Why I Love YA Rom Coms
Being the guy who wrote Horror Film Poems, most people would think my go-to genre for books and movies would be horror. They’d be right, but a close second would be young adult romantic comedies—hell, rom coms in general—but YA especially. I guess I just really like seeing young people get killed or fall in love, or if it’s a dramedy—both.
In all seriousness, I love YA rom coms because I enjoy the high emotional stakes, and nothing feels more existential than teenagers falling in love for the first time. The good ones, whether books or movies (almost all the movies are based on a book), have a flawed protagonist that must overcome that flaw and/or become an authentic person. It follows a structure, or, for you a cynics—a formula. To succeed, a good young adult rom com needs a fresh take on this formula, and most importantly, memorable characters.
It’s the characters that give the formulaic plot new life. A memorable and engaging protagonist makes a familiar story stand out from the rest. The editor in me enjoys watching how the character discovers themselves worthy of love, though many YA rom coms involve the characters pretending to be someone they are not. Almost always, the characters have to learn to love themselves before they can receive romantic love, and that is actually pretty deep. Self-acceptance leading to self-love leading to finding love outside oneself.
These stories are a hybrid of Shakespeare plays and pop songs. That’s why they are so popular. A truly unique voice makes for a catchy verse and a heartwarming chorus. Some YA rom coms hit the notes better than others, and if you read a good one you end up wanting to read a ton more. With Netflix you can binge out hard. Seriously, check out Sex Education, and also get used to seeing this young hunk in half of the films.
I’ve drawn from my own love of the genre and will soon complete the final draft of my own YA rom com, A Bouquet of Clumsy of Words. Yes, that is a Blink 182 lyric. I’ve had to really grow into this book and read and watch a ton in the genre. I thought back on my own angsty teenage years and the appropriate voice for the project revealed itself.
A lot of people look down on YA rom coms, but if you’re all alone and put on a John Cusack or Molly Ringwald classic, or something newer like 10 Things I Hate About You or Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, or one of the new-new ones like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Sierra Burgess is a Loser, The Perfect Date, or even The Kissing Booth (it’s hard to admit I liked that one, but I did), you will be entertained and uplifted. You will also witness the subtle art of hitting the right romantic beats while making a story feel like it’s the first of its kind.
These books and films are my favorites because they are all about growth, self-acceptance, and how gratifying and important love and friendship are. Honestly, I get more motivation from YA rom coms than any self-help book I've read. All these plots lead not only to love but to self-actualization. The Perfect Date and Sierra Burgess is a Loser are about outsiders who need to accept themselves. There is trickery, like Shakespearean plot twists, to gain love or fool others into being loved and accepted, but it is only when to thine own self these characters are true that they can be loved and accepted.
There is an art to satisfying genre expectations while still making someone feel like what they are experiencing is somehow totally new. Romance in general is the genre that does this the best, and YA rom coms give it that extra supercharge of teenage emotion. Humor plus love adds up to great cathartic entertainment. With craft and a great character, I’ll find any YA rom com worth my time.
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