Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Every Girl Wishes She Lived in a Disney Movie

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I was having a discussion with my friend Julie last week. We were discussing YA, and some of the problems we have with the genre (it's a thing we do). One of the things that came up was this: the idea that every teenager is going to have some great, sweep-you-off-your-feet romance at the age of 16. Don't get me wrong...teenagers are smart, and they're not going to assume that the things that happen in books are going to happen to them. But seriously, you guys, almost every teenager (the majority of the girls anyway) think that these life-changing romances are going to happen to them. I was one of those girls. 

I pride myself on being a level-headed, logical person. I think with my brain more often than my heart. That's not to say that I'm not a romantic, or that I don't have emotions, but I like to weigh all my options before making decisions. That being said, I was crushed when my Prince Charming failed to show up while I was 16. I had been fed a steady diet of Disney movies as a little girl, and all the princesses in those movies? They find their princes at 16. I then moved on to YA novels, the majority of which were fantasy, but still YA novels nonetheless. All the girls in those books? They find the loves of their lives at 16 (sometimes 17, but usually 16). 16 was this magical age, and for me (a painfully shy bookworm who had read lots of ugly duckling stories), reaching the end of that year with nothing extraordinary happening was devastating.

Why are YA stories written this way? It's something I've never understood, and I still don't. The romances in a lot of popular YA novels are unhealthy representations of love, and whether the readers realize it or not, they ARE being influenced (even if it's only a tiny bit). Books like Twilight and Fallen and Hush, Hush show girls chasing after boys who are clearly no good for them, to the point of becoming obsessed with said boys, and this isn't how love should feel. I understand that for teenagers, everything feels about a billion times more intense than it actually is, but why can't there be a story that shows a normal relationship?

If I could say one thing to the teenage girls gobbling up the paranormal romance, it's this: You don't have to find your soulmate at 16. You don't have to find them at 18, or 20, or even 25. You just have to be yourself, and love will sneak up on you. It'll happen when you least expect it. You'll turn to look at someone, and they'll seem so different, and you'll wonder why you never truly saw them before. And it will be magical, just like in the stories. But it doesn't have to happen in high school. :)



  1. Maybe the next big thing will be 'normal' relationships :-)

  2. Hey, I wouldn't mind being in a Disney movie, either. I'd make a good villain - if you promise not to cause my demise by falling to my death.

    Glad to see you in the campaign again! :)

  3. These are so popular because they are wish fulfillment stories. These are things people want even if they aren't good for us. Guys have them to. The nerd that gets the supermodel. We all want the things we're never going to have, so we write about them. And other people fall in love with them, because that's what they want to.

    The scariest thing about Twilight to me is that (according to Meyer) those stories were -her- fantasies. They didn't start out to be books, she was just writing stories about her own fantasies for her own life. Look at how they have resonated with the modern female. It's -scary-!

    Normal will never be the big thing. Realistic will never be the big thing. No one wants those things. People, especially young people, want to believe that everything good is going to happen -now- (which translates into while you're young, because nothing good happens to old people). I do think we should write more about healthy and realistic relationships, etc, but we have to do it in a way that still evokes the fantastic.

  4. I agree completely. I didn't meet my soulmate until 2nd year university and I didn't know he was the one until about 2 or 3 years later. We've been married for 2 years now, and life is good. :)

  5. Yes, as much as I love those kind of books, I have to agree. No matter how smart you are, you read enough of something, you're going to be influenced by it. It works itself into your expectations. (This is my first visit, I think - I'm part of YA teen tuesday too. Hello!)

  6. I've only had one "romance" in my life and it didn't happen until I was 22. And it ended atrociously. So yeah, loveofyourlife@16 doesn't usually happen. ;)

    following you from the campaign!

  7. I would love to live in 100 acre wood :)

    I agree on finding your soulmate so young! I have found mine at 37 and that's perfect :)

    New campaign follower!

  8. Great post, J.

    I think that Disney and all the YA romances and fantasies are reinforcing some dangerous ideas. And it's the Big Lie concept - if you repeate the most absurd statement often enough, loudly enough, people begin to believe it.

    I am really tired of all the cliches in YA books today. That's one reason that, in my novel, I tried to shatter every fantasy cliche that I could.

    Keep writing, J!

  9. Amen! Although, I have romance in my current WIP, and my next planned WIP, so I guess I'm not helping, lol. Which is funny, because I was the kind of girl in high school who didn't get attached to boyfriends and didn't want/expect to fall in love. In my thesis, there's no soulmate-finding, so I guess that's something! But, I don't know if I'll ever pursue publication on that one so ... blergh! But I agree, even though my actions would say otherwise. *hides!*


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