Shit I’m Sick of Reading Part 2

10 March, 2012 Musing Musers 40 comments

In the last Shit I’m Sick of Reading segment Kat covered the highly overused trope: The love triangle. This time I’d like to bitch moan complain chat about my biggest pet peeve when it comes to the YA genre. Insta-love. There is nothing that grates my nerves faster than insta-love. A book can have the best premise in the world, but evoke insta-love and I’ll barely give that book 2 stars. You know what I’m referring to here. Girl sees the howtest guy for the first time, swooning ensues and the next page they are declaring their undying love for one another. Not only is this method insanely popular, but it sells books faster than hot cakes at the county fair. Why is that? Now, one could argue that it’s just fiction, an outlet of escapism. And to certain degree I can understand that viewpoint, but these books aren’t being marketed towards adult women. The target market are young girls who may or may not have even had a boyfriend yet, let alone fallen in love. Are books that portray love in this manner just setting young girls up for unrealistic ideals about relationships?

As much as I would love to sit and blame Twilight for this unfortunate trend in Young Adult novels, the issue is bigger than that. Almost every girl has heard of the first Edward and Bella: Romeo & Juliet. That age-old love story is a prime example of the rule: just because it’s famous, doesn’t mean it’s good. Yet, no one really sits around and talks about the deeper issues of the story.  Romeo and Juliet barely knew anything about each other, but the claim to have been deeply in love and in the end they kill themselves. How romantic!

How about in today’s media? What role models do young girls grow up watching? The Disney Princesses, of course!

Don’t get me started on them!

Sailor Moon was my favorite show growing up.

Disney: Where all your dreams can come true after you meet prince charming! I suppose I can’t fault Disney too much for their insta-love story lines. When it comes to feminism and Disney, insta-love is the least of their issues. I mean, they are working with only an hour and thirty minutes after all. Even I remember watching cartoons thinking, “Gosh, that’s so romantic.”  Truth is I had no idea what was romantic. All I knew was what Disney and Cartoon Network told me. And what they told me was not reality. But as for Young Adult novels? No. When you have almost 500 pages written and you have the main characters making “contingency plans” in the event they are no longer together and they just met, something is wrong.

But wait! What about “love at first sight”? Isn’t that just what this is? Maybe. But in most instances these inta-love romances it’s not just love at first sight, it’s obsession at first sight. It’s “I love you so much I’m going to stop engaging in hobbies I used to, forget I have other friends and family, and we’ll live happily ever after!”  And that’s another issue I have. Co-dependency is almost always accompanied with insta-love.  It’s usually the same story line we’ve read before: Some unremarkable Mary Sue moves to a new school. Howt guy sees girl for the first time. They share one conversation. Love. Throw in a little paranormal or fantasy elements and you’ve got yourself a best seller. It’s ironic when you think about it. Jane Austin wrote about strong women attempting to break free of society norms and here we are in 2012 writing about damsels with only their strong men to save them. Here we are still fighting for gender equality by day and secretly wanting to be saved in our fantasies. Are we really trying to have our co-dependent cake and eat the feminist one too?

The only time I employ the insta-love card is when I’m playing The Sims.

Where is the period of limerence or infatuation? Where is the relationship’s growth? Why is the heroine’s entire life altered by a hot guy at school? How can their love be forever when they know nothing about each other? Falling in love is easy, staying in love is where the challenge lies. Love is hard work! So believe me, I can understand the appeal of effortless love, but this isn’t love. It’s a cheap imitation knock off with lackluster characters, a thrown together plot, and equally uninspired writing. There is nothing deep about these relationships. They are superficial, vain, and shallow. Yet, we pour these ideals into our young girls from a disturbingly early age. This is what we grow up thinking love is. Do men really have commitment issues or do women just grow up delusional from all the propaganda? Are women really clingy or are they just unconsciously searching for their “happily ever after?” Are we dooming our relationships before they even begin with these unrealistic expectations?

