Romances are huge. They make up the largest share of the US consumer market year after year and are the top-performing category on best-seller lists (source: RWA). If you work with readers of fiction at all, you need to know romance.
The Romance Writers of America (RWA) define a romance novel as a book with "a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending." Kimberly would perhaps define it a little more broadly, without the requirement for that particular ending, but it's certainly true that most romance novels do fit that description. Romances see a lot of crossover with other genres, and readers can be very particular about what subgenre they read. (Kimberly, personally, tends to read mainly historical or speculative fiction romances, and tends to eschew contemporary and inspirational romances.)
What separates a romance novel from a novel with a romantic element or subplot (which are legion) is that the romance novel has the romance as its main focus. Its protagonist may be involved in solving a mystery or battling aliens, but it's clear that the romance is what the author wants the reader to care most about. Everything else is subplot. With this definition, it becomes clear that not "every" young adult book is a romance, as is so often proclaimed. (Note: This is a restriction placed by Kimberly and she realizes not everyone will agree with it. Many of the RITA winners - see below - are not books she'd consider romances.)
The RWA is a gold mine of information on the genre, including a list of subgenres, information on authors, and of course, the RITA award, an annual award given to a number of books in different categories each year. Since 1983, with a few gaps, this has included a young adult award. Uniquely, they also give out an award for the best unpublished romance manuscript, also including a young adult title, called the Golden Heart. (You may have seen many books with "2003 Golden Heart winner!" or something similar emblazoned on the covers.)
For more information on the romance genre, take a look at the resources below:
- Smart Bitches, Trashy Books is probably the best-known place on the web for reviews and discussions of the romance genre. They discuss both adult and young adult titles and post guest interviews with YA authors.
- Dear Author is a "romance review blog for readers by readers" that also regularly reviews young adult titles. Most of their reviews are styled as letters to the authors of the books.
- Dear Author and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books run the DABWAHA tournament each year, where readers vote NCAA bracket-style on their favorite romances of the year. This includes a few young adult titles.
- Young Adult Romance Writers features YA romance reviews front and center (scroll down to the "Recent Book Reviews" section near the bottom for a quick sample).
- Harlequin is well-known for publishing romances, and they have a couple of teen imprints: Harlequin Teen and Kimani TRU (specifically geared to African-American readers). Some books are more romance-heavy than others.
We are particularly interested in hearing about books that feature diversity in their characters, as well as more LGBTQ romances -- stories which are less about the experience of being queer and more about having a relationship.
The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford: It is 1982 and nineteen-year-old Laura Reid is spending a semester in Leningrad studying Russian, but when she meets Alyosha she discovers the dissident Russia--a world of wild parties, underground books and music, love, and constant danger.
Taste Test by Kelly Fiore: While attending a New Hampshire culinary academy, North Carolina high schooler Nora suspects someone of sabotaging the academy's televised cooking competition.
The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle: As high school graduation nears, Wren Gray is surprised to connect with gentle Charlie Parker, a boy with a troubled past who has loved her for years, while she considers displeasing her parents for the first time and changing the plans for her future.
Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill: During an educational trip to London away from her friends and the boy she thinks she is fated to love, Massachussets high school junior Julia Lichtenstein is paired with her nemesis, Jason, and begins seeing many things differently.
The Distance Between Us by Kasie West: Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers knows better thant to trust a rich boy. But then she meets the richest guy of all, who proves money might not matter after all.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan: A chorus of men who died of AIDS observes and yearns to help a cross-section of today's gay teens who navigate new love, long-term relationships, coming out, self-acceptance, and more in a society that has changed in many ways.
Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney: Seventeen-year-old Julien falls in love with the muse, Clio, as he tries to save her and the Musée D'Orsay's collection of Impressionist art after learning the paintings are reacting to a curse set by Renoir that trapped Clio in his painting.
Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone: In 1995 Evanston, Illinois, sixteen-year-old Anna's perfectly normal life is turned upside-down when she meets Bennett, whose ability to travel through space and time creates complications for them both.
The One That I Want by Jennifer Echols: Gemma can't believe her luck when the star football player starts flirting with her. Max is totally swoon-worthy, and even gets her quirky sense of humor. So when he asks out her so-called best friend Addison, Gemma's heartbroken. Then Addison pressures Gemma to join the date with one of Max's friends. But the more time they all spend together, the harder Gemma falls for Max. She can't help thinking that Max likes her back--it's just too bad he's already dating Addison. How can Gemma get the guy she wants without going after her best friend's boyfriend? **Echols is a great author to have on hand for your contemporary romance fans -- the bulk of her books contain romance in them.
Everafter by Elizabeth Chandler (part of the "Kissed by an Angel" series, which I believe can be read as stand alones): Star-crossed lovers Ivy and Tristan struggle to clear Tristan's name when he is returned to Earth in the body of an accused murderer, a situation complicated by Tristan's endangering his own soul.
