Literature Thoughts · Uncategorized

How YA Romance Warps Perceptions of Relationships

Let me start off by saying that I am as guilty on this count as everyone else. I grew up consuming as much of the Teenage Eternal Love Story as humanly possible. I still do, but the difference now is that I understand that these types of hyper-relationships do not exist in real life, especially in young adults. Today, I am going to be going over why these are unrealistic standards to hold real life relationships to.

There’s a lot of commonalities in YA books that I am sure you guys have heard of (uninteresting mary sue character becomes the object of adoration by some mysteriously hot and confused boy with a secret). Right now, I am ignoring these characterizations and focusing more on the unrealistic relationships between characters.

Some Characteristics of a YA Lit Romantic Relationship:

  • The Honeymoon phase NEVER ends.
  • There is an immediate and generous amount of connection.
  • Almost always heterosexual, everyone is white.
  • They have this intangible intensity factor
  • Romance is more important than survival or the mission or whatever the characters goals are.
  • Characters have few things in common.
  • It’s assumed that they will be together forever.
  • Their relationship seems to run smoothly with few to no bumps in the road.
  • Can Romanticize Stalkerish behavior
  • #Soulmates

So while all of this is great for the entertainment factor that comes with YA Literature, these are not by any means the standards by which we can hold our real life relationships to. Here’s some reasons why:

People have lives outside of their partner- While this sounds awesome and magical, most real life relationships would never survive the passion and fervor of a YA Romance. So much of the couple’s energy goes towards their significant other that it almost consumes them. In the real world, this is not considered a healthy relationship.

The likelihood that you spend the rest of your life with someone you fell in love with at 15 is highly unlikely. There are exceptions to this, my parents were high school sweethearts, but they broke up and got back together SEVERAL times. They grew and changed a lot before they found each other again. YA couples often get this “To Death Shall Us Part” vibe going. Taking perceptions like this seriously is what leads to teenagers trying to make dying relationships work long after they’re in the grave. Teens often date each other for selfish reasons, whether this be subconsciously or not. Who they are dating could advance their social hierarchy, it proves that the dark ages of puberty haven’t left them completely undesirable, and it makes them feel good about themselves in a time when that is so hard to do. Relationships based on these qualities are not meant to last. Perceptions of love and romance that are received not only from books, but from the media in general, can draw these potentially toxic relationships out causing more harm than good.

The Honey Moon Phase does end. This refers to the six month-a year period after a couple starts dating when they are just completely infatuated with each other. Eventually the relationship settles down into something much less overwhelming as the couple becomes more comfortable being together. But in YA fiction this period never seems to end, giving teens unrealistic expectations of what a relationship should be like.

Toxic relationships are just no good for anyone. I am looking at you Twilight. Any book that romanticizes putting your life in danger because your partner left you will automatically get an F on my rating scale. This is NOT the type of message we want to be sending to teens. We need to be teaching them to be okay on their own, with or without a significant other. Dating someone will not cure your mental illness. Also a no go: stalking sexual assault or harassment, and/or discouraging significant others from their hobbies/passions.

Perfect relationships are not perfect- It is in my experience that when something is put on a pedestal, it is more likely to fall off then it would be if it was still on flat ground. Any relationship was exists to be perfect and is not given room to be flexible is likely to crack.The great thing about real relationships is that they have flaws, and they have room for both partners to grow and learn together. Even if they don’t work out, they can be a good experience. Don’t crush that awesomeness by turning it into some glorified falsehood.

Just as a quick disclaimer, I understand that not ALL YA books contain these relationship problems and I am making lots of generalizations here.But these are common problems that I have seen enough times to make a post about it.

Please let me know what you guys think of these issues and if you have any other ideas related.

That’s all for now, carry on your merry ways!



8 thoughts on “How YA Romance Warps Perceptions of Relationships

  1. I don’t read a lot of YA romance, but I teach 18-year-olds just coming out of this period and they’ve told me a lot about the genre that agrees with your post. I definitely remember making some foolish decisions, and drama/conflict makes for a good story. But I agree there’s a difference between having your characters make mistakes vs. normalizing those mistakes and rewarding them for their poor choices.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, I think the biggest issue is romanticizing these pseudo relationships that never make it out of the honey-moon phase. The “You met the love of your life when you were 18” trope is not a healthy one. Teens have barely lived enough of life to find their soul-mate in three books or less.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yessss to all of these points, and you explained them very well. This is exactly why I experienced a sudden and complete turnoff to YA about two years ago. I’d always enjoyed it, even into my late twenties, but around the time that Rainbow Rowell and John Green sort of took over the whole YA scene, I just reached my limit.

    To be fair, love triangles (which I hate) are a plague of adult romance stories, too, particularly movies. But then I don’t like adult romance, either. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My pick would be: Love triangles. It normalizes and romanticizes them. Sure, you can be attracted to multiple people at once, but the way most heroines (and stories) deal with the issue is often borderline cruel and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Also stalkerish, when one of the triangle keeps trying after getting rebuffed. Threesome, or move on already!

    The issue of risking your well-being for the sake of your love interest pisses me off, too. Not the kind of “I need to rescue Billy!” sort of risking, mind. But the kind of “You are a ravaging mindless beast on the full moon, but I will open your cage anyway, because the power of love will tame your wild heart.” or the “If you’re gonna kill him, you’re gonna have to kill me too!”

    Each and every time, I wholeheartedly wish that the beast would comp off the girl’s arm and the evil dictator will say, “Hmm, sounds like a plan. Execute both of ’em!”

    It also goes the other way. Why is the dude always jumping in front of the train?

    Somehow, they all live happily ever after.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Completely right, I didn’t even think about Love Triangles but that’s another great point. That hardly ever happens in real life and if it does the girl is known for being a tease towards the guys.

      Also, agreeing on the endangering safety. You would think these characters would have a little more common sense. Or at least have semi-realistic reactions.

      Killer points, totally agree.

      Liked by 1 person

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