Chatterbox: I Want it Bad, Your Bad Romance… Or Do I?

July 18, 2016 by Aila J. | Books, Chatterbox, Features


I want your love and
I want your revenge
You and me could write a bad romance

I love romance. I love tropes across all categories, be it the enemies-to-lovers stuff or the marriage of convenience shindangle. I love the feeling of love and redemption and people finding both. I love shipping people, no matter what genders and rooting for a happily ever after. I love kissy-scenes and cuddling and yeah, smutty stuff is right up my alley too. The point is, romance is wonderful and I love having it in my books.

But at the same time, sometimes picking up a book without romance is refreshing.

I know a lot of readers out there don’t actually like romance in their stories, especially with scenes like fairy sex fiestas (I’m looking at you ACOMAF) just because they’d rather experience those things in their personal life. Then there’s me, a reader who sucks up all these shy glances and delicate feelings because there’s none in my own life and what better way to experience it than vicariously through fictional characters? And then there are readers all across the spectrum who may or may not enjoy romance in their fiction. However, no matter how much you like this genre, I also don’t think readers should discredit fictional books that don’t have romance.

It Leaves Pages to Deal With Other Issues

In a contemporary without romance, I think we’d see much more character growth and progression instead of being focused on a chiseled, teenage boy who’s the captain of the lacrosse team. Maybe we get to read about the main character recovering from a traumatic accident, or figuring out his/her path in life without the help of a significant other. Sometimes I’ll read good contemporaries that will actually be hindered by a forced romance in its pages. And I’m thinking, “Okay, if you take away the pages of the mc lamenting about the popular girl in his/her drama class, you’ll get more room for the mc to work out the complications between his/her family members.” Romance isn’t the only thing that can allow a character to develop, after all.

It Can Be More Realistic

My life is like a romantic comedy except there’s no romance and it’s just me laughing at my own jokes.

If you’re an mc trying to save the world from an impending apocalypse or start a revolution against the autocratic government or discover who you truly want to be when you grow up or is trying to mend the bridge between your sibling, you do not need a significant other to help. In fact, finding a relationship for the former two would prove quite detrimental! Sometimes romance can be such a distraction, which is why I don’t get why fantasy worlds favor these numerous love interests. Like, I’m all for girls and guys throwing themselves at each other because let’s be real: teenagers. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean the mc has to choose! I see it happen so much with female main characters: “Should I choose him or him or him? I like him but I love him but I care about him. I can’t decide!” My answer isn’t to jump onboard a ship, but to slap the girl and go like “YOU DON’T NEED NO MAN IN YOUR LIFE TO FEEL WORTHY.” Chances are, she’s probably more powerful than any of them.

Listen up, all you conflicted (in romance) main characters out there: YOU DON’T NEED TO CHOOSE. You are a flaming star all on your own, and no boy or girl out there can take that away from you. NOW SLAY.

On another note, I’m 17 and haven’t experienced anything – even holding hands – romantically. (Maybe I just really love myself okay.) I also have friends my age who have done the whole spectrum, so it’s nice to see some diversity in terms of romantic development. That’s why I can appreciate reading from sex scenes to the brush of hands. Each person, each reader, is different, and this wide range covered in YA really reflects that. Including a story with absolutely no romance.

It’s Different, Plain and Simple

Throughout all the books I’ve read across all categories in YA, 95% of them will either have a romance or feelings developed on the main character’s end. But on the rare occasions where there is no romance, it feels… refreshing. It’s definitely something different, just because for some reason or another adolescents always get caught up with one another in regards to feelings in YA. But seeing a book that focuses on something beyond the merits of a good signification other? That’s a reason that makes a book memorable to me.

Some Recommendations of Great Books Without Romance

Check out some books that don’t have romance, yet are still great reads!

(Although some may have a sprinkle of romantic feelings that may or may not be with the main characters but is not centered around romance nor has clear ships) ((It’s HARD to find books without romance!!))

Do you like romance in your books? Would you skip a book without romance? Do you think I’ll grow into an old maid/spinster who spends her days reading books with seven cats by her side? I’d love to know!

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Aila is a young adult reader who loves to transport herself to new dimensions through reading. She's currently an undergraduate student at university in the US. Let's talk about our obsessions on Twitter @aila_1woaa!

