Saturday, 9 May 2015

Books and Their ~Ships (2): Keeping It Classy // The Unsaid

** Ahoy! Discussion ahead of Blue Lily, Lily Blue! Haven't read the The Raven Cycle? Want to go in knowing nothing? Be very careful. **

I find myself faced with a constant conflict.

On the one hand, I am a Class-A Shipper who fangirls, squees and asdfghjkl-s with the best of them. I sob at a beautiful love story. I have copious fictional crushes. I could light a fire with the strength of my obsessions for my various OTPs.

But on the other hand, too much romance? Too obvious? 

Now, I should probably clarify what I mean by "too much". I do not mean in content. I will, and do, happily read books that are entirely romance. Didn't I read and love Anna and the French Kiss? Aren't I a little (a lot) obsessed with the Georgia Nicolson series? And what about some of my favourite classic fiction? Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Adam Bede, Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, are all centred around relationships. 

Rather, what I mean is when the romance grows to obscure the supposed plot; and when it is so overt, so explicit rather than implicit, that I am left with no mystery remaining. 

For me, the unsaid element of romance is always the most powerful. Let's take Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater.

(No, I do not take every opportunity to spout about Blue Lily, Lily Blue. Why would you say that?)

[source - Treskie's blog]
Blue/Gansey is, of course, my OTP. I ship them like the Titanic; I will go down with this ship. But what, I ask, is it that makes them so perfect? It's the fact that their relationship is not overt. It's the unsaid.
Snatching a pillow from the chair, Blue rested it on top of her goose-bumped legs before picking up the handset. She listened to make sure there was a dial tone and not psychic activity on the other end.
Then she called Gansey.
It rang twice, three times, and then: “Hello?”
He sounded boyish and ordinary. Blue asked, “Did I wake you up?”
She heard Gansey fumble for and scrape up his wireframes.
“No,” he lied, “I was awake.”
“I called you by accident anyway. I meant to call Congress, but your number is one off.”
“Yeah, because yours has 6-6-5 in it.” She paused. “Get it?”
“Oh, you.”
“6-6-5. One number different. Get it?”
“Yeah, I got it.” He was quiet for a minute then, though she heard him breathing. “I didn't know you could call hell, actually.”
“You can call in,” Blue said. “The thing is that you can’t call out.”
“I imagine you could send letters, though.”
“Never with enough postage.”
“No, faxes,” Gansey corrected himself. “Pretend I didn't say letters. Faxes is funnier.”
Blue laughed into the pillow. “Okay, that was all.”
“All what?”
“All I had to say.”
“I've learned a lot. I’m glad you misdialed.”
“Well. Easy mistake to make,” she said. “Might do it again.”
A very, very long pause. She opened her mouth to fill it, then changed her mind and didn't. She was shivering again, even though she wasn't cold with the pillow on her legs.
“Shouldn't,” Gansey said finally. “But I hope you do.”
Blue and Gansey can't be together, so of course, all of their romance is implied. It comes in snippets, snatches, glances. For me, the unsaid is the most powerful.

But Emily, wait a minute.

You just said that you love Anna and the French Kiss and the Georgia Nicolson series. Is there anything unsaid about those two? No, there is not! Both of these stories detail a teenage girl's first love. They are readable, relatable, compelling. It is true that they leave little unsaid; but this makes them more raw. They are both told from the first person, and as such they detail the narrator's thoughts and feelings: her emotions, ideas and whimsical impulses. 

They maintain romance. But at the same time, they keep it classy.

By "classy" I do not mean demure/clean. This is not a discussion about sex scenes/the place of explicit thoughts, vocabulary and discussion in literature. That is for another time and place. Instead, by "classy" I mean genuine and fresh.

For someone like me, the aforementioned Class-A Shipper, there is nothing better than a beautiful description of love. And there is nothing classier than the words of these authors, and hundreds of others:

Give me my Romeo, and, when he shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night, And pay no worship to the garish sun. - Yahoo Canada Image Search Results
Have I ever mentioned that I'm a Romeo and Juliet fangirl?
You know that How I Live Now is one of my absolute favourites.

A beautiful poem called I Gave You Immortality, translated from Gaelic.

One of my favourite poems by my favourite poet.

But my problem begins when the descriptions of love/romance/relationships that I read in YA fiction are tired, cliched or shallow - and sadly, it seems that they often are.

