Is Romance in YA Harmful?

Romance has come to be such a prevalent part of YA book culture, and it is so rare to see a book without any.

I also love romantic couples in young adult books. If done right, it can be one of my favorite parts of the book. The meet-cute, the getting together process is very adorable but the thing is, it’s everywhere. And at times it can give such a wrong and harmful idea too the audience YA is generally pandered too–teenagers.

So in this post I’m going to talk about: why this excessive amount of romance in YA books are more harmful then just “cute.”


Why Romance in YA can do more harm

  • This over-the-top portrayal of romance sets up unrealistic expectations for love in the real world – In terms of romance, there is a simple step-by-step recipe that most YA books follow.

1) Meet cute
2) Getting to know each other/flirting stage
3) realizing both parties like each other
4) Some big argument or fight happens
5) They make up and live happily ever after

This is what I personally noticed in almost all of the young adult contemporary and even some fantasy books. It’s very clear cut and simple and usually gives the bogus message that “love is easy”, there is barely any conflict at all. Books, movies, music all talk about how “someone saved them”, and include swoon-worthy and passionate scenes which in the real world doesn’t happen. And everyone (me included) eats it up. I know most people are sensible enough to know that real love doesn’t work that way, but let’s be honest these exaggerated portrayals have influenced your hopes for romance a little bit. Have you ever caught yourself thinking “I need a romance like x and x” after reading a book?

However the truth is, romance is not like that at all. It’s not always filled with these heart-racing, passionate, and dramatic moments. People use these feelings too define love, and when these feelings fade away they think they have fallen out of love and move onto the next person. Both parties have set their expectations for each other, and if one of them don’t seem to meet it, they break up. And that’s of course normal in a relationship, but the problem is the expectations themselves. If they are only based on what people see on books (or mass media in general) then relationships are bound to fail because that’s not how real love works at all.

  • Romance is so prominent in YA books it pushes the ideology that romantic love is something teenagers need – Why are teenagers so obsessed with finding boyfriends/girlfriends? Maybe because we see these happy couples everywhere on the internet.

    Seeing these fictional people find their “other half” and see how confident and secure they are, can lead people to unconsciously think “I should get an s/o so I could be like that too” and to that I say:

The idea of finding this fairy tale romance is so ingrained because of the media teenagers consume, which leads to teenagers are so obsessed with finding the perfect romantic partner. But this is so unnecessary. We’re going through this period in our lives where we are trying to find out who we are, our brains are literally re-wiring , we have added pressure of school figuring out our correct path in life, and now we have to worry about romance???

Am I condeming teenage romance, and saying that all teenagers shouldn’t date? No of course not! Just keep in mind that unlike what most YA books suggest, you don’t need romance too be considered valid, and it honestly shouldn’t be a top priority. We have our whole lives ahead of us.

  • Valuing romantic love over other types of love – A lot of attention is put on romantic love, but what about friendships and family and even your pets? Maybe if YA (or media in general) put a lot of emphasis on family or friends, society would focus on fostering better human connections, and appreciating family rather then being so crazy about love.

This also ties in with aro/ace representation as well. There is little to no representation of ace main characters in YA books. Which once again, pushes the message that romance is an integral part of our lives. You can live a life without romantic love.

What’s the root of the problem?

It’s us! It all comes down to what sells, and romance definitely sells. Unless friendships and family suddenly starts trending out of nowhere, authors are going too include romance because that’s whats popular now.

And I’m not saying don’t buy romance books or any books that have romance. But just really be mindful of what you read, and how you take that in.

So this concludes my post. Keep in mind that this isn’t like a research paper so I didn’t include any concrete links to any research conducted on the effect of social media. This was based on observation, personal experience, and thinking. But this doesn’t make my point any less valid. What do you guys think about the amount of romance in YA literature? Do you think that it contributes to society a lot? Do you agree with my points? Do you disagree? Please let me know!

17 thoughts on “Is Romance in YA Harmful?

