We all know about trends in YA. We learn them, we love them, we hate them, we follow them religiously, hoping that our book will be the next trend-setter. Sometimes it pays to be trend followers. But yes. Trends are there. And we all know it.
And one trend that has got to go is: girl meets boy. Girl thinks boy is hot. Twenty seconds pass in which girl evaluates hotness of said boy. Girl professes love of boy to boy because boy is hot.
I feel like there is this misconception that is slithering through some (not all) YA writers' minds that teenagers, and more specifically teenage girls, don't know how to love deeply. That teenagers as a whole are a shallow breed and it doesn't take much for them to profess the L word outside of a hot car, smoldering eyes and a rockin' chest. That teenagers throw the L word around like it's nobodies business because, HEY! THEY'RE TEENAGERS, and they don't understand the weight that comes behind that yet. Because their amigdalas aren't fully formed yet. Or something. I don't know.
When my friends and I were sixteen we were talking about love all the time. It was on our minds like...like something that is always on something else. We talked about it, we watched it on television, we read about it in books. It was everywhere. Of course it was everywhere. It was (and still is) The Great Ideal (when done right). But even at the tender age of sixteen we were saying, 'Love is serious. You don't just throw that word around.' As in, a hot chest (no matter how chiseled) does not a love match make. Ever. You can like someone and you can lust someone but love takes time and commitment and work. And at sixteen we knew that.
And I'm not saying that sixteen year olds don't love or can't love because it's so heavy. I'm saying the exact opposite. And I'm saying that they have enough awareness of self and the world around them that the average, intelligent teenager is not going to go throwing that word around (the word being Love) unless there is a reason. To review: hot chest (or any other body part or combination thereof) does not equate a reason.
And to me the most upsetting part of this trend is that it is teaching girls (because most of these books are written for girls) that a) you don't have to aspire high or deeply for love, b) you don't have the ability to look beyond that and you don't need to, and c) that it's not okay to lust without love.
All three of those are lies. No matter a persons age, they should always, always aspire higher. Love is a selfish thing, and in my opinion it is always okay to look for a relationship that is not only physically satisfying, but emotionally satisfying (to you by the way, not the party involved. Ultimate love is reached when it's that way for both but you should be looking for you). When looking for love these should go together and not exclude each other. But it should also be okay for a girl or a guy to go 'that person is so, so hot, holy macaroni!' or whatever, without having to feel guilty for that thought and automatically connecting it to love.
Teenagers can love! But they don't have to.
And I wouldn't have written about this if I didn't think it was an actual problem in YA. And it didn't hit me as a problem that stemmed from these misconceptions about teenagers until (and I kid you not) a YA author in my twitterfeed tweeted something to the extent of 'I keep trying to develop this romance between my main character and the love interest. Then it hit me, they're teenagers. There doesn't have to be much development.'
Guys. GUYS! Teenagers have more emotional depth than a teaspoon. They are intelligent and they are aware. Stop treating them like dumb sheep and start thinking about them as fully formed or forming individuals with capacity and depth. Stop writing down or at them and start writing to them.
And oh my God, if you haven't already go talk to one. Remember what it was like to be one. Did you drop the L word like it was nobody's business? Did you?
ETA: I put this in the comments but I know not everyone reads the comments so I figured I'd put it here:
Thing is, I don't mind fast love. For instance - in Shiver Sam and Grace were in love super fast. M. Stiefvater took the time and energy to establish that Grace loved Sam not because he was super hot, but because he was sweet and kind and respectful and was a musician. Sam loved Grace not because she was beautiful but because she was strong and independent. And I wish that *this* sort of fast love was the sort that ran rampant through YA. Because it takes the ideal of immediate LETS BE IN LOVE with 'but why are we in love? do I have the ability to look beyond gorgeous eyes?' And they do and it's beautiful. Sam and Grace have both an emotionally and physically satisfying relationship.And to illustrate this point is a beautiful post by the author herself on Love and if Sams actually exist, here.