YA Literary Tropes Episode Two: InstaLove

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InstaLove, what is it and why do we care?

One of my greatest pet peeves when it comes to YA tropes is the tendency to insert instant love connections. You may be thinking, who is this jaded young woman and what does she have against love at first sight? Here’s the truth: I believe in love at first sight, hell, I will argue with people about the merits of love at first sight with examples and my own personal expectations about “the moment” but what I can’t tolerate is instalove, yes, that’s right folks, instalove is NOT love at first sight.

Let me explain: 

Love at first sight is a beautiful, enriching, mutual experience that involves open hearts, attraction, and a meeting of the minds and souls. InstaLove is that weird in-between place, the moment when what could be love at first sight is really one-sided attraction from a protagonist that he/she feels is building into love. Then the person of interest, the other half of this maybe relationship suddenly notices the other person checking them out and without any build up or real development of feelings that person who typically the protagonist is too shy or scared to talk to is in L-O-V-E. How is this possible? More frankly, WHY is this possible? For a relationship to work, sure attraction is everything at first, it’s the start point that ignites a flurry of sexual tension and awkward interactions that becomes something more but part of what makes this work so well in YA is that we don’t know if it’s mutual. Secondly, the couple needs time and several interactions before serious feelings can mount into a pure, fiery love. In instalove, it’s a mystery how the significant other becomes infatuated/in love with the protagonist. There’s little to no build up or interactions, there’s usually one or two at most because the protagonist is dealing with some life altering situation or is too insecure to express their feelings. It is the lack of simultaneous love that makes instalove different from love at first sight and a confusing mess of weird. Like Dwight so acutely noted above, love is a process, it has steps and needs and instalove takes these key elements and ignores them entirely. I want answers, I want to know how the S.O. (significant other ) got to the point of falling in love with the protagonist, I want to know what changed, what made the s.o. see him/her in a new light. I need the process if love at first sight is not what happened, the plot of their love is necessary and a powerful character building tool. Often it’s love that makes the protagonist stronger, more confident, and gives them the courage to tackle their problems head on. Instalove takes away from the plot, the protagonist and the critical feels that YA books are known for.

The other issues:

Aside from the previously noted problems with instalove and my disappointment every time I encounter this element/ new trope in YA, instalove adds predictability to the plot. It counters the shock value and sometimes, it is instalove that can take a book from a 5 star rating to a 3 because the tension is not there, the readers know what’s going to happen and there’s relatively no drama or fighting for their love.

Hopefully my thoughts on this came out clearly, how do you guys feel about instalove? Have you noticed this too? Does it bother you as well? What are some of your instalove contention points?

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Happy reading,

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