Saturday, June 12, 2010

Where is the Romance and the Parents?

I was abroad recently, and brought some nice escapist YA urban fantasy/paranormal romance books along to keep me company while I watched the 6th rerun of the same story on CNN (by the end of my trip, I had the stories off by heart).

Although I found these books to be good page turners and I did enjoy them, there were some things that niggled me abit.


I'm quite Vanilla when it comes to giving opinions on books etc. I'll rant and rave about myself or RL, but I like to keep this place squeaky clean - as the public face of Emily Cross. Now, I'm going to have myself a rant about something which has been sitting on my for a while -

I've come to saturation point reading certain YA books (you know the ones - I'm not referring to the whole of YA paranormal genre in this post, just certain books), so this is more to do with this saturation than perhaps the books themselves (or maybe it is to do with them - they saturated me in the first place??).

Anyhoo I am just so sick of seeing this pattern:

'boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Boy goes neanderthal. Boy knows she is his. Boy has pretty eyes. Girl knows she is his. Girl is taken back to the cave. Parents don't care.'

Now in fairness, there have been some books that have done a better job at balancing the romantic relationship than others - but even in these more balanced books there are small sections and bigger sections of other books which make me:




and then scratch my head and check the calendar date, it is 2010, right?

I'm an equal opportunities etc. sort of girl. Men and women are different, but can't we be equal too? In the realm of some YA paranormal romance (like i said previously, this is about some not all YA PR books), there is this message about what love and relationships should be like, which doesn't consider different types/stages of love or abuse of love and in my opinion certainly doesn't consider equality between the sexes as represented by Hero and Heroine and their relationship

I've read some books where I just want to shake the main character and say "What the F**k is wrong with you!" shortly followed by "Where the hell are your parents!?!"

Other bloggers such as wonderful Anne R. Allen mentioned this, and linked to very good article. At the time, I said - tis a plot device! You're more likely to be able to sneak out at night, have boy stay in your bed or run around fighting x,y,z if you're parents don't know that you exist or care!

After reading the 10th book or so, where MC is in a boarding home/staying with relatives/single parent who doesn't care/self-absorbed - it really started to annoy me. I get that this is good to allow action to happen - but if you want some conflict for a teen - trust me, over protective parents or normally protective parents provide plenty of that! YA is all about growing up and relationships changing - not just between girls and boys but also with your parents. I think alot of PR YA has forgotten this element - removal of the parents is just easier for the romance and paranormal stuff, but what about young adult element which involves having your relationship change with possible the most important people in your lives.

When I read these books (and i'm not that far from my teens. . . mentally i'm still 17 but not sparkly - yet) I think of my own parents - maybe I'm sheltered but sometimes i think the biggest fantasy element of alot of these books is the relationship between parent/guardian and teen. Seriously, your 16 and your parents don't notice a guy is in your room or sharing your bed?!?!

Then I look at the romance element:

Where is the element of uncertainty? This whole instant soul mate supernatural thing makes it so easy for romance to bloom, doesn't it? Reading alot of these books, I have only found few where it seemed to me, the romantic element was significantly drawn out and done realistically. Maybe I'm a relationship dysfunctional spinster, but where is the doubt? where is the questioning of 'does he like me for me or cause he is obsessed with me?' Is this happening too fast? Do I really need this drama in my life? Does he love me? Is my butt big in this?

I think back (and I think now) - It is not that easy. I know this is the element of Paranormal Romance that is essential - food for the heart etc. but I don't think it would ruin the romance to have love develop and not be 'love at first sight'. One of the masterpieces of literature and romance (which has spawned a 1001 books and films based on it's plot) is 'Pride & Prejudice' - Darcy and Elizabeth's love developed - there eyes didn't meet and instantly they imagined 's/he's the one for me - i will now be obsessed and stalkerish' - they meet and he thought 'she has nice eyes but is a bit poor and doesn't have the best figure a bird can have' and she thought ' he's a stuckup know it all, wandering round the dance hall like his S**t doesn't smell' and it developed from there. . .

To be all Glee about it, the Journey is the best part!

