YA Without Romance?


In my most recent review, I wrote a line saying, “What’s YA without romance these days?” And the more I thought about it, the more I realized almost every book I read of the YA genre involves romance. Whether it be the focus of the book or not, it’s there. Romances are great! I do love them, but I think it would be refreshing to read something without it for a change. There is such a plethora of romance in YA, that they all seem to be the same or similar. They get to be predictable. And then of course there is the dreaded (or loved, depending on who you ask) love triangle or instalove. So, I began to wonder, is romance actually becoming a staple of the YA genre? An element of YA, just like ghosts or werewolves are in paranormal? Magic to a fantasy?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say yes. The fact that I’m even asking that question shows that it’s at least the norm. Oh, you read that YA? Didn’t you just love the romance?! When a book is released that doesn’t have a bit of romance, we all take note. That must be because romance is becoming a norm in YA, right? But why?

I think we can all agree that some romances are amazing, and give us all the feels, etc. But then aren’t there those romances in books that we wish just weren’t there? There’s some where I feel like the romance made the book cheesey, or would have even been fine without one. So why do YA authors feel the need to add romance to what could already be an amazing book without one? I’m not going to lie, I love reading romances. I get giggly and smile to myself pretty much whenever something romantic happens (cheesey or not), I’ll admit. But then looking back on the book as a whole, I realize that I could live without it. Some of my non-bookish friends read books here and there for fun, but I find most of them stick to mainstream titles, and they always have a romanceIs romance really that big of a selling point for YA readers that authors feel the need to include it in their storyline? I have to wonder if my friends would pick up titles at all, knowing there wouldn’t be an inkling of romance. Am I the only one who has friends like this, or is this just me?

It’s definitely interesting to think about. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me — I’d love to hear them! But before I let you go, I (with a little help from my friends) compiled a list of YA titles without romances. This list is defining “romance” as any clear romantic relationship. Sexual tension, and some romantic feelings is OK for this list. Without those I don’t think we’d really find any book to put a list together! Now, a lot of these I haven’t read for myself, so don’t take my word for it. 

YA Without Romances

I’ve separated them out by genre for your convenience! As a plus: they’re also all pretty highly rated on Goodreads, so no bad romance-lacking YA’s here! Some of these I thought of for myself, but a lot are from the brains of the lovely people that responded to my tweet. Thanks so much to Stormy, Cait, Mel, Brett, Sarah, Rashika, Jennifer, and Maddie for helping me come up with a bunch of these titles through my discussion on Twitter!






Yeah, there’s not that many here… I’ve scoured the internet looking for more examples, but I haven’t had much luck finding many more than these. One thing that did come up in the Twitter discussion was that Middle Grade books more often than not are without a romance subplot. So if you’re okay with reading a book that’s a little bit more youthful to get away from some romance, check out Middle Grade books. But my thing is, I want all the action, and more mature writing that comes with YA lit. So this is my call to you authors: WRITE MORE YA WITHOUT ROMANCES! You’d be surprised how many of us would love that!

Of course if you’re reading this and thinking, “I can’t believe she left out [insert book title here]!!” I urge you to share your recs in the comments! And what do you think about romance in YA? Too much, just enough? 


P.S.: The amazing Cait over at Paper Fury has chimed in on the conversation and has even more books on her list of YA sans romance! 

27 thoughts on “YA Without Romance?

  1. I enjoy YA romance, if difference from the usual tropes; LGBT romance, for example, or perhaps an almost romance. A damaged romance, rather than the inevitable cute-sy, happily ever after one. The book that made me come to realise this was The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. I awaited the main plot, where Mara sees people’s deaths before they happen, but within 200 pages, it was all about the unbearable romance. I see that you enjoyed that – and that’s cool, if it floats you boat – but I also agree with what you’ve said about removing romance altogether. Some books could work without, and I think because the majority of the audience share this feeling, it wouldn’t be much of a loss.

