Saturday, July 16, 2011

5 Things I've Found in Romance Novels That Should Be Applied to YA

Lately I've been reading a lot of adult historical romance novels which is why I'm a little more behind than usual on posting reviews of YA novels.  And now, by no means am I well-versed in romance novels, but I've found a few things in them that I think should really be applied more often to YA work.

1. Multi Perspective tension

There are plenty of YA novels out there with multi perspectives, but most of them are different from what you'd find in romance novels.  For instance, Melissa Marr and Melissa de la Cruz are pretty popular YA authors who use multi perspectives in their works.  However, theirs is used more for character maturation and  development of their fantasy worlds, showing you how a Faery ruler or a Blue Blood would think.  On the other hand, the tension in romance novels with multi perspectives is more often because the character doesn't know what the other one is thinking.  Invariably both tensions stem from the same difference in how the characters perceive the world and how they're perceived, but while perspectives by Marr and de la Cruz focus more on the character, I feel like romance novels use this tension to emphasize the character's actions and the imminent resolution you want for the romantic interests.  I wish I could read a book with this type of tension or with both types mixed together.  One YA novel that I've read lately that's done this well is Witchlanders by Lena Coakley.  Ms. Coakley doesn't just use the multi perspectives to show the difference in how a Baen might think from a Witchlander; she also used it to create tension between Ryder and Falpian and what Ryder will think of Falpian's actions.

2. More Hate-love Stories

When I say this, I mean pure hatred.  Something that happened that truly sets the romantic interests apart.  YA is pretty much filled with romance, but this type is rarer than I'd like.  I recently read Unveiled by Courtney Milan, and I loved it because Margaret truly had reason to hate Ash, and it was incredibly sweet to see how his personality slowly undid that hatred.  This is just a generality too-- I mean I would love more romance that happens between people with a shared past.  More often than not, it happens when the protag. meets someone new, but am I the only one who thinks that having that shared past--that extra obstacle to overcome--makes the romance that much more compelling?  It shows us a piece of the protag's personality and allows for character maturation as we see what he/she did then and what he/she does now.

3. Pacing

This is one of the issues I find most inconsistent in YA but can not complain about in romance novels.  Maybe it's because I know exactly what the outcome will be in romance novels... or maybe it's just because their plots climb steadily all throughout... but I have yet to put down a romance novel that I've started to read.  I think a part of this is the short, clipped sentences that romance novels often have (exception being the actual sex/make-out scenes which are much more expanded).  Those sentences are so different from those created by the YA fantasy author who feels the need to describe anything and everything.  (I'm not going to give an example of that one because that'd be mean).  Point is: romance novels are easy to read because of their wonderful pacing.  I wish I could say the same of some YA novels.

4. Stories that can also be expanded on while still feeling complete.

There are a bunch of YA novels that are like this but not nearly enough.  So many of them leave you hanging with such utterly...unsatisfying! cliffhangers.  I know that some people really enjoy cliffhangers, but I'm not one of them.  I like that romance novels end but can still have more to them--like how some of them become series by taking a character in a previous book and having him/her experience their own dizzying journey. I really wish that more YA authors of series would make its book feel complete on its own (but with still enough potential for expansion).

5. Covers don't matter.  Blurbs don't really matter.

Since I'm new to the historical romance novels, I don't really know a lot of the famous authors so the blurbs are meaningless.  And the covers?  Well, they all look alike.  In regards to YA... I don't really buy books based off the blurbs either and while I love the variety of covers that I find in YA, it also makes me sad to think that I, along with many others, may be missing out on a fantastic novel because I didn't like its cover and didn't bother to look at it.  I wish there was a way to get over that barrier.  I can stop judging a book by its cover... but I also buy my books on Amazon now so that's less of an issue than before.  The only other way I can see is to read many, many book reviews from the rest of you :).

What do you think?  Do you agree/disagree with what I've found?  Do you read romance novels?  Can you think of other things that should be applied to YA novels more often?

(Or... want to recommend some historical romance novels to me ;)?)


  1. As a former romance author, I've got a pretty broad knowledge of the genre. I do agree that the tension arising from multiple POVs is a great device (and something I did to some degree in my YA TANKBORN). I think a lot of YAs do pretty well on pacing. I think the problem with leaving loose ends is more of an issue in the second book of a series than the first. After finishing THE HUNGER GAMES, for instance, I felt pretty satisfied with the ending, but not so much after reading CATCHING FIRE.

    I do beg to differ with you on the more love-hate stories. Having the hero hate the heroine or vice-versa can be very irritating. In books like that, I tend to dislike both main characters. But I think what you're driving at--having characters with deep, complex backstories and difficult internal conflicts--is a good lesson for YA.

    Regarding historical romances, I recommend anything by Jo Beverly or Anne Stuart.

  2. Ah, it's interesting you bring up the first book versus the second in a series. I actually think it depends on the series for that. I was more satisfied with the ending in CITY OF ASHES than I was with CITY OF BONES... but on the other hand, I hated the ending to DEMONGLASS as compared to HEX HALL.

    On the whole though, I'm usually less opposed to leaving loose ends in the second novel because I know what to expect of the last novel (assuming it's a trilogy) whereas after the first... well, anything's possible. I haven't really experienced the series world enough yet to know otherwise.

    It never occurred to me that we as readers might hate the hero/heroine in those types of stories. I'm not sure I've read enough of them to form a lasting impression of that sort, but we at least agree on the complex backstories part :).

    Thanks for recommendation! Will definitely be looking into those authors!

  3. Lisa Kleypas! She's great. :-)

    I so agree with you on the dual POVs. We oftenhear 300 pages from the girl's POV in YA, while the guy ends up being this mysterious "other" figure who we can only understand when he decides to reveal his thoughts through dialogue. It'd be much awesomer if we got to see more male POV.

  4. Yes, yes, and yes!! I love hate-turned-love stories and wish we had more of them in YA instead of these awful insta-love relationships everywhere. I really like multi perspective tension, too. Beth Fantaskey is great at both of those, I think.

    Cliffhangers are really annoying. I don't mind them when all the books are already published, but they're a big turn off to me if the series isn't complete yet. I'm with you, I like it when the ending leaves room for more, but I want the story to feel more complete than not.

    I think pacing is kind of hit or miss with YA. Sometimes it's awesome (like Lisa T. Bergren's River of Time series- *love*), but other times it just drags on and on.

  5. YES. Beth Fantaskey is a great example of tension + love/hate. Insta-love needs to go!

    Ah! I've heard such great things about Ms. Bergen's River of Time series. I have to check it out!!

    And Tiger, I agree! But at Writeoncon, though, agents & editors were saying that the male POV is often harder to sell... so perhaps that's why there are so few books with those POVs :/.

  6. Karen Hawkins' humorous and engaging writing style is a talent not to be missed.

  7. River of time series. Waterfall, Cascade, and Torrent.


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