Let’s talk about love.*
Real life is unpredictable. Messy. So, when it comes to the insta-love we see in books it’s important to look at it from both a literary and real life standpoint. Love, you see, isn’t as black and white as we often make it out to be. Especially in literature. It’s not as complicated, either. At least not in the beginning. In my opinion, the idea of insta-love can actually be completely accurate. Because falling in love can happen in the blink of an eye in the real world. I’ve been there. I’m sure most of you have, too. If not, get out there and start falling in love!
What happens after the falling in love part is when the real relationship begins and where the idea of insta-love, in my mind, falters. The term “insta-love” describes the moment when characters fall in love and, in reality, affection and attraction often occur that instantaneous. This is a different kind of love, one more abrupt than one grown from friendship or time. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “There are all kinds of love in this world but never the same love twice.” Just because something is instantaneous does not mean it’s less accurate, it just means the focus is on feeling rather than logic. Especially in 400 page young adult novels, feelings often take center stage. Even if characters don’t swoon over each other than first time meeting, there’s often a mysterious undertone that suggests love or something like it right from the start.
However, most of the relationships depicted in novels feature problems the couples must solve in order to have that happy ever after, and even then the ending is not so completely happy. And, if their ending is free from danger, we must remember it’s only a piece of a much larger, unwritten story. This is where the term insta-love falters: A 400 page novel is not a character's complete story, just a piece of it. Perhaps when we add the “love” part to insta-love it creates the illusion that these moments of love are not the lasting variety. That we’re forgetting all the work it takes to maintain a relationship, because I do think that the majority of couples in literature are tested.
Bella/Edward meet Volturi.
Katniss/Peeta meet President Snow.
And while we might not see every single trial and tribulation they go through, there are very few literary couples that have everything so perfect from beginning to end. Actually, I can’t think of one. So much of the criticism surrounding insta-love is that it happens so quickly. One moment and it’s over. Love has been had. That’s it. In reality, those moments of instant connection are just the beginning of a more delicate love. There are different stages of love, each of them simple and complex at the same time. And while there are those who think literary criticism and real life opinions should stay separate, I think that, like love, nothing is so black and white. So, to call the idea of “insta-love” or “love at first sight” unrealistic would be accurate only if that was all that happened. But that’s not exactly the complete version of love, it’s the beginnings of it. A much better term for the insta-love connection we see so regularly in literature would be “insta-kind-of-love-but-really-thinking-about-becoming-love” because love, in reality and in literature, is so much more than that first connection. It’s about building upon that first connection, whether it’s a good or bad one. Through the tough times and the easy. And while it does all have to start somewhere, that moment of first sight is not where it ends. That, after all, wouldn’t be any kind of love story.
Love surrounds all the great moments in life. For some of us, these moments just happen in an instant and stay around long after. Is there such a thing as insta-love, or is the idea of falling in love completely accurate? What do you think?
*Bonus points if you started singing.
David James writes books about stars and kisses and curses. He is the author of the YA novel, LIGHT OF THE MOON, the first book in the Legend of the Dreamer duet, as well as the companion novellas, THE WITCH'S CURSE and THE WARRIOR’S CODE. A Legend of the Dreamer anthology, SHADES OF THE STARS, will be released in July 2013.