There aren’t any easy answers to those questions, but one thing for sure is that reality is a bitch and she always comes to collect on your fantasies. And while I don’t solely blame the current state of the Young Adult genre on woman’s relationship issues, I’m just sick of reading this shit.

How do you feel about insta-love? Does it bother you as much as it bothers me?

Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker, fangirl and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.

40 Responses to “Shit I’m Sick of Reading Part 2”

  1. Ikhlas Hussain

    Definitely irritates me in recent YA fiction, Stephanie. I definitely think Romeo and Juliet had something to do with it; it is sort of what Twilight was based off (and every other PNR YA novel of late).

    I actually just finished Unearthly (which I HAD to pick up after reading your glowing review!) and was happy to see that Clara didn’t fall into insta-love with Christian. It sure seems like it, especially with all her visions, and I sort of had a feeling of dread in my stomach as I read about their fateful meeting, but after spending time with him, its clear that it isn’t insta-love. And for that I was supremely happy.

    I love my YA, but man, we really should learn some lessons from classics, like Austen.

    Also…Sailor Moon was my favourite show too as a kid! Cinder is apparently based off it…not sure if you’ve read that 🙂
    Ikhlas Hussain recently posted…Review: CinderMy Profile

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      Hi Ikhlas. Thanks for commenting!

      Twilight is the story of Romeo and Juliet had they not killed themselves. I remember when I studied Shakespeare in school, I never liked Romeo and Juliet. The story didn’t appeal to me at all, but I referred to it as romantic because that’s what is pretty much expected whenever you mention their names.

      Unearthly was a pleasant surprise! I’m very glad you enjoyed it. I thought for sure it was going to be another run of the mill PNR, but Cynthia Hand changed it up nicely.

      I didn’t know that about Cinder! I thought it was just based off of Cinderella. It’s on my TBR list. I’ll have to get to it really soon!

      • Ikhlas Hussain

        Hi Stephanie! Thanks for your reply 🙂
        Yeah, we’re pretty much ingrained to think of Romeo and Juliet as the greatest love story of all time, but when you actually sit down to study it(like you do in school), you realise its actually a pretty tragic tale.

        I loved Unearthly so much that I’m just currently waiting for my library to open so I can run and grab Hallowed! Lol. There were a lot of unanswered questions at the end, which I was expecting Hand to answer, which she didn’t, so I’m eager to see where the story takes us in Hallowed.

        And yes! Its a Cinderella retelling, but is also influenced by Sailor Moon, which I think is so cool!
        Ikhlas Hussain recently posted…Review: CinderMy Profile

  2. Lexie B.

    Insta-love bothers me more than I can properly express without excessive use of capitals. It’s one of the few things that is guaranteed to turn me off from a book. My problem with it lies in my definition of love: when you know someone from top to bottom and love them for every inch. In real, genuine love, people recognize that the person they care for isn’t flawless, but they love them despite their imperfections. With insta-love, that’s not the case. I don’t believe it’s possible to love someone you don’t know. Be infatuated with them? Be attracted to them? Certainly. But when a book tries selling something to me as some beautiful, star-crossed love and all I see is two horny teenagers who find each other physically appealing, my respect for that book hits the floor.
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    • Lexie B.

      Also, re: Romeo and Juliet, I’ve found it’s much easier to enjoy when you look at it as a tragedy, a cautionary tale, rather than the “beautiful love story” that people today claim it to be. I don’t think Shakespeare meant it to be some beautiful love story–I think he meant to show his viewers how fucked up things end when a sixteen-year-old boy falls in love with a twelve-year-old girl in the span of two seconds.
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    • Stephanie Sinclair

      I completely agree, Lexie. You have to truly know someone and be comfortable with their flaws to claim you love them. Absolutely! Insta-love makes me hurl boos across rooms.

      That’s also the way I view Romeo and Juliet, as a tragedy. But you know how the world is: romanticizing things that have no business being romanticized.

