Thursday, February 17, 2011

Guest Post: A discussion on love in YA

A really big thank you Sya, from The Mountains of Instead for guest posting today. This post was originally posted on her blog last November, but she has kindly lent it to me for the sake of my Love month. I find her views to be particularly interesting and would love to hear your thoughts on what Sya has to say...

This post contains some spoilers for This World We Live In (Susan BethPeffer), Sea (Heidi Kling), Hush, Hush (Becca Fitzpatrick), Twilight (Stephenie Meyer), and Perfect Chemistry (Simone Elkeles).

Firstly, let me state that I am not anti-love. I enjoy a good romance. The really swoony ones creep into my shriveled up prune of a heart and make me feel all warm, giddy and generally good about the world. However, those are the ones that I really believe in – the ones that have grown over the course of a story, whose players I have gotten to know and care about and the ones that are, above all, believable.

Those are not the ones I am going to talk about here.

Nope, I am talking about the love affairs that appear out of the blue. You know the ones I mean – the characters talk a handful of times and then love each other FOREVER often dancing to the tune of the Hate, Hate, LOVE! waltz. I don't buy it. I know that teenagers feel things strongly - once upon a time I actually was one. I was even one that fell hopelessly in love. But do you know what? I KNEW the guy, I LIKED the guy and the guy was really pretty NICE to me. We also had, like, conversations (perhaps...gasp...more than two) before I pledged my delicate fifteen year old heart to his care.

So, who are the perpetrators of these do-not-press-pause-fast-forward-to-love affairs? Here are a few examples:

Miranda and Alex from This World We Live In.

Ah, post-apocalyptic love – what could be more romantic? Er, lots of things if you ask me. As the third in a pretty interesting series, I expected a lot from this title. Book one had covered life after Moon-Fail from Miranda's point of view, book two from Alex's. Both worthy protagonists they were then skilllessly mashed together in the final book in the trilogy. So...they speak very little,
have no shared interests and actually seem to take an active dislike to each other - they are have nothing in common apart from the fact that they both trying to survive in the same shitty world. Then, roughly half way through the book, they spend about two hours alone together and TA DA! Cupid shoots his arrow via a pile of tinned food and they are, you've guessed it, in LOVE. They want to get MARRIED. She wants to have his BABIES. No, I didn't buy it either.

Sienna and Denny from Sea

Nothing like love in Tsunami ridden Indonesia it would seem. Certainly not for Sienna who within, oh, twenty minutes of arriving at the orphanage she is there to volunteer for appears to fall head over heels for a guy that she's NEVER EVEN SPOKEN TO. It's OK though, because he feels the same way. Of course he does. One motorcycle ride to a pretty temple later and they're planning to jump ship to happy-ever-after land. It's actually a pretty good story, with some lovely writing but I'm not buying Sea and Denny. Nope, no way. Especially not when she's got Spider back at home.

Patch and Nora from Hush, Hush

There is a good reason that I have never reviewed Hush, Hush and it is, to be frank, that I can barely withhold my bile. Patch is creepy, he is probably dangerous, he definitely exhibits stalker like tendencies and has real issues with personal space, creeping in and out of Nora's brain like some nasty virus. Nora is not a stupid girl – she realises that this is not right, that she should
get some advice or help. Poor Nora. She is surrounded by idiots who tell her how foolish she is – Patch is a perfectly lovely boy who just needs help with his French homework. Or something. Silly Nora – now she can see the truth... she's actually in LOVE. Yep. That's how it's always happened for me, too.

Alex and Brittany from Perfect Chemistry

These two almost didn't make it in here but then I realised that just because something is predictable it doesn't make it right. These two DO NOT LIKE EACH OTHER. In fact, they actively despise each other. Then they do some schoolwork together and BANG, she wants to make LOVE because she LOVES him. Pish posh is what I say. The quality of the writing here is lovely, the love story less so. They have perhaps one conversation where they see different sides of each other which I can see might lead to a tentative friendship but no, it leads to LOVE. And don't even get me started on the bloody epilogue.

Edward and Bella from Twilight

You didn't really think I was going to miss them out, did you? These two take the biscuit and I actively blame them for the whole sorry lot. In case you've forgotten: Bella meets Edward, he's a dick, they don't speak. Shortly afterwards he saves her from certain death, he's a dick but they speak a little. Soon after that, he saves her from some nasty men, admits her was stalking her and can read her mind so is (arguably) less of a dick but certainly more of a creep. A short time later she finds out that he's a dick, a creep and a vampire. Minutes later BANG! They're in LOVE! The End.

