Saturday, March 27, 2010

Romance Novels are Seriously Complicated

Among the many things I didn't learn in graduate school, the intricacies of genre fiction is one I regret the least, because I enjoy teaching myself. (Perhaps there were classes on this, and I didn't take them because I was busy taking Multicultural Literature for Children and Teens. But I don't recall classes on selecting adult fiction.)

Anyway, we don't really collect romance novels at my library. But we've been branching into the genres lately (mostly urban fiction), so I was thinking maybe we should consider a romance novel collection--particularly because some of our English language learners ask for them. Well, and also, because I learned a lot of technical stuff about sex by reading them in my own public library as a teen. See how I just related that to YA services? Which is my actual job?

When haters talk about romance novels, they say the same thing haters say about rap: it all sounds the same. Haters think it's hilarious that there are very specific guidelines for writing romance novels; haters also think this means they're all the same. I kind of thought this too, until I read a blog post about werewolf sex.

Now I think that, as with sonnets, the form of romance novels gives way to endless variety: contemporary, regency, paranormal, inspirational, romantic suspense. The story lines touch on issues of race, power, gender, sex--so there are lots of opportunities to go all English class on these books. Which makes reviews of romance novels one of my favorite things to read (although I only occasionally read the books themselves). Nowhere are there savvier reviewers than on romance blogs. I think maligned genres attract smart people. Seriously.

All of this is a long introduction to the fact that the Romance Writers of America has announced the RITA finalists. And I am not qualified to dissect the lists. But I point them out, because I think if we're going to start collecting romance novels, these lists are a good place to start. And further, I can point you to people who are qualified: Smart Bitches, Dear Author, and Book Smugglers have all commented on the RITA finalists and the RWA.

And I'll be reading the books in the YA category, although it seems like Perfect Chemistry is the clear favorite.

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