Friday, April 20, 2012

Pointless Rant: YA Love Interests

When I was typing that title, at first I typed Pantless Rants. Let me assure you, I am most definitely wearing pants.

So, ahem.

YA love interests.

If you know me in real life (I think that's maybe one of you) or, more likely, you've encountered me on Goodreads or AW, you might've heard a tiny complaint or two from me about YA love interests (hereby referred to as LIs).

I feel like my feelings on the matter have to bubble over into a big ranty blog post.

Let's face it: most YA novels have romance. Because most teen girls love it or at least like it, and the YA readership is almost entirely made up of girls. I love YA novels that focus on things besides romance, but I do love me a good romance, too.

Heard my unrelenting, unabashedly loud declarations of love for Anna and the French Kiss yet? *cough*

But lately, in reading YA romances, I've been getting feelings of déjà vue. I see the same LI over and over and over again and I'm like, "I've vue-d this, déjà."

Tall. Dark. Smirking. Smart-aleky. Pouty-lipped. Dreamy-eyed. Mysterious past. Probably the desire of every other girl in the school, but only has eyes for our MC.


I'm seriously getting sick of this.

When you were in high school, or if you are currently in high school... if you've ever had a crush on a teenage boy yourself... have you ever seen one like this? And if you have, and if you're the bookish, quiet girl all these MCs seem to be, did he only ever have eyes for you?

No. Those boys? They're usually douchebags.

Bad boys are sort of delicious. I mean, who doesn't swoon a little at the defiance of authority? I've been known to, occasionally. But... in real life, those guys our nerdy little MC girls fall for, they're bad news. I've fallen for them. They will break your heart and then hook up with their bad girl counterparts, who then proceed to mock you every day at school.

Can we please get some realistic guys in YA? Please?

Why can't the swoon-factor come from a guy's freckles instead of his biceps or abs? Why can't the moment of falling in love come from Mr Average giving you his last Tic Tac instead of gazing into smouldering eyes in a model-like pouty face?

Y'know that saying "nice guys finish last"? Why don't we change that? Why don't mean, badass, unattainably distant guys who ignore girls finish last, and harmlessly sweet funny guys start finishing first?

And I'm not going to ignore the other side of the coin here. As far as female LIs go, we've got the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Instead of being cold and distant, our MPDG is warm and welcoming and kind of too forward and on the surface, she seems a little crazy. She probably harbours some dark secrets, just like the male LI, but on the surface she's gleeful and adventurous and quirky beyond belief.

I've been the MPDG. I showed a little bit of personality around a certain guy, and he latched onto me. Seemed to think the world of me. It made me feel a little drunk at first. I unleashed every crazy impulse I'd ever had. We stayed out all night, drove to every school playground in the town and sat on swings and talked about life. Then we drove to the top of a waterfall and threw rocks two hundred feet down and talked about even more deep stuff. I felt like the coolest person ever.

But I wasn't being myself. I was being the person he thought I was. I dressed my personality up to impress him. And he got bored. And we both got hurt when the relationship burned out after two weeks.

One MPDG character is original, but when she becomes this character type, it becomes too easy to fit people into that box. Same with Mr Douchebag LI. They become tropes, cardboard cutouts with no real personality. And when they start to crop up all over the place, it's a symptom of laziness.

I try every day not to be a lazy writer. If I catch myself writing what's easy -- turning a character into a recognizable "type" -- I stop. I look at what I've done. And I turn it on its head.

I want a character. Not a character type.


  1. Great point-you've got a valid issue. I guess along with teenage girls wanting that romance, they want it from tall, dark and dreamy because in real life he's not really there--just as you said.

    Did you learn your lesson after burnout boy, or did it take you similar mistakes to realize you needed to be who you are? Unfortunately, some people never realize this.

    1. I like to think I've learned my lesson. That was three years ago and I haven't really gotten involved with anyone since, but if/when I do, they're aren't meeting me as a clothes horse poetry-writing hyperactive high school girl, they're meeting me as a sweatpants-loving, working twenty-year-old who reads on her days off -- which is a LOT closer to the real me :)

  2. All of this and then some. I'm a sucker for LIs who are sweet and funny, and I tend to really dislike the LIs who are bad-boy types. Which means...there are a LOT of romances in YA novels that completely turn me off.

    What would be even better is if female MC started out with a thing for a bad boy LI, then ACTUALLY REALIZED her mistake and went for the sweet one who'd been there all along.

    1. That would be really cool! I'd love to see some consequences in YA love stories -- characters fall too hard, too fast for each other, end up hurt or just realizing that they don't actually know or even like each other. Or, yeah, a bad boy actually being BAD for a girl, for once.

    2. I have so much fun with relationships like that! I did it in one of my MSs. The pair might get back together in later books, but for the moment, things just weren't working out.

      There is fun in dysfunctional~