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25 responses to “Chatterbox: I Want it Bad, Your Bad Romance… Or Do I?

  1. Michelle

    I like the whole spectrum. I definitely won't decide whether or not to read a book based on whether it has romance or not. On occasion I WILL specifically seek out a book FOR the romance, but that's usually when I'm in a weird mood. Otherwise, I just roll with it — either the book I've picked up will have romance or it won't, and I generally don't care. If there's too much romance and it becomes the primary plot when it's clearly not supposed to be, then I'll get annoyed. Otherwise, it's never really bothered me.
    My recent post Pokemon Indigo League Read-A-Thon #ReadThemAllThon

  2. Emily Anne

    Yes! I agree it is refreshing to find a book that doesn't center around a romance or have clear ships that are a big focus. Honestly, I find a LOT of joy in shipping characters together (it's a problem), BUT every book does not logically need a main couple! Some of my favorite books, like Ender's Game or The Rithmatist, are made even better by the fact that they clear out romance. It shouldn't be so impossible to find books without romance… great post! 🙂
    My recent post Review: Menagerie

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  4. Serena

    I used to love romance books, but I'm not a huge fan anymore. I want books that, as you pointed out, are more realistic and deal with other issues. There is more to people than their romantic interests, and when a book fails to recognize that, the characters seem pretty two-dimensional.

    I also don't like sex scenes–they're horribly inappropriate!–and don't understand why some authors feel it's necessary to include them. I didn't like them as a teen, and I don't like them as a young married woman. I think fade-out scenes are quite sufficient.

    Lest you think me a miserable, angry scrooge: I do enjoy a well-written side romance! I ship characters, and melt when they fall in love. I just don't want to read an entire plot centered around it. 🙂
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  5. I love this post! I completely understand why people love some romance in their books and I'm even inclined on a few occasions, but mostly romance is just not for me. I think it's because I'm aromantic so I can't connect with the characters or understand why they decide to do certain thing. I also love books without romance for all the reasons you listed. I really wish more books focused solely on friendships. Quite a few books you listed are already on my TBR but I'm definitely going to check the ones that aren't out!

  6. Sophia

    I don't really have a preference to be honest – I'm completely okay with reading romance in my books. It really just depends on how it's written,if you know what I mean. Although I definitely get what you mean with no romance in my own life (although almost – it just ended badly before it even started) so living through books is totally my way of going about things,lol.

    Great post, Aila! 🙂
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  7. nereyda1003

    I love romance in my books, but I did read The Smell of Other People's Houses and I did love it despite the lack of romance. I guess it depends on the book and the story and characters for me. But if I had the option, I would pick a book with romance every time!

  8. lekeishathebooknerd

    I don't have to have romance in my books. Sometimes it takes away from the story, so I can definitely do without it. Not saying that there's something wrong with it, but most authors just have to add romance to their stories, because a lot of readers are all about "ships". I love shipping a couple every now and then but it's not important to me.
    My recent post Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

  9. Tasya

    I love romance, but I agree, some books would be better without romance. Like maybe books about overthrowing goverment could use a bit less love and angst?? I really hate it when the mc (especially in the middle book) seems to forgot the state of devastation and ruin around the mc and all he/she could think about is love interest #1 or love interest #2. Or how hot love interest is. That main character, be it boy or girl, is the face of an on going rebellion. they're deemed worthy and strong to be the hope of the people. and all they can think about is love interest??? I would prefer them without love interest because most of the time they turn spineless and follow what the love interest one all the time! It also throw away some appropriate action for the sake of sexy times… *sighs*
    My recent post Book Review: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

  10. corrallingbooks

    Aila, I love this post so so much! There's no denying that romance can play a huge part in books, but yeah for me, it's nice to read some books that lack in romance sometimes as well, because you're right – there is more time for the author to deal with other issues, for us to see lots of character growth. I actually recently bought Enders Game – only because I've heard of the movie and want to read it before watching it – but it's nice to know there isn't much romance – should be interesting reading it!
    My recent post Conversations: Reading Book Series – yay or nay?

  11. BLESS THIS POST. It almost seems like publishers / authors are under the illusion that if they add a romance to their YA book, it will automatically become more “marketable” for teens, you know? And it’s a shame, because that is so, so untrue. A book doesn’t have to have romance to be enjoyable.

