So I have been thinking recently and I have noticed a trend in YA Fantasy that is actually quite concerning, both as a YA reader but also as an understand-er of psychology. One of the biggest elements in YA fiction (in general) is love, there is the love-hate relationship with love triangles, there is unrequited love and then there is the forbidden love.
I love me a good love plot…
But the more I am growing and developing, the more I am noticing some harrowing signs used to create love in this genre. Firstly, love is generally associated with two people being unable to part; they spend every moment together and all they can think about is each other. How many people do you know that spends every second with the person they love? How does the character know that they love them, if they are never apart?
Then this leads to a level of dependency, where the characters cannot function on their own. This is sometimes used a plot point, where one is taken away and the other becomes lost; but often it is just never known that they can do something without the other. This builds an image of love in the younger generations (cough, I felt old saying that) that love is something that makes you dependent on the other, it builds a negative image of love.
Characteristics I’ve found, obsession, idolising, isolation, these are all associated with abusive relationships. When you are presenting this as love, especially to an impressionable age group, you start to normalise that it is okay to cut yourself off from your family and friends because you are in love, it is okay to lie to people when they ask you what is going on, it is okay to keep dangerous secrets because your love has told you not to tell. These characters, especially in fantasy, go through extremely dangerous situations usually associated with their new love; and yet they rarely confide in the people there to protect them.
How often have you read a love relationship in YA that is built on honesty, respect, trust?
They tend to be centred around one member hiding a deep dangerous secret and the other needing to know, or is the only one to know. They tend to be extremely one sided, usually the girl being completely dependent on the male (because we are still struggling to rid the hetro-normative style of relationships in literature), they are dependent on the other and usually there is only one making the decisions. And when there is dishonesty (either by one member to the other, or asking one member to lie/ with-hold information to other important people in their lives) there is a lack of trust. Yes, it may seem like trust when they say ‘you are the only one to know…’ but in honesty it places a large amount of stress on the individual, a stress that is never really expressed in YA.
Remember, if you are reading this type of relationship, they are not the outline to what sort of relationship you should work to. A relationship doesn’t appear, it builds slowly and the insta-love associated with YA could be a factor in the increase in short term relationships; as the people believe that this must be my true love and things go wrong.
Remember, if you are writing love; be a little more real. Just because we love to write about fast paced action, or out of this world Sci-Fi, there are elements of interaction and relationships that still build. Of course, when creating a world, the rules of society may be completely different but it is important to establish these rules and build them. If something happens between soul-mates, then make it clear.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Let me know in the comments below!