Romance Stories I’ve Quit

This post is part of Top Ten Tuesday, although you’re going to notice, there’s only two things on the list. Maybe because I dislike these things enough for five each?

So, I like romances in my stories. Not all of them, but they’re nice, and when done right create a little warm spot in my chest. But sometimes they frustrate me. Here are those times.

Young Woman and Older Man

I’m not against this on principle. I know people who have married older men, and they’re wonderful together. And there are stories where I actually like this, like Emma. But in books that don’t do it well, I feel a little icky and uncomfortable about it. Often because there’s a weird thing with the power dynamics in the relationship, like the man is the teacher and the woman is the one developing feelings (lookin’ at you, The Paper Magician). Plus, I can’t think of a book (off the top of my head at least) where the reverse happens and a young dude in a lesser position must win the older lady (though I have a feeling that the dynamics would be different in that situation..). Maybe I’m being unfair, but knowing that’s part of the story is enough to put me off altogether.

My First Love, My Only Love

I say this as a woman who went out with one guy ever in college and then married him. I can’t stand it when the romance revolves around a girl who has gone out with one person ever in her life, and now they’re soul mates and want to spend the rest of eternity together (*cough* TWILIGHT *cough*). I think the issue I have with this is that it usually comes up in young adult novels, and how often does it really happen that you stay with the boyfriend you met in your Sophomore science class? (I know it does happen…but how often??) I prefer it even if she recently broke up with someone, or even, at the very least, had other crushes. But your first boyfriend ever?

Again, in some cases it does work out okay (Graceling) but often that’s because there are other circumstances, more of a point to the story than simply the romance. I do get very excited when young adult novels twist on this a little bit, where the main character thinks she wants to be with that one person forever, but then maybe she meets someone new. Because that’s actual life, even if it’s in a world with magic.

What do you think? Am I just being grumpy? And what kinds of stories have you sworn off? Let me know!

Teen Lit: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Recently I finished reading Graceling, a young adult fantasy novel by Kristin Cashore. The main character of Graceling is the Lady Katsa. Katsa has a special power – a Grace – though it’s not one that she takes much pride in. Her Grace is killing, and her uncle, King Randa, uses this power to strike fear in his enemies. She feels smothered by her uncle’s power over her, but Katsa still goes behind his back to create the Council, a group of people, slowly spreading through the seven kingdoms, that tries to right the wrongs committed by the various kings. It’s on one of these missions that Katsa meets Prince Po. The two work together to figure out why someone would kidnap his grandfather, uncovering a sinister plot that could affect everyone in the kingdoms.

A big problem I had with Graceling was the disproportionate way things were drawn out. Many parts of the book, which I would have pegged down as important, happened in a snap. The first meeting with the main villain turns into a run for their lives so quickly that I had to go back and reread the part two more times just to figure out what happens. Much later, he’s defeated almost as quickly, and then everything unfolds in a good way as the witnesses, previously covered in a mind fog, quickly come to the understanding that Katsa did the right thing. A bit too easy. Then there are other parts that are just dragged out. Katsa has quite a few inner thoughts, but these needlessly circle around – frustrating when I just want her to get back to the journey. And the end of the book is one of the longest I’ve seen, lasting chapters after our villain’s been dispatched. I can see how this might be needed; Graceling is the first of three books, and there is some set up to what I suspect is in at least one of those sequels. I only wonder if Cashore could have found a way to pare that part down.

There was plenty to love about Graceling, though. First of all, Katsa kicks all kinds of butt. Not only is she the most physically strong character in the story, but she also shows how a woman, even one who initially feels pressured into situations, can have and obtain quite a bit of autonomy. She’s a bit like this at the beginning, but especially by the end of the novel she proves that no one can tell her what to do or make her give up any part of who she is, even the person she loves more than anyone. Katsa is exceptionally dense when it comes to anything dealing with emotions, but it’s also refreshing to see a lead female character that isn’t overcome with emotions on a regular basis. And despite the problems with pacing, the writing is very well done, and aside from Katsa I found myself loving just about every character, like her love interest Po and the small-but-tough Princess Bitterblue.

Overall Graceling was a good read. It has many of the elements people look for in young adult fantasy literature – special powers, steamy romance, and a badass female character to boot. Still, my pacing problems put this book lower down on the list of suggested reading.

Reading List: Buddha, Graceling, Ouran

This is a new post I’m trying, where I’ll go over what books I plan to start and/or finish through the week.

First on the list is Buddha, the 8-volume fantastical biography of Siddhartha by Osamu Tezuka. I’ve read it before, but I want to re-tackle my favorite Tezuka manga for next weeks Manga Movable Feast, this time hosted by Kate Dacey on The Manga Critic. Of course, Buddha can get a little heavy (thematically and literally – these are pretty big books) so I might not make it through; probably should have started the reread earlier.

I also want to finish reading Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I originally picked this book up as a possible addition to my craft essay book list, but it’s not proving as useful in character development as I originally thought. Still, it’s an interesting book. I’ll give my full impression when I’ve finished.

Another book that I own but have been putting off is Ouran High School Host Club volume 17. I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet; I’ll get on that.

What books do you want to read this week?