Young Adult Literature and Love Stories

So I was browsing on Facebook, when this picture popped up, a snap shot of a tweet by Cassandra Clare. Here it is for you:

And people were going insane. They were all happy, and freaking out. For one thing, can I just point out that she said “sort of”? They’re not actually getting married, so yeah, stop fantasizing Clary and Jace’s wedding.

But the thing that really bothered me was that, if they actually get married, I’ll be super pissed off. And that’s not because I don’t like Jace and Clary together, and that I don’t want to them to live happily ever after, forever, and ever. Because I do. The thing is, Clary is 16, and Jace is 17? I don’t think Clary has had a birthday since her 16th in City of Bones and I’m pretty sure Jace is still underage so he’s 17. This really really bothers me.

The one thing that really attracts me to young adult literature, especially good young adult literature, is the realism that it represents. The teen to young adult years are so…volatile. You’re so full of hormones and new feelings and emotions and anger and all of that and its easy to remember because you were just so aware of everything that you were, and what you weren’t as well. I think YA lit is finally really representing all of these. I think for so long, the books presented middle school and high school in such clean cut, Brady bunch way. I like books that show the sex, drugs, the peer pressure, drinking, all of that stuff, because it is realistic to the high school experience.

But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want books promoting any of those things. I don’t want a book to be like “HAVE SEX!” or “YES, try this drug!”. I think that the good books will show the realities of these, show situations that will come up in real life, even in the novels that are set in fantastical worlds, and they show mature, adult ways to handle them.

For instance, in Mortal Instruments, Clary and Jace’s relationship starts to get hot and heavy in the later books and I’m not going to sit here and lie and say that I don’t enjoy the scenes where there’s kissing and all that fun stuff. Because I do. But Cassandra has made sure to show what an important decision it is for Clary to lose her virginity. She’s presenting the very real situation of a sixteen year old girl having sex, but she’s showing her making a very mature decision about it. If Clary has sex at 16, it won’t bother me because I’ve watched her through five books so fast, and struggle with that decision.

But I think it takes it too far with the whole marriage thing. They are teenagers. They shouldn’t be even thinking of marriage. Clary is nearly 9 years younger than me and I know that I myself am not ready for marriage. They are too young for that, and I was more sickened by this tweet than excited.

When I brought this up on Facebook, I got a lot of dissent. So many people were pointing out that they were Shadowhunters, and they married young because they tend to die younger, and all that sort of thing. And I tried very hard to understand that, but it wasn’t easy. I can understand that but…this is an urban fantasy. It is a fantasy life wrapped in a world that is very familiar with us, modern day New York. So its hard to separate it from the world we know. It feels very, very real.

My personal opinion is, whether its a fantasy world or not, I don’t think young adult authors should have their characters getting engaged or married when they are as young as Clary and Jace. I think it sets a very very bad example for teens, especially girls. I don’t mind the relationships that are shown in these books, and the fierceness that usually comes with it.

Because that’s how it FEELS. When you’re a teenager and you have a boyfriend/girlfriend, and you love them, it feels like the entire world is centered on them. I felt like that with my boyfriend when we first got together when he was 20 and I was 19. Now that I’ve had a chance to grow up a bit, I still love him so much but its a healthier, more real love, where he is only a part of my growing universe. So the relationships in YA doesn’t bother me. Its very real to what a teenager is feeling.

But its very unrealistic as far as the future goes. To encourage teenagers to believe in their teenage love so much that they can weather the challenges of marriage at 16, 17, 18, 19? That just seems like writing bad examples for the fans, especially when a lot of YA authors have fans as young as 10-12 years old. Its not the sort of message we want to be sending out.

Take Twilight for instance. (Come on, you know that I had to bring that up). I have never sat here and said, Twilight is a wonderfully written book and it changed my life, or any of that, because that is patently untrue. I have enjoyed reading all of the Twilight novels but they aren’t great books. And I was so severely disappointed with Breaking Dawn, the last book. And for more than just the whole anti-climatic ending, where there was no battle and no one died.

That wasn’t what really upset me about the novel though. Yes, Bella and Edward are supposed to have this seriously ridiculous tragic love story, and I get that. But she gets married right after high school, and proceeds to have a baby right after. I hated that so much I couldn’t even handle it. Bella was only 18 years old. I felt like it was an extremely bad example to all the extremely impressionable girls that are out there, reading this books, especially since I’ve heard that girls as young as 7 or 8 have read these books, or seen these movies. I feel like its completely inappropriate.

Here’s the deal: I think parents and authors need to be aware of the impressionable girls that are out there reading the books, especially the parents. There’s only so much the authors can do and I would never want them to sensor their story from love and sex. But I think a lot of girls don’t have parents who are open enough with them to talk about relationships and sex and things like that. A lot of these girls are getting very unrealistic expectations of what a boy is supposed to be like, what they’re supposed to be treated like and what love is like.

I love books and I love watching relationships bloom in books but here’s the thing: I can separate my book life from my regular life. I love my boyfriend so much, but he’s flawed, just as I am, and he drives me crazy, and there are days when I want to punch him in the face. There are days where things are exciting, hot and heavy, and awesome, and there are days that are simple, where we just sit on the couch and watch TV. And I love both. Because that’s exactly what a relationship should be, and its what I’ve been waiting for. He’s nothing like the boys that I read about in novels but that’s what I love about him. He’s real.

But girls expect these boys be SO over-the-top good looking, and fit, and tragic and emotional and full of beautiful words. Its not like I don’t think those guys, but they are far and few between and I don’t think its the kind of boy that would work with every single girl out there reading books.