Die for Me by Amy Plum (series): After their parents are killed in a car accident, sixteen-year-old Kate Mercier and her older sister Georgia, each grieving in her own way, move to Paris to live with their grandparents and Kate finds herself powerfully drawn to the handsome but elusive Vincent who seems to harbor a mysterious and dangerous secret.
The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler: Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. But as Jude begins to fall for Emilio Vargas, she begins to wonder if her sisters were wrong.
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry: Rendered a subject of gossip after a traumatic night that left her with terrible scars on her arms, Echo is dumped by her boyfriend and bonds with bad-boy Noah, whose tough attitude hides an understanding nature and difficult secrets.
Stay with Me by Paul Griffin: Fifteen-year-olds Mack, a high school drop-out but a genius with dogs, and Céce, who hopes to use her intelligence to avoid a life like her mother's, meet and fall in love at the restaurant where they both work, but when Mack lands in prison he pushes Céce away and only a one-eared pit-bull can keep them together.
Between You & Me by Marisa Calin: Phyre, sixteen, narrates her life as if it were a film, capturing her crush on Mia, a student teacher of theater and film studies, as well as her fast friendship with a classmate referred to only as "you."
37 Things I Love (In No Particular Order) by Kekla Magoon: Fifteen-year-old Ellis recalls her favorite things as her mother's desire to turn off the machines that have kept Ellis's father alive for two years fill the last four days of her sophomore year with major changes in herself and her relationships.
Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz: Struggling with the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and sniper shootings throughout the Washington, D.C. area, Craig and Lio consider a romantic relationship that is complicated by Craig's ex-boyfriend, Lio's broken family, and the death of Lio's brother.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: Fifteen-year-old Ari Mendoza is an angry loner with a brother in prison, but when he meets Dante and they become friends, Ari starts to ask questions about himself, his parents, and his family that he has never asked before.
Requiem by Lauren Oliver: While Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous Wilds, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland. **This is a series that is just as easily a romance as it is a dystopia.
The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen: During her last summer at home before leaving for college, Emaline begins a whirlwind romance with Theo, an assistant documentary filmmaker who is in town to make a movie.
Fifteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton: Fifteen-year-old Chelsea and her family are spending the summer at a cottage on the shore of Lake Michigan where Chelsea meets and falls for Josh--the cute and shy employee at the new bookstore in town.
Ready to look ahead at romances -- or books with romance as a big theme of the story -- coming in the next few months? Here's a few due out soon:
Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles (October): Told from two viewpoints, Derek Fitzpatrick, kicked out of boarding school, must move with his stepmother to her childhood home in Illinois, where he meets Ashtyn Parker, who may be able to achieve her dream of a football scholarship with bad boy Derek's help.
Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts (September): With an asteroid set to strike Earth in just one week, three teens on an island off the Atlantic Coast wrestle with love, friendship, family, and regret as they decide how to live their final days.
Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (September): Abducted at age five, Callie, now seventeen, has spent her life on the run but when her mother is finally arrested and she is returned to her father in small-town Florida, Callie must find a way to leave her past behind, become part of a family again, and learn that love is more than just a possibility.
How to Love by Kate Cotugno (October): Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he’s never seemed to notice that Reena even exists…until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind. After: Almost three years have passed, and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena’s gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she’s finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn’t want anything to do with him, though she’d be lying if she said Sawyer’s being back wasn’t stirring something in her. After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?
Just One Year by Gayle Forman (October): After spending an amazing day and night with a nameless girl in Paris, Willem embarks on his own transformative journey to find her once again. **Of course, Just One Day is a romance as well. I didn't include it above since I wanted to include the companion down here.
He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander (November): When a popular football 'playa' and ladies man and the smartest girl in school lead a school protest, sparks fly as their social media-aided revolution grows.
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (November): Two star-crossed lovers must fight for survival when they crash land on a seemingly uninhabited planet.
One or Two Things I Learned About Love by Dyan Sheldon (November): Hildy D'Angelo is seventeen and this is the summer she falls in love for the first time. She isn't what you'd call experienced when it comes to boys, but Connor is good looking, smart, charming and sweet. When Connor uses the L word, Hildy, already half in love with the idea of falling in love, releases her hold on the Earth.
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (May): From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.
Rock and a Hard Place by Angie Stanton (September, originally self-published): Left in small-town Wisconsin with a controlling aunt after her mother's death, Libby is very unhappy until she meets Peter and sparks fly, but when she learns that he is a rock star with his own family problems, her life changes forever.
Snapshot by Angie Stanton (September, originally self-published): Marti, the reluctant rock princess, and Adam, the undercover guitar wizard, fall for each other, but are in danger of falling apart when tragedy strikes.