Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Shop Around: YA Characters with Romantic Pasts




Recently, I've been binge-reading the amazing Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima. These books have everything I like: layered characters, shippity ships, complex world building, magicks, betrayal, and royalty. It also has two main characters who have had very busy and very complicated and very heartbreaking love lives. Their life situations have gone through multiple stages, and as they aged, they found themselves responding to different people at different times. They acted like most people do outside of books, and I realized, as I was reading, how much I love it when characters in YA books don't end up with the first person they liked/kissed/sexed.

I'm not talking about love triangles (although I do not think all love triangles are inherently evil. I have liked quite a few). I'm talking about books that recognize that most of the time, people don't end up with the first boy or girl or werevampmerelf who made awooooga eyes at them.

http://s.quickmeme.com/img/38/38ad33f5ec56300f7604bab70325f9dbd0a9b31fe893c2b2489eff754c754d13.jpg
Sexyyyyyy
And I'm not saying that I haven't loved or shipped books or ships that WERE centered around first relationships going the distance, but in YA, it is totally refreshing to read about characters who, well, shop around a bit. Unintentionally or totally on purpose.

Sometimes book characters are lucky enough to meet The One first. That's fine. But sometimes characters meet Other Guy first, and they break up, and then The One comes along and it's like WHAT ON EARTH WAS I DOING WITH OTHER GUY? I love that. And sometimes it turns out that Second One isn't The One either. And then things get complicated, and I love complicated. Complicated means real, and real means interesting, and I love reading interesting. Plus it promotes super cool sex positivity and romantic freedom and these are all good things and stuff. Characters, like people, don't KNOW that their great fated love is looming over the horizon, on the approach, zooming towards them on the Happily Ever After Express.

 data:image/jpeg;base64,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

I'm a shipper. I prefer to read books and series that end with my shipping reboarding that HEA train into a sky filled with unicorns and a sunset made of cotton candy. But that doesn't mean that I don't also love when my characters have boarded other trains in the past. In fact, it makes me ship the HEA train even more. (Ship a train?? RIP, metaphor.)

Girl characters are usually shamed or hated for not "saving themselves" for their The One, even if they haven't met him yet or haven't become romantically interested in him or her yet. Guy characters are usually given a lot more leeway, especially if their romantic past happened before the start of the book. But basically, I LOVE when characters have romantic pasts before the start of the book, guys and girls! It's like life! I know not all teenagers have extensive romantic pasts (*thinks about own teenagerhood and crylaughs*), but the teenagers who DO are verrrry under-represented in YA.

We get a lot of wide-eyed girls who didn't know they had loins until Mysterious Loner turned his sky-blue eyes on her and set her aflame, and that's not the only type of person out there. It makes it seem like that's the only type of character YA condones, or that deserves to be a hero or heroine, just by dint of being the most overwhelmingly prevalent. And that's just not true.

More YA characters with complex romantic pasts, is what I'm saying--sexual or non-sexual or triangular or otherwise. Books like the Seven Realms series, 17 First Kisses, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Fire, the Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea series, the Song of the Lioness series, the Georgia Nicolson series, and lots of other spoilery books and series I can't name. Hell, even Harry Potter! Those kids shopped around!

http://media.giphy.com/media/NOZWbX1H12mu4/giphy.gif
http://bplusmovieblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/harry-potter-and-the-order-of-the-phoenix-1069.png?w=590

(extra thanks to Christina and Meg for helping me brainstorm this post and coming up with truly wonderful possible titles)

12 comments:

  1. Georgia can shop around all she wants but I think we all agree Masimo needs to go back to Pizza-a-go-go-land. Also, I'm firmly Team Dave the Laugh, except for book one where I am always swept up in the sex god ways of Robbie. Cosmic horn abounds.

    I like your point that it makes the HEA train even better if there have been some romantic entanglements in the past! Too true! Seven Realms is boss, I really want to reread it. And I hadn't thought about HP but it's true, especially Ginny! Go Ginny! (Dean was hot in the movie.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The first rule of Massimo is never talk about Massimo. He sucks.

