Happily-Ever-After... Can we not?
When I finished Austenland by Shannon Hale, I thought it had been a really fun read... but I was unsatisfied with the ending. (This is a little spoilery, but not too badly, so bear with me.) It was so close to ending with the protagonist walking away, single and happy with herself, but no. The book can't just end there- she has to have someone fall in love with her.
This bugged me. A lot. Enough so that I even mentioned it in my review. I just couldn't help thinking: Why wasn't finding herself enough? Why could Jane only be truly happy if she had a significant other in her life?
Austenland is an adult novel, but this problem is present in YA books, too. Try to think of a YA novel without romance. Even if it's not central to the plot, there's usually a love arc.
Now first romances are a huge part of young adulthood, so it's understandable that a lot of authors want to include it in their books. But does it have to be included in every single one?
Romance is okay.
Before I continue, I just want to make this clear: There is nothing wrong with enjoying love stories. It doesn't mean you're a sap, weak, or a bad feminist. I've swooned over Mr. Darcy and have plenty of book boy crushes. But it's all about perspective. A problem arises when we treat romantic love as a be-all, end-all.
So let's stop over-glorifying romance, shall
Romance is fine, romance is just dandy, but can we stop treating it like it is the ONE ultimate goal in every person's life? As though it were something that one just can't live without?
When 9/10 books feature a romantic arc, or end with two characters waltzing off into the sunset, finally fulfilled after their lives as miserable single people, it perpetuates this idea in our culture that romantic love is everything. A person can be perfectly happy single, though you wouldn't know that from the majority of YA books.
As I said, I love romance, but there are other kinds of love (familial, friendly) that can and should be the focus for once. It'd be a refreshing change to read a book that has an awesome platonic friendship, where the main character saves the day without falling in love. Who knows, maybe one of you will write that book.
Thoughts? Comments? I'd love to hear 'em!