Welcome to What Do You Think Thursday: a periodic discussion post in which I pose a question related to YA reading and you tell me what you think.
Spoiler: my answer to "Can You Hate the Romance, Love the Book?" is a (qualified) yes.
Recently, I've read more than a few books with romances that were less than satisfactory. The reasons why I didn't love these romance fell into a bunch of categories -- non-happily-ever-after endings, love interests I didn't love, love interests who turned out to be not what they seemed to be, and even -- yes, this may sound shocking -- a couple who did end up together but I didn't think they should have. But ... I still enjoyed those books. Seriously!
Around the same time, I had a conversation with a few other bloggers on Twitter about whether a HEA (happily ever after) was necessary. Everyone but me said yes. They felt that if they slogged through a book, they wanted that romantic payoff at the end.
This got me thinking: how important is romance to me as a reader? And does anyone else feel the way I do?
This is how I feel:
If the main point of the book is clearly romance, then, yes, I expect a HEA. When you're in a terrible mood, the best thing in the world to read can be a romance, a story in which two people go through all kind of romantic turmoil but end up together in the end. For me, this reading experience is a satisfying chaos-to-order kind of experience. (I feel the same way about mysteries and home improvement shows. But that's a whole other topic.)
But I do think it's okay for a book to have a bittersweet ending, and I think that kind of ending can work for a variety of reasons. One: the couple in question can't realistically be together. Did you see Shakespeare in Love? Um, whoops, spoiler if you haven't... Two: it's a sacrifice story, like Casablanca ("We'll always have Paris") or a Tale of Two Cities ("It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done...") Three: the ending is just sad, because sometimes life is sad. Like The Fault in Our Stars. I sort of love those bittersweet kinds of endings... am I weird?
I've also discovered that I'd rather have A) a non-HEA or B) no romance at all than a bad romance. To me, a bad romance is when one or both of the people in a relationship are annoying, or creepy, or just not admirable. Or there's cheating or stalking or emotional manipulation or other kinds of behavior I'm not a fan of. I'd rather have no romance than that kind of romance. And, yes, I sometimes "finding yourself" kinds of stories that don't focus on love and romance.
But, based on that Twitter conversation, I know that a lot of people disagree with me. A lot of readers feel very strongly that a happily ending romance is an essential part of any story.
How do you feel about it? Tell me in comments!
YES. I agree wholeheartedly with you. I don't need a HEA (I don't even need a romance in the majority of books that I read, to be honest). Honestly, I've read so many books where, if they end focusing on the romance, sort of feel like they're losing another message about the protagonist by instead focusing on the romance. And that's not cool to me (unless it's categorized specifically as a romance), because I want more tension and conflict and growth OUTSIDE of the romance. By ending with a HEA, sometimes books lose that quality.ReplyDelete
Okay, thanks for making me feel less weird. And interesting point about conflict and growth!Delete
Hmmm, I'd rather have NO romance whatsoever than a bad one for sure! I don't need romance in all of my books, but I am rather partial to having HEAs myself, mostly cause I cannot deal with a lot of romantic suffering added to my already messed up emotional state, ya know?ReplyDelete
Well, of course sometimes a "bad" romance is in the eye of the beholder. Okay, I will add you to the HEA required camp :)Delete
I totally agree with you! HEA are not a must (though I do love that) but if the romance is the main focus I do want it to be good. A bad romance ruins a book sometimes.ReplyDelete
I try to evaluate the story separately from the romance. Though the bigger the romantic component, the better the romance needs to me. IMO...Delete
I TOTALLY need a HEA lolReplyDelete
I guess I'm with the - if I slog through the story I want a happy ending camp. More than that though I don't like ending on an unhappy or sad note. I get depressed in real life for days or even weeks if a couple doesn't end up together. I can't let it go. *SPOILER* The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had me moping around for weeks.
I don't even care if it's unrealistic - I'll grumble about it but I need happy. I think one of the books you're talking about is Sway. I know you wished the girl would have went with another guy but that would have bummed me out even though I agree that they weren't completely right for each other/didn't earn the HEA. When I spend that much time with a character I want them to be happy. That's why I can't handle love triangles.