You see my point? Do any of these sound like healthy relationships to you? Or even vaguely realistic (even taking out the paranormal aspects of some)? Nope? Me neither. There are plenty of books out there who handle things better than this lot.

Believable recent couples (or those with the potential to be so) include Sam and Astrid from Gone (Michael Grant), Lennie and Joe from The Sky Is Everywhere (Jandy Nelson), Taylor and Jonah from Jellicoe Road (Melina Marchetta) and even Bella and Jacob from the Twilight Saga not forgetting Harry and Ginny from Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling).

All of these couples have highs and lows, protracted friendships, flirting, romance and even break-ups. They might not all stay together, but they sure as hell have a better shot at the happy-ever-after than those who declare their love after three seconds and a whole lot of stalking/arguing/ apocalypsing/general weirdness. And how about that forever? All the couples I've listed as attending the truly, madly, deeply, quickly school of love would appear to have the forever kind... but can that ever be the case for relationships started in such haste?

That, my friends is a questions for another time and another blogger. Me, I'm off to get swept away by a romances that I can relate to, that teens can aspire to and that really do stand a chance of living Happily Ever After.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let's open comments up for discussion! And a big thank you to Sya for a thought-provoking a fun guest post. Please do subscribe to The Mountains of Instead, where you'll be able to read Sya's intelligent reviews and posts on a regular basis! :)


  1. Great post. Anyone looking for a lovely couple in YA fiction should read Kimberly Derting's The Body Finder...Jay and Violet are adorable best friends whose relationship becomes so much more!

  2. Wish I'd caught this post first time around. Great post! I never liked Edward and I don't really get how soo many girls think it's 'romantic' because he's just creepy. Jacob on the other hand, well there's the potential for a real relationship.

    I actually love Perfect Chemisty, but I do completely agree that their relationship is somewhat unbelieveable! And the epilogue...well, I just laugh at that and take it as the cheese it is so it doesn't ruin the books for me. I actually found the relationship between Carlos and Kiara in Rules of Attraction better. Still in the realm of unbelieveable, but both characters seem a little more grounded, so it's a little easier to take. Or, I believe so anyways.

    And I completely agree with YA_Books, Violet and Jay are a great couple to follow because they were best friends their whole lives (pretty much) before they became more. And just because they had that background, didn't make things easy.

    My favourite couple is probably Meg and John from Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols. I love the complexity to both of them, and their relationship. Another favourite comes from the recent release of Unearthly by Cynthia Hand. There is a love triangle, one of the very few that I get on with okay, but my love relationship in it is between Clara and Tucker. They start out not liking each other, finding each other irritating for various reasons. But then they're kind of forced to spend time together by Tuck's sister (who'd Clara's best friend) and as they get to know each other, things change. It's not instant, it's believeable, and it's sweet. I love them both and you can guess which team I'm on ;)

  3. I love your post! And I agree with YA_Books, the relationship between Violet and Jay is adorable.

    The type of love that are in the books you mentioned exist, but the frequency at which they appear in YA books make it a wee bit hard to believe in. And me? I'd rather see their relationship grow before taking it to the next level.

  4. I am so glad to see someone else who does not "buy Perfect Chemistry. I really could not understand the appeal of this book. And as for the epilogue, well, let's just not go there!!!!

  5. ot sure what happened there, but the last comment was from me :0)

  6. For believable relationships in YA, I'd say Sarah Dessen is the best!

  7. Fascinating article - thanks for sharing.
    It seems that we're often expected to take it for granted that a guy who appears to be mean, nasty, rude, self-centred and moody is Every Girl's ultimate dreamboat. Actually, I think that this often happens in adult fiction too.
    My own YA novel "The Killer's Daughter," has (I think) a sympathetic male. Bruce is kind, thoughtful and helpful to our our heroine. What's not to love? Ah, but life's never that simple!

  8. You, lady, have made a follower for life with this post. FOR LIFE. It's so great to see someone honestly admit that some romances do not convince them, instead of squeeing over the sparkly marble cupcake hotness of the hero. Thank you!

  9. Ah, thanks for posting this again! I'm so pleased that people have taken the time to read it. Especially as it's basically just me in rant mode ;-)

  10. Great post. It's nice to read that not everyone believes in all the relationships.x

  11. I'm loving the response to this one, thank you again so much Sya for letting me re-post your fab blog here :)


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