Teenage Romance – Use with Caution

May 26, 2015

Side Effects May Include: Unrealistic Expectations, Chronic Dissatisfaction, Stagnant Plots and Nausea

By Emily Kramer


I like reading young adult (YA) fiction. I enjoy reading coming-of-age stories, rooting for the underdog and finding out just how the good guys will win in the end. And I really enjoy good fantasy world-building. However, recent YA fiction (particularly fantasy) has a consistent flaw that has started to remind me of a bad heel blister – painful at first, but gradually becoming more and more unbearable as the day goes on and you forgot to bring another pair of shoes.


Yes, crushes and short-lived romances are an everyday, typical experience for teenagers, and YA books do try and reflect those realities. However, they certainly aren’t the only relationships that teenagers have and they absolutely aren’t the most important or long-lasting. In fact, authors should be aware that writing these one-note romantic relationships might be harming the teens they are written for.


New research by OnePlusOne shows that young people have unrealistic expectations about love. A survey of 1000 young people showed 69% agreed with the statement ‘If it’s ‘meant to be’ then a relationship will work out’… Where are they getting all this from?…I’m going to point my pudgy finger at happily-ever-afters. The fact young people rarely get to see fictional relationships develop past the heady wonderfulness of getting together.

So says Holly Bourne in her wonderful article Are Happily-ever-afters in YA Novels Bad for Teenagers’ Love Lives? I don’t want to throw cold water onto the youthful fires of first love (OK, maybe I do – a little), but perhaps authors should consider Elizabeth Vail’s point in her article for the Huffington Post, Lovesick and Tired: Unnecessary Romance in YA.


What I’m ultimately saying is that romance is not intrinsic to the Young Adult genre, nor can you blindly play Pin the Love Triangle on the YA Plot Line without affecting the entire narrative.

How many books can you think of that have been maimed by a ridiculous and distracting romantic subplot?


So along with Holly, Elizabeth, and many other fans of YA literature, I am officially protesting unnecessary YA romance. This trend of forcing a hormone-fueled, instant attraction, true-love story arc into every YA novel must end. And for the sake of your plotlines – enough with the love triangles. If you must introduce romantic tension, pick another shape. Please?

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