What's weird is that I used to love those kind of stories and maybe I will again someday and this is just a phase.
This is why I have you in my life though. You can warn me in advance of a non-HEA! lol
Karen @ For What It's Worth
Aw... I like endings that make me cry. Except that movie we once discussed, which made me SO annoyed. I just didn't like the movie and was slogging through waiting for the HEA and then when it didn't happen, I was really mad.Delete
OK will be sending you a list of books to avoid lol....
I agree with you!ReplyDelete
I particularly don't need a HEA, and I rather a NO romance than a bad one. Lately, I read two books where I despised the romance I wished the author could undo it, but that's obviously impossible.
However, I love tragic endings. I found them realistic and beautiful.
But when it's a "light" contemporary story, then, I do enjoy a HEA.
I feel like most authors think that YA books must have a romance. And there are a lot of people who feel that way....Delete
I love this discussion! I couldn't agree with you more on some of the things you point out. I definitely want some sort of romance in my books cause I'm a sucker for romance haha. But I don't need a HEA as long as it's wrapped up. I don't want to be left hanging and wondering if the relationship worked out or not. I can accept bittersweet endings (no matter how much they hurt) cause not everything works out right. That's reality and what makes a story so much truer :)ReplyDelete
I love a good romance so much! But I also love sad stories, and becoming a better person stories, etc. I guess I just don't need romance in everything.Delete
I think it all depends on the book. If I'm supposed to root and like the romance but I don't, then I definitely feel let down. But there are some cases where I'm aware that books don't end in HEA or that I know the romance will be dysfunctional. In those cases I might be okay with not loving the romance but still liking the book.ReplyDelete
Great discussion post!
I'm a happily-ever-after type of girl, but I've had my fair share of books without HEA that didn't induce me to a raving lunatic. I guess it will all depend on how it factors in to the plot as a whole.ReplyDelete
There is one book though, that nearly killed me. Killed me when it ended the way it did. But he was resigned to his decision that not even true love can persuade him. *tears* My heart.
Well.. this is kind of a toss up for me. I agree with you fully about rather having no romance than a bad romance. If it's not going to be worth reading, then the author shouldn't even add it in there! As for a HEA, how many times do readers actually get to read more than a chapter or two with the characters finally together? After they have made it through the turmoil, solved all their problems, staved off the monsters trying to kill them.. etc.. Readers don't really get to read about the down time after the crisis anyways, so a HEA for me isn't essential. How do we, as readers, know that after the supposed 'HEA', they don't break up the next day? lol Just saying! Great thoughts Jen (:ReplyDelete
Morrighan @ Elysian Fields.
I agree with a lot of your thoughts! This topic made me immediately think of The Jewel by Amy Ewing. I was quite enjoying myself until the romance started. It's so bad and unnecessary. I thought the book would've been fine, or even better, if the romance hadn't existed. But sadly, it did, and hindered my enjoyment of the book overall.ReplyDelete
So I am a romance girl. I like to read a lot of different types of books, but I have a hard time reading books that have no romance in it at all. I don't need a lot of romance, but I need a little bit. I also hate to say this but I am probably the one that would rather have a bad romance than no romance, unless it's a REALLY bad romance. And I can't even define what that is either, I just know them when I seem them.ReplyDelete
While there are a few exceptions to the rule I always want a HEA. There have been some fitting cases (TFIOS and a certain final book in a trilogy) but mostly I get really pissed when I don't get a HEA. I read for the HEA. If I'm looking for something that isn't going to be an HEA I can get that from the real world.
And while we're on the topic of romance, I know people complain about unrealistic romances, but those are the ones I like best. I don't care if it's over the top or unrealistic or whatever. I just want it to give me some feels! (Though I do have some limits on this, but I can't think of any examples off the top of my head.) To be honest, I'm rarely bothered by anything unrealistic in books because if the story is good I just don't care.
