If you’ve been hanging around Lit Mama long, you know me. You know kids are my favorite people, YA is my favorite age range to read (and write), picture books steal my heart, and Dystopia is my genre du jour. You know I read more often than not and that I think literature in any form is key to a good education.
Having said that, I have a gripe.
Because you probably also know that I believe that authors, Especially Children’s Authors, have a responsibility beyond telling a good story and having good grammar. I believe that if you’re going to get famous and make a living on the backs of our nation’s youth, you should set an example. Be honest, yes. Be raw because kids see through the facades. Just don’t encourage behavior that is less than what you would expect from your own daughter or son.
Here’s what I mean.
And I’m probably going to get on a soapbox here. Fair warning.
I recently read a book series by Amy A. Bartol called the Kricket Series. The books were Under Different Stars, Sea of Stars, and Darken the Stars (in that order). Superbly written books. Very interesting world and (up to a point) gripping plot. But.
But shortly into the 3rd book the story degenerated int o that age-old, trite, awful love triangle thing that YA authors overuse to create tension. I’ve complained about the love triangle before because it really pisses me off, but I don’t know if I’ve ever made it clear why I have such issues with it. I mean, yeah, it’s tired. It was tired before the whole Team Edward and Team Jacob thing. But that’s not my issue.
It’s so much more than tired
Most of the time these YA series are set in another world–a dystopia or post-apocalyptic future that is particularly bleak, and the protagonist is a strong female character who overcomes tremendous odds against a government or society that is tyrannical or at the very least oppressing. There’s always a love interest (which is great), and the girl fights her feelings for him until she eventually can’t anymore. She admits her love to him, he admits his love to her, they form this incredible true-love bond as they fight to stay together.
Then, inevitably, they are separated somehow. Enter the third party. And suddenly, if the girl isn’t madly in love with the new guy, too, she’s at least sleeping with him. But most of the time it’s both.
The thing I worry about is that it takes little to no time for the girl to get over the Great Love Of Her Life and just give her love to the next guy that comes along. Or she’s at least free enough with her body to discard the emotional commitment she made to guy number 1.
Should we be telling girls love is that arbitrary?
I ask you, is that the kind of girls we want to raise? Girls who think so lightly of their commitment to love that they’re able to move on the minute their partner is out of their sight? It seriously terrifies me to think about the young women I work with at our local schools reading these stories. Probably they’re going to think one of two things: 1) It’s fine to be free with my emotions and body and not commit to anything, or 2) What’s wrong with me that I don’t feel that free with my emotions or body?
Let me clarify. If a girl is just dating a guy and is not in love with him or he is not good to her and she chooses to move on, okay, fine. But that’s never how these characters are written. They are written as if the girl and guy number 1 are soul mates. And don’t we all wish to marry our soul mate? Not hang out with him for a while–until things get really tough or we can’t see him for a few weeks–and move on? It makes me wonder what young women these days must think about the word love. Is it as trite as the love triangle literary device? Do they think everyone else is doing it so they don’t have to take love seriously?
I have serious hope that the use of the love triangle to provide tension is on the way out. There are so many other ways to provide tension in a plot, and this particular one just strikes me as being confusing for young girls just starting to really think about what love is.
And so I stop reading
In the Kricket books, Kricket not only loathed the antagonist with the fire of a thousand suns, she was completely terrified of him because of his cruelty and the flippant way he would take lives on a whim. And I’m going to spoil it for you, because when she ends up as his captive in the 3rd book, she sleeps with him within a week or two. Right after she leaves her body to go spy on the love of her life.
I’m not making that up. And no, the love of her life was not doing anything wrong. Worrying about her, trying to figure out how to get her back, healing from some serious battle wounds–yeah. Anything that deserved her turning on him and literally sleeping with the enemy? Nope.
Needless to say, I don’t know how it all ends. I got that disgusted. So if you ever decide to brave these books, maybe you could let me know? Because I’ll never finish it (regardless of how good the first two books were), and I sure won’t be recommending it to any young adults I know.
Somebody has to stand up for the girls and let them know it’s okay to commit to love.
And think about this: If our sons are reading these books, too, what kind of impression are they getting of girls in general? Yeah, think about that for a while.
I mean, am I wrong?
Because love should always win,
Very well written AND I couldn’t agree more! It always did seem odd to me, but hadn’t really thought it out. You put words to my unease with this literary device. Maybe I’m old fashioned but…if it’s true love –how would they even consider it?
Right? And thank you for you kind words, Erich. I just couldn’t help it; I had to finally get it out of my system. I certainly don’t want my boys thinking that type of behavior is normal for girls. How would they ever trust in their relationships?
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