Friday, November 9, 2018

Discussion: Do We Need a Teen Romance Category?


This Week’s Topic: Do We Need a Teen Romance Category?


While I was scanning Twitter, I saw this post the other day:
The thread goes on for a little bit, but essentially, there is this section dedicated to what someone named TEEN ROMANCE, which is significantly smaller than the TEEN FICTION section, and seems to feature primarily books by female authors. 

I love romance, and always welcome a romantic element in the book I am reading, however, I totally agree with one point that Dessen brings up. I seldom feel like I am reading a full-on romance, when I read a YA book. 

In a majority of the adult contemporary romances I read, the whole plot revolves around the couple getting together. There really isn't a ton of time dedicated to things outside of the relationship and courtship. There will be some, but it's easy to see that the romance occupies center stage. 

I rarely feel that way, when I read a YA book. I remember this summer branding two books I read as full-fledged YA romances, and I only made that assertion, because it's not normally how I feel. 

The bulk of the YA books incorporate a myriad of other things the protagonists are dealing with, in addition to their budding or failing romances. 
  • Words in Deep Blue is as much a romance, as it is a story of coming to terms with grief and loss.
  • To All the Boys I Loved Before, tackles a changing family dynamic, and a lot of other bumps in the road that accompany growing, which included romance. 
  • Beautiful Creatures hit me as an Ethan must save the world kind of story, which featured a great romance as well. 
  • The Summer of Jordi Perez struck me more as a story of Abby figuring herself out, than a romance. 
  • How to Breathe Underwater deals with a whole lotta stuff, much of it revolving around Kate's anger with her father and trying to figure out who she is without swimming. 
  • ANY Sarah Dessen book takes on multiple themes, where the romance is just a part of the story, but not the whole. 
And maybe there is something to be said about how it seems like female authors are being relegated to this section. Where are books like The Fault in Our Stars? That book has a lot of romance in it. Probably more than some of the other books featured. 

Of anyone, I understand seeking out books with romance. They are like my oxygen, and you have all heard me lament the lack of an HEA, but I totally understand the point that Dessen is making, and still wonder if a totally separate section is needed or what qualifies a book to be in that section, because as I have previously said, YA books never quite hit me as romances in the way NA or adult romances do. 

Now it's your turn!

Do you think YA books featuring any shred of romance should be put in a separate section? 
Let us know in the comments!

28 comments:

  1. I'm the opposite of you - always on the hunt for books with zero to minimum romance. But I don't live in a void - I see these books around, read my friends' reviews, etc., and I see your point. While putting those books in a separate section may help people like you find the kind of books they're looking for (and people like me avoid them LOL), it seems like a way to brand them with no reason. What about, I don't know, YA fantasy then? or YA sci-fi? Why are they all stacked together, while romance has to be kept separated? Also, you made an excellent point about John Green and adult romance (again, I'm not speaking from experience here, but I know plenty of people who read and review such books).

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    1. I find so few YA books with zero romance, and those books, though having a romantic thread, are being shelved with teen fiction, whereas, others are being branded as romances even when the romance is not the central focus of the story. I guess it has more to do with what I feel constitutes a romance book vs a book that has some romance in it. And, I have read books from the SFF section, which had just as much romance as the books they put in the romance section. It seems very limiting, and maybe even a little misleading.

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  2. I never thought about what that placement does to authors. Honestly, I don't spend much time in Teen Fiction or Teen Romance so I never thought about any of it.

    And you're right, most YA has romance as a subplot, and I don't think any or my indies break it up like way either. I'd be interested to know why BN thought that category was necessary.

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    1. How many YA books have you read, where the romance was the main plot? I read a lot of YA, and can say there are few I felt were true romance books. I more understand separating fiction, SFF, horror, and historical fiction, but way too many books contain some romantic subplot for there to be a separate section. If they want to be honest about content, they should have a romance free section.

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  3. Interesting discussion! I wonder if the Teen Romance section exists to make book shopping easier on parents? My mom didn’t want me reading sex scenes when I was a young teenager. She once bought me a book she’d thought I’d like, discovered that there was sex in it, and TORE OUT THE SEXY PAGES! Maybe books with a certain amount of “love” in them are banished to the Romance section so that parents know what they’re buying.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. There are sex scenes in many of the books B&N have on those fiction shelves. Uh, Looking for Alaska? Release? When Dimple Met Rishi? These books all had sex in them. I think WDMR is totally a romance, yet it's in teen fiction, as if they didn't want to split up the authors book. I think it's not just about the separation, but how they determined the classification.