Just to end this rant, I want to reiterate that I know there are amazing YA PR books out there that portray parents as caring individuals, and more importantly (IMO) portray young love in a healthy and more normal way. Some have love at first sight, others have love that develops - but when it's well done - it doesn't matter.

P.S. Please if any one has some book recommendations, drop a comment (especially YA PR)

Image source 1

Thanks for listening/reading my rant!


JessG said...

Great post Emily! I wonder the same thing every time I read a YA book.

When I read your post I also thought of my stories. For some reason, and Disney follows this too for an odd reason, that single parents are the "norm". Not everyone has lost a mom/dad and not everyone's parents are divorced. Yes, my stories I am writing have single parents but I clue into the fact that they had extremely happy marriages until one strange paranormal day...

I'm sick of the "norm" being either parents who don't care about their kid or the single parent that doesn't hover and try to see what their kid is doing with their life. What's sad is that is how a lot of parents are these days. You see it in restaurants and stores when little kids scream until they get what they want and the parents give in. That's how I feel some YA stories are.

I like your Pride and Prejudice comment in there. I like that kind of romance. The kind where it stems from dislike to maybe like a little but still mostly dislike, etc. Plus, Jane Austen always wrote rich relationships between the characters and their children. Mr. Bennett and Elizabeth have one of the best relationships I have seen written between a parent and his kid. I wish more parents these days (and in books to set an example) would be a little more involved. Heck, the commercials on TV really try to tell parents to get out there and know what your kids are up to.

Sorry, long comment, I know. I just had to join your rant and get that off my chest.

Andrea said...

I completely get what you are saying. It is annoying, but apparently teens love it. They love the idea where they can do whatever they want without their parents tracking them and telling them what to do. It's the reality they've always wanted, but yet they don't because part of them knows they aren't ready yet so they live it out in books.

On the Disney channel it's worse. But watching it I can see why a kid would love it. The parents participate in the cool way, set a few cool rules, and then let them have all the fun they want within reason.

Annoying, but totally understandable...

Christine Danek said...

Great post and I see where you are coming from. I do think about this too when reading YA paranormal and I haven't found it. It makes me question my own WiP on how to change that.
Good luck and let me know when you find some good books like this.

Emily Cross said...

@Jess - thanks I love long comments! I totally agree with you! I am guilty of the single guardian thing myself though as in my WIP my MC guardian is her uncle, but I'm hoping he comes across as normal and caring - and you know 'i'm the adult'
Romance wise, I completely agree with you I love stories that have characters develop their feelings rather than *wham* you're in love, lets be together forever and ever

@ Andrea, I see what you mean, but isn't it more realistic (and therefore more relatable) for YA to have parents/guardians who are normal/caring than not (for the majority)? Well, that's my hope anyhoo lol. Thanks for your comment!

@Christine - i agree it makes me think about my WIP too and I'll definitely let you know if I come across any YA books! Thanks for your comment, it's always nice to have new people :)

Andrea said...

@Emily, yeah it's more relatable if the parents were there and no sudden romance and all. But they have books that aren't paranormal that do that. Some people read to escape (totally me) and the last thing they would want is something that happens in everyday life, even if it's only a small fraction of the book.

I think there should be a balance at times though. It's made me take a long hard look at my WIP at the moment. I won't change too much because well, I like it. It's something that doesn't happen every day and I like the break from reality!

The one piece of advice I really liked from SM is write for yourself. I take that as not to get caught up in all the little details that aren't always necessary, they just hold the book down sometimes because too much has to be explained.

Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks for the mention Emily. I think you've hit on a problem that exists in all genres these days: copycat-ism. Every book is supposed to follow a "formula" invented by the last really successful book in the genre. Then nothing can be published in the genre except pale copies until somehow a new writer fights fiercely enough to be allowed to do something new. Then it happens all over again.

That NYT article made some good points. The truth is, parents are mostly more hovering and protective than they were a generation ago. It would be nice if fiction reflected that.

And as far as romance--I am so much with you there. They should hate each other for at least half the book. Otherwise, it's just boring.

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