First, I wanted to say that I'm completely amazed if not a bit overwhelmed by the amount of response I got from the post. I really didn't expect such a large reaction. This reaction indicates to me that YA romance is a topic that is in sore need of an active discussion, and I'm very happy to provide a place to do so. I enjoyed reading all of the comments--both ones that agreed and disagreed with my stance. What can I say? I love a good, intelligent discussion and thanks to everyone who contributed to it.
I want to mention a few things that I think got misconstrued and also clarify my stance on a thing or two. I didn't quite choose the best wording the first time around and I think this created some confusion.
1) I am in no way for book burnings or *actually* tearing books apart--I guess some of you thought I meant tear pages out?
I really have to clear this up because I am completely anti-censorship and I think some of my views on parent censorship are very strong (which I'll save for another post). The "book burning" reference at the beginning was an exaggeration, but I'll admit it was a bad choice of words. I always joke about "holding a book bonfire" for books I hate (mostly textbooks). I have been known to throw books against a wall but I do not condone book burnings in any way. Believe me, I am 100% against book burnings, which is only reinforced by the horror stories I've heard from my mom, who experienced book burnings first hand (again, I'll save this for another post). And when I said, "tear a book apart" I meant in a review, I'd tear it apart. It's a common phrase I use to indicate that I am picking a book apart in a negative review.
Bad word choices on my part, and I apologize for any confusion it caused. Really, I rather have kids reading Twilight than have someone banning it or setting it on fire. And I'd HATE for any of you to think I'm a pro-book burning/pro-book tearing apart/ pro-censorship bigot. Hopefully I didn't give that impression to too many of you! :)
2) I like paranormal as a genre in YA--even in it's current form. However, I can't support the trend shown in most popular books in paranormal romance (i.e. books where the main focus is the very hot [insert paranormal creature] love interest who falls in love with a normal girl) at this point in time. I really think that paranormal romance has the potential to be a great genre. But all the books that I've read from PR lately have exasperated me, so I'll be staying away from the mega-bestseller hits (i.e. Twilight, Hush Hush, Fallen) for the time being. I do think it's important to have negative reviews that do speak out against the twisted relationships in books such as those, so we'll see.
3) I am in no way trying to dictate to authors what sort of books they should write, or what sort of books publishers should publish. Rather, I was trying to get readers (and maybe some writers/authors) to think about YA romance and then do something about it if they don't like the current state of it.
Let me say this, though: I am all for creative license, and writing whatever the heck you want. Furthermore, I'm not trying to dictate what sort of morals/ non-morals an author should include in a book. I think the paragraph I had that started off with "So it is..." didn't communicate very well my stance on morals in YA.
- I don't think YA authors must only write about happy sunshine books & healthy relationships.
- I have absolutely nothing against YA books with alcohol/swearing/drugs/sexuality/ abusive relationships etc, the so called "edgy" elements of YA. I don't even find those elements to be edgy because they're the truth of what young adults are exposed to/ involved in. Pretending those things don't exist and excluding them from YA literature is a disservice to teens.
- The only thing I ask is that when including "bad romance" or "bad decisions" is that the outcomes of these decisions are truthful and realistic.
- I don't find the lust= love message to be truthful or realistic.
- I don't like weak female characters who depend on overbearing men and engage in obsessive relationships. I suppose it's a truth since this may happen in real life; however, I don't believe that it's okay to portray it as the "ideal" teenage relationship. I don't think it's okay to conclude these books with the sentiment that the teens who participate in these relationships will live happily-ever-after fantasy lives with their soul mates.
Because that is not right, it's not correct, and I will not compromise my stance on this. When authors portray lust as love, it's a fallacy. When they romanticize it as something that all woman should want, when they assume that it's a good romance, when they call it good escapism, it's a travesty.
If you're going to write a book about a girl who falls in love with a hot paranormal guy based off of his looks (and vice versa) I don't think you have the right to call it "love" or "romantic." Own up to it: it's a story about lust, pure and simple. It's a story about bad romance. Don't try to disguise it as something else. And if you enjoy writing it or reading it, that's your personal preference and I'm not going to tell you what to like or not like. You have to decide that on your own.
My overall point: we need to stop glorifying lust and calling it love. Abusive relationships aren't "true love". Some YA romance in it's current form shouldn't be called romance. And if you don't like the romance in YA, do something about it. Don't support bad romance.
What I meant by the moralistic issues that I wrote about in my original post is that I have a problem when sick relationships are portrayed as beautiful, healthy relationships. I have a problem when that's majority of what I'm getting from YA romance. You--as an adult, or as an older teen-- might be able to differentiate between good and bad romance, but many younger people can't. I know when I read Twilight in 8th grade, at the age of 12 or 13, at first I found nothing wrong with Edward and Bella's relationship. I didn't know it was wrong. I hear the same story all the time--older teens didn't mind Twilight as a preteen and have since come to their senses. Most haven't. I'm in high school and I can't tell you how many girls I know who wish an Edward would walk into their lives and bite them and stalk them. It's disturbing. A lot of them call their boyfriends "Edward" and like to pretend they're Bella. And it's not just the movie, either. A lot of the girls only like the Edward in the book and like Jacob in the movie (once again, these preferences are based off of guys' looks). The Twilight bandwagon that became popular afterward are only spreading the lust equals love untruth that is so pervasive throughout YA. They're feeding a trend that I find very destructive.
As I mentioned previously, it's only in the last year or so that I've been noticing the trend in YA books. I wasn't equipped to understand and differentiate between healthy/unhealthy romantic relationships at 12 or 13. At 12 or 13 I believed pretty much everything I read in books and didn't question anything. I was impressionable. I still am at 16, but hopefully now I have a more critical viewpoint when I read books. I really do need to reread books I only read last year, or a few years ago. It's likely I have completely different views on how female protagonists are portrayed and how the romantic relationships are portrayed.
Funny how a few years changes everything, isn't it?
I still wish unhealthy relationships and stalkerish bad boys weren't considered good escapism. I think it's more a problem conducive of society that so many women enjoy reading books that degrade the ideal of love and romanticize passive female protagonists and domineering male characters that push women around. As some of you mentioned, it's a reflection on society and the author's unconscious beliefs that they perhaps didn't mean to include in their stories. Still, it's there, and I've decided I won't support it.
Since you all say that you're able to easily differentiate between good and bad romance, weak and strong female protagonists, good and bad messages, lovely and disgusting love interests, why not use that differentiation?
Why not support good romance over bad romance by reading and purchasing books with good romance?
Why not express exactly what you find wrong with bad romance? If you're a reviewer and you find the relationship dynamics in a book to be disturbing, point it out. Don't let it slip by.
Why not talk about what you find right or wrong with YA romance?
Maybe, if we all did that, books that glorify bad romance wouldn't be quite so pervasive in YA literature. We do need to talk about YA romance and not ignore things that bother us about books. We can't just shut up and take it--after all, we're the readers and the consumers and the ones who decide what's selling in the marketplace. Approach your reading with a critical eye--it's really the not-thinking about what's going on in a book you're reading that allows you to enjoy something that you'd otherwise find problems with. Think about the books you're reading. Talk about the books you're reading.
I'm still hoping that YA romance will change.
Note: I'm perfectly alright with writing a follow-follow up post if necessary. It seems that the subject of YA romance needs a lot more discussion. And I do recognize that my views on the subject are pretty strong--they're my own personal interpretations on the matter and you may completely agree with me, completely disagree with me, or fall somewhere in between those extremes. I'm just glad that I can express my views on the matter and hope you will as well.