books and reading

J’ai L’Ennui: On Not Connecting with YA Romance

Yes, Gentle Readers, it’s true.  I seem to be suffering from a bout of ennui.  This ennui is manifesting itself in the form of how I connect to romance in the YA novels I’m reading, or rather, in the way that I am not connecting.  Lately, I can’t seem to muster up much in the way of feeling for the love stories present in the books that I love so dearly.  Let’s talk about it, okay?

It is important to note that despite my cynical, jaded tendencies, I am a romantic at heart.  I have been a romantic since I was a little girl, and I will probably go to my grave a romantic.  My mom called me boy-crazy from the age of five, but it goes deeper than that.  I love the idea of love.  I get caught up in the rush of feelings and emotions, and it’s like a drug for me.  I like living vicariously through other people’s love stories, because it’s the safest way to derive pleasure from love (that way my heart can’t get broken, right?) and passion.  Lately, however, I haven’t been feeling it.  Romances that are supposed to be passionate bore me.  I find myself irritated when a character moons over a boy or angsts over when he’ll call or what he meant.  This is not the norm for me, Gentle Readers.

I have a general idea of why this might be happening to me.

Issue the first:  I’m feeling a little disillusioned about love within the context of my own life. Without getting too personal, but in the interest of providing some context, I recently had my heart smushed (totally a word, right?) a little (not broken, but definitely stepped on) by a pretty awesome boy.  It doesn’t really help to go into specifics, but I’m in a situation where we both still like each other but can’t make it work for various reasons.  That sucks, right?  While I’m mostly okay, because I wasn’t in love with him, it still smarts a little.

Issue the second: Characters are falling in love too quickly and too haphazardly for me to buy into it. As someone who is not quick to fall in love (but who still loves the romance), I approach the concept of love with a skeptical eye.  When characters in a book or movie fall in love nearly instantaneously, I feel cheated.  Part of the thrill of love is its elusiveness, its ability to develop slowly.  A person can’t fall in love at first sight because to fall in love requires knowing a person on a much deeper level.  You can fall in lust at first sight.  That’s totally cool with me, and I’d honestly like to see more of that happen in YA (and in my own life, ‘kay, Universe?), but please no more love at first sight.

Issue the third: The love interests are often boring, bland, or predictable. Too often, the supposed love interest in a story falls into what I feel are stock character stereotypes: reformed bad boy, sensitive musician, socially-conscious nerdy boy.  Some of these archetypes would have worked on me when I was younger, but now they fall flat at my feet.  Sometimes, when the two characters have an actual chemistry (and this is contingent on the author’s technical skill), this is lessened, but lately I just feel like almost all the boys (and girls) who serve as romantic fodder for our main characters are boring, boring, boring.  Mayhaps I’m getting too old for YA?  I hope not.

I’m sure that this feeling of ennui will pass with time.  I’m sure that it’s my own cynical viewpoint that’s tainting my enjoyment of the books I’m reading.  Reading is my favorite hobby, and I know that I fall in and out of love with it just like I do with anything else I do daily (hello, running?), but it’s hard when I’m in the middle of it.

What do you think, readers?  What are your thoughts on love and romance in YA right now?  Is anyone else struggling with connecting to the characters and the love stories?

Talk back.

(image via weheartit)


Can’t get enough YA discussion, especially when love is on the line (ahahaha I am so clever it hurts)?  Check out these posts by other great bloggers:

Steph Su at Steph Su Reads talks about “Tru Luv” teen romance
Adele at Persnickety Snark talks about YA love and romance AND about YA romance cliches
Milli at Doodle Reads talks about problems she has with YA fiction romance



“It’s not like a tree where the roots have to end somewhere, it’s more like a song on a policeman’s radio, how we rolled the carpet so we could dance, and the days were bright red, and every time we kissed there was another apple to slice into pieces.”

–Richard Siken, “Scheherazade”

There are hundreds of things for me to say, but I can’t seem to find words for any of them. I’m trying to find the words inside of me, trying to figure out how to make my hands work, to press a pen to paper or press my fingers on the necessary keys, but it’s a process.

For now, I’ll have to be content with the fact that I can feel the words and thoughts and half-finished sentences welling up inside me. Eventually I’ll fill to the bursting point and the words will come spilling out of me.

Give me time.