Why there’s no such thing as a modern teenage romance novel
August 17, 2012
By: Hannah Epstein
‘Into what modern genre would you place ‘Pride and Prejudice?’’
Now, we were all thinking the same thing, as the genre is quite obvious. However, no one seemed to want to say it.
So after many moments of a rather uncomfortable silence, someone finally broke the tension and said, ‘Why miss, it’s a Rom-Com obviously.’
The definition of a Romantic Comedy is something with ‘light-hearted, humorous plotlines, centred on romantic ideals such as a true love able to surmount most obstacles.’ Anyone who has read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ will agree that that is quite an accurate description of the main plotline of the book.
So why was it so hard to admit?
Well the answer is clear. Over the years, romantic fiction, especially that of a teenage variety, has been deemed as insubstantial reading that will definitely not get you through an English course at university. Whilst the latter maybe true, in my opinion it is thoroughly unjust to condemn a work of teenage romance as plain rubbish. With this in mind, I set myself the task of writing a purely frivolous story, in which I could live out, or at least write out, my own teenage romance fantasies.
However, halfway through writing this tale, I realised something rather strange. I had, in fact, quite subconsciously, set my story within a very similar period as that of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, or indeed any other novel set around and in the Regency Era. Well, I thought, that certainly was not what I had set out to do. I had thought to write a teenage romance story that would be completely relevant and accessible to today’s youth. That, ladies and gentlemen, is when I realised the truth: that there is no such thing as a modern teenage romance.
I can already hear the outcry from angry teenagers shouting at me, ‘But what about Harry Potter, and Twilight etc etc’. Well, in answer to that, firstly Harry Potter, and I’m sure Ms Rowling would agree with me, is in no way a romantic comedy. Yes, it has some romance in it, but the relationship between the characters is not what the series is hinged on. By a Modern Teenage Romance, I mean a book in which the main story line is the development of a romantic relationship between two teenagers. The Twilight series on the other hand, is harder to condemn. What I want you to understand is that it is not the completely unrealistic element that I am opposed to (and you cannot get more unrealistic then a vampire falling in love with a human, who then also has her best friend/werewolf fall in love with her as well, whom then ends up with her daughter!). No I love escapism, it’s what I read, and it’s eventually what I want to publish. However, what I am objecting to is that, in all the books that are classified as romance novels for teenagers, there isn’t any romance in them, or at least not romance how I understand it. To be fair, Stephanie Meyer almost got it right. That gorgeous and romantic montage at the end of New Moon, where Edward, thinking that Bella is dead, tries to commit suicide and Bella travels halfway around the world just to stop him and they profess their undying love for each other? Well that is Romance, albeit incredible sappy romance but I’ll take what I can get. However, as lovely as that is, it is then ruined when, even though the one thing that Edward wants from Bella is marriage, the one thing she wants above all else from Edward…is SEX!
Stephanie Meyer would argue that she was simply creating Bella as a character who reflected the desires of modern day teenage girls, and that is exactly my point. There is no such thing as a modern day teenage romance novel, because there is no such thing as a modern day teenage romance.
Everything in today’s youth culture is about sex and lust and that overwhelmingly immediate physical attraction you feel towards another person. Today, it is considered a compliment if a guy goes up to a girl and says, ‘I want to sleep with you.’ If the girl is flattered by that blunt and rather crude approach, then all attempts at romance might as well go out the window. Because unfortunately, the first thought that is going to go through a teenage boys mind when he sees a girl that he finds physically attractive is going to be, ‘Blimey, I wouldn’t mind getting with that’, (I’m generalising I know…but not by much). And there you have the beginning of a typical teenage relationship, based on physicality and lust, with no ounce of romance what so ever. Where in this day and age are you going to find a teenage boy who would send you a bouquet of red roses, signed anonymously, ‘from your secret admirer’? Where is the boy who will take you to a nice restaurant, not McDonalds, and hold out the chair for you as you sit down? Where are those stolen glances from across crowded rooms, the secret blushes meant only for each other, or the excitement of sneaking away to do nothing more daring then take a walk round the park and talk to each other whilst holding hands?
Where is the romance?
Well the romance has been pushed aside in favour of a more animalistic and primitive pass time that is sexuality.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I found myself setting my romance novel in a bygone era. That is why the underlying concept of the majority of relationships in fiction is sex and lust.
To put it in the most simplistic terms I can think of: that is why it is impossible to write a Modern Teenage Romance Novel.