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. :)