I have been spending less time in the YA community lately, as part of my ‘stepping back’ from both reviewing and the online community in general.
Subsequently, I’ve been spending more time in the indie adult book community. Specifically, I’ve been interacting more with readers who devour indie published books. The ravenous readers.
As this is the first time I’ve been been more involved in the indie reading community, I’ve noticed a few stark differences between what the traditionally-published YA community of readers wants, and what the indie-published adult community demands.
There is nothing more that the YA community hates. They hate instalove with a PASSION. There is no such think as ‘fast burn’ to these readers. They mistake lust for love. They even mistake ‘I saw a new boy in class’ for ‘now I want to smoosh my genitals with his genitals’. I’ve seen reviewers rip apart a book for containing ‘instalove’ that I consider either loveless or slow burn (The Glass Spare by Lauren DeStefano, A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard). Even Twilight is widely derided as ‘instalove’ even though Bella doesn’t even really spend any time with Edward until well into the book. Readers absolutely hate that she’s in love with him within like a week of knowing him but it actually takes several months which is COMPLETELY NORMAL. I have a longer piece on insta-love here you can check out.
So, the YA community hates insta-love even if it’s not actually insta-love.
However, there are heaps of readers in the adult indie community who absolutely adore insta-love. They want the love interest to be all in right from the start, obsessed, ‘mine’ vibes. Adult indie readers consider these books comforting! They love fast burn, ‘mate bonds’ (think wolf shifters, fae, and aliens) or obsessed morally grey heroes (think mafia and dark romance). They want low angst but sometimes intense, committed, loving relationships right from the get go, where the conflict comes not from internal issues but from external devices.
Second only to insta-love, I think the YA community hates love triangles the most. There is nothing worse than when an author introduces a second love interest just for angst, or padding, when we all know exactly who the man character is going to end up with.
I personally believe this hatred of love triangles is more than just accusing the author of being lazy. A lot of readers slut shame female lead characters who having more than one love interest at the same time. I know I certainly did for Zoey Redbird when I first read House of Night as a teenager. I mean, it was a terrible series but still, I shouldn’t have shamed her for sleeping around.
I wrote an article in 2018 about the hatred of love triangles, before the reverse harem genre became popular, where I said:
I do believe that YA readers ‘punish’ authors who write love triangles because they are violating the patriarchal expected behaviour of girls who should be still and demure and quiet until they are ‘picked’ by their future husband… I can’t even imagine how readers would react if she refused to choose, and was ‘allowed’ to accept both love interests as her chosen mates.
Reverse harem is where the lead female character has several love interests and doesn’t choose between them. It’s also known as #whychoose because apparently Amazon hates these kinds of books and won’t let the authors advertise them using that term. It’s a very popular genre within the indie romance sphere and I have read a few and enjoyed some of them. Reverse harem and poly romance are both popular. Readers love seeing a female main character be the centre of attention from several love interests. It’s embraced, and loved, and the good stories are pulled off really well.
In the trad YA sphere, reverse harem is definitely not popular, though I believe that Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao had a poly relationship (I haven’t read it yet), and The Honors sci-fi trilogy by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre stars a poly relationship between two human girls and a space whale and it’s one of the most romantic, lovely things I have read in YA.
One of the issues I have with the YA community is that is that many, many readers accuse love triangles of occurring where they simply do not exist. It’s not a love triangle if the female main character has two platonic male friends. It’s not a love triangle if there is an established couple and a third wheel pining. It’s not a love triangle if the main character doesn’t reciprocate feelings. So really, love triangles are not an endemic as many readers think.
The ‘Not like other girls’ trope
Oh, boy, does the YA reading community hate with a passion the ‘not like other girls’ trope. You know the one, where the love interest literally tells the girl he’s interested in her because she’s not lie other girls. It’s suggested that ‘other’ girls are boring, slutty, desperate, stupid, passive, or any other number of negative and sexist connotations.
Meanwhile, adult indie romance readers love this trope. They love this trope so much that the most popular books tend to be about girls who are different from other girls. They want to read about girls who are different, girls who are special. Girls who are simple humans, but fall in love with magical creatures, eventually becoming magical themselves. Girls who are the most kick-ass, badass girl that ever existed. The love interest falls in love with the main character because she’s different. And I totally get that! As someone who is married, I picked the most interesting, genetically superior mate I could find and I can confirm that he is not like other men, and that is largely why I like him the most.
Anyway, if all girls were the same and none of them were any different, how would she attract the attention of the love interest in the first place? She’s got to stand out in some way. I think YA readers are just a whole lot more sensitive about this than adult indie readers. Maybe it reflects their own insecurities? I certainly wouldn’t be interested in real life in dating someone who said, “You’re just like every other girl” or “I picked you at random because I can’t tell the difference.” And yes, I get that real life and fiction are two completely different things… but do YA readers actually realise this?
I don’t get why the YA community HATES this trope so much, and the only reason I can think of is because they’ve seen it so much that they’ve collectively decided it’s a bad thing, much like the ‘let out a breath I didn’t realise I was holding’ line which is also very common in YA.
Which doesn’t seem like a very good reason to hate something.