I know many people are tired of almost every single book they read, especially young adult, having romance in it.
But that’s not what this post is about.
I actually do like when books have romance in them. My issue is that the romance is always an all-powerful, consuming, life-altering, earth-shattering love. Why is it always like that?
I don’t know why it’s always like that, but it bothers me that it is, so let’s discuss!
I don’t know about you, but if I fell in love with every single person I’ve ever had a crush on, I would’ve been a certified love expert by the time I started college.
But I didn’t fall in love with all those people because sometimes a crush is just a crush. Like is just like. Interest is just interest. Lust is just lust. And you can have feelings for someone and care deeply for them without being in love (or maybe without being in love yet). Because in real life, there’s this whole spectrum and multitude of feelings that people have for each other, especially when they’re still just getting to know each other. And just because those feelings aren’t love, it doesn’t make them any less special or real or meaningful.
So why is it then that almost every character in books seems to fall head-over-heels in love with every single person they have any sort of feelings for? And why does it almost always seem to happen in a matter of days or weeks and skip over all the other feelings in the spectrum?
Even in YA books, 15-year-old characters are falling hopelessly and madly into that all-powerful, earth-shattering love I mentioned above. Sometimes more than once when their first (and maybe second or third) relationship doesn’t work out. Sometimes with two people at the same time. (It begs the question, if you were really that deeply in love with the first one, would you really have fallen for the second? But I suppose that’s not quite the point.)
It’s not even that I’m saying it’s impossible for anyone to fall in love quickly, and I don’t want to be one of those people who says teenagers don’t know what love is—just because I stuck to crushes when I was in high school, or just because I’ve never fallen in love at first sight, that doesn’t mean every other person in the world has the same experiences. But it’s still unrealistic that so many characters fall in love like this, especially when I feel it’s so unnecessary.
What would be wrong with having more books about crushes? About feelings that aren’t quite love? About the stages of a relationship that come before that?
It could be argued that YA books especially are like this because teenagers tend to feel emotions in more strong, explosive ways, and therefore they’re more likely to fall in love or at least to think they’re in love… but that’s just as much of a stereotype as any other because not all teens are like that. As I already mentioned, I never thought I was in love in high school. I also had plenty of friends who never fell in love in high school. So to have all teens in books fall in love is stereotyping and under-representing those of us who weren’t/aren’t like that.
There’s a lot of talk about sex in books and in the media in general and whether it gives people, especially kids and teens, unrealistic expectations. But I think the non-sex part of relationships in books can cause just as much pressure and unrealistic expectations. Being constantly bombarded with characters falling in love can easily distort someone’s perceptions. Honestly, when I was in high school, I think it may have even distorted mine.
So I, for one, would love to read a YA book in which the characters have a relationship with legitimate feelings but don’t profess their love to each other. Or even an adult book that ends with the characters staying together but not quite being ready to say, “I love you.” Because these things? They’re just as real and just as normal as love, and I think it’s important that people, especially young readers, understand that.
It’s ok to fall in love quickly. But it’s also ok to not fall in love quickly. And it’s ok for that love to start as just a spark and grow its way into a cozy fire rather instead of going off like a bunch of fireworks. It’s also ok to not fall in love at all because not every relationship works out or even gets that far. And I’d just like for some books to show that.