25 Mar

YA Cafe: 5 Ways Romance Can Enhance a Story

Posted in Literature, Reading, Teen Lit, YA Cafe

Welcome Back to YA Cafe, where book lovers can gather and chat about teen literature.  I’m your barista, along with Ghenet from All About Them Words.

Each Friday we pick from a menu of topics and share our thoughts on our respective blogs.  We’ve also got plans brewing for interviews, events and even some exciting giveaways, so stay tuned!  Join the discussion by responding in the comments, on your own blogs or on twitter using the hash tag #yacafe.

Today’s Special:  Why does romance matter in YA?

5 Ways that Romance can Enhance a Story (YA, or not):

1) It creates conflict.  From Judy Blume to Carolyn Mackler, authors know that adding a romantic interest to a story is a great way to add conflict.  Even if the story itself is not about the romance, having romantic tension can add an element of conflict to the plot.  Take Mackler’s The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things for example.  In this book, the main issue revolves around the protagonist’s self-image and her relationship to her family, but her tension with “the boy” helps add an extra conflict.

2) It offsets violence or sadness.  In books where violence (The Hunger Games) or sadness (If I Stay) are central to the story, having a romantic element brings in a breath of fresh air amidst the pain.  In The Hunger Games moments between Peeta and Katniss give the reader a little break from the constant chaos of the violence.  In If I Stay, the deep sorrow that fills the book is offset by happier flashback moments between the protagonist and her boyfriend.

3) It raises the stakes.  Again, The Hunger Games is a perfect example.  Until Peeta declares his love for Katniss, the main conflict in the story is “Will Katniss win the Hunger Games and survive?”  But the minute we start liking Peeta and we realize that he’s willing to sacrifice himself for Katniss, the stakes get higher.  According to the rules, there can’t be two winners in the games, so for Katniss to survive Peeta will have to die.  Voila!  Higher stakes.

4) It helps make less sympathetic characters sympathetic.  This one was tough to find examples to illustrate, but Dakota in Tangled is a good example.  When we first meet him, he seems cruel and manipulative but as the story develops, we learn details about his romantic life that explain his manipulate behavior.  His budding relationship with a new woman adds depth to his character and makes him more sympathetic.

5) Even if we know how it will turn out, we still keep reading.  I call this the Pride and Prejudice effect.  Sure, we know almost immediately that Lizzy and Darcy will end up together, but we keep reading.  The interest isn’t in what will happen, but how.  Unlike any other element or genre in literature, romance is the only one that can be completely predictable and yet will still keep us reading.

Want to read more about romance?  Fellow barista, Ghenet shares her thoughts on her blog: All About Them Words.  Check it out, then tell us why romance in YA matters to you.


Comments on this post

  1. Lydia K says:

    Well said, and you used so many of my favorite books as examples!

    1. K.V. Briar says:

      I haven't read Tangled yet, but now I'll have to just so I can see the way romance makes Dakota more sympathetic! I'm my book I'm using romance to offset the violence, it works perfectly. Great post and great examples 🙂

      1. Ghenet Myrthil says:

        It's funny how with romances, even though you know the couple will end up together in the end, you still keep reading. A gripping romantic story will keep you wondering if there's a chance they won't get together.

        1. Bee says:

          Tangled is the only one I haven't read. Looking forward to make up for it.

          This is a good post. You really stated the importance of romance. To an extent it is necessary not just in YA, but in almost all genres.

          1. Julie Musil says:

            Ahhh, I'm a sucker for romance. P&P is my absolute favorite!

            1. Susanmeep says:

              I am a huge fan of romances!

              I am following you (suelee1998) from the blog hop, you have a great site. Would you please follow me back? http://susansdisneyfamily.blogspot.com/
              thank you 🙂

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