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24 June 2013


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Yeah, I pretty much can't think of any, which is bothersome. I don't remember but Lyra/His Dark Materials? I can't remember if that eventually had romantic leanings.
I've been reading a fantasy series in which the main character is purposely shying ways from any romantic encounters/interests. It's been interesting, but I'm sure it's building to an eventual one. However 6 books in and basically nothing overt so far.


I almost listed The Golden Compass, because there's definitely no romance in that one -- I can't remember if the Lyra/Will stuff starts in The Subtle Knife or in the last book -- but then I didn't because it's almost twenty years old.


Although I probably should have just listed it, since I added the Protector of the Small series, and it pubbed from 1999-2002. So.

Anyway, yes. GOOD CALL, YOU.


Oh My God! It is NOT almost twenty years old! AUUUGHHHHH!


My in-house tween-YA-reader-who-is-not-interested-in-romance suggested The Friday Society (there is romance, but that's very much not the emphasis) and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland.


@marjorie: Nice picks! I still haven't read The Girl Who... an MUST get on that.

Kate Y.

Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small series was my first thought, too. There are touches of romance for some of the secondary characters, none involving Kel.

most of the romance-free action-y reads I can think of are A) middle grade, or B) about male protagonists, or C) not at all recent.

Same here. Sometimes there's no overt romance in the first bk in a series, but it almost always comes in later.


It really depends on what she means by "without the romance." Books where the romance plays a very small part -> listing books is a little hard, but doable. Books where there is no romance of any sort -> I can't think of a single one (but part of the problem may be that I've always liked my YA to include at least a little romance).

Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small series - has romance, but I think she chooses work over marriage?

His Dark Material trilogy - I don't think there's any romance until the last book, but it's there.

I think Anne McCaffrey's Harper Hall books fall into the category of "very little romance," and Menolly being able to survive the things that happen to her in the first book should qualify her as "kick-butt."

It's sad that I can't think of any recently published YA that works. Maybe I'm just not reading enough?


@Kate: Yeah, two of the ones I listed above as romance-free will MOST DEFINITELY feature romance in future installments. (I mean, unless the authors decide to scrap a whole lot of foreshadowing in that direction...)

@LG: The Harper Hall books are a good call! I didn't think of them. But, yeah, as for recent stuff, it's REALLY HARD. And no, I don't think it has ANYTHING to do with you not reading enough. :)


Plain Kate has absolutely no romance. It does have an amazing talking cat named Taggle.


There is romance in the later books of Protector of the Small series -- Kel hooks up with one of her knight friends and they have to break up cuz he has to marry for $ to save his family home. Very sad. The first book of Patricia Wrede's Frontier Magic (and maybe the second) have no romance, though there are hints, and then the last book totally blows it with a quick marriage to make it happily ever after. Even though the romance was sweet, it just wasn't really mentioned throughout MOST of the three books, then BOOM! Marriage.
Flora Segunda, the first book of Ysabeau S. Wilce's trilogy has no romance, but some develops later in the book, though it's a very small part of the story. Mostly hinted, very little action.
How very irritating it is to see that nearly ALL kick-ass girl books have romance, because it's not that romance in and of itself is bad or worthless or not to be desired, but to see it included in nearly *all* books with female protagonists is so very disheartening, reinforcing that idea that a life without romance is a life not well lived. Grrr.


Squire has all the stuff with Cleon. I don't think Cold Fury by T.M. Goeglein has a romantic storyline, but there are love interests. I think The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher doesn't have a romantic plotline, but I can't remember. I also think there wasn't a romance in Sketchy by Olivia Samms. There's not one in Escape Theory by Margareax Foley, but the girl detective is mostly motivated by her crush on the dead boy. Losers in Space by John Barnes has an ex-boyfriend but no romance.

(And yet every other book with a male protag that I looked at had no romance.)

Diana Peterfreund

Tiffany Trent's newest, THE UNNATURALISTS, has no romance. It was, sadly, ravaged in the consumer reviews for this reason, as apparently a YA novel with no romance it Highly Unacceptable. Great book.

Speaking as an author, I know my latest two books have had much more romance than the first two, but you might not know i from looking at hte cover copy, This may be a good chance for your reader to learn not to judge a book by the cover.


Interestingly, my editor once told me, "ANYBODY can do romance. I need you to do something else."

So, "something else" it is. Except, just once, I'm going to write something goopy, too...

This is a good question to put out there; I'd say there's a LOT of stuff w/o romance in it, but it doesn't get a lot of press...because sex still sells.


Eon: Dragoneye Reborn doesn't have a romance but I haven't read the sequel and I feel like it was set up for future romance.
Half World doesn't have a romance. Right?
I've read the first two books of the fantasy trilogy The Shifter by Janice Hardy. There's a "cute boy" type but the character spends most of her time surviving, learning magic, and trying to save her sister. Pretty sure there's no romance...
OH! Lirael and Abhorsen??? What about those?
And the trilogy by Catherine Fisher starting with The Oracle Betrayed. It's not super actiony, but the heroine is strong and interesting.


Oh, how about Garth Nix's Abhorsen books? It's been long enough since I last read them that I can't remember if they have any romance, but, if there was romance, it certainly didn't stick in my head nearly as much as the bell magic, Disreputable Dog, and library.

Brooke Shirts

Re: the Abhorsen novels: there's a big romance in Sabriel, but not so much in the sequels. There's quite a bit of romance/confusion/sexual tension between everybody in the sequel to Eon: Dragoneye Reborn. But second vote for Catherine Fisher's Oracle trilogy? Who said it isn't super actiony?? Maybe the first one, but the 2nd and 3rd are hella actiony.


