If the interwebs are to be believed, YA readers are sick of insta-love – that moment when the heroine sees a cute stranger and decides immediately he’s the one! On Goodreads people have made “No Insta-Love” shelves and there’s even a Listopia “Young Adult Books Without Insta-Love.”
So why is this trope still in so many YA novels? Well, it does have its pros:
- It’s relatable; teens are prone to falling hard and fast.
- It’s mysterious; knowing nothing about the love interest leaves lots for the heroine to discover.
- It’s aspirational; people want to fall in love easily and without doubt.
So what’s wrong with this? Besides the fact that too much of anything gets boring, many would argue insta-love is unrealistic. Love does not happen instantly! But sometimes it does, especially with teenagers. Whether it’s “true love” or not is up for debate. The bigger problem with the prevalence of insta-love is that this one version of romance squeezes out others. In YA there’s a crisis of romantic homogeny that sets a precedent that most people can never live up to.
Personally, I never “got” insta-love, in stories or in real life. Insta-lust, yes, but insta-love, no, and very early on in my dating years I began to wonder if something was wrong with me. Every story I read and romantic comedy I watched made it seem like I’d just know instantly when I met “the one”, and yet it never happened. Rationally, I acknowledged insta-love wasn’t realistic (how can you love someone you don’t even know?), but the trope was so ingrained into my psyche that it was hard to dispel. So whenever I found a story that wasn’t the love-at-first-sight fairy tale, I latched onto it – like the movie 500 DAYS OF SUMMER and THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS. Both have characters who fall instantly in love, yet they don’t live happily ever after.
I love these stories because they feel real, and I was disappointed that Disney changed the Sisterhood movie ending to make it happier. In my experience, relationships go down in flames all the time, and living through a heartbreaking situation with a character is impactful because it makes you realize you’re not the only one. Books are cathartic that way.
Humans have a desire to fit in, to feel normal, and to be accepted – especially in love. And because we’re influenced by the narratives around us, we need more varied romances in YA to show that love happens in many ways and there’s no right way to fall in love. So writers, here’s a challenge: come up with as many alternatives to insta-love as possible. I’ll start…
- Slow Cooker – where the heroine isn’t sure if she’s falling in love, but as the relationship heats up it becomes clear she is.
- Heart Attack – when love sneaks up on the heroine and scares her half to death because she didn’t even know it was there.
- Platonic Passion – that guy/gal the heroine swears is just a friend is really more, if she’d give love a chance.
What’s on your list? What kinds of romance do you want to see more of in YA novels?
Tomorrow on the A to Z Blog Challenge is Jenn with the letter “M” – Mixing Genres: Career Suicide?
Next Up from Heather… On Monday I have the letter “R” – Reading Overload in the Information Age