  1. Wow I love this post so much. My biggest problem with YA is how the characters seem to live happily ever after and they’re only like 16. I use to feel like a loser because I never had that in high school. I never had the kind of love YA books tend to convey. I know dating and romance start to become relatively important in teens but I also wish books focused more on other relationships, like you said. I love a good platonic relationship. So many books seem to indicate you can’t have a friend of the opposite sex because they’ll fall in love with you but you love someone else and then your friendship falls apart. I agree, romance in YA can be very problematic. Great discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you liked it Amber! And I know exactly how you felt. It’s so hard not too compare what you read vs your real life especially for us bibliophiles. And I love a good friendship between opposite genders because it just goes to show that not everything can be about romance. Thanks for reading ❤

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  2. I’ve found the occasional book where the teen falls in love and they seem really compatible, but then there’s this epilogue and things haven’t worked out and I feel like that’s more accurate. The relationship, in that moment, was super important to the character and while I didn’t really have romantic relationships as a teen myself, I knew how overpowering crushes could be and how it really felt THAT important sometimes when it truly wasn’t. So, I found those books refreshing, that it matters in the moment, but it doesn’t necessarily last forever and there’s not a lot of books that treat the subject like that at all.
    I really enjoyed reading your post! I’ve often thought that it creates very unrealistic expectations, but I wouldn’t have necessarily used the term “harmful”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I feel like a lot of YA books portray relationship as the “endgame” which is great, but like you said, it is way more refreshing too see our protagonist and their s/o realize they are not meant for each other and mature from a breakup. It’s just a more accurate way of how life works because not everyone can stay with their high school sweethearts.

      I might have gone a bit overboard with the term “harmful” hehehe, but I would say that it can be a bit problematic. Thank you for reading, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. There is a LOT of romance in YA. I would like to see more books that focus on friendships or family over romance. I do love reading a good romance plot, but sometimes they are just thrown into YA books when they’re not really needed because there’s a perception that a book has to have romance because it’s what’s popular. Well written platonic relationships can be just as satisfying to read about as romantic ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes romance is just thrown in for the sake of it! Sometimes it’s so unnecessary especially in action-packed fantasy or mystery books that it ends up making the book less likable. I would rather have a super cool platonic relationship that doesn’t weigh down the plot.

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  4. I wish you had given some examples of YA books that perpetrate the ideas you discussed. You talk about the topic in such general terms that I’m not sure which genres and tropes you’re critiquing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great suggestion and I’m sorry if you had trouble understanding the post! I didn’t really include examples because I was talking about in general, most YA books push this kind of premise in terms of romance. But some examples from the top of my head would be My Life Next Door where the romance was just so unrealistic and unnecessary tbh. Both characters just headed towards romance with no real talking or building a connection, but by the end we were expected to believe that they would stay by each others side forever. I hope this kinda cleared up any trouble you had but thank you for reading anyways!

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  5. I love this post! As an ace myself, I have felt very left out from the strong romantic narratives in YA to the point where I crave books with really strong family and friendship relationships. I think the amount of romance in YA creates a negative notion that the only way to feel whole is by being in a relationship, which is such a harmful belief.

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  6. I really, really love this post! I enjoyed romance in YA but I would be lying if I say it didn’t affect me. Personally speaking, I can say that reading actually sets my romantic expectations more than seeing it in other media since we’re inside the characters head and feel all the butterflies, anticipation, fireworks, etc and it kinda makes me questions and measure my experience based on those description. Is this real, is this enough, is this love if I don’t experience it this way? On one side I know love is not all butterflies and not as clear cut as the media portray it to be, but at the same time, being served with that storyline all the time just makes you wonder whether those romance exists and why can’t we find it. As I get older I feel like I’m “wiser” and it doesn’t affect me at all haha, but I still sees how my friends get into relationships because they want to have that “experience” in high school or universities. It’s just unrealistic and sadly, like you say, many of them ended up prioritizing romance and not other forms of love.

    I’m probably rambling now haha but I really love this post and agree with everything you say!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much!! I’m so glad to know that other people are able to relate to this as well. And yes reading also sets my expectations as well because like you said, it’s much more intimate experience as we are in the persons head. Thank you for commenting, I loved hearing what you had to say ❤

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  7. These are all excellent points! While I don’t think romance in YA is *necessarily* a problem, it’s certainly over-prevalent. It would be nice to read a YA book that isn’t centered around romance. But I prefer YA romance to adult romance since they aren’t graphic, so I wouldn’t want to get rid of them completely. I think YA romance should be a sub-category, not the default.

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