I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not reading for the realism, and considering I mainly pick up sci-fi and fantasy books this is probably already obvious to most people. However for the same reason I think diverse representation is important in YA books, so is realistic romantic representation.
Not everyone meets the love of their lives as a young teenager while in high school, and while I’m not saying some people don’t settle down with their high school sweetheart I think it’s rare. There are plenty of books out there where the boy and girl meet as teenagers/in high school and fall in love, and that’s the be all and end all.
Is the Romance in YA Books Realistic?
Spoiler warning: This post will contain spoilers for books by A.G. Howard, Sarah J. Maas and Marie Lu.
Take Splintered for example. As much as I love the trilogy Alyssa ends up getting her happily ever after with Jeb, her first and only high school boyfriend, in the human world. It’s the same with RoseBlood only replace Alyssa with Rune and Jeb with Thorn.
I’m not saying I want heartache and breakups in all my favourite YA books, but there’s part of me that doesn’t think it’s realistic reading all these books where the characters meet young and get their happily ever after. Relationships in high school, a lot of the time, are unlikely to last. It the same with friendships, the older you get and the more you see of the world the more you grow into who you’re going to be, and sometimes that means growing out of people. Sad but true.
Of all the friends I had in high school I’m now only friends with five of them, five out of the countless people I promised I’d stay in touch with, and of those five friends only two of them are still with their high school boyfriends.
This discussion has gotten depressing pretty quickly hasn’t it?
The point I’m trying to make is being a teenager is not the end of your life, in fact I’d say the end of high school is the beginning, so why aren’t we seeing more characters growing out of old relationships and moving forwards with new ones.
I’ve used Sarah J. Maas as an example plenty of times but this is one of the things I love about her books. In the Throne of Glass series when we meet Celaena she is a completely different characters to the Aelin we come to know in Empire of Storms. As the series expands Celaena/Aelin outgrows some of the relationships she’s in, and this isn’t seen as a bad thing at all. The Aelin we know from Empire of Storms would never work in a relationship with Chaol the way Celaena did in Crown of Midnight.
It’s the same with Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series; as Feyre’s character develops she outgrows her relationship with Tamlin and grows into one with Rhysand. That’s what I’d like to see more of in YA books; second relationships, characters moving on as they change and grow and realise maybe their first love was just that, the first and not the last.
It’s also one of the things I enjoyed about the Legend series by Marie Lu. Although Day and June first meet when they’re fifteen after everything that happened in Champion they’re separated for ten years. In that time June has had other relationships, she’s changed as a character and grown into the person she was always going to be, and it’s likely the same with Day. When they meet again at twenty-seven the ending is left open but for me their relationship felt more final than it would have if they’d stayed together from fifteen until twenty-seven.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t imagine still being with a partner I had as a teenager. When I think back to who I was all those years ago it’s like I was a completely different person. While relationships can develop throughout the years as people do I’d love to see more YA books that show the another side; that show characters moving on from one relationship to another the way Sarah J. Maas does.
When you have young people reading YA books I think it’s important to showcase all different kinds of relationships. People pick up more than they sometimes think reading, and learning you’re not always going to be the same person you were in high school, but that that’s a good thing, is important.
Now Onto the Discussion Part of This Post:
Do you think we need a wider variety of romantic relationships developed in YA books, and do you think there’s a need for more second-love relationships?
Or, on the other hand, do you prefer stories where young characters get a happily ever after when the book/series is finished?
What would you like to see more when it comes to romance in YA books?
Let me know in the comments below.