    Great post!

    1. I’m also always looking for a romance to be anything but typical. I LOVE romance and really need to get to finishing the Mara Dyer series. But as I said, I think it would be awesome for more books to eliminate unneeded side-stories sometimes.

  2. Ya books have romances and I absolutely love it. But books without them can good too. I have always waited for the love interest to pop up so I can fangirl about the couple. But while reading the Maze Runner trilogy, I realized there is more to these characters than lovey doveyness. It gave me a chance you focus more on the plot and writing and now I a big fan of that series! Glad you did this post! 😀

  3. Romance, as a naturally occurring phenomenon is a wonderful thing to read. That’s where I get the feels; particularly from the slow burn friendship/platonic to something more. Not when it’s shoved down my throat for the sake of dramatization or whatnot. I’d argue that Knife and TMR have subtle romances though.

  4. I’m totally guilty of not reading a book because it has no romance in it. I know that there’s more to a book than the ships but I can’t help it. I think this is because a lot of YA is marketed towards teenage girls and knowing how fangirly over romance we are, authors will write it into their books. I definitely will try one of these books out. It’ll be a challenge but I’m sure it’ll be worth it!

  5. I think it really depends on the book and how the romance evolves into the story line. Sometimes it feels natural and I do like to have that shipping feeling. Sometimes, it just feels too much and unnecessarily. I don’t want romance to be there, just to be there. I want it to serve a purpose and to feel like the story NEEDS it. A focus on romance is something I really dislike, especially in books like fantasy. Just give me magic, awesome creatures and a spectacular world-building and I’m happy :p

  6. I feel like this is such a trend because it is at this young age in life that romance, new love etc. is the norm in real life. So authors see that as a thing they must include in their books because that is something that the reader will be able to relate to. Not saying I agree with it 100%, but I am also older than the targeted age and age of the characters. There are some romances I really enjoy like The Girl of Fire and Thorns. It was there but not overly heavy that it became annoying and it most definitely was not the main focus or guiding plot of the story. But authors really need to lead away from insta-love and love triangles. I just feel like in most cases they are not realistic or relevant to life, maybe insta-lust but that is a whole other category.

  7. This is so true! And even many of these have hints of romance – it’s almost impossible to find one without it. The only one I could think of is Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin, which has SOME elements of romance, but not much. I’m guessing that there will be more in the next book, though. Great discussion topic!

  8. Ahhh I LOVE this list. But omg, Emily, I totally forgot about you writing this post and randomly pulled a post out of my drafts about romance in YA. So it probably looks like I’m copying or stealing your thunder!! I AM SO SO SORRY!! *gives you cake* It was a complete oversight on my behalf. 😦
    But regardless, this is an amazing collection of books!! And reminds me of so many I want to read now. ;D And I do think romance in YA is here to stay….although I hope, maybe, publishers and authors will be more open to writing more where platonic love and friendships and family feature more heavily?! Because that would be amazing. *fingers crossed it happens*

  9. I love love love anything romantic, and unless there’s a really good reason, I won’t read a novel that doesn’t have romance in it (though by romance what I’m referring to is any vague attraction, kindness, sexual tension, etc). I have, however, encountered YA novels where the story would have been better without romance – this is rare, though. I don’t always like stories that are pure romance (like the Contemporary Romance genre) but I love when amazing stories have just the teeniest bit of romance in it. There are a lot of great thoughts in this post; it was really interesting to read!

  10. Hey Emily! I am so happy to have this topic addressed. I thought I was alone! And being a writer of YA Fantasy that has just a smidge of romance compared to the ‘magical awesome’ that I love so much, I thought I was doomed! Lol! Thanks for shinin’ the light! :):):)

  11. I hate when romance is shoved down my throat. The Naturals is the only story I’ve read where the love triangle doesn’t make want to scoop my eyes out with a spoon and feed to the author. I’ve been hurt too many times by promising books.

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