The Fiery Hearts: Love in Young Adult Novels
Love is impossible to define, and yet it defines everything. In Young Adult novels, there is a distinct sense of urgency when it comes to aspects of love, a sense of beauty that is sometimes lost as our years are; adults seem to view love through different eyes than these young characters we love. Imagine the idea of love as a fire, and in that image you will have the basis of what it means to love in most Young Adult novels; young love burns with a fiery heart unlike anything else.
Sometimes love is instant; sometimes not. Unlike adults, young adults refuse to be defined by timely restrictions of any politically correct version of love. It is in this instant connection where many people assume young love falters. This is akin to saying a fire is less when it’s just beginning to kindle. Both still burn. While adult characters often hold back in terms of loving someone as intensely as young adult characters, there’s something in the way more mature characters handle love that makes us wonder this: Are these adult character, in fact, more mature, or are they simply afraid? Like love, a fire may have different qualities at various stages of its making, but belittling it is to deny the fact that love, especially in the eyes of young adults, is almost undefinable in its stages.
In many ways, young adult characters are made to fear everything except love. They resist fitting in but want to. They fight but don’t know how. They must look a certain way but rarely do. They must save the ones they love and sacrifice themselves. In stories today, teens are often faced with enormous obstacles not only affecting them but the entire world. Their lives are at stake and still they fall in love. In this, unlike in many other human obstacles, many of these characters are fearless when it comes to love.
Katniss and Peta (The Hunger Games Trilogy), Bella and Edward (The Twilight Saga), Cassia and Ky (The Matched Trilogy): No matter how young love begins, teenagers in love always burn with fiery hearts even when their love is not center stage. Young adult love is not restrained by time but rather flourished by the fear of it; young love may be instantaneous, but there is always a reason why it continuos to be so dramatically urgent. In these stories, there are always outside factors influencing the normal fluidity of love. Take, for instance, the star-crossed love story of Katniss and Peta. Their relationship is set against a horrific backdrop of war and rebellion and loss, and yet they still manage to fall in love. Katniss and Peta, however, have a different kind of love than most; even at the end of their story we are left realizing that their love is not yet fully developed. It’s not done kindling even though it has been since the beginning. Although it is clear Peta loved the idea of Katniss from the beginning, their relationship is left to this: “Real or not real?” With them it is real because, in that moment, they let it be. Peta fought for Katniss, and she him, making them both a little bit fearless.
The love between Bella and Edward, on the other hand, is equally real, although their love burned desperately and endlessly from very close to the beginning. Although Bella and Edward had different obstacles to tackle, they made the choice, in the end, to be together regardless of any situation. Their love was never in question for long, and in their reality it quickly became everything. In the end, these two vampires fought for their family. In having love, Bella and Edward were fearless.
Cassia and Ky have a different story and yet theirs is one we’ve seen; in many ways their story is similar to Bella and Edward’s as well as Katniss and Peta’s. Cassia and Ky have an instant connection and, although they’ve known each other since they were young, they live in a society where socializing is not truly a kin to friendship. Their connection, like Bella and Edward’s, is somewhat instantaneous. Additionally, Cassia and Ky have a simple but meaningful childhood connection much like the one Katniss and Peta have. Cassia and Ky, however, have an even slower burning love than either Bella and Edward or Katniss and Peta. Throughout much of their story, they are separated from each other. Their love began quickly but kindled slowly.
What we see with these characters is that, no matter the circumstance, love runs rampant. The idea of destiny is at play. In any sense, young adult love begins quickly. These characters fall truly, madly, deeply in love within a matter of pages, but that doesn’t make their feelings any less real because there are usually obstacles preventing them from keeping that love right away. The idea here is no matter how young love burns, it always does. Always quickly. Always rampant. Always with their complete hearts.
Of course, characters do not speak for everyone, and there are always instances of characters, young and old, where love steps outside any given topic. For this article, love is looked at through the eyes of young characters powerfully certain in love, and adult characters uncertain of the same. For always, however, love is boundless in definitions and descriptions.
In many ways, this type of love seen in Young Adult novels is more real, more passionate than anything we could ever see in real life. It is raw, if a bit naive, but full of hope. Life.
Generally speaking, characters in Young Adult novels are not afraid to love, and they are a bit more fearless than many characters in adult novels. True, these younger characters may be more innocent than adult characters, but in many ways that makes them more hopeful and less hesitant to let themselves run completely towards the idea of love. Less fearful of love. Often, we see adult characters who are afraid to love beyond a tiny, kindling flame; too focused, perhaps, on the idea that they will once again get burned by love. From young adult characters, we can all learn this: Love isn’t about bringing your past into your future, it’s about letting your fiery heart live free. Love isn’t about moving hesitantly forward, it’s about running toward hope as though your heart burns fearlessly against any obstacle. When it comes to love, can we be fearless?
About the author:
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 series. A novella for the series, THE WARRIOR’S CODE, as well as the sequel, SHADOW OF THE SUN, will be released in 2013. Living in Michigan, he is addicted to coffee, gummy things, and sarcastic comments. He enjoys bad movies and shivery nights, but doesn’t really like writing bios about himself in the third person. Be sure to visit David’s facebook and twitter to learn more about his various addictions and novels.