I have a really bad habit of checking GoodReads while reading a book. The reason I do this is the same reason I write these IMR posts: I just read something and I have to talk about it. (It’s better than checking tumblr, which is just a free for all for spoilers.)
That isn’t to say that GoodReads isn’t sprinkled with spoilers, because it is, but in a more interesting nature. While tumblr has gifsets and quotes and fanart, GoodReads is riddled with the words “Love triangle,” “boring plotline” and, the worst of these, “instalove.”
All of these terms raise red flags when I’m reading a book, but the last one is a particular problem for me, especially when instalove is confused with instalust.
InstaLove: the sudden, and often inexplicable, romantic attraction between two characters in a romantic plot
InstaLust: the sudden, and often heavily described sexual attaction between two characters in a romantic plot
Honestly, both are bad storytelling, but I hold a special place for instalust because it is, in short, a cop-out. It’s a cop-out that’s been used far too much in YA fiction as a sign of a loving relationship.
To explain, I’m going to use a novel I recently finished, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas. While the romance had a few good scenes, I had huge problems with believing the relationship. The leads, Feyre and Tamlin, have been accused of instalove in Goodreads reviews, but I think this is more of a case of instalust.
Let’s skip the part where Feyre focuses a lot on Tamlin’s appearance, particularly his muscles. Let’s skip the part where Feyre keeps talking about how his touch and how he looks at her makes her feel different “between her legs.” Let’s skip to Calanmai.
Readers of ACOTAR know what I’m talking about. Calanmai, the faerie festival that begins Spring. How? With the coupling of a faerie high lord and some random woman releasing magic into the land. In the novel, Feyre is warned not to go out on Calanmai for fear of being sexually assaulted. Tamlin finds her anyway, and there’s a fairly seductive scene which culminates in her turning him down because she can tell he’s not himself.
You might think that this doesn’t sound like instalust at all. She rejects him, after all, and listens to her heart. Good for her.
But what bugs me about this scene is that the apology afterwards. There’s a short paragraph describing how Tamlin apologizes for his behaviour the night beforehand, and gives her flowers.
My problem is this: it’s a paragraph.
No dialogue. No gestures. Just a paragraph, where the scene before was heavy with conversation and description.
Fast forward to the faerie court.
Let me set the scene: Feyre is fighting for Tamlin’s life by performing life-threatening challenges as dictated by the evil faerie queen. She hasn’t talked to Tamlin in months, the last conversation ending with him telling her that he loved her and she didn’t reply in kind. Since then, she discovered that he sacrificed himself and his court in order to protect her.
What’s the first thing they do when they are able to steal time alone? Make out and move on to do the deed. No words, just physical intimacy.
And this is a problem.
The more YA fiction I read that handles things like sexual attraction and desire, the more I find that authors are using sexual intimacy as a replacement for emotional connection. Kissing is not the same a trusting someone. Sex is not the same as telling someone that you love them and that you are scared for them.
And yet, more and more YA fiction seems to include sex scenes to “prove” that the romantic leads are desperately in love with each other. And, for me anyways, the need to reproduce with someone isn’t the same as the need for someone in your life because you want to keep them as safe and happy as they make you feel. Brazen touches in the dark are not the same as sharing dark secrets.
And this is rather infuriating, because a relationship is so much more than kisses and touches and moaning in the dark. And if this is where YA fiction is heading, I’m not sure I want to keep reading it. True, there are some well placed sex scenes in YA novels and I applaud authors who know when to include it and do it well. The more I read, the more it seems to be a cheap attempt at approximating a romantic relationship.
Have you noticed this too? Do you think I’m crazy? Let me know in comments.