On Sunday I finished reading a novel where romance was a main theme. The beginning was a bit rushed, but the ending was more realistic than many Young Adult (YA) novels out there, relationship-wise. With this in mind, and with many books read, I thought it’d be a good idea to blog some book recommendations. (Because who doesn’t love adding to their to-be-read pile?)
This is a list of five books with realistic relationships.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The focus of this novel is a tragic car accident, upon which our protagonist, Mia, must decide whether to fight for her life in hospital or die. We see Mia’s internal struggle between wanting to live, but not knowing how to live without her family, who were all killed in the accident.
But we’re not here to talk about this difficult decision, we’re here to talk about Mia and Adam’s relationship.
In a lot of novels, particularly YA, the romance kicks off because two characters can talk easily for hours, have no problem transitioning into a couple, and know what the other is thinking. This results in unrealistic expectations, people.
What I appreciate about Mia and Adam is the awkwardness that surrounds the beginning of their relationship. They like each other and go on dates, but it takes a while for them to be comfortable around each other.
Coming from different worlds (Mia, cello, and Adam, rock band), liking each other isn’t enough to stay together. They almost break up in the process of learning how to work together, and with what pulled them together, rather than working against each other based on all the things that make them incompatible.
I think sometimes, with relationships in novels, it can look ‘unromantic’ when the couple have to put in effort. The reader wants an unrealistic dose of miscommunication rather than a continual journey of learning how to effectively communicate in a relationship. The reader wants one heated argument rather than a couple continually trying to learn where the other is coming from.
Adam and Mia grow together and show what it’s like to love someone and keep choosing that someone, even when it isn’t easy.
My rating: 4/5 stars
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
For those who don’t know, this is one my favourite books. Every single sentence is relatable and hits my heart in a way other books don’t. I laugh and I cry throughout this novel; Melina Marchetta has such talent in capturing the human response to life.
Also in capturing the relationship between 17 year old Francesca and 18 year old Will.
This pair start off by not liking each other, throwing sarcastic comments back and forth and trying to be smarter than the other. This organically transitions to a relationship, but a confusing one as they’re both navigating tricky circumstances with family, school, and Will’s future.
I find their love for each other to be very pure and simple despite the complications that surround them. What stands out to me is Will’s decision to leave town for a year rather than waiting for Francesca to finish school; it shows the struggle in decisions we have to make in life.
My rating: 5/5 stars
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I don’t even know where to begin with this, there are so many aspects that create this masterpiece.
To start off, it’s timeless. Despite the social formalities and manners that are much more reserved than we’re used to in this society, the human observations remain true to us today. The pride and prejudice of our protagonists, Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, are reactions that people still have.
I like that this novel shows what it takes for two people to find their balance; the reader knows Elizabeth and Darcy are perfect for each other, but they have to learn that for themselves, getting past the judgements they’ve placed on each other and acting selflessly out of love rather than pride. There are so many obstacles for this pair to overcome before they’ve grown enough as individuals to work together.
Elizabeth is such a strong character on her own, that for her to choose Mr Darcy shows just how much she loves him, and vice versa. Why? Because they don’t need each other, are not dependent on one another. To me, it is much more romantic (and healthy) that these two choose each other, every day, rather than marrying out of need or obligation. They’re together because they genuinely love and know what it is to hate. This makes the ending so much more satisfying and well-deserved.
My rating: 5/5 stars
First & Then by Emma Mills
I reviewed this book here, but now we’re going to delve into the romance.
Our protagonist, Devon, starts the story with a secret crush on her male best friend, Cas. And then we meet Ezra. We follow Devon and Ezra’s slow growth from barely tolerating each other to falling in love.
Ezra doesn’t know how to talk smoothly, which causes some awkward but perfect attempts at showing his affection. As they started off not liking each other, watching them trying to figure out how to be nice was an absolute delight.
The development of both characters individually is what stands out to me. As they don’t become official until the end of the novel, there is plenty of time for Devon and Ezra to see their own faults and become better people while they are single. Devon doesn’t begin accepting her circumstances because Ezra tells her to; it happens naturally as the story progresses. Ezra doesn’t stop pushing people away because Devon forces herself in; it happens as he slowly learns to trust numerous people.
They both prove themselves with their character development rather than with who they are as a couple. We don’t like Ezra because Devon likes him; we like him because he stands up for what’s right, roots for the underdog, and learns to be vulnerable. The same goes for Devon; she stops having pity-parties and begins to genuinely care about those around her.
This relationship shows what it is to affirm yourself rather than placing your worth and value on what someone else thinks of you.
My rating: 5/5 stars
Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty
This novel is different from the get-go, told completely through letters and notes left on the fridge. We learn the life of Elizabeth as she communicates with family and friends. This story is humorous, captivating, and full of heart.
One day Elizabeth receives a note from a secret admirer. As the story continues, we slowly discover who said admirer is through different notes from different people. He starts off shy, not wanting her to know who he is, but when he reveals his identity we’re all happy; he turns out to be kind and understanding and perfect for the protagonist.
My rating: 5/5 stars
I suppose now is the time to address some additional thoughts…
I’m aware that when we read, it isn’t necessarily to read something realistic; it’s to enter a world different to our own. We readers like a world where love is instant and easy and forever – in making this list, I am not excluding myself from this.
But I do think we need to be careful in what we read; we don’t want to place unrealistic expectations on our real relationships.
(And you know, I’d take my real relationship – one that takes time and effort – over a fictional one any day.)