  3. VeganYANerds

    Great post, Steph! Yes, insta-love does bug me, quite a lot really. And let’s face it, in real life it’s more like insta-crush or insta-lust *not* LOVE! And in real life that insta-crush that people think is love usually wears off and they realise the person isn’t as fantastic as they’d thought!

    Loving this new feature, I’m going to go back and read last week’s!
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      • Amanda

        I’ve studied Shakespeare, and Romeo & Juliet, at length in college, and it is most definitely a tragedy and not a romance. There are all of these strings of events that were set up to have the couple fail and feel hopeless. The ending is also strong evidence that Shakespeare wanted his audience to know things between Romeo and Juliet would never have worked out.

        Shakespeare also wrote R&J in partial inspiration from his loveless marriage to his wife, where he wrote many times that he felt trapped with her, and suicide or illness would be his escape. When he died, he didn’t leave her anything in his will, not even their marriage bed. Nice guy huh?
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  4. Lisa

    Great post, Stephanie. I am also not a fan of insta-love. I don’t mind insta-attraction, since that’s very realistic, but when the characters start declaring their undying love after one conversation, that’s when I throw the book against the wall.

    As for Romeo and Juliet, I like the play (though it’s by far my favorite Shakespeare play), but that’s because I don’t see it as a truly epic love. Almost everyone that redoes the tale forgets that Romeo and Juliet died in the end. Without that, the entire meaning of the play changes. True love, if that’s what it’s meant to be, doesn’t conquer all. In fact, it conquers nothing. Romeo and Juliet don’t get to be together, not even in death as far as we know. Shakespeare doesn’t end the play by having an epilogue describing how Romeo and Juliet’s souls ended up together in heaven for all eternity. He ends the play by saying there was “never a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” Their love doesn’t even conquer their parents’ hatred. It was their deaths that ended the feud. I hate when Romeo and Juliet is presented as the perfect love story because it so wasn’t.

    P.S. I loved Sailor Moon as a child.

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      Yes, I’m the same. I enjoy a bit of insta-attraction. I just want the character’s relationship to mean something.

      That an excellent point about R&J. It’s easy to forget it was never meant to be a love story. It’s interesting how their story has morphed into something completely different and fueled the insta-love trope.

  5. Sofija Kapranova

    If I ever have a daughter I’ll ban all of the Disney princesses from the house. Except Mulan. She kicks ass.

    • Stephanie Sinclair

      Oh yeah. Mulan was badass. The new Disney movies aren’t as bad as the original Disney Princesses. For example, Rapunzel and The Princess and the Frog were pretty good. Both feature strong heroines that were opinionated and goal oriented. I own all the old Disney movies on VHS, but my daughter has never seen them. It’s not because I’m trying to keep them from her, but she’s just not interested in them!

  6. Lady Jaye

    I think a lot of it is “love at first sight” – it was drummed into our heads growing up that there is no love at first sight because love involves ‘knowing the person.’ Sure like-very-much-at-first-sight, but never love. So I just roll my eyes and KIM whn I see books like that around.

  7. Donna @ Bites

    Oh yeah. Thankfully I tend to skip most of those books that feature that trope so it doesn’t grind my gears as much as it potentially could. But when I do see it it is annoying. The thing is when I was a teen, I was kinda like that. Not to that extreme because that’s a little bit crazy but the GUY kind of pulled the blinders on. And then you fall into these romantic ideas of what the relationship should be and you end up saying things to each other that you probably don’t really mean but they sound nice. So yeah, I do get it and I can definitely see the appeal.

    At the same time I’m seeing this trope in YA as the equivalent to the three pump orgasm in adult romance. The man is so super awesome and their connection is so strong that she comes almost immediately. Talk about elevating expectations! Since that would be far too graphic for YA, you get the blue balls version, insta-love.
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  8. Luan Pitsch

    Insta-lust masquerades as insta-love and is easily mistaken. Also, we’re-hiding-this-from-everyone so it must be love (with a good dose of lust).