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  4. As someone who works at Barnes and Noble, I totally agree with you. It actually used to be Teen Fiction, Teen Fantasy and Adventure, and Teen Paranormal Romance. They recently switched to just plain Romance. And I think it is a waste. That should just be put over in Fiction. I mean, how do they even decide, unless it is like what you're saying, female authors. They have Twilight in that section, and whether you like those books are not, they could be considered fantasy as well, they have vampires, right? And then there are books I see over in the regular fiction that I think should be categorized as romance. Also like you said, there seems to be romance in almost every teen book in some way, so how can you separate them. My two cents as a B&N employee, book blogger, and school librarian, is that I agree with you. I think a section for fiction and a section for fantasy/science fiction would be plenty. Because some readers don't enjoy any magical or fantastical elements, they just want real stories, and that could be the teen fiction. Great post!

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    1. My primary objection is that I really don't feel like many YA books are purely about the romance. I would say most of them are about a character's growth, but feature some romance. Like your example, Twilight. Yes, there's this romance and a love triangle and everything, but there are also paranormal creatures and that epic struggle between the vampire factions. When I think of that book, paranormal pops into my head before romance. How often do you hear bloggers complain about how hard it is to find a YA book without romance (note: you will never hear such a thing from me)? I just feel like most of the contemporary books fit into the broader range of fiction, and putting them in romance really short changes the author as to what their story is trying to accomplish. I love that you joined the conversation, and thank you for bringing your professional insight to the table.

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  5. This hasn't ever bothered me at all! The teen books at B&N are all actually in the same section and I honestly don't even look at the headers. I've just always associated the Teen Romance section with contemporary teen fiction. When I go to the YA section I always look at all the shelves, but I guess maybe there are people who avoid this header specifically? Interesting discussion!

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    1. I think B&N associate the romances with contemporary too, because I don't really see anything besides contemporaries on those shelves, although, there are plenty of fantasy books and historicals that feature romance as prominently as the ones pictured.

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  6. I had to go read this Twitter thread. It's very interesting and it sounds like there are lots of issues with how they split this up. I can see both sides---you want to point out these books to people who are specifically interested but not take them out of sight of people who would read them otherwise. Probably a constant debate.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. My question is: how do they decide it falls into the romance category? Because, from a quick scan of that shelf, I can think of some HUGE YA books I don't see there, that I would consider romances.

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    1. It wasn't something I ever thought about until I saw the thread.

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  8. Yeah, I don't think we need a teen romance section? I can see why people do it though, because in the end sometimes the romance might be a predominant theme. But there can be more to the book too! I read new adult romance and that is its own genre, but it also has some deep themes in it sometimes too. So I guess, it just depends on the person and whatever they want to do. *shrugs* I don't mind personally but if it bothers authors then I would say change it for their benefit!

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    1. I sort of agree that shoving their books in a corner and filling under a category, which carries a little bit of a stigma is a valid thing for authors to be upset about. And what is the criteria used to place a book in this section? It seems many big titles are missing and have their place over in teen fiction. The concern seems to be, that separating these books could keep someone from learning about them, and I can't say I totally disagree. Not every reader is like us. I obsess over reviews, Goodreads, and publisher's catalogs, but many casual readers will just take a walk-about a book store, and because they think the book is just a romance, maybe they will pass the entire shelf by.

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  9. I didn't even know there was a separate teen romance section at B&N! I can see why some books would be classified that way, but I agree with Olivia-Savannah, I don't think there really needs to be a teen romance section! I know a lot of YA books have some sort of romance in them, but they definitely do (and should) incorporate other elements like family, friendship, etc. IDK, for me "romance" has a connotation that's older than YA. But that's probably a whole other discussion!

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    1. I do my book shopping online, so I had no idea, but it seems this is a thing. I think my idea of a classic romance book is taken from my adult reading, though, I read tons of romances in my teens, which would fit better than the ones I see there right now. I just don't feel like I read too many YA books these days, where the romance is the central focus. There always seems to be a lot more to the story, and the romance is just part of it.

