I recently read a YA fantasy manuscript that had a great premise and great writing but no love interest. Not even a possible love interest. I went through more than half the novel expecting one to pop up before resigning myself to the fact that it wasn't going to happen. By the end, I was pretty disappointed. And rather than thinking about the awesome world building or lovely prose, I was mentally working in a love interest, wondering if the writer knew how much stronger, more marketable, and compelling the story would be with one.
That got me thinking. Does a YA novel need to have a love interest, even just an inkling of one, to really shine?
With issue-oriented novels, it's not so black and white. But with fantasy and standard contemporary, I think yes.
In the least, with any YA novel, I feel the main character needs to have an awareness of this dynamic. I don't know about you, but when I was a teen I was always conscious of attraction and chemistry even if I wasn't inclined to date anyone, was too caught up in other life stuff, or was just plain avoiding such things. The adolescent years are when we really start exploring love and sexuality (often to the point of preoccupation), and I think you're only hurting yourself if you completely avoid it in your YA novel.
What do you think? Can you think of any YA novels that are successful without a love interest or hint of one?