  9. Lynn

    I was pondering over the same issue recently, after a bunch of YA reads. I used to not mind “insta-love” that much when I read because I know its only fiction and like you said, its a form of escapism. But when it started popping up so often in the books its just…not that interesting anymore.

  10. Patricia

    Insta Love.. I don’t know. I sometimes wonder if I’m not giving youth (or people in general) enough credit there, if I’m a hypocrite for ranting about so many books, BUT holy cow, what the fuck is wrong with these authors? Why Insta Love? And I mean.. Why would readers want that? When I read a story I need to feel the lurve, to relate to the characters etc. Attraction and lust is okay, but love? That takes time. >_< *rant rant rant* Okay, I'll just shut up and be frustrated over here. XD

  11. Luan Pitsch

    oh hey. I noticed that I posted before but now I’m feeling more charitable thanks to lunch with girlfriends and 2 glasses of wine. So, here’s my new opinion.

    Why do we read? To escape. How can we escape without believing in insta-love? Reading was the first suspension of belief we graciously give to movies. We really want to believe…okay, be intertained. But it has to be done well. So that, even when we’re groaning we’re happy.

    I believe that when we get annoyed with insta-love, it has more to do with the writing than our want, yearning, really needing to get on board with that suspension of belief. So. I’m saying here: Yay for insta-love.

  12. emma woodcock

    I love this article! You say so many things I have thought over the years.

    “do women just grow up delu­sional from all the pro­pa­ganda”

    I definitely did. It began to occur to me a long time ago that my spectactularly unsuccessful love life was perhaps due to wildly unrealistic expectations based on popular culture – not just YA books, but as you point out, everything from the disney princesses onwards.

    Life got a lot better when I worked my way out of that mindset (which is easier said than done).

    Another well used trope in YA fiction is the gawky kid you can’t stand who by the third act turns out to be just the guy you’re looking for. I like that one better, cuz it resonates much more with my actual life experiences.
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  13. Sai K

    I LOVE it when you kick ass in putting ideas/ ppl/ other things in their place. And even more when its something I also feel strongly about. Love this!!

  14. hellloitslate

    This whole Disney shit is so ridiculous, it’s only a problem if you are a horrid parent and can’t teach your child what matters in life. I mean do most parents tell there children everything they see in books and movies is a guidebook to how to live their lives? Insta-love has never, and will never bother me, as I know two couples who experienced it in real life and have been married for forty plus years. The shit happens, irl, I’m not sure why it bothers people, teenagers are always falling in love in 2.5 seconds or less and this is fraking fiction we’re talking about.

    • Steph Sinclair

      hellloitslate I tend to disagree about Disney. As much as I love them, a lot of the older films were pretty sexist. Even with Brave, they completely changed the characters physique to make her “sexier” for the doll. 
      And I’m not saying that it’s a guidebook or that there is no parental involvement. The point was that our society as a whole sets up this way of thinking that ultimately can lead to disappointment later in life. Further, I do think there is a big difference from instant attraction and instant love. 
      I don’t think just because it’s teenage fiction that it’s not subject to literary criticism.

  15. ShanteDunn

    Girl yes! i thought i was the only one. i hate when that happens because it is so unrealistic. if someone does so called fall in love at first sight in real life, id say its mainly lust and obsession.i Like those relationships that build over time. if a  writer cant spend to much time on building a relationship up then they could at least portray the characters as if they know each other well enough to be in love.

    • Steph Sinclair

      ShanteDunn I agree. Those are the stories I prefer to read as well. I can understand being really attracted to someone and having a certain connection. I’ve experienced that as well. I just dislike insta-love being so glorified.

  16. Sass

    Okay, I agree with you about the insta-love, but I will go to the mat for Romeo and Juliet. It’s not a love story. It’s a tragedy. It’s about how letting your passions rule you (both anger and love) can only end in disaster. It’s actually an argument against insta-love in itself (Rosaline exists to display Romeo’s fickle nature). And also I’ve been a Mervolio shipper since I was 14, so.

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