It’s (almost) that time of the year again. The time when most singles want to hide from the world, their timeline is flooded with couples posting (disgustingly) sweet messages to each other, and when their parents and extended family – whom they haven’t spoken to in months – ask them if they have “someone special” in their life this year. And no, fictional characters just won’t do.
Maybe you’re one half of a love-sick couple or you’re a happy single who couldn’t care less, or maybe you’re sick of the whole love thing already and you wish it was over. Whichever category you fit into, there’s no escaping Valentine’s Day for another week.
Okay, no more sappy pictures. I promise.
Let’s have a discussion instead.
Boom. Let’s go.
Over the years, instalove has become a controversial topic. Emotions fly high, books are rated down, and friendships are broken when discussing insta-love. Alright, that might be a bit dramatic, but you get my point. YA readers have become pretty passionate about it and have not shied away from speaking their mind about it. But what sparks the controversy and what do we mean by insta-love anyway?
What in Cupid’s name is insta-love?
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, insta-love is a term that refers to characters who fall in love the moment they see each other or without a solid foundation that supports the romance. They’ll most likely proclaim their love before they truly know each other and they’ll happily “do anything” to be and stay together.
Including suicide. I’m looking at you, Romeo and Juliet.
That’s right. Insta-love isn’t a purely YA phenomenon. And, obviously, it’s been around for quite some time. So what’s the problem?
Two sides of the same story
As you can imagine, there are two sides.
There are many (so so many) readers who don’t have a problem with insta-love at all. They enjoy reading it. Some love it so much they actively seek out books that feature this kind of relationship. Whatever’s the case, you can’t deny that it works. Many books that feature insta-love have sold millions of copies.
Bella & Edward. Tris & Four. Juliette & Adam.
But why is that?
Defenders of insta-love argue that instalove is possible. They say it’s not so strange to KNOW that your partner is THE ONE. Look at X and Y, they say. They knew, and now they’re happily married, have a house, and kids, and a dog and so on. For them, it’s possible and that’s enough reason to want to read about it.
On the other side, readers who hate insta-love argue that it’s a sign of poor writing on the author’s part, no matter if it’s possible or not. The romance is not done right, therefore doesn’t feel authentic but fake.
What do I think?
I think it’s possible for two people to have an instant connection, fall madly in love, and stay forever until the end of time BUT they are the exception. The vast majority of relationships that start in high school simply don’t last. But that’s not what YA fiction is telling us. It’s telling us it’s more common that is actually is. Insta-love in YA fiction is simply overrepresented.
- It’s easy / easier to write, especially in YA fiction. YA fictions is limited to about 50,000 to 80,000 words. That’s about 250-350 pages, which is not a lot of space to develop a deep, meaningful relationship. At least not when the novel’s timeline doesn’t surpass a couple of months. Don’t get me wrong. It can be done. There are plenty of novels that do succeed in portraying a healthy, meaningful relationship in the span of a single novel, but they are rare if you compare them to the novels that don’t.
- It works. As previously said, there’s an audience for these books.
I don’t agree with either of those two points. I believe the author has a responsibility towards their readers. They have a responsibility to not romanticize unhealthy relationship or ideals (such as “bad boy turned good”). If they don’t, younger readers might be persuaded to believe the false assumption that high school relationships all have happy endings and are forever, which, in most cases, is not true.
Real life is a lot more complicated and a lot more beautiful because of it.
Luckily, many readers and authors are starting to realize this as well, which is why there has been “controversy” surrounding this topic for a while now. We’ve been seeing a lot more developed and diverse relationships (including POC characters and LGBTQ), which is how it ought to be. There’s a lot more room for improvement, but I strongly believe we’re on the right track.
So there you go. That’s my view on insta-love in YA fiction. What’s your opinion? Do you hate it? Love it? Do you agree with my views? Let’s open a discussion in the comments.