Does YA hate f/f romance?

I guess you could consider this a sort of controversial topic but this has been on my mind for a couple years. So, here’s my question: Does YA hate f/f romance? I personally feel this is the case, especially when it comes to readers, or, straight female readers. This can be seen in multiple ways, from fanfic, fanart, and what people in places like Tumblr seem to favour. And in a way, what many authors seem to favour. I’ll be covering things from how m/m romances are excessively favoured, side queer relationships, lack of shipping non-canon f/f romances, and two specific representations of queer women by straight women I had massive issues with. I am only going to be discussing modern YA representation, so classic lesbian books like Annie on My Mind will be excluded from this discussion. This also is a discussion on when queer relationships are included, so I will not be discussing absence of queer characters all together.

So, I’m going to start with how popularity and ratings compare between m/m romances and f/f romances. What I consider to be the most well known m/m romance in YA is Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire SáenzOn Goodreads, as of 12th of June 2017, it has been rated by 114,576 people, with an average rating of 4.34. That is obviously a lot, especially with the large amount of people who have read it. What I personally consider to be the most well known f/f book in YA is Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour.  It was released in 2014 and is the first lesbian book I ever saw hyped on booktube, and as LaCour had published two popular non-queer YA books previously, her name was already out there, making it difficult for the book to be swept under the rug. Especially since at the time, YA books with queer women as the protagonist were scarce. In that time it has received 17,652 ratings on Goodreads with an average of 3.89. This book released a mere few weeks after Aristotle and Dante and despite being by an author who already had two well loved books out, it has received significantly less praise. (Edit: I made an error, Aristotle and Dante was published in 2012, I hadn’t realised I’d been looking at the wrong edition) But Everything Leads to You is an exception in even being talked about on booktube or having over 10k readers on Goodreads. LaCour’s book We Are Okay, a recent release, currently has 5,101 ratings and an average of 4.0. This was another book that was heavily promoted by Penguin. While this is a good amount, most f/f books don’t receive this treatment. Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst had been included in one of Owl Carte’s boxes, which is arguably the most popular YA subscription box. Even then? 4,000 people have rated it and it has a 3.66 average rating.

While at face value these might at times seem better, how does this compare to the m/m romances that are popular? I’ll be using probably the most well known m/m romances, especially ones that have a large following. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller has a total of 55,012 ratings on Goodreads and an average of 4.27, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli has a total of 52,807 ratings and an average of 4.26, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell has a total of 81,505 ratings and an average of 4.19, and I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson has a total of 144,336 ratings and an average of 4.14. The difference is clear. Again, Everything Leads to You can be considered the most popular in the general book community, but it doesn’t have an average rating above 4, and Of Fire and Stars may have been read by man people but it received quite a harsh rating compared to the m/m romances. I want to disclaim m/m romances are not to problem, but it is very obvious they are favoured which is a huge problem. 

So this leads to side relationships in larger series. Lets start with the obvious: The Mortal Instruments. This series includes a m/m romance between Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood, and these two are extremely popular. Later in the series, an f/f couple is introduced which is between Aline Penhallow and Helen Blackthorn. I can’t go too specifically into how these two are treated but there are problems until the most recent book released, Lord of Shadows. Why I understand that what happened wasn’t because of their relationship, it was still a disappointing as it’s a massive series and it’s difficult to find big series with f/f romances. Of course, there are other series with side queer romances. There’s Will and Nico from the Percy Jackson series, which everyone in the fandom fell in love with when they flirted at the end of The Blood of Olympus and later made canon in The Hidden Oracle. There’s more relationships in other series where there’s multiple POV’s, even when there’s a clear main character. This includes Adam and Ronan from The Raven Cycle, Alucard and Rhy from Shades of Magic (although it’s important to note Rhy is bi and that element is own voices as Schwab is too), and Wylan and Jesper from Six of Crows. How does this compare to f/f side relationships in series? The Cahill Witch Chronicles features an f/f relationship between the main character’s sister, Maura and a woman named Elena. However, it’s not happy and I have multiple problems with it, as much as I do love this series. While this isn’t a major series, it’s one of the few that includes an f/f romance. The Gemma Doyle series, which I haven’t personally read but I have heard about the rep, doesn’t reveal two female character to be in a relationship until the end of the series, as well as being treated like a plot twist. From what I’ve read, the only good f/f representation I can think of was between Tamar and Nadia in the Shadow and Bone trilogy, when they were revealed to be in a relationship in Ruin and Rising. It wasn’t treated as a plot twist, they were just shown to be in a relationship like any other characters. So, overall, only one of the three times I’ve seen it, I can say had good representation. While I enjoyed all the couples, the treatment isn’t he best, especially with the large amount of m/m representation in comparison.

