Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Same Old Story: A Rant About the Lack of Originality in Romantic Fiction

I read a lot. I read a lot of romance. I love the stories of first love, boy meets girl, drama and lust. But what I don't love at the moment is the sheer number of books I'm reading that all follow basically the same story. Girl meets boy. Girl and Boy fancy each other. Girl and Boy dance around one another for a while before (hurrah!) getting together. Something terrible/tragic/confusing/annoying happens; Girl and Boy break up. Girl and Boy realise that one or both of them have been idiots and get back together. The End.

It's not a new story. It surely must happen a lot in real life in order to have spawned quite so much fiction following this plot line. But it sure does get boring sometimes. It's got to the point where I start to lose interest at the point where something happens to split the lovely couple up. It's not like I hate all books that use this story - there are plenty out there that are still really good in spite, or even because, of it. But I do need a break from it now and again. It's one of the reasons why I enjoy urban fantasy novels. Lots of these use the same basic story, but the addition of magic or monsters spices it up and makes it more interesting.

Many of the worst offenders are Young and New Adult romances. I think these books suffer the most from the curse of unoriginality because the main characters are young, and they often don't have much going on in their life apart from school, friends and romance. Don't get me wrong - that can make for a wonderful book, but it doesn't always. It pleases me greatly when the young MC has something else in her life to make it more interesting, be it a sport or hobby, a werewolf or a witch. Adult novels are also guilty of the common trope, but older characters tend to have more going on in their lives which makes for a fuller, better-rounded story.

So what books have bucked the trend? Here are a few examples of some of my favourite books - all stories that veer off the well-beaten love-tragedy-love path:
Everything by Maggie Stiefvater, but specifically the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy
Stiefvater is far too clever to give in to YA cliches. She works hard at making her writing tricksy and intelligent, but vastly enjoyable at the same time.

Kiss Him Goodbye by Victoria Routledge
Not a YA though it could be classed as NA, an old-time favourite and my go-to book whenever I feel down. Kate Craig is new to London and she hates it, but she's a stubborn thing and determined to see the challenge through. What she didn't bargain for was flatmates who invade her life and the ways in which the big city subtly changes you.

Saving June by Hannah Harrington
A road-trip story, a coming-of-age yarn and a poignant tale of loss and growth all rolled into one.

Soulmates by Holly Bourne
Poppy and Noah's romance is incredible, wonderful and beautiful to read. But. There is a But. I just can't say what it is. Sorry. Read it if you're feeling brave, and love it for its beauty.

Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton
Buckets of blood, magic that could be real, and an atmosphere so thick and dark that I found myself completely drawn in.

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