My problem with YA books

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?


9 thoughts on “My problem with YA books

  1. booksthefinalfrontier says:

    I have read several YA books with no romance, and I usually end up giving them very high ratings. I personally have no problem with the romance in this genre, but I would also like to see more books that don’t include it. I feel like some books use the romance to support the framework of the book, and many stories would not exist without it.


    • sestone519 says:

      I agree that romance often plays an important role in quite a few YA books, and I do enjoy reading the occasional love story. I wish that there were more options when it comes to books with female protagonists.

      Which books have you read that didn’t feature romance?


  2. sabrinawolfheart says:

    This is so true! A while ago, I wrote a post expressing my frustration with female leads in YA. Personally, I didn’t like Tris’s relationship in Divergent. Somehow, the plot completely got lost.

    I have never really thought about it that way, but it’s true! I have never read a YA book about a female protagonist that didn’t have a boyfriend lending her support.

    In my own novels, I try to give my female main characters no romantic subplot, even, because I feel the reader just classifies the novel based on its romance, especially YA with female leads. The fact doesn’t fit with my characters, and they wouldn’t just lose all their strength because of some guy. The one male character that does matter just offers quiet support and keeps my protagonist from becoming depressed, which is one of her main issues in the book.

    Great post, and I totally agree!

    Keep writing,



    • sestone519 says:

      The book that bothered the most was Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith. The romance doesn’t even come up until about halfway through the book, and I felt like it was tacked on to the end for the sake of having it in the story. That was really disappointing.

      Here’s to hoping that our novels help bring about a change in YA with female main characters. 🙂


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