Rummanah Aasi
  When I met with my student book club last year, we discussed our reading pet peeves. The usual pet peeves that ails bloggers and readers such as the stupid-to-live main characters who don't take any time to actually think before they act, unnecessary series that could have been told much more sufficiently in one book instead of being drawn out in three, but the one pet peeve that stood out was the inclusion of romance.

The students didn't mind having a romance or a love interest in the book, but what annoyed them the most is how slowly the romance grew like ivy and took over the entire plot of the book. Inspired by their annoyance, I thought it would be fun to create a book list of books that either a) has a romance but it is not the books main plot or b) contains no romance at all. You know, books that the Grandson from Princess Bride would approve.

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She's been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the giant, genetically engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas's first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas's dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup and teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

Breakaway by Kat Spears

When Jason Marshall’s younger sister passes away, he knows he can count on his three best friends and soccer teammates—Mario, Jordie, and Chick—to be there for him. With a grief-crippled mother and a father who’s not in the picture, he needs them more than ever. But when Mario starts hanging out with a rough group of friends and Jordie finally lands the girl of his dreams, Jason is left to fend for himself while maintaining a strained relationship with troubled and quiet Chick.

Then Jason meets Raine, a girl he thinks is out of his league but who sees him for everything he wants to be, and he finds himself pulled between building a healthy and stable relationship with a girl he might be falling in love with, grieving for his sister, and trying to hold on to the friendships he has always relied on. 

Gateway by Sharon Shinn

 As a Chinese adoptee in St. Louis, teenage Daiyu often feels out of place. When an elderly Asian jewelry seller at a street fair shows her a black jade ring—and tells her that “black jade” translates to “Daiyu”—she buys it as a talisman of her heritage. But it’s more than that; it’s magic. It takes Daiyu through a gateway into a version of St. Louis much like 19th century China. Almost immediately she is recruited as a spy, which means hours of training in manners and niceties and sleight of hand. It also means stealing time to be with handsome Kalen, who is in on the plan. There’s only one problem. Once her task is done, she must go back to St. Louis and leave him behind forever.

Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace

 Wasp's job is simple. Hunt ghosts. And every year she has to fight to remain Archivist. Desperate and alone, she strikes a bargain with the ghost of a supersoldier. She will go with him on his underworld hunt for the long-long ghost of his partner and in exchange she will find out more about his pre-apocalyptic world than any Archivist before her. And there is much to know. After all, Archivists are marked from birth to do the holy work of a goddess. They're chosen. They're special. Or so they've been told for four hundred years.
  Archivist Wasp fears she is not the chosen one, that she won't survive the trip to the underworld, that the brutal life she has escaped might be better than where she is going. There is only one way to find out.

About a Boy by Nick Hornby

 Will Freeman may have discovered the key to dating success: If the simple fact that they were single mothers meant that gorgeous women—women who would not ordinarily look twice at Will—might not only be willing, but enthusiastic about dating him, then he was really onto something. Single mothers—bright, attractive, available women—thousands of them, were all over London. He just had to find them.
  SPAT: Single Parents—Alone Together. It was a brilliant plan. And Will wasn't going to let the fact that he didn't have a child himself hold him back. A fictional two-year-old named Ned wouldn't be the first thing he'd invented. And it seems to go quite well at first, until he meets an actual twelve-year-old named Marcus, who is more than Will bargained for

The Naked Mole Rat Letters by Mary Amato

When her father begins a long-distance romance with a Washington, D.C. zookeeper, twelve-year-old Frankie sends fabricated e-mail letters to the zookeeper in an attempt to end the relationship in this story about family, friendship, and growing up.

The Boy on Cinnamon Street by Phoebe Stone

7th grader Louise should be the captain of her school's gymnastics team - but she isn't. She's fun and cute and should have lots of friends - but she doesn't. And there's a dreamy boy who has a crush on her - but somehow they never connect. Louise has everything going for her - so what is it that's holding her back?


Jackaby by William Ritter

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary--including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police--with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane--deny.

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also one another's only friend. So when Cameron disappears without warning, Jennifer thinks she's lost the only person who will ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she's popular, happy, and dating, everything "Jennifer" couldn't be---but she still can't shake the memory of her long-lost friend.
When Cameron suddenly reappears, they are both confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Lily Bart, beautiful, witty, and sophisticated, is accepted by "old money" and courted by the growing tribe of nouveaux riches. But as she nears 30, her foothold becomes precarious; a poor girl with expensive tastes, she needs a husband to preserve her social standing and to maintain her life in the luxury she has come to expect. While many have sought her, something—fastidiousness or integrity—prevents her from making a "suitable" match.

Will and Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge

Wilhelmina “Will” Huckstep is a creative soul struggling to come to terms with a family tragedy. She crafts whimsical lamps, in part to deal with her fear of the dark. As she wraps up another summer in her mountain town, she longs for unplugged adventures with her fellow creative friends, Autumn, Noel, and Reese. Little does she know that she will get her wish in the form of an arts carnival and a blackout, courtesy of a hurricane named Whitney, which forces Will to face her fear of darkness.
Laura Lee Gulledge’s signature visual metaphors will be on full display in this all-new graphic novel, a moving look at shedding light on the dark corners of life.

 There are a lot more titles that fit this criteria, but these are the titles that stood out for me. Have you read any of these books? Do you think they fit? Let me know in the comments!
9 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Oh no!!! Romance as a pet peeve?! *heart breaks* I live for romance in books (though I can admit that when a love interest is there merely for the sake of having a love interest present and nothing really comes of it, I could do without it at all), so these probably aren't the ideal choice for me. BUT it's awesome for those who like romance to take a way, way backseat:)

  2. I get it. There are so many books I read where the romance feel thrown in and I could have done without it. Most recently Burning Midnight. Some of the books on the list actually surprised me. I thought for Sure About a Boy and the Boy on Cinammon Street would feature prominent romances.

  3. Oh there are some on there I've been wanting to read. I enjoy romance, but do not have to have it in a book.

    Btw, they may not mind it in a few years... LOL Yes, I watched Princess Bride too much. ;)

  4. Kindlemom Says:

    Oh thanks for this list! I love romance in books but there is a time and place for them all and unless it is a romance genre book, I do like my romances on the side so to speak. ;)

  5. I have read none of the books on your list. Gasp! I want to want to read Archivist Wasp and Jackaby, however, and for different reasons. I am curious about your book club with students. Do you have a post where you explain how you got it started and how you conduct meetings? I'd be interested in reading about it.

  6. Candace Says:

    The only one I've read on the list is Jackaby and there's definitely no romance there. I like a romance but I definitely don't like when it takes over everything. I like the romance to be definitely secondary to everything else.

  7. Sometimes it's really nice to read a book where there isn't a romance for a change so I'm going to check out some of these books on the list, Rummanah.

  8. Jackaby sounds very intriguing. Thanks for the choices of books - now I have a few more to add to my list.

    Majanka @ I Heart Reading.

  9. Christina T Says:

    I love romance but sometimes I think it is overused in YA fiction, especially in fantasy novels that probably don't need it. I have read Gateway which I liked. I haven't read Sweethearts but I do seem to remember another Sara Zarr novel that didn't have much romance--How to Save a Life. I read A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis last fall and it doesn't have a romance either. Another one I'd suggest is Eon by Alison Goodman.

    I am intrigued by some of the books on your list that I haven't read yet like Jackaby and Breakaway. Breakaway sounds like a good friendship novel.

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