To sum it up in one word, Originality. But there are definitely quite a few other problems that I’ve encountered with them.
In 2012, when the Fault In Our Stars was published, it was all the rage. Everyone was reading it and those who weren’t were at least talking about it. The book became an instant hit and went on to become the #1 New York Times bestseller. If you check its Goodreads rating, it is a 4.2 and everyone seems to like it.
3 years later, All The Bright Places was published and received a similar response. The same 4.2 rating on Goodreads and every bokstagrammer and book blogger was talking about it.
However, with a more critical viewpoint, I realised that most Teen Romances, or Young Adult Romance(as they’re more commonly known) revolve around a similar story line. Predictable and boring. Very boring.
Reading Teen Romances seems like someone put up a recipe on the Internet showing how its done and now everyone’s following it down to the bone. Here’s a few plot lines and problems I’ve encountered with almost every Teen Romance I’ve read:
First of all, at least one, if not both main characters have a terminal or mental illness that has completely altered their life. And bonus! If it’s a mental illness, they don’t even know about it yet. And if neither, they’re torn apart from a brutal divorce or an edging on divorce situation between their parents, afraid of what’s to come and desperately trying to keep themselves out of it.
Also, if it’s a depressed gal, she’s always described in a way that implies ‘hot beyond measure’ and is also very very popular. On the other hand, if its a guy, then he’s tagged a freak and no one really enjoys his company.
Secondly, if the main character does have a mental illness, no one really seems to care about the fact that the he has a problem which desperately needs treatment. They refuse to treat their problem as a real one and often have a ‘get over it’ attitude. Its almost as if.. “My son popped up numerous sleeping pills today but hey.. he’s only suicidal.”
Third, all teen romances have the same underlying theme. The two fall in love with each other as one tries to teach the other to enjoy life and live it to the maximum while they’re themselves falling deep into oblivion. Dying because of their illness, committing suicide and leaving behind the other to just magically cope up with it because they know that that is exactly what the other would have wanted.
Fourth, The authors try too hard to make the book such that it pulls at the heartstrings of their readers that they don’t mind sacrificing the ingenuity of the narrative’s flow. As a result, the love between the characters seems forced, and often fake. Moreover, these Teens spew life altering monologues as and when the situation demands it and no one seems to care that they’re just.. um 15!! They haven’t witnessed even a third of what life really is and still manage to be so ‘woke’. Again, the authors desperate attempt to impact its readers through a flurry of quickly passing emotions, and not a sensible story that’d definitely stay with them longer.
“There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for nothing. Maybe this time is coming soon or it is a million years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we wont survive forever.” Augustus Waters, The Fault In Our Stars
“More good women have been lost to marriage than to war, famine, disease and disaster.”Cruella DeVille, 101 Dalmatians
Just as everyone complains of how one of the best feminist lines of the century in a movie were given to a villain, it is difficult to believe that such heavy lines would be spoken by a 17 year old instead of someone who is 70. Especially when on the other hand, they ask really stupid questions otherwise!
“Why are breakfast foods breakfast foods? Like why can’t we have curry for breakfast”Hazel Grace (she’s 16, not 6)
The characters’ words fail to match up with their carefree personalities. Sometimes, they’re too mature for their age and other times talk as if they’re 3 year old inquisitive kids who keep asking questions about everything they see. And that, for me, is one of the biggest turn offs when it comes to a Teen Romance. Let’s just keep sudden realisations of worldly workings to Paulo Coelho and self help books please. I’d really like a dash of reality in a teenage romance for once.
Fifth, the characters fall in love with each other too easily! The protagonists meet 2 chapters into the book and the time between their first Hi and first kiss seems non-existent. It takes time to build any relation of substance and Teen Romance often fails to reason out why the two characters fell for each other. The little nuances that really attract them to each other.
Sixth, the character’s illness is often used merely as an accessory to accentuate and build tension in the plot of the story. Usually the ill one breaks down in the middle of the night and tell away the other the next morning, claiming they don’t want to meet them anymore or probably get really angry and take it out on them. Otherwise, there is effectively no mention of how their illness affects them amid their daily lives except probably when they’re first introduced to the reader. Cancer is hard, so is Depression. But these books fail to convey the pain and hardships that the characters suffer from and the difficulties they face in their everyday lives. They fail to provide any actual insight into the character’s life with illness and end up being nothing more than superficial romances. Moreover, Teen Romances that end in one of its characters committing suicide often end up glorifying the act.
Also, they’re very cheesy. The genre is saturated with books along the lines of ‘love at first sight’ and ‘hot guys ending up with the fat gals’. And don’t even tell me that’s just promoting a healthy body image, because its not. It implies that its okay to be fat as long as you have a hot boyfriend. And if otherwise, then why is it never the other way round, let alone both of them being fat.
I have always believed the main purpose of reading a book is to gain insight into the life of a person, and understanding them better than before. To be able to perceive society through a different perspective and under a completely different lens, allowing one to know and comprehend it better. However, for me, Teen Romance fails to meet up with those expectations.
I cried reading both, The Fault In Our Stars and All The Bright Places along with numerous other Teen Romances. But, I’ve also realised that you can’t judge a book by its capability to bring you to tears.
END RANT. THANK YOU FOR BEARING.
Pic credits: Instagram (treatyoshelves17)