      Delete
  2. You went with Shop Around! I feel so CLEVER.

    THIS IS WHERE WEREVAMPMERELF CAME FROM. AHAHAHAHA, you brilliant wrongswriter you.

    "Complicated means real, and real means interesting, and I love reading interesting." Not me. I want em boring.

    No wait. Just kidding. That's my alter ego who hates fun and likes to watch football (sorry not sorry Gillian). She also reads a lot of pretentious adult fiction about affairs and ennui.

    "I prefer to read books and series that end with my shipping reboarding that HEA train into a sky filled with unicorns and a sunset made of cotton candy." I prefer my sky filled with pegasi, that down rain down and die tragically, and a sunset made of a tastier candy than cotton, but pretty accurate on the whole.

    "*thinks about own teenagerhood and crylaughs*" your brain is indeed my brain. But also the thing is that I was a rarity among most of the people that I knew. Lots of people had pasts. Most people had SOME SORT OF PAST AT LEAST. I mean, the cool kids started "dating" in fourth grade or thereabouts. COME ON.

    Meg and I are geniuses. As are you obvs.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh, God, YES TO ALL OF THIS. You are speaking my language. And don't forget the Throne of Glass series! Celaena had several beaus before the beau she ended up with in CoM, but I won't go into more detail because that's spoilery.

    Speaking from a YA epic fantasy writer's perspective, this is exactly why I write the characters I write. I want my characters to have experienced love and like and lust in many different ways before they settle down. I find it's more romantic when they've seen what they like and what they don't like. I like to think that the two characters who will end up together have been through trials and tribulations with people in the past, leading them down the path to meet the person they're meant to be with. AKA The One.

    I mean, I know it does happen that the first person you're with is the person you end up with. But, in my experience, that hasn't been the case, so I know there are differences out there. I want my characters--both that I write and that I read--to have experienced more from the world.

    Enough ranting. You make great points. So yes. Yes all over this. =)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes. All of this, exactly. I didn't have a romantic teenagehood (not for lack of trying- but the boys didn't like a chaser), but my 20's was brimming with romantic escapades and shopping around. And I'm very glad that was so, despite horrendous mistakes, but you're totally right that it's something underrepresented in YA. I would love to see a list from you sometime, of fantastic YA with Shopped-around Romance characters. I've added the ones you list to my wishlist, but I just know you know mooooore. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was just browsing through & stumbled upon your lovely blog - It looks gorgeous and it has interesting posts that I can relate to! - Def. checking out these new reads! I'm now following you via gfc, Hope you check out my blog? keep in touch x

    Benish | Feminist Reflections
    A Thousand Pieces of You Hardcover Giveaway

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yesyesyesyesyesyesyes thisthisthisthisthisthis. I'm gonna need a werevampmerelf romance post haste.

    ReplyDelete
  7. YES! One of the many things I love about this series. Thanks for bringing up this topic. It's refreshing to see characters and stories with a little more (realistic) depth. I hadn't even thought about that aspect of Harry Potter, but you're absolutely right. It's just one of the reasons why Harry Potter feels so real and why it's so easy to become immersed in the world.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It's nice when characters have had relationships before so they know more about what they are looking for and what they cannot stand, but I don't have to read books like that. But it really bothers me when the guy is supposed to be so experienced he is a slut and he magically changes his ways for the one, special, 100% so pure she's never thought of sex female. *bangs head repeatedly*

    Dreams @ Once Upon A Dream Books

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love this. After reading million of first love stories in YA it would be nice to read books about the second, third or nth guy. Why not? Some of my favourite books with past relationships include Throne of Glass and Catching Jordan.

    -Mari

    ReplyDelete

Note: comments on posts older than 90 days are automatically moderated, so they won't show up here immediately. Thanks for commenting! :)