While that is just series, I would like to speak about the absolutely horrendous representation of lesbians in Fan Art by Sarah Tregay. A massive issue in this book overall was fetishising gay men. That’s the entire book. The author wrote these lesbians as one dimensional fetishisers. This book has a lot of problems, such as treating being outed to your entire school as something cute and a lesbian character literally drew two guys she barely knew in a sexual situation. There’s also a point where the lesbian character says “everyone loves gay guys” which is the pinnacle of fetishising. Also, oddly enough never once do they talk about gay girls, not even doing art about it. Which makes absolutely no sense. As a lesbian, I will always take f/f romances over m/m. I love both but surprise surprise lesbian like f/f relationships. They were literally no different from the straight women doing the exact same thing. But you can’t make your gay women too gay apparently. And that’s not to say lesbians don’t enjoy m/m romances, it’s just that we don’t treat them like they exist for our own entertainment.

Okay, that rant aside I want to address Mor from the A Court of Thrones and Roses series. Again, I haven’t read the books but I did read up on her and here is my understanding (because her sexuality was really poorly written); she prefers women but she enjoys sex with both men and women. But, we’re meant to believe she’s a lesbian, but she fears if she sleeps with a specific guy she will fall in love with him. But saying she prefers women makes it sound like she’s a lesbian. But because she says she enjoys sex with men, it also makes it seem like she’s bisexual. However, enjoyment =/= attraction, and as far as I’ve heard, she simply states only enjoying the sex. So we’re meant to believe she is a lesbian, as I doubt SJM is aware of the split attraction model, that would make her bisexual and homoromantic. This almost feels like we’re being told that despite not being attracted to men, lesbians can still enjoy sex with men. Which hey, guess what, is shitty as hell. What infuriates me is aside from being poorly written, she also doesn’t have a relationship in the end and the one relationship she did have with a woman ended tragically. This is one of the biggest series and the opportunity to include a queer romance wasn’t used.

Lastly, I want to address fandom and how they too play a role. When it comes to fanart you can find a large amount of art for Magnus/Alec, Ronan/Adam, Wylan/Jesper, Ari/Dante, Will/Nico, etc.. However, there’s definitely a struggle finding any for Tamar/Nadia or Aline/Helen and for what there is, the amount is minuscule, even without comparison. Another element to consider is fanfiction, which is probably the number one source of fan content. I’m going to include some non-canon pairings in a fandom as use of comparison, and I will include Harry Potter, despite it not being YA, as this definitely has a large amount of fanfiction and nowhere near enough love for f/f. I am also only using m/m and f/f ships because I would rather focus on how m/m relationships are favoured by the community.

I will start with some Harry Potter pairings, and while, yes these are non-canon it does show a certain favour for m/m pairings.

All my results are from AO3

  • Draco/Harry: 23,696
  • Remus/Sirius: 10,179
  • Scorpius/Albus: 1,727
  • Ron/Harry: 1,610
  • Dean/Seamus: 847
  • Luna/Ginny: 643
  • Oliver/Marcus: 311

In my personal experience, Luna and Ginny are the most popular f/f ship. And while I do really like Dean/Seamus, it’s telling there’s 200 more fanfiction of them despite being minor characters. While Draco/Harry and Remus/Sirius are easily two of the most popular, it’s telling how there’s a certain favour for them. And the numbers for f/f pairings continue to be significantly smaller, which is surprising as the Harry Potter fandom is so big.

I’ll follow up with some more f/f pairings as comparison.

