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Life, Law & Libros

Discussion: Where Did the Friendships Go?

14 comments
Elizabeth Bennet: For a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Mrs. Bennet: Yes, he must indeed! And who better than one of our five girls?


I went to my library's book sale the other day. (Yes, again, but it was $1 for a whole bag!) The place was starting to look picked over, but even so, there were TONS of romances, especially paperbacks. Naturally, I couldn't help but think of Mrs. Bennet. Which led to other thoughts...

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The romance genre is still a booming business. Even outside the genre, romantic plot lines and subplots seem to be everywhere- in movies, TV, music, other books and, especially, YA. I get that people are relational by nature, but some days it feels like the world has picked up the Mrs. Bennet mindset. That is, a single man must be in want of a wife; and a single woman must be in want of a husband. (In some cases, a single person, male or female, must be in want of a person (or alien).) And the procuring of that spouse (or alien) is the most important thing.

Tabitha had a great guest post from author Karina Sumner-Smith on Not Yet Read talking about women's friendships in science fiction and fantasy, or the lack thereof. And really, what happened to stories about friendships and familial relationships? We read lots of them as kids, but as soon as you enter the pre-teen/YA range, the vast majority of those stories turn to some form of romance, often as the key or most fulfilling relationship in the story. (Which makes no sense. Most high school relationships barely last a month.)

We're real people, right? And regardless of whether we're single, engaged or married, I imagine most of us have strong support structures in the form of family and/or friends. Why is this not reflected in fiction? I read mostly YA; that could be part of the problem. In the couple of older sci-fi/fantasy titles I read this year, there's been more focus on friendships. And I remember mystery books at least having less romance.

Still, I wonder if the glut of romance isn't indicative of more. What keeps people coming back to read it again and again? Are we in love with fairy tale-esque happily ever afters? Is romantic love considered the most fulfilling? Or is it just the best kind of fantasy to indulge in? Thoughts? :)

14 comments :

  1. I'm not really sure why romantic relationships are the most written-about types of relationships, other than a) they tend to be the most common transformative relationship, and b) who doesn't like a good love story? (I'm still a sucker for them.) That said, they are not the only kind. Friendships, familial relationships, even human-animal relationships can catalyze change in a character. And I don't know if I specifically choose to read stories with romantic relationships, but rather choose stories that have an interesting premise and just so happen to include a love story. It's an interesting question, though.

    Of course, now I feel slightly guilty, since the novel I'm working on features a romantic relationship. *lol* But friendships and family also play key roles in the story, so I guess it explores all different kinds of relationships and how the protagonist values and learns from all of them. I read Karina's post on Not Yet Read a while back, and it got me thinking about different kinds of relationships I could write about in future stories.

    Btw, Karina's book Radiant is very good. Probably one of my favorite books of the year. You might want to check it out, not only for the primary relationship but for the fantastic world-building. (It's an urban / dystopian fantasy with science fiction and horror elements.) Neil Gaiman's The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is also a great example of a friendship-led story (though it's adult fantasy with a child protagonist, not so much YA).

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    1. I blame Disney. Conditioning us to seek out love stories at a young age through and then quietly reaping the monetary rewards as we spend money on the same for the rest of our lives sounds like just the kind of evil conspiracy they would conceive, but no one would believe. ;)

      Haha, no need to feel guilty! I'm like you. I pick up stories that sound interesting, and sometimes (often) they happen to include love stories.

      Thanks for the recommendations! :)

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  2. Okay, so I like me a cute romance. I just finished 'Isla and the Happily Ever After' and it was so high-school-awkward adorable. But of course I went into the book expecting that. So while I love a good romance every once in awhile, does EVERY book have to include a romance?? The answer should be NO

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    1. Haha, "should" being the key word. ;) I like a cute romance every now and then, too, but it's like sugar. Everything in moderation.

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  3. I think people like indulging in it yes. And yes I do think it's because of missy of what you are reading is YA that is such a huge focus of YA books. Three YA I read this year that didn't focus on romance:

    Mistwalker by Saundra Mitchell
    A Creature of Moonlight
    Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

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    1. Yeah, I'm slowly trying to expand my reading beyond YA into the sci-fi/fantasy genre in general. The horrible thing is, between YA, movies, Hallmark, etc., I half expect a romance to pop up- EVERYWHERE. Not that I don't enjoy some romances, but I feel so paranoid. ^^;

      Thanks for the recommendations! I think I have Mistwalker on my shelf, and I think I spied Earth Girl at the library recently. :)

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  4. To be honest I love romance even as a subplot and I prefer to read books with soem kind of romance in them. It makes me happy and I love a well done romance. Although I also completely agree with you that friendships and family are important too and they seem to be missing sometiems from books. I like that in MG books, there is more focus on being friends and saving the world together. I also have read quite some books were the main character has at least one good friend. Sometimes it would be nice to see more focus on friends and families.

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    1. I know there are tons of readers out there who are the same, Lola- they love the romance. But yes, we could definitely use more emphasis on friends/family. :)

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  5. I love romance, but friendship should always be a major part of the story! I also like romances that start of as friendships, but the FRIENDSHIP aspect should also be important.

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    1. That's a good point, Samantha! Romances that develop out of good friendships seem to be more engaging (and realistic). And friendships are such a big part of our lives period. :)

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  6. I think I read somewhere (no idea where) that YA books have such a focus on romance because most people first experience that kind of relationship as a teenager, and of course those feelings are more overwhelming/noticeable than your good-old stable friendships. It's a theory. May or may not be correct. But given I read mostly adult SFF and there seems to be noticeably less romance there, I'm cool with that explanation.

    Also, totally seconding Tabitha's reccing of Earth Girl though. YA sci-fi with only minimal romance.

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    1. Sounds like good sense to me. Thanks for the seconded recommendation! :D

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  7. I absolutely love a well-done romance subplot, and I think it tends to be dominant because our whole culture is really obsessed with the idea of love. But there are plenty of good stories to tell that don't focus on romance, and yes, it would be nice to see more of those, I agree!

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    1. That sounds like an accurate observation; our culture is pretty obsessed with "love." I'll just have to broaden my reading and track down those good friendship/family stories. Thanks for stopping by! :)

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