do exactly that.
If that’s not what you’re after, then this will not be an issue. I understand that authors can be disappointed that what sells is something that doesn’t appeal to them personally, but that’s the whole issue. They take it personally when it really has nothing to do with them or their personal choices or preferences.
It’s the market that matters. Hard lesson to learn for all authors, and for all business people in general. So buck up, and stop complaining. We’re all in the same boat, and we all have the same choices to make.
(I feel like I’m ending on a bit of a harsh note, so here’s a joke to lighten the mood:
What does the beaver say when he slips?
How do you feel about romance in Young Adult novels?
What about you? What are your views on clichés and tropes? Seen them all? What about romance? Let me know in the comments!