Warning: This post is laced with the cynicism of a 21 year old who has been consuming far too much of the Young Adult genre for her own good.
If, like me, you have been brought up with a good dosage of the Young Adult (YA) genre, then you would be familiar with the all too similar plot lines of YA fiction/movies. If, like me also, you have begun to notice the gaping crevice between the YA genre and reality, then you would probably recognise the all too cliched usage of: The Male Love Interest. So much so that fancasting results in the frequent usage of the very same actors… (think Alex Pettyfer, Chase Crawford)
Who is this not-so mysterious lover, you ask? Well, wonder no further, because I am about to unearth the portrayal of unrealistic expectations embodied by the YA genre.
To effectively utilise the plot device of The YA Male Love Interest, one must include several characteristics. Of utmost importance is:
It has got to be the messy, tousled variety. (Granted, I have just used a character from an unconvincing series, but the mane above proves my point.) You will need to have the desire to run your hand through his hair like a handful of shampoo on Severus Snape’s lovely locks. He will probably do the same (run his hand through his hair, I mean) several times throughout the story to illustrate this point. Capisce?
2. What’s cookin’, good lookin’?
With great hair, comes a great face and body. Adjectives used to describe your typical YA Male Love Interest should include (but not exhaustively): hot, sexy, beautiful, handsome. He’s tall, lean, has nice skin… You will not want to tear your gaze away from that chiseled frame and gleaming eyes. This will often ensue as soon as you first set eyes on him. Here, have some photographic evidence!
3. The Chaser
He will constantly woo you and make his presence known, but in no way at all will that be creepy or annoying. He may make seemingly obtuse remarks/demands, and they will just fly right over your head because there would be no other way of facilitating a rendezvous for later. Has he invited you over to his house after meeting you for approximately just one hour? Or was the invitation of a life-risking but adrenaline-pumping sort? Whatever it is, you will have some qualms about his intentions for just about twenty seconds. Guilty characters include Finn from The Impossible Knife of Memory (LH Anderson) and Alex in Lauren Oliver’s Delirium. I know I should include some verbatim quotes here, but I do not have my book collection with me now, which is rather unfortunate.
4. dat personality tho’
Here, we have the crux of the YA Male Love Interest – the unblemished personality. He’s kind, chivalrous, funny, witty, intelligent, and everything else you have on your list rolled into one. Need a car ride or someone to save your life? Check. Enjoy having witty repartee with your significant other? Check. Need a self-esteem boost because you are convinced that you do not deserve him? Check check check. Now, I realise that I am being slightly (or very much) unfair here because if you are meant to fall in love with the guy, he has got to have a killer personality. Vice-versa works too. And the idiom “love is blind” probably rings true. Admittedly, YA men/guys/boys can be too cornily perfect, but how else do you create chemistry between the main character and her love interest if not so?
There are very few books that are able to pull off this whole love interest business, in my opinion. Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl is one of them. It is a difficult balance to strike when creating a character. The perspective of the main character will undoubtedly be loved up to create a sense of foreshadowing. Yet the trick is to ensure that this point of view does not turn overbearing and impose upon readers/viewers a mighty cheese-fest.