Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Do You Hate Insta-Love?

Do you hate insta-love, the YA phenomenon where two characters meet and then declare their everlasting love for each other only a few pages or chapters later?

I know I hate it. But this post over on YA Highway made me think a bit.

Teenagers do stupid things. Being a teen is all about experience crazy emotions -- from ecstatic happiness to lowest-of-the-low depression. And insta-love is a part of that. When you were a teen, how many times did you get crushes on guys/girls just because they were hot? All the time, right? That's what a crush is when you're that age. Usually those crushes fizzle out fast, and you're on to a new one the next week. I still get crushes like this.

So many insta-love isn't that far from reality. Sure, my crush-at-first-sight experiences all ended in heartbreak, but maybe some everlasting love has really been forged out of a single look.

The issue I still have with insta-love, though, is that YA characters never see any consequences for their sometimes rash actions. In the real world, if you go ahead and declare your feelings to that cute upperclassman you've been talking to... chances are it's going to end in heartbreak, a few days of tears, and then a swearing-off of love forever. It's going to hurt.

It never hurts YA protagonists. They never get to a point where they think, "Wow, it was pretty silly to believe I'd actually fallen in love with this person. We're totally not going to be together forever."

YA romance is full of happily ever afters, and not enough growing-up moments.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

YA is Full of Pretty People

When was the last time you opened a YA book and read a description of someone's glossy hair, chiselled cheekbones, or flawless, porcelain skin?

Five minutes ago, right?

Now, when was the last time you actually saw a teenager who looked like a Burberry model?

You don't see many, do you?

Okay, I'll stop speaking in questions. But really, why is YA so full of pretty people?

Think back to yourself as a teenager. Or, if you are still a teen, think of yourself and your friends. Imagine walking down the hall of your high school. You see heavier girls wearing sweats and oversize t-shirts to hide their stomachs, and you see way-too-skinny girls doing the same to hide eating disorders. You see boys with cuts from their first times shaving. You smell the people who forgot deodorant that day.

My point is that teens are rarely polished and perfect. So why are YA characters so perfect? It's rare to see a girl protagonist who's bigger than a size 8 -- unless it's an "issue" novel where her weight is the "issue." And male love interests? We constantly get Mr. Perfect. Cheekbones that stick out a mile, sexy five o'clock shadow, tousled -- but perfect -- hair, and smouldering eyes. Edward Cullen, Patch Cipriano, Noah Shaw, anyone? It's so, so rare to get an actual, living, breathing teenage boy as a love interest, patchy beard, bad fashion sense and all.

And the biggest issue I have with this? Acne. The teenage years are full of unsightly red monstrosities. No one is immune to it, not even the rich girls with access to the most expensive skin regiments. And yet, open up your current YA read, and I'm willing to bet everyone has flawless skin.

I had chronic acne from the time I was 11 all throughout my teens. It's better now, but it's still there. I went through hell dealing with it, everything from my mom constantly treating it like a scientific experiment, to my former best friend using it as gossip fuel when she left me for other friends. And I know a lot of teens have the same experience.

But I've yet to see acne make an appearance in a YA novel, at least not as a serious issue. Maybe the occasional zit causing some angst, but never to the extent to which I know it can come to.

Is it too much to ask, to have more realism in our YA? Because not all of us are Pretty People.