YA Romance Novels: Do They Have a Place in the EFL Classroom?
I’ve only recently started enjoying romance novels. And while I’ve quickly come to appreciate the lovable characters and feel-good endings, I’ve realized not everyone is a fan. Romance novels often get a lot of flak for being “shallow” or not being good for anything but escapism. However, I want to argue that romance novels can greatly benefit young students and are a worthy addition to the EFL classroom.
Of course, reading for fun in and of itself makes a book worth reading. If reading wasn’t fun, teenagers would probably be the first to ditch the activity (as many have done and will continue to do). So I think one shouldn’t underestimate the value enjoyable characters and fun plots can bring to the reading experience! But, of course romance novels bring much more to the table than “fun”. They can address a myriad of important topics surrounding sexuality and emotional well-being. Discussing books like Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Alberta or Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda could help facilitate classroom conversations about sexual identity. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green could be a gateway to talking about emotions that often accompany love, like grief and heartbreak. I think the insight these novels give into interpersonal relationships and in what way the characters navigate their emotions and difficult situations should not be ignored, but instead discussed openly with students.
Furthermore, romance novels are rarely one-dimensional or limited to one genre. They open up the reader’s world to a variety of different themes and settings. As such, I am convinced that there is a perfect romance novel out there for every student! While lovers of dystopias could enjoy Delirium by Lauren Oliver or The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, others might like to go the more classic route and jump into the vast sea of classics. These novels can give insight into different historical contexts and act as a base layer with which to explore the literary periods. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde or Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin may act as examples of Victorian literature, whereas Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin paints a modernist picture of 1950s Paris.
I hereby rest my case in defense of romance novels! Do you have any favorite romance novels you think students would enjoy? We’d love for you to share your suggestions with us!