Thursday, August 11, 2011

In defense of true love forever in YA

I just want to make a brief vent about this.

It irks me when I see people complaining because all the true love forever in YA isn't realistic. It reminds me of the feeling I would get when I was in a group of girls complaining about how much men suck. Maybe the men they knew sucked. But I knew men, as a whole, did not suck. Maybe not everyone is ready, or should be ready, to enter into a committed relationship as a teenager, but that doesn't mean some people aren't.

I am not defending, mind you, that it is exactly WISE to become a vampire to be with your sexy vampire lover forever. BUT. It also isn't quite fair to say that teenagers can't and don't make wise relationship choices and find their future husband or wife at a young age. In fact, have noticed there is actually a fairly high proportion of stable long-standing relationships among YA writers. Maybe there's something to that! Maybe we write YA together-forever romance well because we've actually lived it.

Not that there is anything at all wrong with having rocky relationships either, as a person, or in a book. Not at all! I just wish people wouldn't knock serious teen love as unrealistic. I got together with my boyfriend at 17 and I was VERY serious about the relationship. Very cautious, but very committed. Cautious, in fact, because I was committed. He was serious too. Of course, he was also 25 at the time. Scandal!! I'm sure to some outsiders I looked like a naive young thing and he seemed like an older dude looking for some hot young geek action, but believe me, it wasn't like that. We were very good friends with a lot of common interests, affection and respect for each other.

I'm sure if I wrote that as a novel everyone would say it was totally unreal, I should make the guy into a jerk and the whole thing into a cautionary tale of sorts, and have it end with the girl wising up and walking away.

The other reason, of course, for all the true love in YA, is that it's told from a teenage POV and even if the relationship would be doomed later, the MC isn't going to think that at the time. Of course, we could all end our books with the breakup instead of the happily ever after, but how much fun would that be? -_-;;

I think some of the source of this ire is actually how many bad, rushed, and even unhealthy true-love-forever relationships are in YA. But that isn't the fault of the basic premise. Just the execution.


  1. I really liked what you said there at the end...that true love at the young age isn't what's wrong or unrealistic in YA but instead the execution. Most of the couples I know met when they were in their teens. I think they contributed to my belief in young love. Relationships are so complex that I think it's awful to just generalize that true love in YA is unrealistic.

  2. I find the whole thing funny because a lot of people look at it as "if they're under 18 they have no idea what they want in life" as if there's a magical moment on your 18th birthday where you suddenly become mature and capable. 18 is an arbitrary, socially constructed line, and there are people on both sides of it who are both mature and immature when it comes to relationships or anything else.

    The whole topic is a complicated one, to be sure. Good post.

  3. I remember talking to a writer friend about a romance I was writing and I said casually 'who says they'll stay together forever?' She said 'if they're together on the last page, they *do* stay together forever--that's all the forever the reader sees for them.'

    So there's that, as well as the teen POV. We see very few nineteen years' later timeskips - we don't and can't know if the love is forever.

    Rushed love, I am with you. Love at first sight may be very pleasant, I am sure! I'm not going to say it doesn't exist. But I will say it bores me. I want to go on a journey of discovery, seeing people talk and connect, not have Dorothy tap the ruby slippers in chapter two and 'hey, presto, guess it's love' - lovely for the people concerned, but dull to read about!

  4. 1. I totally and completely agree with you, 100%

    2. It's fiction. While it may set an example and give teens expectation, it's not supposed to be 100% real. 100% real is boring, we all live in the real world every day and we read to escape it. These YA characters are living the life that we wish had been ours, to some degree. (No, I do not wish I was in love with a shadowhunter/vampire/foreigner, but you know what I mean!)

  5. I think the skepticism of true teen love might come in because readers never actually get to see them mature beyond that. It's obvious, but people change a lot from their teens to twenties and onward. If a relationship weathers the changes well, then I'd say the relationship is that much stronger. But there's no way of knowing with teen characters who never grow up. ;)

  6. Katie: True. I was talking to my partner and saying how if we'd fallen in love when I was 14, it would have been even more scandalous! But...from an inward perspective, it wouldn't have been that much different. I've changed a lot since 14...but not that much. Mainly I am just more confident and disciplined.

    Sarah: I agree about rushed love. Although sometimes I find it hard to avoid because the plot itself demands a certain time frame. Of course, you can make three days read like many months if you execute it a certain way, haha. But still. It helps when the story has some breathing room, I think...

  7. My husband was the first male I laid eyes on the very first day I arrived at college. We were 18. Okay, so it took us another four years to figure out we were interested in each other...but still. We were teenagers, and we're still together, and plan to be so forever! So maybe there's something to that theory... :)

    I think what doesn't work for me as believable--in life as well as fiction--is the scenario where a teen thinks they're in love with someone and it's going to last forever, when really, they're attracted to the other person's looks but have no true understanding of each other or even a clue who the other person truly is. I mean, if you are madly in love with a different boy every week and can't decide which one you love best (yes, I did know someone like that in high school), well...I wouldn't call that true love. And I'd be annoyed with an author who tried to feed that to me. I want a book where the right people understand and love each other in a way that means something--and that lasts!

  8. Well, I met Mr. Cate when I was barely 19. If the first words out of his mouth had been, "Hi, let's run away together." I would have done it. And we've been together ever since. So... 12 years now (yikes!)

    What's important is what's authentic to the character. Would someone like that really do something like that, and why?