I’ve read a lot of Young Adult books since January, and I have become pretty frustrated with the genre of late. This certainly doesn’t mean that plan on abandoning the genre, not by a long-shot. And I’m also certainly going to be browsing YA bookshelves at bookstores for the rest of my life.
But I’ve noticed that really bothers me. In books with female main characters, she always have a love interest. Even tough, kick-butt young women becomes putty in the hands of a man. Reliant and sometimes dependent on him. Think Alice in Alice in Zombieland, Rose in Vampire Academy, and Tris in Divergent.
I’m not saying that these are necessarily bad relationships. They’re pretty healthy in quite a few cases. Tris’s relationship in Divergent has received a lot of positive press. And the extremely popular The Fault in Our Stars has relationship between Hazel and Gus that brought tears to a lot of eyes.
My frustration comes from the fact that I’ve yet to read a book where the female main character doesn’t have a romantic relationship during the book. No dates, no boyfriends or girlfriends, no romance. I’ve seen it happen in books with male main characters, like in The Crowfield Curse and Petey. Or otherwise the romance is a minor subplot. But I’ve yet to see it in a book with a female lead.
While relationships can allow a person–male or female–to grow, they aren’t a necessity. The idea that they are encourages young women to settle for situations that aren’t healthy. And sometimes she isn’t ready for that kind of commitment. She has other priorities, like her career or discovering herself. Or maybe she has no interest in a relationship. All of that is okay.
I wish YA literature reflected that sentiment. It’s okay not to be in a relationship. It doesn’t make someone less of a person. They can be strong and confident with the ability to kick butt while single.
There’s a bit of advice that encourages writers to write stories that they want to read, and this seems like the perfect opportunity to do just that. I could write a YA story with a strong female protagonist who doesn’t have any sort of romantic relationship. She stays single the whole book. I am, actually.
I’m already incorporating this into my current novel, and I have at least one more in mind. But in the meantime, since those certainly won’t be published anytime soon, I’m going to be keeping an eye on bookshelves.
Have you read any books where the female main character doesn’t have a romantic relationship? Or do you face a similar frustration?