Monday, June 20, 2011

Romance & mini review for WITH OR WITHOUT YOU

Romance is pretty much a staple in YA books these days.

Oh, sure, you can find books where the main character doesn't have a love interest, or even where romance isn't a main aspect of the story. But if you compared the number of books with romantic plots versus non-romantic, I think the scale would be tipping toward the former.

I'm not saying this is a bad thing. These are teen books, and a majority of teens are dealing and thinking about this kind of stuff a lot.

They have boyfriends/girlfriends they love, hate, that they date because 'why not? it's the thing to do'. Some date for social status, some date because they think their boyfriend/girlfriend will be easy (or because they're not). Some think they can't live without their significant others, some are more logical (like I was) and realize this is unlikely to be a forever thing, but why not enjoy it while it lasts?

Sometimes kids don't date at all, either for religious (or parental) reasons or simply because they aren't interested. (And that does happen. I had two close friends who never dated anyone all through high school, and it wasn't because no one wanted to date them.)

Some kids date the same person on and off, over and over again, until their friends roll their eyes and say, "Why bother breaking up? You're just going to get back together again." (I had friends like this, too.)

Couples stay together for days, weeks, months, years. Some are committed to the same person through all of high school, others go through significant others every other day of the week.

My point being, there is such a huge variety of relationships out there amongst teens. Drama-filled and not, true love and not. My disappointment with a lot of YA romance is that so much of it is of the one true love variety. While this is fine and good once in awhile, I do wish there were more. Some aspect to leave me wondering will they or won't they? Because so many of the books I pick up are predictable. Maybe they're filled with fascinating and unique plot twists and concepts, sure, but the romantic element, from the time the love interest steps into the picture, is always clear. In the TWILIGHT saga, I never had any doubt who Bella would end up with.

There are so few exceptions. BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE is one that comes to mind. Not only was the ending surprising as far as the romance goes, it was completely natural and had me going, "oh! I hadn't expected that, but it makes perfect sense!" another one was FEED, which was shocking and heartbreaking all at once.

In my own writing, I do try to strive for some sense of realism. My books aren't heavy on the romance, but there always is a romantic element. But it's more plot pushing the romance along rather than the other way around.

I like gritty, I like real. I like couples arguing and breaking up, I like growth. The two who split up because, despite loving each other, things just aren't working. And if, later down the line, the two of them have grown up, matured, and worked past these issues? Then getting back together seems all the more romantic to me. Overcoming obstacles! Defeating co-dependency! Go team!

Sometimes? Having the pair who you just know is meant to be together no matter what happens? That's okay. But when it becomes the norm in YA, the effect of it weakens. Choose your one-true-love-at-all-costs carefully.

What say all of you? Do you prefer your stories with Happily Ever Afters, or do you like to mix it up? Any books you'd recommend because the relationship(s) were just that unique and fun/exciting/heartbreaking to read?

Recommend some heartbreaking books to me! I love them!


Also, starting my mini-reviews... This week is:


Eighteen year-old Evan and his best friend Davis get beaten up for being loners. For being gay. For just being themselves. But as rough as things often seem, at least Evan can take comfort in his sweet, sexy boyfriend Erik–whom he’s kept secret from everyone for almost a year.

Then Evan and Davis are recruited to join the Chasers, a fringe crowd that promises them protection and status. Davis is swept up in the excitement, but Evan is caught between his loyalty to Davis and his love for Erik. Evan’s lied to keep his two worlds separate. Now his lies are about to implode…and destroy the very relationships he’s been trying to protect.

Great romance. Bittersweet ending (heartbreaking and amazing all at once) and fantastic characters. Gritty, real, beautifully written. No real problems with this book aside from wishing they'd included more about the Chasers. More defining moments to ramp up tension. But I never found myself bored. Definitely one of my favorite reads of the year.

Kelley Vitollo also did a (much more thorough) review on this book.


  1. I do love the books with love triangles where you don't really have an idea of how it's going to end up. (So many are so lopsided that I don't like even calling them a love triangle!) Especially when you spend a long time getting to know the characters and you *know* that one (or more) of them is going to end up heartbroken and it tears you up so that you kinda don't even want to know how it ends and couldn't possibly imagine having to make the decision yourself, but you have to keep on reading? Those are awesome!

