Is that title redundant? Or is it just right? Whatever, I like it.
ANYWAY, I thought I’d take this time to talk about what’s so awesome about love stories, no matter what genre, age level, or kind of relationship the characters have! I mean, it’s a month of romance and I don’t really know that I’ve talked about all that in one single place. Most of my posts have elements I love in them, but it hasn’t been compiled.
It’s Part of the Human Experience
We all want to be loved. And love comes in many shapes and forms. Family, friends, romantic relationships, pets, etc. (Yes, I did throw pets onto that list. Pets are awesome and feel love too.) It makes sense that we’d be so drawn to a book about an experience that we’ve all had or want to have.
When I was a young teenager reading stories with a love angle, I was reading it to try to figure out what love felt like, what it looked like, and when it wasn’t right. It was a teaching moment. Sure, every love is different and every person feels it differently, but I think there are broad things you can learn from everyone’s individual story. It helped to see that love could be amazing–but it could also be painful. I felt more prepared for every possibility I might encounter.
As an adult, reading YA or reading romance is all about experiencing those feelings again. The excitement of a first love. The sorrow of heartbreak, followed by the hope of a new love. It doesn’t matter where you are in your love story, someone else out there is feeling it too. And it helps when your heart is breaking to feel less alone that way.
There’s a quote I really like that is attributed to Carl Jung that says, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” I feel like this sums up love on the page and off the page. It’s just a lot easier to talk about when it’s characters and plot.
I’ve always been a sucker for amazing character development. I love seeing a character start as one thing (a rake, a jerk, a naive debutante, a normal teenager, a basket case, a jock, whatever) and transform into something else by the end. When people are trying to impress someone else, they change. When people are trying to feel worthy or be better for someone, they change. When they experience new things with someone, they change. There are so many different reasons people change, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. Either way, it makes for a great story.
And it happens in real life too. We pick up the habits, speech, and mannerisms of people we’re around all the time. I have habits I developed almost a decade ago dating one guy in college. Or my family has specific words we use that aren’t…conventional. (It’s a “cheese toastie,” not a “grilled cheese.” Ever.) We all have those little things we pick up from people we admire and spend time with, so it makes sense that our favorite characters would do the same as they fall in love.
Love Is Only Part of the Story
Behind every good love story, there’s an even better plot. Look, I’m all for romance, but I’ll be the first to tell you that if love is all there is in the story, it’s not going to be enough. There needs to be a bigger motivation or drive for the characters besides just finding someone to love. Love may not be entirely accidental, but neither is it the main goal of the characters.
Let’s take Regency romances for instance. Even when the novels are ostensibly about debutantes finding a good husband to settle down with, the stories are also about so much more, especially in books written in the last 5-10 years. These women have goals to travel the world, experience what men experience in their very sexist society, start a career, protect their families or friends, etc. There is more that they desire than marriage. It makes them more well-rounded characters and it also introduces new–and better–themes to the stories.
The same can be said about YA. Earlier this month, we focused on Sarah Dessen. Her stories are well known for having a love story, but neither is it the entire plot. The Rest of the Story deals with class issues. Lock and Key deals with broken families. What Happened to Goodbye deals with identity. So they have bigger themes, issues the characters are working through as they fall for someone else.
Honestly, as I write this, I’m thinking this is great advice for my own life.
What I like about love stories is that it’s very rare for me not to feel something. Happy, excited, heartbroken, angry, and everything in between. When I get connected to characters, I feel for them. If I’m having a particularly bad week and want to feel happy or I feel like I need a good cry, I can turn to romances for comfort.
Emotions are the crux of romance, in any shape or form. Or, frankly, any story worth its salt. It’s why we have characters we love and hate. It’s why we feel chills when we read a particularly moving scene, or why we know we need to have a box of tissues handy when reading books by certain authors. (*cough* Gayle Forman *cough*) And it’s why we keep coming back to stories over and over again. Y’all cannot tell me you didn’t feel anything as you read literally any of the ACOTAR books. They are popular for a reason.
I love stories that I have deep, visceral reactions to, no matter how many times I reread them. I know I will still be surprised by the characters in Mortal Heart, no matter how many times I read it. I will still hate Dolores Umbridge with everything I have every time I see her name. I will still ugly cry every time I read Dragonfly in Amber. Emotions are part of that human experience I talked about earlier, and I find it really cathartic sometimes just to experience the emotions that maybe I haven’t let myself feel lately.
So what are some reasons you love love stories? I’d love to hear! We’re going to be wrapping up Romance Month here very soon, so let’s go out with a bang!