The Unconventional Truth About Teenage Romance in “Modern” YA

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We all know what it’s like to stare at the jock across the room in class and wonder what it would be like to instantly become popular—from being at the bottom of the social chain, to dating the most popular guy in school, or the most popular girl, let’s not discriminate, its 2019 after all. The problem here is that muscled-jock dude doesn’t really notice anyone other than the girls in the cheer squad, or the dance line, and it would be unconventional for him to notice the shy girl who’s always had her eyes on him.

Jenna Han, author of the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series, presents Lara Jean, a half-Korean, half-white teenager who resolves unrequited love through writing love letters never sent, and protecting them in box above her closet. But then those letters are out, one finding its way to Peter Kavinsky, a recently single lacrosse player. Lara Jean’s feelings for Peter are old news, but Peter convinces her to play out a fake relationship in order to get back at his previous, all-around perfectly conventional girlfriend Genevieve. Peter actually falls in love with Lara Jean and we all think it’s romantic and how different Peter is, but the truth is that the book is unrealistic, sorry to shatter our hopes and dreams, but it needs to be said.

In today’s world, the jock doesn’t really pay attention to the shy guy or girl in the back of the class with their heads buried into their textbook. Jenna Han attempts to demonstrate the reality of what teenagers go through and the fact is that many people would not have the courage to do what Lara Jean did and combat the all-around perfectly conventional blonde teenager. If my love letters got sent out to all the guys I’ve “been in love with” there would be major drama and there’s no way the jock would come back to me and commit to a fake relationship; or any relationship at all. In high school, I was the band geek who played the clarinet, took drama, and spent my evenings writing and keeping my feelings bottled up, which is a common trait Lara Jean deals with.  Do you really think the captain of the football team was going to embrace me with open arms and confess his love for me? I mean, I wish… but that’s a story for the next chapter.

Teenagers need to be told the truth, and the truth is that you probably won’t date the quarterback or the captain of the soccer team and there isn’t anything wrong with that; or maybe you will and props to you because you’re living that perfect story. Love is beautiful when looked at in its entirety and its true form, everyone needs to stop sugar coating it and looking at love realistically.  We all have different perspectives about what beauty is, and the fact is that YA novels like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before fail to portray the truth about romance and what it is that teenagers go through. Where’s the story about the two band geeks who fall in love? Or maybe even the story where the art student gets noticed by the girl who spends her time playing Dungeons and Dragons? I don’t care if you look like Genevieve or Peter Kavinsky, if you have a solid personality and can make me laugh then you’re a perfect 10.

Maybe I’ll just catfish the hot jock and get him to fall in love me… stay tuned for part 2 of the unconventional truth of teenage beauty in “modern” YA.

PRR Lead Editor, Julian Esquer

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