I’m pretty sure I’m a bad friend. The reason I’m pretty sure I’m a bad friend is that I think I pretty much bullied Laura in to doing this. She’s ridiculously busy (she has kids who, CRAZY THINGS, think she should, like, parent them. Ingrates). Anyway, because she is a better friend than I am, Laura came through with a post on Love in YA that made me guffaw more than once. My post for her will go up on her blog . . . as soon as she finds time.
Love in YA
When it came right down to finding a topic about LOVE, I was actually pretty hard pressed to find something because while I find fault in most things, what I find MOST fault in, is the way LOVE is portrayed in YA.
Here’s the thing about LOVE in YA. It is nearly always incorrectly portrayed in every YA novel I’ve read. This is coming from a person who, if I HAD to choose a genre of books I loved, I’d choose YA.
I keep hoping that someone will get it right. It seems that the way it felt to love when we were teens, is forgotten once writers reach adulthood. Instead, writers create a cast of teen stereotypes. They choose their formula from the list of cliches and set about writing a book.
The kind of love teens hope for, most likely does not fit the clique of the reformed rogue, ultra sensitive guy best friend, the disney prince/big man on campus, the girl-next-door cheerleader, the goth chick with a bad reputation. These, my friends, are the kinds of love PRE-teens dream of.
Teens, well, they are smarter than that. They want something real. Something achievable.
I do realize that YA isn’t always intended for Young Adult audiences only. Some authors just happen to write books about teenaged characters. The general assumption is that books classified as YA are YA appropriate. However, not everything that happens in a teenaged-life, is ‘YA appropriate’. We as writers know this and to demonstrate our understanding, we create plot lines so outrageous, they no longer resemble our target audience.
What we are feeding the YA audience is a set of moral standards. We are giving them an example of how we want them to behave. Even if an evil fallen angel is stalking them because they are the chosen one to lead the rebellion in the other realm and they only have tonight together, for tomorrow they will surely die – It is still prudent to control ones desires. They are actions that are very much contrary to the real world.
Which leads me to believe that YA is full of unwritten rules when it comes to love and sex.
- There is no sex, because apparently, teens are chaste.
- Teens naturally want to take a physical relationship slow…it has nothing to do with puritanical values that have been beaten into them for generations. Nothing.
- All girls want a choice: between a bad boy who may (or may not) be redeemable and an ultra sensitive best friend, who listens to bemoaning and is otherwise unassuming (and certainly not capable, nor has the inclination to thrust someone against a wall in the heat of passion).
- Everyone is either perfect looking, or a total gomer. Apparently, there is no middle ground.
- Sex is off limits, even implied sexual activity leaves me wondering….wait, did they just have sex???
- All boys want a nice girl with few experiences prior to them. A blank canvas of sorts. Not soiled by previous boyfriends, or left with sexual standards they could not possibly live up too.
- Girls want a virgin too. Sure, a bad boy mystique is sexy, but it must be a carefully crafted facade to hide his sensitive side. This is the part of formula I find the most ludicrous. Two virgins going at it? Sounds like a train wreck to me. Trust me ladies, it is much more fun when at least someone knows what they are doing.
- Love has nothing to do with sex. But honestly, love has everything to do with sex when you are 17. And 27. And 37.
- Did I mention characters do not have sex?
Teens don’t want a moral. They don’t want our beliefs about love thrust upon them. We as authors are not responsible for teaching them morals. We are story tellers, and what occurs in the worlds we create, is meant to make our readers think about their world, so that they might draw their OWN conclusions about right and wrong. Unfortunately, if YA continues to refuse to break these ‘rules’, it will always be a genre that isn’t taken seriously.
Laura is a mom, writer, micro farmer, and self-proclaimed cheese and donut connoisseur. When she’s not writing about war and life with children (technically there IS a difference), she is feverishly canning tomatoes in preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse. You can find her at Laura’s Universe, under the chopped up snake.