I Love You. No, I Love You More {A Young Adult Trend}

Recently on Twitter, the hashtag YANeedsMore was trending. I made a post that wound up receiving a handful of likes and responses from other readers and writers. The tweet said: characters that grow up or change not because of love or love triangles, but because it was their choice.

I read a lot of YA books and rather often than not, I go through binges. I’ll read zero books one week and next week, read two or three. What I’ve been noticing is love is being used as a plot device – repeatedly. There’s a main character that has some struggle to overcome and enter the handsome/beautiful/mysterious (insert whatever adjective you want here, they all work), stranger to help them figure out what they need to do. Not only will the main character be awed by their presence, but they’ll feel a magnetic pull to them. Some authors try the immediate hate approach, but as a reader, it’s easy to see that the initial disgust will wear off and become a blossoming romance. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen in real life. Sometimes it takes a while for people to get used to each other or figure each other out. Once this happens, some feelings can emerge. What has become an issue for me is why does an overwhelming amount of books have to follow this trend?

A lot of my personal growth came from spending time on my own. To be frank, being involved in any type of serious relationship would have probably made me worse off. It’s rare for me, while reading Young Adult literature, to see characters following this trend or even turning to a friend for answers. When a romance is involved as a major plot, a lot of friendships get pushed to the side, or the relationship with friends becomes centered around talking about the main relationship.

Being a teenager/young adult is a difficult time for anybody. There are expectations put on one’s shoulders. There’s an emerging identity to figure out, a career. One has to ride the roller-coaster of drama caused by friends who may not really be your friends. A lot happens in these years and yes, relationships may happen, but they’re not the only influences on teenagers or young adults. Not to mention, not every person who sees someone ridiculously attractive or intriguing actually approaches them. It may just be a ‘oh they’re pretty’ and no words are ever exchanged.

I feel as if YA literature can be sending the wrong message, or perhaps, repeating a message that cannot encompass everyone. Love will not solve problems, nor will love always be the catalyst of deciding to take initiative or deciphering who one is as a person. Some may not even feel love or attraction to another person. There needs to be a broader spectrum of outlets for characters and especially the readers. What if the main character grows up after a traumatic event, through a solid relationship with their parents or best friend, by transitioning from high school to college, from realizing one summer that they are not where they want to be in their life? It’s not always about the hunky new kid that shows up in town and suddenly has all the answers.

Don’t get me wrong, I support relationships in YA – assuming they’re healthy and well written. I merely feel that a plot can be progressed by devices that don’t involve falling in love. There could be a platonic relationship between strangers, one that is simply for business, one with so much hate a reader is concerned that the main characters may not make it through the book at all. There could be a myriad of triggers and I’m curious as to why love is the overused option. Do we as a society value that more? Do we believe that our readers will connect better with characters that fall in love as opposed to those who don’t? I know shipping is a huge thing in fandoms of all kinds, but I think YA literature could use some variety. Personal growth sometimes needs to be personal.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below if you have an opinion on this matter. I’d be interested in hearing what other fellow writers/readers have to say about this.

xx Megan

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10 thoughts on “I Love You. No, I Love You More {A Young Adult Trend}

  1. I’d settle for healthier relationships as a start. The newer YA I’ve seen have had really unbalanced relationships, and like you said, they push all their friends away. Seeing that promoted as “happily ever after” makes me a little twitchy.

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    • I agree with that. If there are going to be relationships in YA books, they should at least be healthy ones. Sadly, there are far too many unhealthy ones which I rant about constantly to other readers and writers. Pushing away friends in order to be with someone, it won’t help in the long run. If things don’t work out, they’ll need someone who will be willing to catch them, to support them in a way that is unromantic. A relationship shouldn’t be equivalent to losing friendships.

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  2. I agree that romance is to often used as the thing that drives the plot but I think people write it like that because that is the genre.
    It is what people that read that genre tend to like.
    I am trying to attempt to write from the point of view of a character that’s a little different from your average hero though. My plan is that she would be someone like me who when she gets upset closes the door and throws the phone away and sorts herself until she feels better. I want my story to show how you don’t always know what people hide behind their smiles and I really want the character to find herself in the end. I don’t know if this sounds at all like a good story but that’s my plan.
    This comment is already way to long so sorry about that. I also think romance is so big in YA because if you are writing YA then you most likely read a lot of it and the romance is part of this genre that the writer fell in love with.

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    • Don’t apologize for a long comment. I like hearing what people have to say. I see your point about romance being a huge component of YA literature. I will admit there are some relationships that I fell in love with while reading that I would defend and want to read more of. I do however believe that not all situations and personal growth should come about because of love. There should be more examples in order to connect with audiences that don’t necessarily situate themselves with romance and relationships.

      As far as your story goes, yes it makes total sense. I like the direction of your main character for I’m similar. When I get angry or upset, I need time to cool off and think before I approach any kind of solution. I hope you do well mapping out your character’s growing up process.

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  3. I agree that romance is too abundant in AY literature themes and it had a significant (negative) impact on the AYs. AY nowadays (myself included at some rate, I guess) seems to not know how to live and enjoy life on their own; finding someone to share life with has been a bigger theme than ever in the AY’s lives and that urge seems to emerge in even earlier years that before.
    Nice post, thanks for sharing your thought 🙂

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    • I don’t mind a relationship in YA literature as long as it’s a healthy one. However I think that should not be the only thing that is presented. I think showing character growth with the individual character themselves can be helpful to a different audience. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this as well 🙂

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