My Thoughts on the Insta-Love Epidemic

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.

The end.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Your turn:

Do you think love/relationships are portrayed poorly in YA novels? What would you like to see authors do differently with romance?


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  1. Honestly, I’d love to see the heroine or hero fall in love with the nerd or outcast. 😉 And yes, I think it should take at least the whole book before they fall in love.
    Spreading of romance in books, what will happen to your characters?

  2. Amen!!! I personally believe that a book-romance should be like a real-life-romance (which, is probably why so many books are shallow romantically today–anyone check divorce rates?)…which, as a believer, should be Christ-centered, not feelings-centered. I fear that the message portrayed in many books is that “a man” will solve our problems, when we’re faced with trouble, we need “a man” to hold us or to talk to us or to help us…when our deepest needs are ALL supplied by our heavenly Father. Sometimes I wonder if these novels are just a reflection of the author’s struggles: they wish they had good romantic relationships, so they create a fictional one (this is a warning to all authors, by the way, and not just romance authors: be cautious to not use writing as an “escape from reality”). Those are my random thinklings. 😉 Nice article. 🙂

    1. Yes! I love the reminder that we should seek value in Jesus, not another person.

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  3. I agree with your take on romances in YA novels. Even adult novels are very unrealistic. I believe you should become best friends with the person first and then love comes next.

    On looks, you have to/ need to be attracted to the person you want to be with, it just can’t be the main reason you want to be with them. What happens when you gain weight from having a baby or start wrinkling. Beauty fades.

    And if a guy or girl feels the need to flirt with everyone, I say run. You will never be enough for them. If they don’t respect you before you get married, they never will.

  4. Great post! I think this so true. And yes, nerdy love interests are hilarious. they’re so awkward! (i love making my guy characters feel awkward.)

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