    I feel like romances should only be added to books if they actually are necessary to helping develop the plot. Otherwise, what’s the point? Thanks for sharing Aila and, as always, fabulous discussion! ♥

  12. When I was a younger teen, I used to avoid ALL books with romance. I hated it. But now that I'm older, I actually…dare I say….CRAVE romance. Well not crave a lot but more than I did before.

    It's funny because sometimes when a book has barely any romance, but the characters have good chemistry, I'm cheering for the both of them to get more scenes. But when it is a book that has romance, sometimes I'm just like "meh". I totally think it depends on the characters for me when it comes to wanting or not wanting romance.

    Awesome post Aila! I'm more excited about reading Bright Smoke, Cold Fire now!!
    My recent post Review: Devil And The Bluebird

  13. This! Yep. It's crazy to me when I see people rate a book lower just because there wasn't a romance. Especially when it's in fantasy or science fiction. Like, just enjoy the damn story. And like you said, there's a lot to offer in contemporary without romance. I find it refreshing. It's painful when it's obvious an author tries to force a romance in the book just so there is one, even if it's not needed and out of place. Stay true to the story!
    My recent post Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

  14. I am a sucker for a good romance. I have no shame in admitting that but I also wouldn't mind it if romance was omitted from the book. I think for me though it's all about balance. A sprinkling of romance but a greater focus on the more important life issues at hand. This is why I appreciate it when an author, especially in contemporary, takes the time to explore dynamics outside of the romance like friendship and the relationship between a parent and a child. Basically I love romance but don't mind it if a book doesn't feature one.

    Max and Highly Illogical Behaviour are two books I've been meaning to read. I've heard nothing but great things about both books so hopefully I can get my hands on a copy soon. 😀
    My recent post Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

  15. I have to agree! I can like romance at times. I mostly hate it since it's cliched and annoying. I'm not a fan at all.
    I haven't heard about many no romance books. And I'm interested. I want to write one so bad. But a lot of things I write or plan to write have romance. Except maybe two ideas. >-< But the other ones have romance I love. (Including my new idea GAY SPACE PIRATES. and my Houses idea. The latter's romance was HEARTSTOPPINGLY amazing. If I do say so myself -preens-)
    I'll check out this list!
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  16. keionda

    I loved all of the reasons you highlighted girl! Even though, I'm like you and am one of those readers that NEED to have romance in my books. Like you said, I'm that one reader that loves to live vicariously through my characters since I haven't done too much of, ehem "anything" ether. But yeah, i'm that one reader that searches through the synopsis to make SURE there is some kind of romantic connection. 😉 But I'm all for female MC's not needing a significant other to get through something. 🙂

    • Yup it's Romeo & Juliet, but the romance is very very very little, and not with the main characters as described in the blurb. The characters that are based on Romeo and Juliet aren't the MAIN characters: Paris and Runajo are! The closest thing you get to romance is hearing Romeo and Juliet lament about the other – they don't even meet in this book. 🙂 There's much more of an emphasis on friendship and zombies. I'd still recommend it!

  17. Great post, Aila!
    I absolutely do love romance, and I have read some really, really good ones, where there is still room for plenty of character growth and with a solid plot.
    Sometimes, it's really nice to read a novel where there is no romance, too, though, because, like you said, life isn't only all about the romance 🙂
    My recent post Review: Leave Me – Gayle Forman

    • Definitely, Lexxie!

      I'm all about that romance too, but sometimes it's just really refreshing to not have to focus on the love interest's antics, or a change in ships that also affects the story.

  18. Nick

    I've started to read more books without a romance this year which has been refreshing and quite eye-opening for me. I think books without romance probably cause me less anxiety because then I'm not worrying about a potential love triangle, cheating or love triangle switch.
    The Smell of Other People's Houses is one of those books to me! I loveeed it so much. I'll have to check out the rest of the books in your list.
    Great post, Aila!
    My recent post Notes I Wrote To P.S I Like You by Kasie West

    • Thanks Nick!

      And I TOTALLY know what you mean about it being less stressful! Seriously, sometimes I feel like I give love triangles and cheating too much attention when reviewing but those things REALLY bother me :'D So I guess it's justified in the end. But it's so nice focusing on other things in the story without those romantic notions.

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