When reading Throne of Glass, I often found myself rolling my eyes at the feelings and emotions displayed, which most of the time seemed "cheap" or rather, badly described. Of course, I'm not saying that a description of emotion needs to be a deeply profound and metaphorical musing on the nature of true love. If that was the case, how could we ever describe the whims, impulses, conflicted feelings and everything else that makes us human? But even in describing the most shallow, fleeting or short-lasting of teenage crushes, I desire truth. I desire words that strike a chord with me. On that, Throne of Glass just didn't deliver. It wasn't the love triangle that I disliked, or Celaena's confusion as she navigated her interactions with Dorian and Chaol. Of course, her emotions were common to many. But I never had that "yes" moment that separates great books from good ones. Alan Bennett describes brilliantly what I'm trying to explain:

The most mundane, even the most base, of feelings can be described in such a way as to speak from the book to the reader. What I'm really talking about is good writing. I never felt that the descriptions of Celaena's feelings cut to a bone of truth -- and that is my problem with so many YA romances.

Do you like the romance that is left unsaid, or would you prefer to track every detail? And - since I'm in a quoting mood - have you any descriptions of love to share?

What is your favourite YA love story?


  1. Das mah art. OOOOOOH.


    1. YEAH IT IS


  2. Okay, I skimmed the Blue Lily parts. I'm still debating on whether to read the book or not. . .

    Oh my goodness! Unsaid romance is the best! It's kind of like the "chemistry" side of things. It's not explicit. It's not overbearing. But you feel it in the air like static electricity between two souls.

    I try to do unsaid romance more than the said. For starters, I'm not good at romance, so the slow development works better for me. Plus, I think it's more realistic. But Rocky/Skyler are not an unsaid romance. And I have a lot of trouble trying to make them realistic. I'm still finding the balance between not going over broad and not making them seem like an old married couple. XD I'll get it down one day.

    I love your interpretation of 'classy.' Also I've never read Romeo and Juliet, but that quote! I am in awe. The words! And that Ted Hughes quote! That is just perfection! I think it needs to go on my wall. . . and maybe I need to read some this Ted Hughes guy. He sounds good.

    1. YES READ THE BOOK. Do you mean The Raven Cycle or specifically Blue Lily? Whichever, DEFINITELY READ THE BOOK.

      "you feel it in the air like the static electricity between two souls". That is actually a beautiful line. I too am attempting the unsaid -- slow development is definitely better and much more realistic! I'm sure you'll get it down. I liked the post of the two of them talking. You know that I ship them super hard!!!

      I'm glad! READ ROM AND JUL. It's basically my favourite thing. Absolute genius. So beautiful. Ted Hughes is perfection, actually, and Ashley, if I never convince you to read anything, please read him. He's my favourite poet; one of the most important voices of the 20th century. He was Poet Laureate before his death, and married to Sylvia Plath. His poems just lift themselves off the page. He's incredible.

    2. To be honest, "static electricity between two souls" is what It felt like for me, personally, for a time. And it just- that's what it was like and I had to wonder if it was me or if anybody else felt it to. Anyways...that was forever ago.

      What?! The poet- I just- I need a library. Where is the library? I need one now! Library, come hither.

    3. And I forgot to tell you, I tagged you in a post. I don't know if you do tags though.

    4. Having only ever emitted one-way static electricity - from my soul, but not reciprocated - I cannot entirely sympathise ... but I can empathise.


      Thank you. I will have a look :)

  3. YAY FOR TRESKIE'S ART. ILOVE HER ART. Also I love Blue Lily and Maggie Stiefvater. Like a lot. OMG my instagram is basically paying homage to my Stiefvater books 90% of the time. xD BUT ANYWAY. I don't mind romance. I don't like it when it's the focus of a story....but I love it as a satisfying little side-dish. Unsaid or detailed? I don't mind. I personally think it has to fit the story! And I also think that people wnat different things all. the. time. so it's probably a really GOOD thing author's write romances so differently. I, personally, loved Celanea's romance (particularly with Chaol) and ship them like nothing else. XD I also ship Blue and Gansey reeeeally hard but at the same time want to scream "NO NO DON'T LOVE EACH OTHER BECAUSE IF YOU KISS HIM HE'LL DIE." So yeah. I've got issues with ma Raven Boys. They're killing me. And probably each other. But mostly me right now. *cries forever*

    1. ME TOO. And me too. SO MUCH MAGGIE LOVE I CAN'T. As "a satisfying little side-dish" it is perfect. I have to say I am a sucker for the detailed sometimes - Anna and the French Kiss!! - but only when it remains fresh, genuine etc. Throne of Glass MESSED ME ABOUT because initially I shipped Celaena/Dorian like A LOT but then there was Chaol and THEN I DIDN'T KNOW. I need to read the rest. I need to read them now.

      BLUE/GANSEY I'M SO SO SO SO WORRIED ABOUT GANSEY AAAGGHHH they kill me also. HOPEFULLY NOT EACH OTHER. Ugh. I don't think we're all going to make it out of book 4 alive ...... D:


Thanks for commenting! :)