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Why Do I Feel Uncomfortable Reading Teenage Love Stories?

As I’m wrapping up The Death of the Heart—I know, it’s taken me forever—I’ve noticed how uncomfortable I am reading teenage love stories.

This one tells the story of Portia, a young 16-year-old girl who moves to London to live with her brother and his wife, only to fall in love with an older 23-year-old creepy guy who is a friend of the family. He’s essentially the early 20th Century of a frat boy douche bag. 

Nothing “happens,” if you know what I mean (at least to the point in the story I’ve read), but the whole plot line is a bit tiresome. We’re not going in Lolita territory here.

So there’s a lot more to The Death of the Heart that just a teenage love story—it’s a meticulously written novel with well-developed characters. But, ultimately, it’s about a teenage girl who falls in love, writes in her diary a lot, and more than likely gets her heartbroken. As an 38-year-old married man with two kids, I feel weird reading this. That’s an entirely subjective thought, but it is big part of me experience while reading this novel.

So as I close out reading the novel, I’m left wondering why? Why am I reading this?

And I can’t answer that question yet. I’m left wondering what the draw to The Death of the Heart is—why it was included on a list such as Time’s.

I’ll try and answer that question for you when I review the novel some time next week.

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21 Comments Post a comment
  1. Amen! So do I!

    >

    Like

    June 3, 2014
  2. Grace #

    I feel uncomfortable reading teenage love stories too. That’s why I try to avoid them. You wouldn’t catch me reading Twilight in a million years.

    Like

    June 3, 2014
  3. Interesting, I had a similar conversation with my mum a few weeks ago. She told me that she just can’t stand teenage love stories and YA books any more. She believes that she is just too old. I wouldn’t say that. I would rather assume that she is too adult. Maybe teenage love stories (and let’s stay honest, love is the one big topic in YA books as well) are too trivial, shallow and sometimes even ridiculous when readers reach a certain age. Maybe they lose their entertaining factor.

    Like

    June 3, 2014
  4. Reblogged this on dunjav.

    Like

    June 3, 2014
  5. 1banjo #

    You read this so others didn’t have to. Thank you for your service.

    Like

    June 3, 2014
  6. I do not know how I would feel in this scenario so now I’m curious. I will find that book and read it myself.

    Like

    June 3, 2014
  7. Yes, I don’t think I could ever write the YA type of fiction that focuses on love stories. I wasn’t into them when I was a teenager, either. But now you’ve got me wondering why it’s on the Time list. Will be interesting to hear.

    Like

    June 3, 2014
  8. I really, really enjoyed this post. I don’t agree with everything, but I love the way you worded your thoughts and asked questions. 🙂 I personally wouldn’t categorize “The Death of the Heart” as a YA novel. (I see people using the term YA in the comments… Let me quote Inigo Montoya and say, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”) I think classics, old and new, don’t depend on the age of the protagonist, but rather the content and subject of the novel. (I think you would agree?)

    No one watches “An Education” (Carey Mulligan) and thinks, “This is a movie for teens because it has a teen protag.” No one reads “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (a modern classic, if you will) and thinks, “This is a middle grade novel because the protag is a young boy.” Like the back of John Boyne’s “The Boy in Striped Pajamas” says, paraphrased, it is a book about a 9-year-old boy, but it is not a book for 9-year-old boys.

    So maybe, then, your discomfort stems from the topic of the book (a teenage girl falling for a frat boy douche bag of her time). If he was a good, respectable lad of 18 who loved her and wanted to make a life for her…how would you feel then?

    I’m 20, and I still read books in the YA genre. I also write YA – I’m working on finishing the last drafts of this novel before I query.

    As a writer and a reader, I believe YA is a beautiful exploration of the ups and downs of all the “first times”. You might automatically think about teens losing their virginity, and that is one case, but I also think of other things, such as: getting into trouble with parents, first dates, succumbing to peer pressure, getting into college, car accidents because you drank one too many at that party, first big fight with gf/bf….etc etc. Good and bad stem from “first times”, and as teens we all went through things that we look back on and say “That was when I learned something.” I think that is the beauty of YA, because adults in adult fiction have already experienced all this, it’s all been said and done, and there isn’t that kind of “newness” that comes from YA.

    However, I can imagine that if I was later in life and hadn’t consistently read/written YA, I might feel uncomfortable. I also think that anyone who reads about a 16-year-old girl falling for an idiot who’s 7 years older than her *should* feel uncomfortable, because that’s a disconcerting topic.

    I hope this makes some sense… I am very passionate about this topic because writing YA *is* my passion in life. I want to write adult fiction as well, but YA has my heart.
    Thanks for reading this ridiculously long essay…I mean, comment… 😉 I absolutely love this blog and find your posts intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking. Don’t stop reading/writing!

    Like

    June 3, 2014
    • I agree with your assessment that The Death of the Heart isn’t a YA novel. It’s obviously a novel with a teenage protagonist who falls in love, but the writing, the themes, and everything else about it, isn’t geared for YA audience.

      Like

      June 4, 2014
  9. I know what you mean when you ask why am I reading this. Currently I am reading the Updike biography. I am a little over half way finished and I think I am getting to that point. But I am bound and determined to finish it. It’s becoming a slog.

    Like

    June 3, 2014
  10. Personally, I enjoy YA books! =) I’m a mom of YAs, though…not sure if that makes a difference. Before there was such a genre, we just called them…books. =) Think “Catcher in the Rye” or “Huckleberry Finn” or “Great Expectations” or “Little Women” or…..

    Like

    June 3, 2014
  11. Well, you’re not part of the target audience, so of course it’s uncomfortable.

    Some children’s books are made palatable to older people. Roald Dahl’s books, for example, have a lot of wry comments that children could miss. I think that phenomenon is rarer with YA fiction. I’d be curious as to how you’d react to The Fault In Our Stars.

    Like

    June 3, 2014
  12. In the old days, and still today, some humans marry very young — but to my mind modern teens are meant to prepare for life, not to mess around with sex and love and romance – that should come a little later perhaps? With more maturity — and so this type of material would make me feel uncomfortable too.

    Like

    June 4, 2014
  13. I do agree. I am personally bored of teenagers troubles, impossible love stories and repetitive plots. I think indie movies do take care of heart- touching kids and teens but books are so dull nowadays that Susan Hinton looks like Tolstoi.

    Like

    June 4, 2014
  14. Reblogged this on psuedoreader.

    Like

    June 6, 2014
  15. everyone has a same feeling when reading about the other love stories…but in reality…we all need a kind of love that is not only care bt also gives the power of motivation in life.

    Like

    June 6, 2014
  16. everyone has a same feeling when reading about the other love stories…but in reality…we all need a kind of love that is not only care bt also gives the power of motivation in life.

    Like

    June 6, 2014
  17. I confess to reading Twilight. I wanted to know what the buzz was about. Was greatly disappointed. Call me boring, but I like love stories that actually make sense. I’m not talking vampire stuff, but how the guy talks to the girl in this story. Not real life.

    Like

    June 9, 2014
  18. If you are going for best contents like myself, only pay a visit this website all the time as it gives feature contents, thanks

    Like

    January 30, 2015

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Why Do I Feel Uncomfortable Reading Teenage Love Stories? | abpriestly
  2. Book #71: The Death Of The Heart | 101 Books

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