Sorry for writing a novel here! :)
I like a HEA but I can live with a HFN. I find it hard to like a story if the romance is bad. For me reading is about enjoying the story and connecting with the characters. If I can't do that, it's almost impossible for me to like the book.ReplyDelete
I think I pretty much completely agree with you: if it is an adult romance novel, I better love both characters and they better be married and having their HEA at the end (this is why I mostly read historical Regency as contemporary romances don't always give me an engagement/marriage and I really want that strong ending.)ReplyDelete
But I love all the works you referenced that don't have a HEA for the main couple so it seems I can appreciate that. I was just thinking about Jojo Moyes' Me Before You, which I cried through about the last 50 pages but I still love the book and have recommended it to several people.
I have to say I love romance in books, but as you said if it's a bad romance, I'd rather have none at all. I mean, romance is obviously not essential to every story. But, if there is romance involved, it should be good romance.ReplyDelete
I, like you, don't need a HEA. Of course, I'm usually rooting for a HEA, because who wouldn't if the romance is good and you love the characters? But (and I agree with you...I think it's weird), I don't necessarily mind a bittersweet or sad ending. Sometimes, like with The Fault in Our Stars, they can be all the more powerful that way.
I like all kinds of endings. If the book is good overall then a non-happily ever after ending (whether it's the romance not working out, one of the character dies, whatever), I'm still typically a fan of the book. Allegiant...I was not one of those readers who freaked out with the ending to that one. But unfortunately a bad romance CAN ruin a book for me. I do have a friend that I KNOW not to recommend any book to that doesn't have a happy ending because she'll hate it. Great topic!ReplyDelete
Sandy @ Somewhere Only We Know
I have a problem with the way most books end in general. I'm weird about endings. When it comes to this, I agree with you that I'd rather have no romance at all than have a "bad" romance. I feel like sometimes authors throw the romance in as an added "bonus" for the readers but do not take the time to develop it well enough for it to actually add value to the story. As a parent of a pre-teen who reads non-stop, I tend to like books that have strong characters (male or female) who learn how to be selfless, courageous individuals and are perfectly happy without the added romance. And I don't think that every book has to have a happy ending because it teaches young adults about real life. You don't always get the happy ending but you learn how to accept it and move on.ReplyDelete
Oh such a great post especially as I'm one of those people that like no-HEA ending. I mean yes in some case, but usually I get stacked with illogical HEA and that I hate. But yes I have read books when I didn't like or didn't feel the romance but still the rest of it was decent. So yeah. It depends. Great post, Jen :)ReplyDelete
Oooh! I love this post. I've been thinking about this a lot, actually, because for me a bad romance can ruin everything. Romance is weighted heavily in my mind (I can't turn that off), so an irritating love triangle could ruin an entire book, even if the rest of the plot is good. I prefer HEAs, especially after slogging through a several book series, but it's not 100% a requirement for me in standalones. SALT & STORM is a good example of a book where the romance was fine, but I thought the end was the strongest part, despite what happens. Though I wasn't super invested in the couple. I do LOVE a romance, but I would for sure prefer no romance or a tiny hint of one than a strong bad romance carrying through a novel.ReplyDelete
YES! I totally think you can love the book and hate the romance. I only hate romances when I don't like one side, though, so sad endings and bittersweet ones are tooootally fine for me. *nods* And this kind of happened for me in The Winner's Curse and I knoooow I'm a minority here but I actually did not ship the couple at all. I think they were awful for each other and I didn't feel any chemistry at all. *sigh* So I liked the book but hated that romance. >.> Pretty sure I'm the only one that feels that way tho.ReplyDelete
You know not every book can have a HEA. I doo always want on but like for example, Rites Of Passage, the romance was on point. I loved it and wanted more but there is no HEA. I'm hoping for another book. Sometimes it happens other times not.ReplyDelete
Fault In Our Stars didn't have a happy ending and I was actually okay with that. I loved it and I love HEA. And you brought up a good point. You mentioned that if your in a bad mood a good romance fixes that and I never thought of that myself! I will have to try it.ReplyDelete