Monday, June 24, 2013

Where are the Kickbutt Girls Without the Romance?

My library was chosen last year to be one of YALSA's Galley Groups, which means our teens get to read and review advanced copies of books to include in YALSA's Teens Top Ten.

One of my galley group teens came into the library last week to pick out a new book to read. As she was browsing the shelves of ARCs, she asked me "where are all the kickbutt girls in YA without the romance? Every YA book has to have a romance plotline! Why can't the girls just be awesome?" She then picked up an advanced copy, read the cover copy, and sighed "See? This one would have been so good before it got to 'and then she meets boy' here."

Her comments got me thinking-where are the awesome girls without romance? Now, I love a good romantic plot, but I also love when it doesn't overshadow the characters and the story. I got to thinking about some of my favorite kickbutt awesome girls, and they all have a romantic story to them.

Alina (Shadow and Bone)-another awesome girl, but with romance in the story

Bitterblue (Bitterblue)-she's a pretty awesome character who stands up to her advisers, but she also has a romantic interest in one of the characters as a side plot

Ismae (Grave Mercy)-she's an assassin nun, but that doesn't stop her from falling in love

Katniss (The Hunger Games)-she's caught in a love triangle

Katsa (Graceling) -she has a relationship with Po, and while I don't think it overshadows her awesomeness, it's still a big part of the story

Wally (Dark Eyes)-Her romance may not end well, but it's still part of the story

Those are just some of my recent favorites that I immediately thought of when she started asking about awesome girls in YA. The more I thought about it, the more I had trouble thinking of some really awesome kickbutt girls with no romance featured. The only recent book I  could think of was Code Name Verity:


That led me to think about Elizabeth Wein's list of Top Ten Dynamic Duos in Fiction , which as she pointed out on Twitter, was sadly lacking in girls.

So where are our the kickbutt awesome girls? They don't need to have romance in the story to make it work, so why do we keep including romance in their stories?

Can you help me think of any other awesome girls without the romance?




17 comments:

  1. Beka Cooper? at least in the first book, the romantic interest is just hinted at.

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    1. Beka Cooper is a good one to get started with!

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  2. I do enjoy a good romantic subplot, but I feel like there should be more books in YA that aren't so romance heavy. The ones I can think of off the top of my head all feature male narrators/main characters. Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger had a very light romantic subplot but that's as close as I can think of to non-romantic in the books I've read in the last year. I'd love to see what other books people suggest!

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    1. Me too Molly-I kept thinking about male narrators and no girls! And I loved E&E and it does fit the bill pretty well. Her comment got me thinking about how much we infuse our books with romance, which I love, but it can be annoying at times.

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  3. Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith-of course this is historical just like Code Name Verity

    Incarceron-I don't remember there being a romance between Claudia and Finn even in the sequel, Sapphique, though I might be wrong about that.

    It is almost like the publishing industry is sending a message to female readers that you can be a "kickbutt girl" but you also have to have a love interest to help you too. Either that or they think that people won't pick up the book unless there is a romance also.

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    1. Historical fiction was what I was thinking of too, which I think is interesting that historical tends to not have romance where contemporary tends to have romance in it.

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  4. Flavia De Luce! Now, it isn't really written for the MG or YA crowd. But, every girl from fifth through eighth graders that I've handed it too has loved it. Flavia De Luce is smart, sassy and loves science. Try The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley.

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  5. What about Jessica Valenti's Fairyland books?

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  6. Did Imaginary Girls include romance? I have yet to read that one, but I mostly hear about its fantastic sister relationship. Other than that, it is a really sad part that in young adult fiction, the books without romance are very rare.

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    1. Oh, and I've linked to this post in my round-up of book news, so hopefully you'll get some more responses. The ones you've already gotten already interest me, especially since I haven't heard of most of them! TBR pile, here I come...

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    2. Imaginary Girls did have some romance in it, but you're right, it's a great sister story. And thanks for the round up inclusion! I would love to see more suggestions too!

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  7. Katya's World by Jonathan L Howard - YA SF set on the distant planet of Russalka, which is predominantly water, so that the inhabitants have to live and travel mainly on submarines. Katya is the titular heroine, and there is not one iota of romance. Not a single drop :-)

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  8. I don't think Desert Angel had romance and she was a kickbutt girl if there ever was one. Just can't remember the heroine's name! Must be a senior moment.

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  9. I don't think Desert Angel had romance and she was a kickbutt girl if there ever was one. Just can't remember the heroine's name! Must be a senior moment.

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  10. I feel like Digger in Elizabeth C Bunce's Starcrossed is pretty kickbutt with little to no romance (it's been a few years since I read this so I can't quite remember how much romance there might be.)

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  12. The Bone Grit Historeum by Kamilla Reid. Not only is the MC amazingly kickbutt, her two besties are dudes! There's a bit of romance later in the series but minor compared to the magical awesomeness

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