Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Hate Valentine’s? Give books a chance

Rachel Choi
Illustration Rachel Choi

Opinion editors are not responsible for agreeing or disagreeing with their writers but rather elevate each individual’s specific voice.

I hate Valentine’s Day. I firmly believe it’s been a consumerist scam from the introduction of mass-produced Valentine’s cards in 1913 to the selling of roses, heart-shaped chocolates, and specialty gift cards to significant others feeling guilty for not appreciating their partner enough year-round. But that article has been written before. Several times

I may hate Valentine’s Day, but I love the idea of love, and I love reading about love. The romance genre is timeless. Even though it gets a lot of flack for being repetitive and predictable, it remains one of the bestselling on the market as it generates the most revenue out of all fiction books at almost 1.5 billion dollars. 

I’m not here to stand behind the genre as perfect by any means; I admit fully that just like all Western media, there are problems with representation and stereotyping, and the plots are, in many cases, very unoriginal. 

But that’s not to say that there aren’t good romance novels out there. Just because they are not Pulitzer Prize–winning fiction or economic self-help coffee table books does not mean they lack substance. 

The right romance novel will have you kicking your feet and curling your toes like the spitting image of your 12-year-old self seeing a photo of your crush on Instagram. The right romance novel has you entranced from cover to cover—feeling happiness, sadness, and every emotion in between. The right romance novel is your escape. It’s the romance you want for yourself, or the romance you absolutely do not. It is finding love in more than just romance—in friendship, in family, in our passions and daily lives. 

In the age of declining media literacy, we are primed to consume all content with a critical eye, which in many cases is important. For works of fiction like romance, though, we cannot allow the critical lens to stop us from getting lost in a story. When we allow ourselves to experience the stories, we feel the emotions within them like they are our own. 

Psychologically, immersing ourselves in these books has real effects: our brain responds to the book by releasing dopamine, the neurotransmitter that gives us feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. 

This demonstrates not only that getting lost in a story is a very real concept, but also that it is entirely possible to find ourselves in a story. We discover what we like and don’t like from these books though which romantic confessions or dates or relationships in general have us swooning and which make us deeply uncomfortable. 

Romance is not a perfect genre, but it can be incredibly impactful if you find the right book for you. These are some of the romance novels I love—so you don’t have to spend Valentine’s Day disappointed by yet another vile story written by Colleen Hoover while you search for your own perfect story. 

  1. “The Seven Year Slip” by Ashley Poston

I didn’t expect to like this book at all. I had originally bought it as a Christmas gift for my mother, and after she read it I swiftly “borrowed” it from her due to my own lack of reading options. It’s the kind of book that sneaks up on you. One minute you’re skimming the pages, entirely uninvested in the narrator’s daily life, and the next you are gripped, unable to put it down. 

This romance involves book publicist Clementine meeting aspiring chef Iwan, who lives seven years in Clementine’s past, in her late aunt’s magical apartment that can transport someone seven years into the past—or the future. 

It might seem at first glance and first skim, perhaps, that this book is any madlibs-esque romance book found on a #BookTok shelf at your local bookstore, but it quickly becomes so much more than that. The way this book discusses struggling with our own emotions, wrestling with grief, guilt, and wanting to feel loved and happy at the same time is what made it a standout for me. Poston writes authentic characters and love that feels real—not perfect, but real. 

  1. “Love, Theoretically” by Ali Hazelwood

Not everyone is an Ali Hazelwood fan, and I get that. “The Love Hypothesis” was good, and then she just wrote the same thing over again a couple times, right? Wrong. Though her second book “Love on the Brain” fell short for me, “Love, Theoretically” is its own beast, both heart-wrenching and beautiful. There is far more focus in this book on the female lead, Elsie, and her flaws and growth as a woman and character. Almost all of Hazelwood’s books follow a woman in STEM, but this is the first one that actively delves into what that entails. 

The romance in this book feels like a journey. It feels safe and like a place of discovery where you can accept your imperfections. It shows love not only at its best, but also at its worst: it contends with how we love through failure and through the hard times in our lives. 

It is also set in Boston, and Emerson itself is mentioned as one of the colleges Elsie is an adjunct professor at, though unfortunately in an unrealistic way. She teaches highly advanced theoretical physics to STEM majors, a class Emerson students, even with our violent registration process, would not sit for. Props to Hazelwood for trying. 

  1. “Icebreaker” by A.L. Graziadei

Not the “Icebreaker” you’re thinking of if you have TikTok. This one is a gay romance between two college freshmen playing Division I hockey. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of sports romances because they tend to misrepresent sports in a major way—for example, most football romances involve white men when the majority of NFL players are black

But this book is an exception for me. The characters engage in authentic discussions about real issues: they talk about mental health, specifically how to balance sports, school, and relationships while struggling with mental illness. The topic of race is a steady theme in the story as it questions what it means to be a person of color playing hockey—a predominantly white sport—at a professional level, and what it means to be queer in the hypermasculine sports environment. 

It’s a romance that is equally as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking, in all its highest highs and lowest lows. Love in this book isn’t just romance: it’s our support network in our family, our friends, our classmates, and everyone who gets us through challenging times. 

That’s an important message—not everyone wants romance, but we all deserve love. Whether we find that in the people around us or a book this Valentine’s Day, we are all loved all the same. 

Try taking a trip to the library this week instead of to CVS for last-minute red, pink, and white perishables. This Valentine’s Day, I’ll be enjoying the beauty of romance, guilt-free. 

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About the Contributor
Ella Duggan
Ella Duggan, Opinion Co-Editor

Ella Duggan (she/her) is a sophomore communication studies major from Wellington, New Zealand, with minors in public relations and business studies. Outside of the Beacon, she is assistant music director for the Emerson Acapellics, an avid reader of romance novels, and loves hockey - Go Canucks!


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