Friday, June 10, 2011

YA Romance

Since I put my foot in my mouth (mmm... sheep socks...) and may have accidentally insulted some very nice people who let me into their playground, I thought I should say a bit about why I tend to shy away from romance-based novels.

I don't *hate* books with romance. I don't shake my head disapprovingly at people who love them, and some of my favorite books have a lot of romance in them. If the premise is good, if the characters look interesting, I'll most likely still pick it up and read it. In the past month and a half, I've read 13 YA books, 3 fiction, a ton of comics and a few completely nerdy books that I doubt most people would be interested in even knowing the titles of.

Now, I've put a list of YA books on the front page of my blog that I have read recently and *love*. You'll notice it only includes 7 out of those 13. I'd say most of the YA books that didn't make my list fall somewhat into the romance-based category, and by that, I mean the romance is the main point of the story.

What I don't like is when the main romance overwhelms the other characters in the story. This was a common feature in about half the books that didn't make my list. Usually the main female character has a best friend who only exists to listen to the main character complain about a lack of romance or brag about her new-found romance. Then the best friend vanishes from the pages and only appears again to console the main character when something bad happens or to somehow figure into the climax/ending of the story. If not the best friend, then the wiser-than-her-years younger sibling (or cousin) or older sibling (or cousin, or cool aunt) will fill this role. In some stories, it's the gay best friend.

It is a pet peeve of mine when characters pop in and out at convenient times. No matter what genre of book. It just seems especially prevalent when Romance IS the main point of the story.

Make sense?

Every YA book I picked to read seemed (from the set-up) really interesting. Either an interesting world, situation/problem, or the characters seemed to be ones I'd enjoy following around for a couple hundred pages. And for the most part, I did enjoy the books. I just didn't love them. If someone asked me for a good read, I wouldn't recommend them... if fact, I wouldn't even think of them. I can say that with confidence because I was looking in the YA folder on my Kindle (yes, I do categorize...) and on four of the titles, I drew a complete blank. I couldn't remember what they were about, or even who the main character was until I flipped to the first page. And I read all of these books in the last month and a half.

That may not seem significant to most people... I mean, I have read over 20 books in a month and a half, plus edited a full MS, several short stories and several first chapters, in addition to following a couple hundred comics and working on my own writing.

It's significant to me because I have an amazing memory when it comes to reading. It took me three years to get through Ilf and Petrov's, 'The Twelve Chairs' (the book that killed my interest in Russian literature) and not once in those three years did I ever use a bookmark, note down the page or chapter I was on, nor did I ever have to go back and re-read to remind myself what was happening or who the characters were. I can pick up a book months later, even if I stopped mid-page, mid-chapter and flip through the pages until I recognize where I last ended.

Now, do you see the significance of my not being able to remember 4 books that I read in the past six weeks?

I think the major problem is that I remember relationships between characters better than I remember plots. For books that heavily lean on the two main characters falling in and out of love... that's simply one relationship. When books are like this, there are few other significant relationships that are memorable... 'cause the side character who is only there to prove the main female character isn't a friendless loner and to serve as her cheerleader... those aren't memorable for me. I forget them almost instantly after I close the book, or hit the 'menu' button on my Kindle.

Here's an excellent post on friends.

So, what books am I looking forward to reading next? Well, a physical copy of the second 'Orphan's Tales' book should arrive at my house at the beginning of July and I have pre-ordered 'Imaginary Girls' on my Kindle, which I think comes out the first week of June... My Amazon wish list has also grown to 340 items... so I'll probably read a few of those in the next couple of weeks AFTER I finish moving. I have been waiting for a while for the Kindle edition of 'Hundred Thousand Kingdoms' to become available for Canadian residents. It was recommended to me by a writer friend who said it is *similar* to Project #1. for romance-centered books? I've heard 'Anna and the French Kiss' by Stephanie Perkins has a really interesting voice, so that's one of the books on my TBR wish list.

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