The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Truly, Madly, Deeply...Quickly (or Friday, I'm In Love)

This post contains some spoilers for This World We Live In (Susan Beth Peffer), Sea (Heidi Kling), Hush, Hush (Becca Fitzpatrick), Twilight (Stephenie Meyer), and Perfect Chemistry (Simone Elkeles).

Firstly, let me state that I am not anti-love. I enjoy a good romance. The really swoony ones creep into my shriveled up prune of a heart and make me feel all warm, giddy and generally good about the world. However, those are the ones that I really believe in – the ones that have grown over the course of a story, whose players I have gotten to know and care about and the ones that are, above all, believable.

Those are not the ones I am going to talk about here.

Nope, I am talking about the love affairs that appear out of the blue. You know the ones I mean – the characters talk a handful of times and then love each other FOREVER often dancing to the tune of the Hate, Hate, LOVE! waltz. I don't buy it. I know that teenagers feel things strongly - once upon a time I actually was one. I was even one that fell hopelessly in love. But do you know what? I KNEW the guy, I LIKED the guy and the guy was really pretty NICE to me. We also had, like, conversations (perhaps...gasp...more than two) before I pledged my delicate fifteen year old heart to his care.

So, who are the perpetrators of these do-not-press-pause-fast-forward-to-love affairs? Here are a few examples:

Miranda and Alex from This World We Live In.
Ah, post-apocalyptic love – what could be more romantic? Er, lots of things if you ask me. As the third in a pretty interesting series, I expected a lot from this title. Book one had covered life after Moon-Fail from Miranda's point of view, book two from Alex's. Both worthy protagonists they were then skilllessly mashed together in the final book in the trilogy. So...they speak very little, have no shared interests and actually seem to take an active dislike to each other - they are have nothing in common apart from the fact that they both trying to survive in the same shitty world. Then, roughly half way through the book, they spend about two hours alone together and TA DA! Cupid shoots his arrow via a pile of tinned food and they are, you've guessed it, in LOVE. They want to get MARRIED. She wants to have his BABIES. No, I didn't buy it either.

Sienna and Denny from Sea
Nothing like love in Tsunami ridden Indonesia it would seem. Certainly not for Sienna who within, oh, twenty minutes of arriving at the orphanage she is there to volunteer for appears to fall head over heels for a guy that she's NEVER EVEN SPOKEN TOO. It's OK though, because he feels the same way. Of course he does. One motorcycle ride to a pretty temple later and they're planning to jump ship to happy-ever-after land. It's actually a pretty good story, with some lovely writing but I'm not buying Sea and Denny. Nope, no way. Especially not when she's got Spider back at home.

Patch and Nora from Hush, Hush
There is a good reason that I have never reviewed Hush, Hush and it is, to be frank, that I can barely withhold my bile. Patch is creepy, he is probably dangerous, he definitely exhibits stalker like tendencies and has real issues with personal space, creeping in and out of Nora's brain like some nasty virus. Nora is not a stupid girl – she realises that this is not right, that she should get some advice or help. Poor Nora. She is surrounded by idiots who tell her how foolish she is – Patch is a perfectly lovely boy who just needs help with his French homework. Or something. Silly Nora – now she can see the truth... she's actually in LOVE. Yep. That's how it's always happened for me, too.

Alex and Brittany from Perfect Chemistry
These two almost didn't make it in here but then I realised that just because something is predictable it doesn't make it right. These two DO NOT LIKE EACH OTHER. In fact, they actively despise each other. Then they do some schoolwork together and BANG, she wants to make LOVE because she LOVES him. Pish posh is what I say. The quality of the writing here is lovely, the love story less so. They have perhaps one conversation where they see different sides of each other which I can see might lead to a tentative friendship but no, it leads to LOVE. And don't even get me started on the bloody epilogue.

Edward and Bella from Twilight
You didn't really think I was going to miss them out, did you? These two take the biscuit and I actively blame them for the whole sorry lot. In case you've forgotten: Bella meets Edward, he's a dick, they don't speak. Shortly afterwards he saves her from certain death, he's a dick but they speak a little. Soon after that, he saves her from some nasty men, admits her was stalking her and can read her mind so is (arguably) less of a dick but certainly more of a creep. A short time later she finds out that he's a dick, a creep and a vampire. Minutes later BANG! They're in LOVE! The End.

You see my point? Do any of these sound like healthy relationships to you? Or even vaguely realistic (even taking out the paranormal aspects of some)? Nope? Me neither. There are plenty of books out there who handle things better than this lot. Believable recent couples (or those with the potential to be so) include Sam and Astrid from Gone (Michael Grant), Lennie and Joe from The Sky Is Everywhere (Jandy Nelson), Taylor and Jonah from Jellicoe Road (Melina Marchetta) and even Bella and Jacob from the Twilight Saga not forgetting Harry and Ginny from Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling). All of these couples have highs and lows, protracted friendships, flirting, romance and even break-ups. They might not all stay together, but they sure as hell have a better shot at the happy-ever-after than those who declare their love after three seconds and a whole lot of stalking/arguing/ apocalypsing/general weirdness And how about that forever? All the couples I've listed as attending the truly, madly, deeply, quickly school of love would appear to have the forever kind... but can that ever be the case for relationships started in such haste? That, my friends is a questions for another time and another blogger. Me, I'm off to get swept away by a romances that I can relate to, that teens can aspire to and that really do stand a chance of living Happily Ever After.

As luck would have it, Andrew over at The Emancipation of The Pewter Wolf has decided to tackle the thorny subject of Happily-Ever-After. Head over to his blog to read more (and while you're there be sure to check out the rest of his many and varied postings).


Alex and Miranda get my vote for least chemistry ever.
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Donna (Bites) said…
I read this in my Reader this morning and I just had to come back and comment. Excellent post and I totally agree. I've only read Twilight off your list but, obviously, I agree. Whatshername and Luke from Shiver/Linger by Maggie Stiefvater I'd like to add to the list. That's another "I've known you for a week but I LOOOOOOOVVVVVVVEEEEEE you!!!" relationships. Blah.
Karen said…
Dare I add Alex and Willow from Angel?
Vicki said…
I've only read Twilight and Perfect Chemistry and I completely agree about Bella and Edward! Brittany and Alex less so, I thought that was pretty believable. Intense and quick relationships do happen, I had one myself back in my late teens. The problem is though that we don't see 'what happens next' because, ultimately they aren't healthy or long lasting. That's were it goes wrong for me.
Nomes said…
"The really swoony ones creep into my shriveled up prune of a heart and make me feel all warm, giddy and generally good about the world." LOL - love that sentence.

I agree. I think maybe teen readers are more forgiving then I though :) I have Sea to read (prob this week) looking forward to it - despite the side plot you mentioned here.

I am so with you on this one. I can't count the number of times I've groaned over it or even written my criticism into a review of a YA novel where the two characters inexplicably fall in love. In some cases I just roll my eyes and carry on but others, like Hush, Hush it was just too much. I think Daniel and Luce from Fallen/Torment is another good example. It annoys me when relationship start really intensely and people start throwing around forever and soul mates and all that.
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