Monday, January 23, 2012

Remember when...

Ok, I admit two things. One, I'm 34, and so using the phrase "Remember when..." sort of rings a little hollow. I've done a lot of looking back recently, and talking about former times. I still feel too young to be waxing nostalgic.

Second admission... Just now when I typed the title "Remember when..." for this post the song "Crocodile Rock" by Elton John popped into my head and it's stuck there. Please tell me you know the song... No? Yes? Well, for better or worse, here it is:
And piggy-backing on that second admission, here's a third... I LOVE THAT SONG :) It makes me get all wiggly and smile a lot. Ha!

Ok, back to the point... I'm borrowing from the lovely and talented Margo Berendsen, who last week wrote about teenage love. I partook in a lively discussion about whether it was appropriate to portray teenage love that seems like it will last forever, that has such intense "I'd-die-for-you" qualities as a lot of the books out there right now do (i.e. Twilight, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, come on you name 'em). There was some argument that the kind of love in those books wasn't "realistic" enough.

To which I laugh... firstly because realism is hardly what I look for or expect when I pick up a Young Adult novel. But the question, I guess, pertains to my expectation as well. Should I expect the love stories contained in Young Adult fiction to be more 'realistic'?

My argument in the whole thing was that, apart from the "happily ever after" bit, the way love is portrayed in a book like Twilight (even Romeo and Juliet) is completely realistic in an overly dramatic, "I'd rather die than live without you" kind of way. I know, I know... it sounds like a paradox. How can you be realistic and overly dramatic at the same time? Try being a teenager.

It was a while ago for me, but not so long that I haven't forgotten how it felt to be in love as a teenager. Of course, the love I felt was hardly requited (ah the life of the awkward youth)... but that even added an edge of proving just how deeply smitten I was in the hopes that my love would be recognized as THE love. Still not relating? Really, you must have the emotions of an automaton then.

So in my auto-biographical example, "he" wasn't the most popular kid in school, although he was well liked by many people. I thought he was the most handsome boy minus one... he had the most beautiful singing voice... and he was prone to his own fits of melodrama that made him desperately tragic. Plus, he was one of my best friends (read that as, he was way too nice to tell me I was a loser)... and I spent a lot of time hanging out with him. Not that he would ever read this blog, but if any of you knew me in high school you know who he is, too.

It's not like I kept my feelings a secret. My heart was LITERALLY on my sleeve... well, ok, not Literally... but you get the idea. If you had asked me to, I would have jumped (off of what?) for him, I'm fairly certain. No he never returned my feelings... but that just meant I needed to prove how desolate my life was without him!

So, now... all these years later... I'm so over that phase of my life... I moved to California and now to the East Coast again... I met a wonderful, amazing man whom I have been married to for 9 years... and I know that love is more than the wibbly-wobbly feelings in my stomach... that it's so much richer when it's requited (ha... a given, that...)... and that it takes effort, tenacity, open-mindedness, vulnerability... that the flash in the pan is not the staying power of a lasting marriage. That doesn't invalidate the experience I had when I was young, though.

And THAT is why those books are so popular... it's because we all recognize the echo of our own teenage loves that we wish had lasted for an eternity in the story of Bella and Edward. I am in NO WAY defending Twilight as a good book... as I said on Margo's blog, Bella's character makes me want to choke on my own bile. But that's partly because I have grown up, grown out of that stage of helpless mush. But the echo, the resonance with our past, that's what gives these stories their popularity... it's precisely because they ARE realistic... realistically unrealistic.

Thoughts? There's an underlying question here of whether you think literature should exist to edify or entertain... should books portray more "realistic" love for teens to learn what that looks like? Hmmm... I'd love to hear what people have to say about this.

This post fits with the meme Young Adult Teen Tuesday started by Shari Larsen over at Writers Ally in that it is almost Tuesday and the post is about teens in love and grew out of Margo's post along the same meme from last week. So I guess I'll "join" in the conversation.


  1. I, too, enjoy a good Crocodile Rock.

    Don't get me started on the love stories, though. :P

  2. Ha ha, @Julie I feel a rant coming on... I think my next novel or two are going to be the catharsis I have been so desperately craving... full of mush and goo and telling the awkward girl's awkward story...

  3. I believe there should be books on the shelf that range between full-blow teen reality and teen dreams that motivate. Thanks for participating in YATT! I'm really excited to have you. Could you email me with your email, so I can have it on file? And remember to let me know when you post YATT. I'll link you to my post. (Heading over to edit add you to my post, today!)

  4. Yes I LOVE Crocadile Rock-that is when he wrote great music:) As for love stories....I think Love can be so many things and Romeo and Juliet was the twilight of its day. I mean they both die and girls swoon. I think we never truly forget our first love because it had so many hopes and dreams and moonbeams. So yes one can write idiealized teen love or truth but sometimes we need the moonbeams. Remember there is a reason why during the height of the great depression people flocked to see not only Gangster films but musicals and love stories and very few had an uhappy ending.

  5. We read books to escape and fantasize, not to dwell on reality. Yes, teenage relationships in novels should be based on what's possible, but not necessarily what's real. That's not exciting.

    And by the way, teenaged love can be that intense AND last. I've been in love with the same guy for 30 years (married for most of them) and I just turned 48.

  6. Realism from a teenage perspective is different than from an adult perspective. That over-the-top drama is appropriate for that age group.

    I didn't care for Twilight, but understood it's appeal to a teenage girl. I, cough, admit to being over the demographic Meyers wrote for, which is why a lot of it wasn't for me. But she nailed her demographic. I could see that as I read it.

    I think there's room for all sorts of love stories in YA just like in other genres.

  7. Hey Congrats, @Nancy. I acknowledge that sometimes teen love CAN last a life-time... it just doesn't always... and you're right... that's not the point, I think, of fantasy :) Fantasy is supposed to be the place where we contemplate what it would be like if our wildest dreams came true.

    @M-Pax Yes, yes, and yes...


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