The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde has no romance, while still feeling distinctly teen IMHO.

There was a bit of laying of the groundwork for potential future romance, but book 2 isn't out in the US yet, so haven't had a chance to find out.


Orleans by Sherri L. Smith - Fen and Will are awesome but there is no romance, nor any hint of romance. It's so refreshing.

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst - I think there was a romance between two of the secondary characters but not for Liyana, the main character, at least not that I remember.

The Thief's Covenant and False Covenant by Ari Marmell - there is a hint that someone is in love with Widdershins, but she is oblivious to it and has to much to focus on to even think about romance. Not sure if any romance will be developed in later books.

Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis - awesome story of friendship and sisters.

Cat Girl's Day Off by Kimberly Pauley - High schooler Natalie Ng has always kept secret her talent for talking with cats, but when she learns--from a cat--that a celebrity has been replaced by an imposter, she and her friends investigate by becoming movie extras.

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone - not sure if this is considered YA but it could be. Awesome kic-kass heroine who is to busy trying to figure out who killed a god and bringing him back to life.

The Montmaray Journals trilogy by Michelle Cooper - not traditional kick-ass heroines, and any romance in the books is definitely back story.

The Murder of Bindy MacKenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty - if kick-ass can mean the smartest kid in class. The whole Ashbury/Brookfield quartet is more about friendship that love story; however, the other three do have some sort of romance in them.

Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small series does have Kel in a romance in the 3rd book but that fizzles and the series ends with her single - a deliberate choice by Tamora Pierce.

His Dark Materials series - there is a romance between Lyra and Will in the 3rd book.


Elizabeth Bunce's Star Crossed comes to mind--there are romances involving supporting characters, but no love interest for the heroine (though there is one in the sequel).

R.J. Anderson

Catherine Fisher doesn't do romance in any significant way in any of her books (sometimes to my frustration), and I think Claudia in INCARCERON is a plenty strong-willed and dynamic heroine.

And at the risk of horn-tooting, the heroine of my latest SF novel QUICKSILVER (Carolrhoda Lab, March 2013) is both kickbutt and unapologetically asexual.


The Tiffany Aching series (a sub-series of Discworld) by Terry Pratchett. The Wee Free Men has no romance whatsover but one of the finest heroines in YA literature. In the subsequent novels, a very subtle romance might be coming up (I'm currently on book 3) but is never really that important. Either way, these books have lots of witches who don't want or need romance in their lives to be awesome.

Thank you to Deb for metioning one of the most underrated book series I can think of. Ysabeau S. Wilce's Flora Segunda books are wonderfully quirky and highly original. The most important boys in Flora's life are her best friend Udo, her father, and a handful of ghosts. Sure, she does develop a crush later on but, again, the STORY is never about just a romance. Flora really has bigger things to deal with. :)

The Diamond in the Window

I know, I KNOW. As mother of a 14-year-old who sneers at romance (and doesn't yet realize how extra vulnerable to it this will make her), I asked the same question on my own blog. The comments are truly helpful here: http://www.thediamondinthewindow.com/the-diamond-in-the-window/2012/01/a-question-on-the-nature-of-ya-and-fantasy-and-romance.html


Terry Pratchett's "Nation"
How about The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean? She doesn't start out strong, but gets there.
And definitely the Harper Hall books (until Dragondrums, though the romance plot there is about one scene's worth).


This has been a great post to follow. I'd forgotten about Tiffany Aching. How could I have forgotten Tiffany!? If there *must* be romance (and it's not that I don't like romance -- I LOVE me some swoon), Tamora Pierce, Ysabeau Wilce, Malinda Lo (AND and HUNTRESS are SO RAD!), Terry Pratchett -- they do romance right -- as a part of the protag's life, not the WHOLE of the protag's life. And I will fangirl Flora til the day I die.


Thanks a million for this Leila! I can't wait to pass these onto my teen reader! :)

From my original conversation with her, she was looking for books that featured strong female main characters (which she called kickbutt) and seemed to be OK with a bit of romance, but really hated when a strong girl was then all tied up in a love triangle, ala Katniss. I saw her the other day and told her about how she inspired a blog post. She said, "yeah, Katniss can be annoying because the romance aspect impedes her decisions."

It's sad that most of what I could think of had pretty awesome characters but still romance as a main plot point or had male main characters.


Sammy Keyes! Ok, sometimes she's shelved in kidlit, but she is 13-14, and definitely feels like a real 13-14 year old (as opposed to a lot of MG characters who are supposed to be 13, just to grab as many older-kid readers as possible, but don't really feel like they could possibly be more than 12 if that.) There is a teeny romance later in the series but it doesn't start for like, 7 or 8 books.


Oops. I think I left an open italics in my last comment above.

Seraphina: a novel by Rachel Hartman - In a world where dragons and humans coexist in an uneasy truce and dragons can assume human form, Seraphina, whose mother died giving birth to her, grapples with her own identity amid magical secrets and royal scandals, while she struggles to accept and develop her extraordinary musical talents.

In addition to Nation and the Tiffany Aching books rightly recommended by others, any of the following Discworld books by Terry Pratchett, while not considered YA I know a number of teens who love his books:

A)The Witch Books: Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies, Maskerade, and Carpe Jugulum.

B)Susan Sto Helit Books: Ms. Susan is DEATH's granddaughter and as such has inherited some of his abilities. She's an awesome character who reluctantly helps DEATH in human matters in which he can't interfere. She has appeared in three of the Discworld books: Soul Music, Hogfather, and Thief of Time.

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