I've noticed on Twitter that many bloggers really love it when a book is romance-free. A new blurb or synopsis will be revealed, and it'll have no mention of romance, and that will really make a lot of bloggers happy. Bloggers I greatly admire and whose opinions I value and often agree with are sick of plots that get entirely dominated by romances. They find it refreshing to read a book focused solely on sisterhood or friendship or one girl's inner struggle to define herself.
Confession time: I am not one of those bloggers.
I know. You're shocked, right? That someone who started a blog feature called 'Ship Shape is a pretty big fan of bookish romances? Well, truth be told, I start to get a little bored if there aren't at least two characters in a novel whom I hope will smash their faces together at some point. Blame the steady diet of Disney movies on which I was raised.
|Everything wrong with me is entirely your fault, Disney.|
I don't particularly care if this makes me a "less intellectual" reader, and I don't think badly of those who prefer PNR with a little less R. Or their YAR with no R. Or who just are sick of R in general. I'm not even ashamed of how far into the Google Image Search rabbit hole I fell whilst looking for Disney kiss gifs (I think my fave Disney kiss might be the one above. Or the one from Tangled. Oh, whatever, they're all flawless).
I'm not refreshed when I hear about a book devoid of romanticalness. I am disappointed.
Now, of course I have read and loved books that don't have ships. I love books about sisterhood and friendship and one girl's inner struggle to define herself! More books should have those things! Those are awesome things! But honestly? I like kissing. I like it a lot. Kissing or the possibility of kissing or the promise that someday along the line one of the characters might someday possibly dream of kissing--they're elements I require in my fiction nowadays.
I like rooting for two people to get together. I like for there to be a romance to hang my shipper hat on, to guide me through the story, to make me invest even more. It doesn't even have to be a full blown, I-shall-make-a-vow-of-everlasting-love romance. The MC can have a crush on another character. Another character can have a crush on the MC. There can merely be vague authorial hints, like little breadcrumbs. Perhaps the book is a middle grade, so there's no romance whatsoever, but the female MC just so happens to have a super loyal best friend who you totally know is going to fall in love with her upon puberty. Whatever. I really, really, REALLY prefer the books I read to have at least a whiff of romantic possibility, and guess what? I'm not ashamed of this.
|I damn well hope so.|
I start to get a little punchy when I read a book with no ships in it. I start crackshipping like crazy. I sort of feel like one of those windup toys that walk or roll on wheels, but someone has placed me straight up against a wall, and my little wheels are spinning because I'm trying to walk through it and it's just not happening. I try so hard to sail those oceanliners, but I've been plopped in a bookish desert, to murder a metaphor.
Me reading Lord of the Flies: I ship Piggy with Ralph.
Sanity: Uh... sure. Go with it. Whatever floats your boat.
Me: No, wait! Piggy and Jack! They just need to undergo a spiritual journey, you know? It's hate to love! There's a trajectory!
Sanity: I'm pretty sure no.
Me: Or maybe I ship Ralph and Jack! Yeah! Or Piggy and the conch! Or Piggy and the boulder! Maybe not that one. Or the conch and the island, because, like, they're both from nature, and--
Take Tamora Pierce, one of my all-time favorite fantasy writers. Why is she one of my all-time favorites? Because ships. (And bad ass feminism, aka my favorite things. Who says they can't be concurrent in literature?) My favorite TP series are the ones that feature Alanna, Daine, and Aly. Why? BECAUSE SHIPS. I can't help it! The romances in those series only serve to enhance the plot for me. They make me care more about the characters. When eleven-year-old Gillian first picked up Alanna: the First Adventure, sure, she was hooked on Alanna's emotional journey and how freaking awesome the sword fights were, but you know what made those even better a read for her? The fact that there was a Prince Jonathan there. It was almost like a prize. A readerly bonus. (Don't worry, little Gillian switched to Team George pretty soon.)
Okay. And yes, I live vicariously through those bad-ass bitches and their sexytimes and swoons. I just love the fact that Alanna takes no prisoners on the battlefield AND in the bedroom. Girl gets around, and it's brilliant. (Also the boys are super hot. Incidentally. Mmmm. Book boyfriends.)
Ummm, yes. I was saying things. Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic series, however, aka the ones set in Emelan, I was never able to get into as a kid. Because... say it with me... there were no ships. I've tried to get into them again several times since, and my poor little brain sort of spazzes out and starts forcing all the uncooperative little characters onto ships that they just weren't meant to board.
I don't think the inclusion of a romance by definition diminishes the bad-assery of the plot or the heroine. Is it true that some romances in some novels are so horrifically executed that they ruin the entire value of the story? Absolutely. But by no means does that turn me off of romance as a whole. I live vicariously through the books I read, and I want to swoon, dang it! What's so wrong with that? That shouldn't be deemed lesser. It's not lesser. It's what I like.
Some people like sugar-free gum, some people like gum that is basically candy. Some people like romance-free novels, and some people love nothing more than reading about imaginary word-people sticking their word-tongues in each other's word-mouths. To each her own, you know?
Another good post on the necessity of romance is this one from Christina over at A Reader of Fictions.
So what about you? Do you prefer romance in your books? Do you prefer books without it? Or do you pretty much not care either way?