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!