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Thursday, April 25, 2013

When Romance Isn’t Just Romance in YA fiction

Ok, confession: I’ve wanted to express my sentiments about sexualized romance in YA fiction for ages. And today, after reading a tweet that discussed whether romance actually needs to be in a YA novel for it to be good (and another tweet about unnecessary romance in YA novels), I am going to share my views about ‘romance that isn’t just romance’ here.

One of my most basic presuppositions about humans is that they are very impressionable and, under the right circumstances, can be easily manipulated. I think this is especially true for youth.

So. Going along with that presupposition…we have teens—highly impressionable, (potentially) easily manipulated teens—that are being exposed to ideas about who they are, who they are supposed to be, what constitutes a relationship, what constitutes a good relationship, etc.

And then, we have YA books that serve as idea-givers alongside other sources of media, from tv to radio to the net and beyond.

Are you beginning to see the magnitude of such influence??? (If you haven’t already, that is?) But back to making my main point…

Another presupposition that I hold to about teenagers is that they are valuable.

When I combine those two presuppositions and look at what some romance in YA fiction offers, I don’t just become irritated; I become grieved. I become infuriated. I become confused.

Why? Because teenagers are often portrayed as cripplingly hormone-driven; they can’t make rational decisions. Or, my personal pet peeve, because teenagers are portrayed as incapable of having a truly meaningful, mature relationship without being physically involved in some way (a kiss is one thing; a make-out session is another.)

Here’s an idea: maybe if we didn’t force the perception that teens act this way because they are this way, they wouldn’t believe the perception.   

We can change the world.

Ideas are perpetuated by the feedback of those around us. What others think of us is a powerful tool of manipulation. It’s so powerful that we adopt such perceptions without realizing that they are not, in fact, ours. But we will think they are. And, eventually, they will become ours.

Many synopses draw teens into reading a novel by targeting the physical—there’s a hunky, muscular character, the romance is dripping with sex appeal, etc. I mean, seriously? Dripping with sex appeal? (I actually read that somewhere…and I still almost can’t believe it!)

That isn’t something that should be aimed towards teenagers if we want to give them the impression that their value is found in something other than what they can offer (or be given) physically.

A relationship based on sex will NEVER work. Never. Sex isn't the glue of a relationship—it’s a piece or two of confetti and a few sprinkles.  It isn't the cake mix, it's a layer of frosting.

Teens are worth more than this garbage that people offer them and assume they will not only accept, but appreciate.

As a YA author, I want to write about teens with their edification and humanity in mind. I want them to realize that not everyone thinks that they are objects whose affections can be toyed with for monetary gain.

I choose to honor, respect, and cherish the youth of this world for all they are and all they can be…

I want to change the world. 


  1. Wow! This is wonderful! I completely agree with what you are saying. There is a lot of spiritual insight in this post. I do think that naturally speaking teenagers are more hormone driven, or at least driven the same as adults without knowing quite how to control themselves, but I also think that if we didn't bombard them with all the crap in media and literature it would be easier for them to handle. I also think expectation wise they would see how true love works, and would desire that over what is currently being presented to them.

    1. Thanks so much for replying! Love to hear what other people are thinking about what I post!! (Sorry I haven't gotten back in a bit, it's one of my weak points ^_^'.) I couldn't agree with you more about everything you've said--I do think that teens have a difficult time transitioning and learning how to control their feelings and impulses, but if we helped them along the way with an encouraging and edifying paradigm, their self-concept would probably be healthier. And I think that teens the world over are looking for unconditional (true) love...and I think their search for it would be much easier if there weren't so many people out there are labeling infatuation and lust as love.


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