I’ve wanted to write this post for a while.
Entertainment impacts our thinking way more than we think it does (I wrote a whole post about it here). YA novels like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Twilight (and countless others) have become big parts of our culture. For teens in particular, books like these have greatly shaped their thinking.
One of these areas is with what a romantic relationship should look like.
I enjoy a good love story like everyone else. However, in the last few years I’ve been frustrated with how relationships are portrayed in teen books. In fact, I think how relationships are portrayed is very unhealthy. These unhealthy relationships are often manifested in a growing trend we readers call “Insta-love”.
From what I’ve seen, cases of insta-love tend to all follow the same pattern: Girl meets an uber-attractive guy. All she can think about is how good-looking and charming he is. Somehow, this guy gets pulled into her adventure. By the end of the first day, they’re kissing or thinking about kissing. A few chapters after that, they both declare their unwavering love to each other. By the end of the book (which takes place over the course of less than a week, typically), they realize they’re soulmates and will be together forever.
Okay, I get why this popular in some cases. Almost all stories have some form of romance, and I understand the temptation to have the hero and heroine become a couple as soon as possible. However, I dislike this for many reasons (one being the fact that insta-love is the cause of 99% of love triangles). It isn’t realistic and it often is a reflection of poor character development.
But I also think it’s dangerous in that it affects how we (especially teenagers) view love.
Generally in cases of insta-love, the readers get to push through pages worth of internal monologuing where all the girl does is think about how good-looking the guy is, how charming he is, how nice of a smile he has, how much she wants to kiss him, etc. Then their relationship becomes too physical too fast.
This isn’t really love, is it?
I would even go so far to say that the basis of insta-love is…lust.
It’s okay for her to notice that he’s cute. That’s perfectly normal. But when the entire book is just comments on the guy’s handsomeness (and nothing else about him) and the two of them making out, it isn’t healthy at all.
(Side note: This really, really bothers me when the guy is a total player who flirts with more girls than just the protagonist…and she doesn’t see this as an issue. Instead, she’s flattered that he’s interested in her.)
A relationship should be based on more than physical attraction. Is he a gentleman who treats girls with respect? Do they have common interests? Does he have godly values?
Why does she like him? I need to know this or else I just can’t root for them as a couple.
I’ve had major crushes before. Sometimes, when you first like someone you’re so wrapped up in the things you like about them that you don’t notice their flaws. Not that you should focus on their flaws, but failing to notice red flags can be heartbreaking in the long run.
With insta-love, all the girl sees is an attractive guy her age who she wants to date. The two don’t take the time to learn about each other’s dreams or goals or past experiences or values or…anything. This is so crucial to a relationship, but it’s a step often skipped in the development of the relationship. They should be friends before they become more than that.
Just to clarify, I don’t think it should take years for the guy and the girl to become a couple. But a few days is way, way too fast. And I think it gives the wrong impression of what a healthy relationship is like.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (I know, I know…this isn’t really a passage on romantic love but it is still a good example) shows what love is. Love is an action. Love is being patient and forgiving and sacrificing one’s own desires for someone else’s. Love is not based solely on physical attraction.
I want to see books that portray a more biblical kind of love.
My challenge for authors:
- Please, please stop having the heroine fall for an overly-flirtatious, manipulative player…and portray the relationship positively. Girls need to know they deserve better than someone who only is interested in her because she’s pretty or who isn’t going to be faithful to her.
- Take it slow. I’d rather read about a love story that takes most of the book to develop than read about a love story that’s full-blown by chapter three.
- Base the relationship on something more than just “he’s really cute”. Show me why he’s a good guy and why she really likes him.
Do you think love/relationships are portrayed poorly in YA novels? What would you like to see authors do differently with romance?