|A fun bumper sticker from Zazzle|
Recently I have been reading a lot of Young Adult novels as research for the YA project I'm working on with co-author Kody Boye. I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of really great books categorized under YA that I would have missed if I hadn't been encouraged to write my own YA. I have discovered all new favorite authors and series, and I'm very happy that I began to read in the genre.
But there has been one trope that has started to wear on me.
Insta-Love is where two characters meet each other and are instantly in love with one another. Also, it can be where one character is instantly in love with the other and slowly stalks/pressures the other half of the duo until they return their affections. I have seen the phrase Insta-Love used interchangeably for both of these scenarios.
I personally believe in "love at first sight" (which is more like attraction at first sight). I experienced this with my own husband. The second I saw him I felt in my gut that he was someone who was going to be really important in my life. I have talked to other married couples where one or both felt a very strong attraction immediately. But usually the people involved didn't immediately believe the other person was their soulmate, that they were destined to be, that no matter what they should always be together, and/or stalk the other person relentlessly.
Insta-Love in YA (and in PNR) often means exactly that. "You belong to me. You are MINE" from the getgo. There isn't a spark of attraction that slowly stirs into mutual love. It's a demanding, instant ownership of the other person.
Though I have had very intense attractions between couples before (Katie and Travis, Glynis and Ignatius), I'm not a huge believer in Insta-Love. In Katie and Travis' case they become firm friends before the spark between them ignites completely. Glynis and Ignatius are impetuous in their attraction to each other. Their instant sexual attraction evolves into a love match. Right now I'm writing PRETTY WHEN SHE KILLS. Even though Cian and Amaliya were instantly drawn to each other, their relationship is still evolving.
I think my major issue with Insta-Love is that the two people caught up in it are not allowed a choice. They are soul-mates, meant to be come hell or high water, whether they like it or not, etc. Sometimes it's a magical/supernatural contrivance. They are just destined to be. Often the heroine is informed of this and is just expected to suck it up and accept it even if she thinks the guy she's supposed to be with is a jerk. Usually if she doesn't accept her fated love match, her would-be lover stalks her relentlessly until she sees the truth.Samantha sighed. "I don't know him. Who he is now...he's yours."Amaliya lit her cigarette. "For now.""What do you mean 'for now?'" Samantha narrowed her eyes."We live forever. Maybe one day we won't be able to stand each other." Amaliya lifted her shoulders dismissively. "We have the now. The future is..." She waved her hand. Cian and she had made no promises to each other. What they had now was great, but they didn't talk in terms of forever like mortals did.
Other times, both characters instantly fall for each other and swear eternal love even though they're usually around sixteen years old. This isn't seen as unusual by anyone else in the book usually, unless they're the villain.
I'm an adult. I remember the rush of insanity that was "love" when I was younger. The belief that your first love is the "forever love." Sometimes this is the case, but most often it's not. I guess that is why I'm so bothered by this trope in YA.
But I also have asked myself why is it so popular? Lots of adult women (like me) read YA. They lap up the romances just as much as their teen and tween counterparts. The Twi-Moms, anyone? Why is the Insta-Love so popular with them, too?
Maybe its because as adult women we know how hard it is to be in a real life relationship. Real relationships are work. No matter how much you love each other, there are going to be moments of disagreements, difficult times, etc. In Insta-Love, you don't have to really work at the relationship because it is destined to be. The guy in the relationship worships you without reservation. Basically, you can do no wrong except deny his love. You don't have to worry about bad breath, looking attractive, compromising on the chores around the house, etc. It's perfect glorious love that the two people involved in don't have to even worry about maintaining.
I'm starting to think the Insta-Love phenomenon is the ultimate fantasy because it entails no hard work. No worries. Nothing more than sitting back and letting a super-hot dude adore the hell out of you because he's destined to.
Is it a relief to adult women who feel the constant pressure to look like a sexy Victoria's Secret model while working 40 plus hours a week, raising their kids, maintaining their household, and keeping the fires lit with their significant other that their books portray the complete opposite? A fantasy love affair that has none of the baggage of real life?
And for so many teenagers and tweens who already feel the pressure to garner male approval in their looks and the social pressure to have a boyfriend, is it a fantasy ideal to have some perfectly hot guy fall for you because its fated? No worries at all?
Of course, this is all speculation on my part. I really do wish we would discuss this phenomenon more. Why is it happening? What does it mean about adult women in modern society? What does it mean for our daughters and nieces?
Insta-Love is spreading to other genres as well. As an adult woman, I don't mind if two consenting adults meet, have sparks fly, and fall into bed only to find out later they like each other. But I am bothered by two people meeting, sparks flying because they DESTINED, and instantly having zero other choice in their love life.
I'm reading a really good YA fantasy/paranormal novel right now that I would rate as great if not for the Insta-love, destined to be, YOU ARE FUCKING MINE, Insta-Love trope. It really bothers me to see the lead female character basically shackled to the lead male because of some magical hoodoo. In fact, she has to be with the lead character or literally they will destroy everything around them. Frankly, I'd put a bullet in myself if I was robbed of the choice of who I would be with for the rest of my life.
Is Insta-Love now evolving from a fantasy romance to something much more dangerous? Are we as readers allowing seriously warped, abusive relationships to become the norm? Where the male has total control over the female because she has no choice but to love him?
How did we get to this point?
Recently, Giselle of Xpresso Reads reviewed two different books that really made me ponder this evolving trope.
Two comments stood out to me:
"The link that bonds us", he said […] "has nothing to do with mind control, as you suspect. It's merely a tool meant to make you do as I say"
-Quote from Venus City
"I mean, Galen is great at first sight. He's gorgeous with a knack for being charming. But in truth he's controlling and lacks respect for her. He mentions wanting a girl who will do whatever he asks and never argue with him. Anyone? Plus his "serial killer eyes"… His ordering her around, never taking Emma seriously - it got on my nerves." -- from Giselle's review for Of Poseidon
This is becoming more and more common now. I just wish I understood why. Readers defend these type of "romantic" heroes saying that they are just a fantasy. Is this really the fantasy women want? The loss of the right to our own emotions, thoughts, and decision-making?
And where does it end?