Thursday, March 14, 2013

Finding Romance-Free Books in the Young Adult Section

I have read quite a few articles bemoaning the current dark, romantic, girl-lead young adult (YA) book phenomenon. The second a new one is published, my Twitter explodes. I've read a few, commented on some, but in every single one, by the time I finish reading, this is how I picture the author:


That's right - every one of them turns into Helen Lovejoy from The Simpsons.

I don't believe that Paranormal books are ruining kids, just as I don't believe comics ruined my father's generation, and cartoons ruined mine. YA books appear to be the new scapegoat, and I could rant for hours on that topic, but I'm not.

Let's take a look at the overabundance of romance in current YA. I agree that it is difficult to find current YA without romance. Reading Jonathan L. Howard's Katya's World made me do triple flips of joy for a story that was pure action with nary a bad boy romantic lead or triangle in sight. So I get it, the frustration that it feels like EVERY YA must have a romance.

How is that flailing, gnashing of teeth and genre shaming doing to broaden the slate of YA recommendations? How many publishers have said, "Why Mrs. Lovejoy, you are correct, we must change this immediately." We all know that wailing does WAY more to influence the practices of the industry than the actual purchasing habits of readers. I mean, there would be just as many popular kids series without the buckets of money made by Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games, right? Right? (I promised no wailing. Sarcasm is always allowed.)

So, how about an article that spotlights YA reads that don't have romance. An article that talks about some overlooked books that are different from the usual fare. Also, how about some love for the oft-overlooked Middle-Grade (MG) reads? Not only are they generally devoid of romance, but if there is any, it is generally an extension of friendship, of two people growing closer because of how much they had to depend on each other and work together to save the day. There are some awesome reads out there that are enjoyable for all ages.

Truthfully, this was a harder exercise than I first anticipated. It is very difficult to come up with recently released YA books that don't feature romance. So this is the challenge: let's spread the word about these oft overlooked gems. Have a birthday party coming up for a voracious reader? Maybe buy one of these.  Are you on Goodreads? Add to this list. Put your recommendations in the comments. I might be crazy (OK I know I am. It's manageable), but if enough readers buy books that aren't romances, the pubs will notice.

Note: I do not hate romance, but adding some variety into the book recommendations is good for all.

Here is a list of YA and MG books without romance as a key component:

Emilie & the Hollow World by Martha Wells (out April 2)
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
The Game of Triumphs by Laura Powell
Katya's World by Jonathan L. Howard
Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden

The Boneshaker by Kate Milford
The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet
The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda
Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers
Winterling by Sarah Prineas

Not Genre (but excellent):
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Not YA (but I'd let my kids read them):
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Stained Glass Monsters by Andrea K. Host
Note: I won't be censoring much of what my kids read, your mileage may vary.

What books would you add to the list?

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  1. 100 internet points to Gryffindor for the Helen Lovejoy reference!

  2. I'm happy to see other readers who don't HAVE to have romance in their stories...and actually can enjoy a tale without one!

    1. I enjoy books of all kinds. If I read the same kind of book day in, day out, I'd get bored. :)

  3. My 5th grader just read the Hunchback Assignments and really enjoyed it (takes after his mother in his love of Steampunk), so thanks for the rec! He's been reading alot of young adult, and whenever he hits the romance part, says that it's inappopriate, so we appreciate the lack of romance in these.

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