I want to start by apologizing for the sucky pun in the title. Low hanging-fruit and what-not.
Doing a Goodreads search for books set in high schools, 5 out of the top 6 YA novels set in high schools involve vampires, wolves, or ‘fallen angels.’ The other one has a smoking hot alien boy as one of the main characters. Keep going down the list and you’ll find even more vampires stories.
Having worked with teens for most of my adult life, and having been a teenager once myself (I think), I can honestly say I get it, even if I’m transitioning into an old-man trapped in an early 30’s body.
Spend one day at a large public school and you’ll spot the victims of vampirism by the end of the first bell. Boys and girls with localized bruising in their necks, usually on one side. Girls with red and pink smeared on their lips. Boys lurking in the shadows.
It’s no wonder Twilight and Vampire Academy score big.
Then you add in books where the males are wolves or fallen angles, and you have high school dating personified (or animalized, I guess). After all, boys go from relative innocence in middle school, then boom!, puberty roars its ugly head. Hair grows into wild, untamed peach fuzz on their upper-lips. A gentle breeze changes the boys into ravenous creatures. And the purity of their upbringing gets lost in the rebellion of their peers.
The girls, for their part, are wrapped in a spell. They know the boys are animals, but, swoon if only they had a Belle in their life to change them back into human, but wait, their animalism is sexy in its rawness and mystery, but wait, they pursue the girls too hard and with such singularity that they feel like prey, but wait, it’s nice to be noticed, but wait, their parents don’t like them, but wait, who are they to tell the girls who to date: they can’t control their lives for ever gosh-mom-don’t-you-remember-what-it-was-like-to-be-a-teen-Ihateyou.
Here’s the problem: these books are like 50 shades of vomit. Passive girl being brought out and controlled by a) mean, controlling boy or b) brooding, controlling boy or c) relentless, controlling boy. She can’t help but give in. And *gasp* she now has 2 or three other boys she’s canoodling Every plot’s the same: teen relationships with some cockamamie supernatural hoopla to keep the story from being solely smutty romance novel. What’s happening to me? Am I suddenly forty years older? Whose grandfather did I steal those sentences from.
Anyways, I digress.
Everything in adolescence feels immediate. Everything is fresh. Everything is more dramatic than it ever should be. It’s a natural part of this stage of life.
But normalizing unhealthy sexualization is not beneficial. Making the plot about pursuing a persons they can be used is normalizing objectification. And taking good horror characters and making them into pathetic pieces of static is character-al appropriation.
Maybe I’m too old to understand. Maybe my visceral reaction is from a shame that I was once a teenaged-monster. Maybe it’s from staying up past my 9 o’clock bedtime and the heart-burn searing my chest. Maybe I’m off my rocker…
Oh, no, Life Alert: I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!