I also think that books give girls the idea that we are going to find this beautiful, tragic, perfect love when we are in high school. And again, I’m not saying that its not possible but its improbable, especially since you’re still growing and finding out who you are in high school and into your twenties. But I think books give girls the idea that they need to find this in high school and if they haven’t, there’s something wrong with them, or they’re never going to find love. I want to hit them over the head, like, “You’re sixteen! You have SO much time to find this!” I also think its ridiculous to say that all high school relationships will work out later in life because “LOVE”. Relationships take a lot of hard work and patience and communication and all of that.

My main focus of this blog post that was basically rambling is that I think both authors and parents need to be aware. Authors need to be aware of doing the realistic thing in books, in order to portray reality and not give their readers too much of a false sense of reality. Even in fantasy novels, things like love, sex, death, etc. are all represented very realistically. But I also think that its in a parents best interest to teach their children the difference between fiction and reality as well.

So the point is, I would be very upset if Clary and Jace got married in City of Heavenly Fire, the last Mortal Instruments book. Unless its like a flash forward when they’re much older, then that’s okay. But I’ll disappointed because I think Cassandra Clare is much better than that, and she writes really great books with realistic themes in a fantasy world, and I’d hate to see her ruin that with an early teen marriage.

Okay, and I know, in Clockwork Princess (SPOILER ALERT), Tessa and Will totally get engaged and married, and its all good. Why would I be okay with that? Because Cassandra Clare wrote what was realistic for a Victorian England. Will and Tessa are at the age when that sort of thing was going on, and you felt very adult at those ages. A seventeen year old back then versus a seventeen year old now is very, very different and I’d hope people would understand the historical context.

I know there’s a lot of criticism when it comes to young adult literature and there are times when I understand the criticisms that are made. But I feel like, as with anything you give or show to a child or teen, you need to monitor it and talk openly with your child and teen to make sure that they understand the differences between reality and fiction, and good choices and bad choices. Sure, we’re all going to make the bad choices sometimes anyway, but we have to do our best to make sure they make as little as possible and that they are understanding what they are reading or watching.

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10 thoughts on “Young Adult Literature and Love Stories

  1. Júlia says:

    HEY Sara!!! So, I’m a big fan of “whatanerdgirlsays” and I got crazy when I discovered the “Dear Cassandra Clare Project”; but the thing is, I was traveling so I was just able to send the letter a little late…I REALLY hope that you can still use my letter, it would mean the world to me. But, anyway, I’m sending you an e-mail…Thank you, seriously, sending Cassie a letter was a dream…xo

    • whatanerdgirlsays says:

      I am so glad that there are others that agree! I felt like I was acting too mature or becoming all pessimistic or something but I really like realism in my books, even in the fantasy. It has to be believable and real and teenagers getting married pisses me off

  2. Chloe says:

    This is a subject we bring up a lot in theatre. Well, not marriage specifically, but the issue that people think that an author/playwright/director is beholden in some way to the audience.
    On one side of the argument is the point that authors should be able to write books and (writers write plays and directors interpret plays) in ways that they want without compromising their artistic sensibilities. They write/produce for themselves and their art.
    The other argument is that when putting a piece of art out into the public sphere an artist automatically has a responsibility to the audience they are encouraging to read/view their art. It’s a tough one.
    Usually I believe that an artist should be beholden to no one, but in the case of YA fiction I agree with you – marriage is not something we should be encouraging a young-adult audience to do, or saying that is is a necessary part of any relationship. Twilight is a perfect example.
    It’s a tricky issue and I’m glad you brought it up, it’s exactly the kind of thing writers of this genre should think about :)
    I was thinking about the Clary and Jace marriage issue – maybe they get married in an epilogue when they’re like 50? Then it’s only “sort of” in the book. But why knows – Cassie Clare does like surprising her audience!

  3. S. L. says:

    Maybe Jace gives Clary a promise ring? lol. I’m soooooo glad you wrote a post about this. I take it to the next level – as much as I adore Harry Potter, I hated J. K. Rowling’s epilogue. Of course, in my head they all married their “high school” sweethearts and lived happily ever after anyway, but it’s also misleading to make teens think they are going to marry the person they dated in high school, even much later on.

    • whatanerdgirlsays says:

      I hated the epilogue of Harry Potter big time! I think that’s why I love post-DH fan fiction, because it shows the kids Breaking up, moving on, loving other people. So much more realistic. I hate that epilogue. I pretend it’s not there

      • Chloe says:

        What I hate most about the epilogue is the way they name just about every single kid after someone else. Let your kids be themselves! How much would poor Albus Severus have to live up to?! Gah it drives me crazy in books how kids are always named after another significant character.

        • whatanerdgirlsays says:

          So I completely agree with you on both of the things you brought up. I feel like someone should have a creative license to do what they need to do in expressing their story but I feel like, personally, with young adult literature and children’s literature, that there should be some censoring when considering the audience that you have. If you want to have teenagers that marry and have babies, then I think it should be an adult book, not a young adult, you know what I mean? Unless its a book that is supposed to address the “issue” of teen pregnancy or teen marriage, you know what I mean? But to have a book where teens fall in love and get married really super bothers me.

          That being said, I seriously hate the kids names in the epilogue and that is a huge reason why I’m not a fan of it. I think all of the names are so stupid. People make fun of Hermione and Ron’s kids names “Rose” and “Hugo” but I like those more, even though I don’t actually like those names. I am glad Hermione and Ron had normal kids names instead of James Sirius, Lily LUna and Albus Severus. I mean, besides the fact that its so hard to live up to names like those…they’re just awful names.

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