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  10. Yeah, this feels incredibly arbitrary! Like you said, there are so few books without *any* romance that I don't see how anyone could decide what does/doesn't get shelved there. It seems to be almost singling out contemporary, so why not just have a "contemporary" shelf? (Especially since most of the "teen fiction" shelved books ALSO have romance in them which is just ridiculous.) Honestly, seems like another way of trying to market the interest of young women as "less than". Some jerk was like "Okay George let's just put the silly girly books down here", and that is not okay at all.

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    1. The shelves in the picture were very contemporary heavy and female author heavy. I think you really honed in on my biggest issue with it - the way they designate the books seems arbitrary, and I can think of many teen fiction books, which I think would fit appropriately into a romance category, if I was using their books as examples.

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  11. Interesting topic! I personally am not a big fan of the idea of a separate Teen Romance section because as you have highlighted, there are many fabulous teen books that have a hint of romance in them but cover so much more ground than just romance. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any teen books I've read that I would label as strictly romance. Also, since I'm not a big reader of what in my mind constitutes a "Romance" novel, I probably wouldn't even venture into a section labeled Teen Romance and could therefore potentially miss out on a lot of great teen reads.

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    1. I feel like it alienates readers, who are not fans of romance books, when really, the romance is only part of the story. Let's talk straight, how many YA books have you read that have ZERO romance? There are not that many, but when I think of how much page time the romance occupies, it's small in comparison to the other issues usually being addressed.

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  12. I feel like books sometimes get thrown into the "romance" section almost whimsy like! Sometimes I think it might be based on who the publisher is too! I noticed this a LOT with other "adult" books that got thrown into romance and it was usually based on their publisher, like Avon or Harlequin or Mira. They're from "romance" Houses so of course they are a romance book. But when I read these books there was very little romantic elements in them! Romance was apart of the story but the story didn't revolve around the romance. Now maybe it was a choice on the bookseller, but I felt like the publisher of the book also helped to categorize it, not necessarily by the publisher's request!

    Maybe this could be said as well regarding the YA books. I don't seek out YA romances myself either...unless they are paranormal ones! Lol. I can't really recall seeing the Teen Romance section in B&N. I know there's the fantasy one and the general "fiction" one. But I don't remember seeing "Romance" up above any shelves. And I was just there last night! Lol.

    I feel like this can hurt books sometimes. Not everyone is willing to take the chance on a book in the "romance" category. They will automatically assume it's a full on romance. You almost have to already know who the author is and what they write to know that the bookseller might be putting it there because of some bizarre generalization or misconception. I know I felt like I was taking a chance with the authors I found in the romance section but was soon blown away by said books that had only a minimal romance inside it.

    I'm not sure how many teens might feel this way either. If they are willing to take a chance on a book labeled romance and not know that it could be mislabeled. I didn't realize the mislabeling happens until I was at the end of my teens in college.

    I guess romance is just the easier category for some books that might not quite fit for "sci-fi/fantasy" and just get slumped into romance because of the publishing house. There probably should be a better genre category for these in between reads.

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    1. According to that Twitter thread, the Teen Romance section is pretty well hidden, which is one of the author's concerns. You may be onto something there with how they shelve the books, because there is a lot of overlap with adult books too. For example, women's fiction and romance. I have read a whole lotta women's fiction, where the romance was the central focus. What made it women's fiction? I can think of many YA SFF books, that have romance in them. Why do all the teen romances appear to be contemporaries? I think it bothers me, because I don't quite understand what determines which shelf the book will sit on.

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  13. I don't often browse physical bookstores so I haven't ever noticed this. Most of time, I find myself looking for a book online at a retailer or the library after reading a review on a blog or goodreads. I can say that I don't like all of the small sections when I am in a bookstore. I think that it is easier to browse larger sections instead of trying to figure out where a book would be.

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    1. Me neither, which is why I never knew anything about this, but I understand the author's concerns regarding the division. Online, it's easy for the retailer to put the book into multiple categories, but there are still lots of readers, who buy physical books, and if they are "just browsing", they could miss a book, because they think it is a hardcore romance.

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  14. I feel like there prob are teen romances out there, and it can be helpful to people looking for those, but then, are they going to start separating teen books by all the genres? And it's definitely problematic if they're pretty much just putting female authored books in that section and if they're not doing a good job of choosing which books belong where.

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    1. I am just curious how much romance qualifies it to sit in that section? I think I have read a handful of books, which I considered full on teen romances, and I wouldn't put any of Dessen's on that list.

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