Friday, February 11, 2011

YA: High School Love

Ahh, the high school dating scene. Is there any other place and time in one's life where emotions run higher? Where the stakes are higher? Where your every romantic move is on stage for all of your peers to see and judge?

Young Adult fiction has the ability to create extremely tense romantic situations filled with emotion that would seem laughable in adult fiction. Why? Because that's the reality of high school romance. Characters are slightly naive, a little unsure of themselves and not completely jaded by a lifetime of bad relationships. It's reasonable to believe a rejection could truly feel like the end of the world. And, we've all been there.

I didn't read YA fiction while actually a teenager. I honestly didn't know it existed. But I've come to realize that I still steeped myself in the YA culture, although completely unaware I was doing so. I watched movies. Lots of movies. High school movies. Teen comedies. I was obsessed and I loved them. I still do.

The movies I watched then, as well as the YA books I read now, allowed me to relive the days where a single kiss brought the potential for a lifetime of joy. High school was a time where when you fell in love, it was your entire world. No one would ever compare to this person you were in a relationship with. You would never survive without them. That's powerful.

In books written for adults, characters don't have the luxury of feeling that strongly. They're adults. They should be at least slightly cynical. They already know they'll survive on their own. If the relationship doesn't work out, the world will not end. If they behave the same way a YA character would, readers won't empathize with them. Instead of being viewed as being completely in love, they look more like scary obsessive and quite possibly dangerous stalkers.

High school is a time where life is lead by your heart. When YA incorporates that, the strong emotions bring you back to when were able to live that way. Before kids, or jobs, or the multitude of responsibilities adults prioritize above their heart. I believe this is why YA readers become so invested in the romantic relationships in books. As adult readers, we seem to care a lot about who Bella ends up with. Or Katniss. Or Hermoine. Or Clary. The list can go on forever. When was the last time you felt that strongly about fictional adult relationships?

Do you enjoy romance in YA for the same reasons?

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