Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Insta-Love in YA

I have some thoughts on insta-love in YA, and it's probably contrary to the popular opinion right now that doesn't like it.  So I thought this might be a good place to have a discussion on insta-love and weigh the pros and cons.
(Please ignore that the couple isn't really of YA age)

First, let's definite Insta-Love.  In my mind, insta-love is when characters meet each other and are swapping "I love you"s (or intending to spend the rest of their lives together) just a few pages later.  It's when you don't see much in the way of a building relationship and the characters are suddenly just inseparable.

There's a lot of this in YA and it's starting to get a backlash.  Readers and bloggers seem to be looking for more relationship development.  Something more than an instant connection that the author then tells us is love.  I admit, I was in that camp for quite awhile.  Until I started reminiscing about my own YA days.  And here's what I remembered...

When I was a freshman, I started dating a junior guy.  If you read my diary from back then, you'd see I selected him over the sophomore I was considering because I thought it would be cool to go to prom.  (My memory has erased this shallow decision, but I supposed the diary doesn't lie.)  Anyway, he asked me out by way of a carefully-folded note, and three days later told me he loved me.

I almost broke up with him right then.  I'll be honest, it freaked me out.  Three days?  But I took some advice from another not-so-worldly freshman who told me I should be flattered.  So what did I do?  I told him I loved him back.  And pretty soon, it was true, whether I was sure of it at in the beginning or not.

So what does this have to do with my opinion on insta-love?  It made me reflect on the teen psyche.  How strongly I felt back then - sure that we would defy the odds and be high school sweethearts forever.  And how quickly emotions come over teens (girls in particular, perhaps) because of all the hormones raging through their systems.  I mean, think of a rock concert and all the girls lining the stage screaming "I LOVE YOU" to the musicians at the top of their lungs.  They don't even know those guys, but they'd pledge their love in a heartbeat if they could.  And I know there's more than one actor who I've felt a connection to through a movie/TV screen.

So while many ADULT relationships are based on an organic friendship first, no rushing into using the L-word type pattern, why are we critical when books for TEENS do this?  Teens are different. They don't operate on the same dating level as adults (by and large -- there are exceptions to everything, of course).  Every day feels like an eternity when you're young; waiting is not in teen DNA.

And this thought, in turn, makes me wonder if it's just the adults reading YA that are sick of insta-love, or if teens are over it too?  I'd be really curious to know the answer to some of these questions.  So please, start discussing!!


  1. My birthday is still a week away, so technically still a teen! *grin*

    Personally, I don't mind instalove... Mostly. I think it is normal there is attraction and a lot of emotions and hormones and stuff, but the relationship either goes awry or it becomes deeper. I hate it when characters are just shallow and with someone because (s)he's hot.

    I get that a character falls in love with good looks. Yet, if there isn't anything underneath that hotness, they should break up eventually.

    So here comes my problem with instalove in YA: most YA authors don't do it well. The relationship never develops past the initial attraction, yet they want to make me believe the couple is going to stay together FOREVER. Not buying that.

    So yeah, I'd like to see more gradual relationships. Or some recommendations of well-developed instalove. :-)

  2. My daughter, and my YA beta reader got really sick of the insta-love when we were all passing around the same books. Me, too.

    Yes teens fall fast and hard, but then the relationship/romance feels forced. I would sooner see the have intense feelings, or maybe even lukewarm feelings that flare balefre hot after a good reason presents itself. Or they love each other but can't be together because of obstacles thrown in their way.

  3. As a teenager, I don't mind instalove as long as their relationship does have depth. As in they get angry at each other, they need to spend time apart, etc. Because I think anyone can have a connection, romantic or friendly or evil or otherwise. But I agree that there are a LOT of instalove books out there (particularly in paranormal), which is why I don't like to write them. Because in reality, teens usually become friends first.

  4. I've been thinking about this lately, and have come to the conclusion that I don't mind insta-love in YA. I'm more picky with my adult reads and it bugs me there, because I don't think it's that realistic for an adult. For teens though? Yeah, I remember those days too. A guy looked at me a certain way and I was sure I loved him.

    Besides. Insta-love plays to my romantic side that always hopes for a love-at-first-sight moment. :)

  5. Teens do feel things so passionately that a crush or lust can feel very insta-love to them. Love at first sight is a great, romantic notion. But it's been run into the ground lately in YA. As a passionate (obsessive) YA reader, I probably read a lot more books than your average reader so it's easier for me to spot trends and get sick of them. And I'm sick of insta-love (sorry to be blunt...). There are cases when insta-love is beautifully written and it really works in the story but all too often, it's used as a writing crutch rather than taking the time to delve deeper.

  6. I hate instalove, be it YA or adult, book, movie, or tv show. I know it often happens for teens in real life, feeling so in lust and like this near-stranger is their soulmate, but in fiction, it doesn't lend itself to a good story. These characters can proclaim their love and talk about how serious they are till the cows come home, but if I don't see any development towards a relationship or feel any chemistry or tension, why am I going to believe it? Maybe part of the instalove fad stems from how short so many books are these days, without the same kind of space for all the character and story development that used to exist.

  7. I think I was a bit unusual as a teen in that I wasn't really interested in boys/dating until I was about 16/17. School and sports were more important. I could have cared less about the guys at school, and couldn't understand the 'insta-love' crushes some of my friends had.

    When I did finally start dating, I always had that clear division in my head of love and lust. The first guy I dated was one of the best looking people I've ever seen (TV & movies included). Like hot with a capital H and three t's at the end. But I never thought I loved him. I was aware that I was only attracted to him because of his looks, and needless to say we didn't stay together long.

    I'm not so much tired of the insta-love as I just don't understand it. I've never experienced that, so when I read it the scenario seems forced and fake.

  8. I don't mind it...but I also don't think it's the only model, either. I knew plenty of relationships in high school that started as friends, or that started off pretty cool toward one another and then something happened or it grew organically. I wonder if some of the "over it" sentiment is that most people like variety in books--you don't want to read the same plot over and over. While they might not argue that insta-love can happen, they'd like to see other kinds of relationship arcs represented, too. And if every book depicts teens as comfortable with 0 to 60 kinds of relationships, it's a little rough on the many teens who are reluctant heading into relationships--not every person under 18 is the same!

  9. These are great comments, everyone! I am absolutely LOVING hearing everyone's perspective.

  10. Jessie, I read this post on my iPod, and I am so inept with the tiny keyboard that I had to come back later & leave my two cents.

    I have been accused of insta-love in my novel Painted Blind. I was like, Hey, I gave them 100 pages to fall in love. It's YA fiction. Unless the whole book is focused on the romance, I think a lot of times it's simply a matter of time & space. Yes, there were more scenes building the relationship... they got cut because they didn't move the plot along significantly. I think going into a book, you know that it all has to happen in a short amount of time, especially if you want to disrupt the romance and move it to a higher level. It is the same in movies, and we accept it because of the 90 minute time restraint. I tried really hard to have a romance that was not "love at first sight" ;) but it still got labeled insta-love. What I think is more important is to be true to the fact that first impressions are not always accurate and that there is more to a person than his/her appearance. You may be instantly drawn to someone who is not supermodel gorgeous. Why is that? That is the kind of issue a good novel explores.


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