Thursday, 3 April 2014

A YA relationship rant

I'm a couple of months out of date for a post about Valentine's Day, but I've officially reached a point where I need to rant about how relationships are portrayed in YA fiction. How come nearly everybody ends up with their true love, who they just happened to meet at 16 (or younger)? Why are single people relegated to the sidelines?

I should probably make a few caveats: firstly, I know I'm an adult (mid-twenties, sob!) and should remember that teenagers/young adults will probably have a different view on this to me, especially if they're in love themselves. Then, I know books aren't supposed to be realistic, otherwise where would we escape to? There needs to be some parts that readers can relate to, though. As someone who has suffered confidence issues and has consequently been single for much of my life (especially as a teenager), I haven't seen many books that have reassured me that it's fine to be single.

I don't generally read any mushy, pass-me-a-bucket stuff out of preference, but relationships are featured in 99.9% of the books I've read. As the intended audience is young adults, this is understandable: many have been in love (or infatuation), and to be honest, it does make things more interesting. It's great to be able to imagine a lot of what goes on, and there are loads of authors that have completely nailed the sexual chemistry between their characters. There's a fine line between writing a stale ending vs something that takes reality more into account though. Is it really important to have the happy ending if it means that some characters are more believable? What I'm mainly talking about are the endings. Here are some examples (spoilers, sorry!):

The Harry Potter series, by JK Rowling

Nice, neat, stale ending. Don't get me wrong, I loved it, but even while reading it, I knew that I shouldn't have expected anything different. Everything panned out to create the perfect happy ending. Harry and Ginny, Ron and Hermione; one big Weasley family. That's great, I thought. Harry was officially incorporated into the family he always wanted, and Ron (who, while awesome, it has to be said was average in comparison to Harry and Hermione) wasn't left out as he so often was in the books. Obviously, nobody was left to the fate worse than death: singledom.

Recently, JK Rowling mentioned that she regretted not pairing Harry and Hermione up. At the time, I was outraged, but if I admit the truth to myself, mixing the pairings up probably would have made for a more interesting ending. A common criticism of Harry and Ginny's relationship is that while Harry is the hero of the series, you can't say much for Ginny's personality. She's a little feisty, but generally, just 'nice'. Considering how Molly and Arthur Weasley pretty much adopted Harry from the start anyway, why couldn't he have ended up with Cho Chang? Or, given that the epilogue was set when the main characters were in their 30s, someone else he met in the meantime? My inner child won't let me accept the demise of Ron and Hermione's marriage though. Without their bickering, old-person relationship, I can't bear that Ron would probably have married (and divorced) a bimbo and Hermione some clever corporate bland-face. There's only so much a girl can take.

The Soulkeepers series, by GP Ching

I really enjoyed the whole series of this; it was an original premise, the lovey dovey stuff was well done, and I loved the action. I even got goosebumps during the ending. BUT, during the ending I also got quite cross.

*** (This is where the spoilers come in. I'd advise you to read the books first before reading this as they really are well worth it.) ***

Throughout most of the books, there's a Soulkeeper called Bonnie, whose twin sister Samantha gets paired off with one of the male Soulkeepers fairly quickly. The books discuss Bonnie's fear of losing her sister to a boy, and also, I felt, jealousy that she was still single - completely natural. She later appears to have feelings for Cord, the Watcher turned angel, but he dies. At the end of the books everybody is not just paired off, but married (in their mid twenties, when they all met at around 16 - what are the chances?!) and some have children. This is all except for, you guessed it: Bonnie. Instead, she becomes a pastor. It really annoyed me that, as the odd one out, she was kept single and given a career that I'm not sure suited her (although I think pastors can marry). However, Cheveyo, who struck me as a real player, is with a woman he knew at the start of the book, and not single/with some bimbo. I think what I'm trying to say here is that characters are paired up for the sake of it, regardless of their personalities. If there's an odd person out, they can be single, but in this book the metaphor is that her partner has been replaced by God.

The Fault in our Stars, by John Green

Not that I'm going to see the film, but I bet it's a good scene!
Now this is an example of a single person's portrayal that I did like. Granted, the story is about Hazel and Augustus, but the inclusion of Isaac made the book even better, in my opinion. Within the context of the story, nothing is contrived, whether it's his and Monica's full-on kissing and I-love-yous, or that he, Gus and Hazel went and threw eggs at Monica's car when she dumped him. It's something I can see happening. Isaac just lost his eyesight but he's more worried about Monica having dumped him; that's one of the 'teenagers are weird' moments that totally do happen. John Green nailed it.




C'mon authors. Stop me feeling like this about being single:



What do you think? Am I the only one that wants to see more happily single characters?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting!