Why Writers Need to Rethink Insta-Love
Updated: Oct 30, 2020
If you have a pulse on common tropes in YA books, chances are you've heard of insta-love--and probably with contempt from those talking about it. If you haven't heard of it, insta-love is a term that describes romantic relationships--usually between fictional, adolescent characters--that develop too quickly to be convincing. It insinuates depth of the relationship without slowing down for long enough to prove there's actually depth there.
Why do readers hate insta-love?
To build off what I mentioned above, readers don't buy it. It's not realistic and it's not moving. How are we supposed to believe two teenagers can fall in love in a few weeks or less? Not only that, how are we supposed to believe they've formed a committed, mature relationship before really knowing each other?
Relationships like these are surface level. They're 90% chemistry and 10% substance. They're passionate and effortless. Surely this is something rational, sophisticated adults should know.
Ironically, that's half the problem--adults
According to The Atlantic, 55% of the Young Adult readership consists of adults. This makes sense, considering most people who complain about insta-love (usually on BookTube or Goodreads) belong to the over-eighteen crowd. They know these Romeo-and-Juliet relationships don't stick (probably from personal experience).
While this is a rational argument, not all teens know this from personal experience (yet). In other words, adult readers are reading about teenagers like an adult, but we shouldn't be. Despite the statistic, young adult books are not for us. They do not deserve our eye rolls.
Rather, insta-love is valid and insta-love is real.
Accordingly, we must think back to a time when the deadly combination of idealism and hormones steered us toward bad decisions (i.e., jumping headfirst into a relationship with an attractive stranger). If we're honest, these bad decisions are probably what jaded us toward insta-love in the first place. More than likely, it dive bombed into the ground and shattered fragile, teenage hearts.
However, most YA books with this trope don't end like this.
The problem is not with insta-love itself--but with authors' portrayal of what it's like
Call me a pessimist, but we need to see insta-love romances that crash and burn every now and then. If we writers care about preparing teenagers for adulthood, we would have the courage to explore endings that won't end in happily-ever-after (at least in a romantic sense). Let's given them victories elsewhere.