  • Ginny/Hermione: 390
  • Hermione/Pansy: 331
  • Hermione/Luna: 239
  • Pansy/Ginny: 193
  • Lavender/Parvati: 159
  • Luna/Pansy: 75
  • Fleur/Tonks: 46
  • Katie/Alicia: 34
  • Hannah/Susan: 31

There’s obviously a striking difference. Most of the m/m once listed all break 1,000, and Dean/Seamus are close to, but multiple don’t even break 100, while the rest are mostly 100-300 more. Scaling that to how much m/m romances get, even minor characters, shows a stark difference. And Pansy/Hermione and Parvati/Lavender aren’t even necessarily unpopular, I definitely see them much more on Tumblr than Ron/Harry. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen them. But even then, there’s almost 1000 more fics of them than Luna/Ginny who are by far the most popular f/f ship.

Next, The Shadowhunter Chronicles. Some of this may be inaccurate as people who have only seen the show put their fanfics in the book’s category and I want to focus on book fans, this is the best I have to go off of and the results to show something.

  • Magnus/Alec: 4,168
  • Simon/Raphael: 487 can you leave my aroace son alone
  • Clary/Isabelle: 220
  • Simon/Jace: 210
  • Will/Jem: 191
  • Alec/Jace: 170
  • Helen/Aline: 96
  • Keran/Mark: 74
  • Kit/Ty: 63
  • Robert/Michael: 28

Well, if these result show you anything it’s that people really like Magnus and Alec, with Simon and Raphael coming in second in regards to queer relationships. While there is a good amount of Clary/Isabelle, the results could be inaccurate due to show fans. And what could have an affect on there being less that involve Simon and Jace is that their canon relationships are well loved among readers. But the favour for the canon m/m relationship is clear, likely because of the show fans, but there seems to be little care for Aline/Helen.

So I guess we should follow with the infamously straight series. Throne Of Glass

  • Chaol/Dorian: 18
  • Celaena/Manon: 1
  • Celaena/Nehemia: 0

I feel like these results speak for themselves. Many fans of this series do favour the straight couples, but the fact that Chaol/Dorian have 18 while there’s only one Celaena/Manon and none for Celaena/Nehemia speaks volumes.

Next series I’ll cover are the Grisha verse books.

  • Wylan/Jesper: 141
  • Inej/Nina: 31
  • Kaz/Jesper: 15
  • Alina/Zoya: 8
  • Tamar/Nadia: 3
  • Alina/Tamar: 1

This is definitely a mixed bag. The canon m/m wins significantly over the canon f/f. As far as non canon, Inej/Nina do have significantly more but Kaz/Jesper has more than both ships with Alina.

Lastly, the Percy Jackson series which I’ll look at as a whole.

  • Nico/Will: 3207
  • Nico/Percy:2038
  • Nico/Jason: 919
  • Jason/Percy: 666
  • Nico/Leo: 401
  • Piper/Annabeth: 289
  • Reyna/Annabeth: 194
  • Piper/Reyna: 112
  • Piper/Hazel: 35
  • Rachel/Annabeth: 20

So yeah, I would say this is the most disappointing of the results. Like actually, I’m pretty upset at this clear preference of shipping m/m pairings before f/f romances. Obviously the canon Nico/Will has the most. It then quickly dwindles to show that there is so much more m/m shipping in the Percy Jackson fandom, barely any shipping the girls together. On the AO3 tag none of the f/f ships had shown up on the drop down menu, the miscellaneous tag ‘minor background relationships’ came last instead.

So, to conclude. There is definitely a certain favour for m/m romances over f/f in the YA community but it is getting better. As far as I know there’s still no popular f/f YA book with more than 50,00 ratings on Goodreads but there are newer releases getting attention. Of course, I can’t force anyone to read f/f but there is a certain sense where mostly wlw read and write f/f books, and m/m romances are read by most people who read YA. I could write about how a lot of m/m books are written by women but that delves more into fetishisation which is a whole other topic. But I do think there’s a certain role there, a lot of YA readers are straight girls and there is definitely certain straight girls and women who state things like, f/f isn’t their thing. And that’s where I feel a lot of feelings of hatred, or more so exclusion and habit to ignore, comes from. Most of the time the only booktubers and book blogger who do talk about f/f are queer themselves. Best thing to do is support the ones that exist but I will side eye any reader who constantly read m/m romances and never seems to touch an f/f romance.

 

16 thoughts on “Does YA hate f/f romance?

  1. I’ve noticed this often too. Books like The Abyss Surrounds Us (which has an awesome wlw romance btw) aren’t even on people’s radar.