    I also like to read about different kinds of relationships (as compared to the INSTANT ONE TRUE LOVE that's trendy right now). I love the ones that develop really slowly in a series where the author is so subtle in developing the romantic tension that you don't even realize it's there until three books in.

  2. I really like love triangles when they're done well, too. Like in Nightshade, where I was torn between Shay and Ren.

    Romance is a key for me. A book, mine or not, has to have a romantic plot to it to make me really invested in the story. Slow, but steady relationships are hard to find in books nowadays, but I actually don't mind the instant-love thing. At least, not when it's done well and it seems plausible for those particular characters--like Edward and Bella.

  3. Sigh. I loved WITH OR WITHOUT YOU. Awesome book. I had no doubts in the end though. Maybe it's the romantic in me :)

    You know I'm a huge romance lover. It's funny because I just did a post on my blog today about why I love romance. I shared my love story. I love a good happily ever after. While I too like real, I like being uplifted in the end. I like it when my heart goes pitter patter and I turn to mush inside. I like growth too and they def can't have an easy road, but for me, I'm an HEA kind of girl :)

    Kell, you should read Take Me there by Carolee Dean.

  4. I'm not a Happily Ever After person. I like 'em bittersweet, although I believe that they must end on some kind of hope, otherwise the whole purpose of the book might just be lost.

    I'd suggest Stephanie Kuehnert's Ballads Of Suburbia. It's no way fun, but the relationship dynamics are extremely well-portrayed.

    Sometimes there are exceptions though. I loved Stephanie Perkins' Anna And The French Kiss although I so knew where it was going before I even started the book. What worked for it was the execution.
    I guess it all just comes down to overall good writing.

  5. I agree with Bee - it doesn't necessarily have to be a HEA (athough I'm a sucker for HEAs), but it does have to end with some sort of hope. I think that's what I didn't like about Mockingjay...I felt sort of hopeless at the end, and I hated that feeling, even if it is realistic. I guess I'm okay with gritty stories, but not necessarily gritty endings, unless the writing is stellar.

  6. Wendy, I agree. Changing my mind. LOL. I love an HEA, but I'm okay as long as I have hope. I was so depressed at the end of MOckinjay.

  7. I love what everyone has said about HOPE. I think that's very true for YA relationships. There doesn't have to be a HEA at the end as long as I understand why it ended the way it did and I'm left with a feeling of hope for the characters.

    I'm very excited to read With or Without You. I just won it form a YA charity auction and it was personally signed by Brian. It sounds so good!

  8. I'm not a big fan of love triangles, though perhaps that's because they're overdone. I just finished The Forest of Hands and Teeth and hugely appreciated how she kept the relationships. Yes, there was a love triangle, but Mary had something bigger than the love, love wasn't everything to her. When a characters main motivation in a story is love, I usually get frustrated. That's not real life!

    I'm going to have to go pick up With or Without You! Thanks for the suggestion.

  9. I definitely agree with you guys: I love heartbreaking stories, but I DO like to have some kind of flame of hope when the last page is turned. Even if it's a little one.

    I'm iffy on love-triangles. If they're present, I really want to *feel* them. I want to actually be wondering "who are they going to end up with?" because a lot of times, they say it's a triangle, but really... I have no doubts who will end up with who.

    Juliana, I hope you enjoy WITH OR WITHOUT YOU! Fantastic book. And I completely agree with THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH. Then again, I love everything about that series. ;)

  10. I am with you! I don't want to read a Happily Ever After for YA, I want grit, too. Teenagers rarely have anything figured out, and that includes romance. It's natural for any relationship to ride a rough road. And how many "relationships" did we have as youth that didn't work out? Most of them! (I did marry my high school sweetheart, but I realize I'm an oddity). Bring on the grit!

  11. I'll be honest and say that I (often) read for HEAs, lol. (I'm almost a pure escapist reader, what can I say?) However, those endings that turn everything I thought on its head and make me want to cry...well, those are the endings that totally stick with me and make me think. Well, and I honestly like my HEAs best when the characters really had to work for them. Love and life isn't easy.

    I'll have to pick up With or Without You. Sounds like the gritty, stick with you kind of story.

  12. Great post. I love it when the plot pushes the romance. I love romances that aren't perfect, where the people are flawed enough that you think - man, I wasn't sure if either would suck up enough pride to be the other one. But I do love me a really good HEA =)