Instalove in YA… & Why It Actually Makes Sense

Posted December 25, 2020 by Amber in Bookish Things / 7 Comments

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Good morning everyone!

A few months ago, I wrote a post on the way adult readers like tear down YA books for the behavior of their protagonists and lack of relatability.  Today, I wanted to expand on that topic a little bit and discuss romantic relationships in YA.

Now, okay, first?  Please understand that I am not big on romantic storylines anyway.  If you read my reviews, you will hear a lot of UGH WHY THE ROMANCE.  While my own personal preference would be that these story have more plot than love, I do think that lust and love are big themes for teenagers.  And today, I want to talk about the realism of instalove.

Outside of love triangles, instalove is the most complained about romantic trope in YA.

From the reader’s perfective, I can get how that’s super unsatisfying.  There’s no connection, no steady build.  And if it’s requited just as quickly?  It’s not a very interesting story.

But those slow builds aren’t always real to the teenage experience.  Sometimes they are.  There are also those who identify as aromantic.  And many shades in-between.  What I’m saying here is we need to stop bashing instalove as bad writing, because it’s not always.  For many teens, that’s their true experience.

Some young adults wear their hearts on their sleeves, and I was one of them.  I’ve recently been going through my old diaries and converting them to digital because I don’t know why, to torture myself I guess.  Anyway, what I have learned about Young Me and apparently had wiped from my memory was that I was always in love.  Every day it was “today, we spoke for FIVE MINUTES and it was the most amazing thing” or “He wasn’t at church today and my life is an endless trudge of despair”.  While these intense crushes never worked out for me, it doesn’t mean they didn’t feel real.  And it doesn’t mean they were petty or annoying and shouldn’t’ve been included in the book.

I read Eve back in early 2017, thrilled for the dystopian world it promised.  In the end, I was frustrated by a few things, not least of all the instalove that drove the protagonist rather than the urgency of the situation.  In dystopias, there are a lot of reasons to drive the plot forward, survival often being the most prevalent.  In Eve, survival took a back seat to love, and it exasperated me.  Retrospectively, I should have been a little kinder.  Just because I’m a bitter adult doesn’t mean that the story didn’t have a purpose.  It may not have been the purpose I wanted, but to Eve herself it was very real and very important.

So, it’s okay not to like instalove romances in your reading.  I still don’t like them, even though I was *that* kid.  But we need to stop calling them illegitimate or bad writing.  It’s okay not to relate to something, but there’s someone else out there with their heart on their sleeve who will see these characters and their experiences and love them.  Need them.  And those are the people who book like Eve or Twilight or Delirium are written for, the teens who feel the world deeply and love easily.

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How do you feel about instalove romances?  When I was a teen, I gobbled them up, but the older and more jaded I became, the less I liked them.  What about you?  Tell me all about it in the comments!

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7 responses to “Instalove in YA… & Why It Actually Makes Sense

  1. I totally agree with you! Instalove isn’t my favorite thing either, but it’s so realistic and relatable to teens. Which is who YA is meant for!

    • Amber

      Thanks! I was really aggravated about this type of romance for a while, but I saw a throwaway comment somewhere once and I’ve been thinking on it ever since – I was so quick to “fall in love” as a teen. No reason why we should be fighting against this in books. Is it a good thing to do from the teen perspective? Of course not – so many broken hearts. But does it happen? Absolutely!

  2. I never liked Instalove, even as a teenager, because I was born a bitter old grouch and was cynical towards any and all romance. Even though I met my now-husband as a teenager and had some one-sided (at the time) Instalove I still hated reading about it in books. Now I am a bitter old grouch and I still don’t like it. Is it realistic to the experience of teenagers? Yes.. Am I probably being a stick in the mud? Also yes. I still don’t really enjoy it, but if it’s well-written I won’t DNF.

    • I also never liked the insta-love in YA books, because I never was like that and didn’t know anyone like that, so I assumed it was what authors thought “real girls” should be like, which turned me off a lot of YA novels. I still read YA novels as an adult, but I guess I’m still too bitter to read them, because when they’re well-written the protagonists sound JUST like teenagers and I hate teenagers (even when I was a teenager), so I guess I should probably just…stop.

      • Amber

        Sounds like you have a bit of a conundrum. YA as a genre offers *so much* that is not available in adult fiction, including diversity… as well as the story arcs just being different, not being driven by romance or sex or death but sometimes just joy and adventure. I think that the Adult genre has some growing to do, or at the very least the New Adult genre needs to evolve to encompass these stories with older protagonists that are able to enjoy stories that are not only driven by carnal desires (I’m bitter about adult books, lol, so we all have our thing!).

    • Amber

      It’s totally okay for you not to like it! 😀 I myself don’t *like* it, but I have noticed over the years it been written off as “bad writing” where that may not always be the case. 🙂 DNF your heart out for personal enjoy reasons, for sure!!!