I've read a few paranormal YA romance novels recently. Memorably, the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, Impossible by Nancy Werlin, The Dark Divine by Bree Despain, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, and Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.
These books leave me with some questions as to what we're teaching the teenagers who read the genre about relationships. I'm not going to pick on any particular book, or rehash the Great Feminism/Anti-Feminism Twilight Debate. I think authors have to be true to their story, even if aspects of it are objectionable to some (and let's face it, paranormal romance by its nature is going to have objectionable elements for a decently sized group, both those who object to the paranormal and those who object to the romance). I really enjoyed all these books, and I don't want to take anything away from them.
But as a genre, there are a few elements I see over and over again that bother me. These are:
1. The Fated Love. The majority of the books I listed above have Love At First Site to the Nth Power. This isn't a teenager's instant crush; it's a meaningful soul mate relationship established from first glance. To me this implies that there's no need to worry about getting to know a guy and choosing a mate carefully, because after all, you just knows when it's meant to be. Which brings us to point 2...
2. Even if he says he's dangerous or no good for you, even if others tell you that your relationship is inappropriate, whatever you have to give up... you know you're meant to be, so just hang in there to your happy ending. After all...
3. No one can understand your love! (Many teenagers in love think this on their own, of course, but it is not a concept deserving of constant reinforcement).
I don't think any of these elements are inherently dangerous -- I think teenagers are capable of reading a book where the main character dreams their lover and then meets them, or is pregnant and married by 20 as a happy ending, for instance, and realizing that this is not a universally accurate depiction of life. It's the combined effect that worries me, when many of these stories have such repetitive concepts.
When I was a teenager, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson's Creek taught my friends and I about relationships to some extent. We argued about the concept of soul mates, whether or not it was okay for Buffy to forgive Spike for almost raping her, and when to give up on a relationship. These shows did help form our view of what we should expect, since they seemed a little more relevant to us than our middle-aged parents' marriges. (And I will admit that even in my 20's, I have described MJ to my friends with the words, "He's my Pacey," but that is another story).
So what expectations are we forming for today's teenagers? In Beautiful Creatures, Ethan and Lena know each other in their dreams; in Shiver they fall into love instantaneously, Sam saving Grace's life and Grace knowing Sam by his beautiful, distinctive eyes; in Hush, Hush, Patch pursues Nora no matter how hostile she is at the beginning. Well and good, for their stories, but no resemblance to real life here. Getting to know someone takes work, relationships themselves often take work (although it should be a joyful sort of work, in a healthy relationship), and people are vulnerable when they put themselves forward.
I just worry that, if these story components are repeated often enough, teenage girls will expect teenage boys to pursue them in the face of snarky rejection, find themselves more reluctant to cast a bad fish back into the sea, or be disappointed by the lack of magic in their romantic entanglements or the work it takes for a serious relationship. I'm not trying to be the humorless adult here -- I like these stories. Romance was disappointing enough for me in my teens, though, with only middling-crazy desires, like a bad-boy soul mate who would always be there for me a la Pacey or Angel.
For teenagers who are a fan of the paranormal romance genre, are they reading a little too much about fated, perfect loves? What do you think?
Poetry: "Track Twenty Four" by Alicia Cook
24 minutes ago