I've been reading a lot of posts lately about the poor depiction of romance in YA lit. More ostensibly, the way women are treated as weak objects desperately needing to be saved by a boy. While I do agree that some YA romances embarrass me- that people think abuse and downright stalking is how love really is and/or should be, there are many romances in YA lit out there that I think are done really well, don't degrade women, and satisfy that sweet tooth for a romantic read that so many of us have.
Here's some pondering points I have:
1. It's OKAY to like romance. It's okay to fall for the gorgeous guy who makes you melt with his smile. It's okay that the female character's self-esteem is invariably raised after meeting him. It's the human experience, it's what we do! And, in most of the novels I read (that I enjoy) the female becomes friends with the gorgeous guy before there's any romance. Which, is the "right" thing to do-and is OKAY.
2. Sometimes I think that people (especially some girls nowadays who think they are feminists) believe that any kind of weakness is BAD BAD BAD. But hey guess what? We are human. We have weaknesses. We fall in love (girls AND guys). And falling in love should not be considered a weakness. I know we as women are tired of being considered the weaker sex-but the way to gain exposure as strong, self-sufficient women isn't to completely ignore the fact that hey, we have emotions. We should embrace them (not abuse them).
Did I cry during The Notebook? Absolutely. Still do. Does that make me a push-over? Or weak? Absolutely not. And be sure to know if a guy ever hit me, verbally abused me, stalked me, or made me feel any type of way inferior to him he would be done, out the door. See you, man, that's not for me.
3. I don't buy the Sarah Dessen Syndrome. I'm not knocking whoever coined the phrase-if that's how you feel, that's how you feel. However, I think she deserves a little defense coming her way. I LOVE Sarah Dessen. She pulled me into reading. Do all of her books revolve around some type of romance? Yes. Do all of her female characters have some type of issue? Yes. Do all of her female characters need a guy to resolve her issues? No. Of course the female character will fall for someone (it wouldn't be a romance if she didn't...duh) and of course the character is going to have worked through her issue(s) in some way (it's called resolution).
In Lock and Key, the female character actually realizes that her male counterpoint needs more help than she does. And where does she get the help for herself? Most importantly through her family. And in Dreamland, her boyfriend absolutely isn't the one solving her problems-he's creating them! And she totally ditches him in order to be rehabilitated. I think Sarah Dessen is brilliant. I like reading real romances where each character is flawed. But it wouldn't be a novel if they stayed stagnantly flawed through til the end. Each of her characters goes through a journey and makes a discovery. Which includes romance, but also includes learning more about themselves.
And that is again, OKAY.
I do agree that there is some sort of weird paranormal romance cliche floating around in so many new books for teens. That's what they enjoy reading...why? Well, I'm not sure, that's a topic for another post. However, I don't think this brand of awful YA romance is cause to hate on all YA romance. I think sometimes we confuse the ideas of bad romance influencing teenagers and romance influencing teenagers. Don't let the stories about sparkly vampires watching you sleep make you pass on the novels about real teenagers falling in love.
And that is my argument. Thoughts?