    Also, that book you mentioned? Fanart? It’s plot sounds suspiciously close to this anime called Kiss him Not Me (I won’t start with the whole fujoshi culture of fetishizing mlm romances)

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      1. What’s worse about it is that it even has a lesbian girl as a love interest in the main reverse harem, but even she is a fujoshi. I was like – wut? They could have developed the actual wlw too, but they don’t

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  2. Camila Abdanur

    Even as a queer woman myself, the only way I can find wlw books is if I go hunting for them. And reviews aren’t reliable because guess what? not a lot of people read them. I feel this is one of the reasons why many of us abandoned books and migrated to fanfic (of TV shows, mostly)

    Also, another topic but, most of the “lesbian” fiction has the most cringeworthy covers. I’m a graphic design student and lost count of how many times I’ve told friends I want to have a freebie project to design better covers for queer books at some point

    That being said I did read some really cool queer books recently and I wish they were more popular.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh this is all I’ve been wanting to say in one post. Thank you for writing this!! I can’t say I’m not at fault myself, despite being queer I’ve still avoided some f/f books because of the low gr ratings, even though I’ve been dying to read them. Anyway, great post. Hope it’s okay if I link to this from literally all my social media channels.

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  4. Sho

    This made me wonder about the Goodreads numbers of AFTERWORLDS, by well-known spec fic author Scott Westerfeld SO HERE I GO:

    Released 2014
    Average rating: 3.72
    Number of ratings: 14,501

    Huh.

    (If you’re not familiar, the relationship between Darcy, the main character of the book, and her girlfriend is a major element)

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    1. Cats and Paperbacks

      I read it last year and personally wasn’t a huge fan, but I also didn’t like The Song Of Achilles and I’ll Give You The Sun. I should’ve talked more about the harsher ratings because a lot of f/f books I liked are below 4.0 if they’ve been read by more than a couple of people

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  5. ceearrbooknerd

    Yes! It’s like: fine, support m/m – no-one actually wants you to *stop* supporting m/m… but support f/f too!!!! And not all f/f romances are explicit – just like not all m/m romances are explicit, so if it’s graphic sex that’s putting you off, you still have no freaking excuse!!!!

    (Also: if you like Supergirl, Sanvers fanfiction is awesome!

    But elsewhere, and worryingly, in the DC Arrowverse fanverse there seems to be more shipping of Sara Lance and Leonard Snart (which is not canon) than Sara Lance with Nyssa Al-Ghul (which actually IS canon.) Yes, I know Sara is bi – but she has a stated preference for women, especially HER ACTUAL FREAKING GIRLFRIEND!!!!! Sorry. Rant over.)

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  6. Cazzle

    Interesting post. The ‘recent’ titles featuring f/f I can think of (Sugar Rush,Gemma Doyle trilogy) were all published round the early 2000s – 10+ years ago!

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  7. Love this post!!!

    This is definitely something I’ve noticed too. Seeing it numbers makes it even more obvious though, wow. Thanks for putting this all together! I’ve been in fandom for like 15 years (I’m so old jfc) and the m/m pairings have always been more popular. I’ve also noticed that f/f can do the same as m/m and people will be like “they’re just friends” at the f/f but be all heart eyes over the m/m. I think fetishising definitely comes into play too (in both cases).

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  8. This post is amazing, seriously thank you for writing it, for searching and finding all these stats and hopefully bringing more attention to the fact that m/m ya is more widely accepted then f/f ya. I think a lot of new f/f romances and books are hopefully going to change the game but really the books are there, the ships are there it’s the readership that’s lacking but the ya community keeps growing in diverse narratives so hopefully f/f continues to grow too ❤️❤️

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  9. First of all thank you for this post!!! I honestly thought that there was some f-f books that were starting to get more attention, but I am obviously very wrong. (I will also admit to not having read a f-f book yet myself and that I need to remedy that ASAP) It feels weird that it seems more acceptable to many people for a m/m pairing instead of a f/f paring and that’s really sad. This also goes to show that I need to further diversify my own reading and be more conscious about what I also tend to favor/Ship.

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  10. Pingback: Queer Girl YA: What’s Coming? – Julia Ember

  11. Miriam

    I LOVE this post. Thanks for breaking it down. Though, one small note: Malide, Manon and Elide from ToG are incredibly popular on tumblr though they must not have as many fics, then. I’m definitely sharing this post everywhere 🙂

    Like

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