The Weekly Debate (16): On Teenagers & Love

So I'm partially digressing from the traditional format of asking an outright question, but I think it's better this way. I ramble on, rant my thoughts, and at the end, find what I was really trying to ask. A type of self-discovery, as you may say. (Just like I do with all my English essays, sigh.)

On to the topic at hand, I've been bringing up Fanfiction and Fictionpress in my posts. Before sitting down and typing this post today, I just wasted a few hours on Inkpop. And I actually mean wasted, because that's how I feel right now. Not wasted time as in time I should have spent doing homework and studying for AP's -- as true as that may be -- but as in those stories weren't worth my time. That sounds unbelievably cold-hearted (especially because it's not true; everyone spends time on their stories and that in itself warrants appreciation), but that's the way I feel after most of these user-posted stories I read, quite a few of which I read halfway then dropped. I'm not saying this feeling occurs exclusively when I read user-submitted stories, as it definitely does happen when I read some other published books, but my recent overdose in these communities has me realizing my problem.

unknown source

Yes, I term it as a "problem," with "it" referring to my reading preferences. I'm a hopeless romantic in every sense of the phrase, and can never resist a story's enticing whisper of romance, whether it be: angsty and grief-ridden type, "cutesy high school" and idealistic, or intense and reminiscent of Bella-Edward. I can never resist an unique dystopian plot. I can never resist a intricate fantasy. And so the list goes on-and-on. But if I'm honest to myself, when reading YA I need romance. Which is incredibly sad, but true.

First, to clarify: Am I trying to imply that YA is shallower than adult books and, thus, I need romance to tide me over? A most resounding no. For me, YA and adult books serve different purposes; they focus on different aspects of relationships, life, etc.. A YA book about rape and an adult book about the same subject have equal potential to be equally gritty and moving. I strongly believe that any flaws stem from author execution, and it makes me sad that some people will write off YA because they think it's "fluff" and "for kids." Then why do I feel a greater need for romance in YA? I often turn to YA for escapism, as it often is more idealistic and relatable to my teenage mind, and since I'm a huge, huge romantic, romance is part of that escapist mentality.

(Dear writers,)

Why do I end up disappointed? If you ask that question, I'd like to ask in return: Why did you make your characters so stupid, ignorant, [other negative attributes that are teen cliches]? And on a tangent: Why is the romance so idealistic? I am so freaking tired of stories where characters taking a couple APs are geniuses. I'm tired of girls being hot-and-cold and with a never-ending supply of insecurity. I'm tired of girls who throw themselves pathetically over guys after one "true love," aka "true lust," glimpse. I'm tired of when characters continue to hold that Edward ideal, like Platonic Idealism. What's more, I get pissed when that "mousy nerd girl" gets with the "football captain hottie" and still thinks she's not worthy of him. I know I sound like a hypocrite when I say I also like YA because it's idealistic, but god. With someone so insecure, for instance, I don't see that relationship lasting a year, let alone a lifetime.

Yet I can't help myself from reading these books because of the romance. I can usually tell in the first chapter whether I'll like the characters, but the plot is just too damn good to give up. I read a few chapters, reach my breaking point, and the rest of the book is either a battle of wills (if I like the characters enough to want some closure for them) or simply never read. It's like self-torture, but I can't stop.

Ultimately, I pick up a book because of plot, I put it down because of characters. If you're writing about teens, they're generally as smart as you and me plus some volatile hormones (cue the rebelliousness, occasional immaturity, et al). As for high school, there are no gleaming locker banks and spotless courtyards. High school right now is a cruel place, regardless of cliques. Yes, there are teens that get high then go to class, but that's about a few to a few hundred. A much larger number are extremely competitive, back-stabbing, boyfriend-stealing "nerds" that happen to also dress well and like to party. Most teens know that high school is a competition, whether academically or romantically, and it shows. And yeah, I'm also referring to that girl in my AP Macro/Microeconomics class who enjoys parading her UPenn sweater and bitches all the time -- but she does wear cute skirts.

From Taylor Swift's Love Story

Whew, okay, just felt the need to rant. Some questions I have:

·         What’s wrong with the bus? In Maryland, we’re required to take Driver Ed classes if we want to get a permit before 18. I have friends who either don’t have the time or don’t have the money to pay for class, let alone a car. A lot of people at my school don’t drive, or else we’d be seriously lacking in parking spaces.

·         I don’t want high school love to seem like the be-all-end-all, because in almost all cases, it’s not. I’ve sworn off dating until college because it’s just a huge hassle. But how can authors make high school love seem realistic, without the characters seeming pessimistic? What justifies having a high school romance, considering all the statistics that go against you? Talk about ruining the mood: “I love you! But, you know, this relationship will probably end in 4 months and 3 days when I go off to college. We can try long-distance, but there’s a 4.32% chance that it’ll work out.

·         What makes you want to read a book? Continue reading it?

As an additional note, I'm sorry my Weekly Debates can't decide what they want to be: a question, a debate, a discussion, a rant... gah. Oh, and using my superior teen knowledge (and inspired by a cute author on Fictionpress), I declare that you burn .0000001 calories by pushing the comment button. ;)