Okay, story time.
In July, I attended the Harry Potter midnight session for Deathly Hallows Part 2 with a crowd who were dressed for the occasion, had brought chants, cutouts and books with them. Who, for the hour beforehand were prepping themselves for tears, laughter and the overwhelming reaction to the very end of these annual outings. We laughed through Hermione as Bellatrix, bawled through Fred's deathbed, sniffled through the Resurrection Stone scene, and rolled around in our seats laughing when Voldemort hugged Draco. But do you know what had half of the audience on their feet, the audience shrieking with cheers and laughter and drowned-out jokes? The kiss. Ron and Hermione's kiss.
It was, debatably, the most anticipated event of the entire film series.
When it comes to YA, love interests and the baiting of a potential couple to the readers is basically what drives our trends and our most popular books. And you can argue the opposite as much as you want, but you know that you have slugged through the most banal of YA because of a couple. I have mine. Rose and Dimitri, which soon turned into Rose and Adrian, from Richelle Mead's VAMPIRE ACADEMY. I did, however, give up during book three and read the spoilers instead.
It doesn't even have to be explicit for readers to latch on. Think about some of the fandoms on Tumblr.com. Even yourself. You've paired people together who were never the canon couples, who would never be drawn to each other in the work. And not just in YA. Think about Sherlock and Watson, or Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, or Stefan Salvatore and Caroline Forbes, or Draco and Hermione.
There's a lot of talk about the hard sell of YA without a slither of romance, and the absurdity of that. I know there is a lot of tears shed and opinions voiced on the matter, so I'm going to offer mine. Opinion that is, not tears.
The truth is that romance ups the escapism appeal of a book. It helps to draw you into the world and the plot, because not only do you have this adventure, but you get to spend the whole thing with your ideal so-and-so. I think that's a pretty universal sentiment.
But with YA, your audience is largely hormonal teenage girls who are lusting after the boy who catches their bus and this-and-that Hollywood star. They want to watch movies about sex and kissing. They want to watch TV shows about sex and kissing. It's pretty safe to assume that they also want to read books about sex and kissing.
That isn't to say you need to stretch your novel to accommodate for such a plot line. Write your book the way it needs to be written. During revisions you can keep that possibility in mind when you're reworking and making the plot more fluid. But it's not always necessary, and some YA authors have ruined potentially incredible books with this so-called near-requirement.
For instance, POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil. I love Bridget, the protagonist, and I know that she needed some sort of home life away from the exorcising and suchness, but her love interest was not even remotely necessary. I would have been much more interested in further investigation into her father and a possible legacy he had with her exorcisms.
I'm not saying that every YA has romance at it's core. If romance drives your story, such is the case with TWILIGHT, then you're going to have a very banal soap-operaish series of conflicts. Romance should be an afterthought, a back seat on an adventure. Think Doctor Who. The adventures and conflicts of the Doctor and his companion are the forefront of the series, and occasionally, there's an inkling of a romance (Rose and the Doctor, for example).
There was a point to this post.
So, I'd really like to hear your opinion on this. Have you discovered any well-done romance subplots in YA lately? How inclined are you to keep with a book if you're rooting for a couple? Have you got any inkling of romance in your own work?