I kind of want to talk about romance today. I just read Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren, and problematic elements aside, I want to talk about romanticizing relationships that the characters have to work extremely hard to overcome trials and be together. This is obviously just my perspective, so take it with a grain of salt. This is also according to my perception of relationships and what I think they should be.
One thing I really liked about Josh and Hazel was it wasn’t a standard romance formula (and I’m not dissing the standard romance formula because I love it—I’m getting to all of it, so just a minute). Standard Romance Formula to me is person A and person B meet, they overcome stuff to be together, they get together, then there’s another conflict, then after that, there’s the happily ever after. I like this format because when done well it creates a lot of tension and feelings that I love.
But the risk of having two main conflicts in a book is that the second one can feel diminished or rushed if it’s created too close to the ending (which most romance secondary plots are). Spoilers for Josh and Hazel but most of the book is them dating other people and then the main conflict in the book is the two is trying to decide whether or not they should admit they have romantic feelings towards each other. When this happens, there are about 50 pages of the couple having to process that Hazel is pregnant. But it’s not like one is saying yes and the other is saying no, so they’re still basically together.
Anyway, I really liked this refreshing change. Maybe it’s just because my husband and I kind of “fell” together, and maybe it’s because my husband and I despise conflict, but sometimes I just like to see people come together and stay that way. Maybe that’s why my favorite part of romance novels is when they get together and everything is peachy-keen. That all aside, I understand the need for conflict in a book, but in romance books, sometimes I just would like less of it; especially if the two characters have already had to fight to get together.
There’s this quote from Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon that says, “You’re not living if you’re not regretting” and I don’t know, I guess I just kind of go like ??? at that? On the one hand, I totally get the sentiment; that if you don’t take risks, no matter what the consequence, are you living a full life. But at the same time I’m like… “But it’s kind of in the same vein of ‘Oh those simple country folk who just want to get married and then build a white picket fence and then have kids and then die’” It just seems like there’s something wrong with wanting a relationship you fall into like and it’s easy and simple—like there’s something wrong with, “I fell in love with you the way I fall asleep, slowly then all at once,” —The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Anyway, just food for thought, but sometimes I don’t necessarily need a ton of conflict in my books, whether it’s romance or sci-fi or fantasy. It might be one of the reasons I like The Night Circus so much, which arguably is one of the books with the lowest level of conflict. So it was more just a passing thought I had after finishing Josh and Hazel than anything else. If you know of any books like this definitely let me know!