By: Ella Marrufo
Sometime between the rise of BookTok and Colleen Hoover’s surge in popularity, cheesy, cliché romance novels started to take over the fiction genre. It’s impossible not to notice them, really; it seems like these books are everywhere: stocking bookshelves to the brim, filling stands in airports, and occupying the hands of readers in coffee shops. Personally, I’m unable to hop on the romance novel bandwagon since it seems like every other book is just a grade above fanfiction. In general, most of the current romance genre is terrible and is replacing genuine, quality literature.
My first complaint above all others is that most current romance novels are awfully written. The plots of these books are often wildly unbelievable and the characters feel disconnected from reality, but beyond that, the quality of prose, tone, and verbage is on par with how I wrote in elementary school. These novels also tend to reuse the same overly generic, cookie cutter storylines that don’t tend to require a lot of thought or creativity from the author. Instead, they repurpose the same content until it’s been run into the ground. Additionally, romance authors who cater to a Gen Z audience love to try and use slang and colloquial language to relate to their young audience. If anything, this comes off as forced, unnatural, and unlike something people would say in everyday conversation. (And, to be honest, it’s just seriously cringe-worthy.)
Not only are romance novels badly written, but they also have no substance to them. These books are short, simple, and cliché, and for a reason — it’s the easiest formula for authors to follow so that they can mass produce books for the quickest paycheck. This is how you end up with your typical “airplane read” — something that can be digested in a couple hours and forgotten about in around the same amount of time.
The problem with this mass production of books is that literature used to be associated with intelligence, academia, and passion, but I’m afraid that this is no longer true. People no longer prioritize these traits when choosing an author to read, and authors no longer prioritize them while writing. Whereas readers formerly praised creativity and ingenuity, it seems as though they are now content with settling for less, perpetuating a vicious cycle in which authors can get away with producing mediocre works.
I’m all for people enjoying whatever they want; if someone likes reading cheesy romance novels, so be it. What I don’t appreciate is how the romance genre is usurping the fiction genre entirely, as evidenced by the New York Times’ best sellers list, which is predominantly romance-oriented. Especially in the “E-Book Fiction” and “Paperback Trade Fiction” categories, it’s fairly difficult to find something not related to romance. I used to look to the New York Times’ lists to find the most riveting, profound, and original books on the market. Now, they are oversaturated with one-night stands, forbidden love, and jealous ex-husbands.
(Sources: NY Times)