Friday, April 5, 2013

YA Epidemics #4 - Immortal Hottie Falls For High School Girl

John Green said it best in his vlogbrothers review of Twilight; “I want to explain why it’s wrong for adults to have relationships with teenagers; It’s not because we look old.  It’s because we are old.” (click here for this must-see video

And yet, one of the hottest YA trends out right now is one or another type of immortal being getting the feeling in the pants for high school girls. (My nerdfighter is showing.  Can you see it?)  It's gross and disgusting for a twenty-five year old to fall for a sixteen year old, but a ninety year old can as long as his face says teenager?  Oooo-kaaaay....

Don't get me wrong, I've fallen victim to this double-standard plenty of times - Cole in Everneath, Stanton in Daughters Of The Moon, um...uh...well actually that's about all I can think of, but I'm sure there are other examples.  But come on, just because I've found myself enjoying this trend occasionally doesn't mean I'm not going to poke fun at it.  My readers know me better than that by now.  I know I'm being a hypocrite, but every now and then, I'll step back from the ledge of book-hottie -fueled hormones and acknowledge the pedophilia aspect of the relationship.

Isn't it kind of twisted?  Really, now.  Great-great-grandpa gets a boner for the head cheerleader. (Yeah, thinking about it in those terms isn't as sexy anymore, is it?  You're welcome.)  Head cheerleader is confused by the wrinkle-less face and Channing Tatum abs and brings Geezer home to Mommy and Daddy.  Who are also duped by youthful appearances.  Cheerleader and greats-grandpa kiss a lot before greats-grandpa gets a different kind of pang, one of the conscience variety.  He tells cheerleader "Uh, hey.  Remember how I told you I'm seventeen?  HAHA APRIL FOOL'S!  Yeah, I'm really ninety."

  No, wait, I mean,
Forgot how cute you were for a minute, my bad

But even if these immortals existed in real life, the relationships portrayed would never work. Disregarding both the He's-still-ninety thing and the I'll-never-age-but-you'll-be-wrinkly-in-a-few-decades thing, there's a huge maturity gap between Immortal Exhibit A and High School Student Exhibit B. Living for several decades is going to give you a seriously different perspective than any teenager alive, and there is no bridging that gap. The only reason an immortal guy would want a young girl in any way that isn't paternal or sibling-al (whatever) would be know. The sex. And that would make him not a hottie hot powerful hot guy, but a hottie hot superhuman creep.

But I do understand. All those "hot" adjectives have the power to make all of us girls forget the teensy little "creep" noun. I get it. (No. I definitely don't. Hence the post.)

But aside from the gross-out factor of the age difference, what I just can't understand is why an author would choose to make her protagonist seventeen when she could make her eighteen.  Still gross, but at least eighteen is legal.  And it's only one year.  Unless there is a reason integral to the plot for your MC to be seventeen falling in love with a ninety year old, for God's sake, make her eighteen!  It does absolutely nothing to your story, but spares our very western, modernized sensibilites.  Because, for some reason, that one year really does make a difference to well over half of us.

Now I'm going to go bury my face in a thesauras to remind myself that there are more adjectives to describe an attractive man than "hot" while you show me some comment love. (Pretty please?)

How often do you feel that nagging sense of wrongness in the back of your head when you read one of these relationships?  Do you at all?  If so, how likely are you to ignore it if the story is well-written?  If not, is it because you don't mind it or because you've never given it much thought?  Would having a legal adult for the protagonist make a difference?

And a quick reminder; Follow PaperFantasies through bloglovin to have your YA Epidemic posts available right at the click of a button. Because who needs Google Reader, anyway?


  1. I am really fine with suspending my disbelief. Exception was Twilight. 100 some year old man, who acted like a teen, banging a 17 year old girl, who's never been in a relationship before. And we are supposed to believe this relationship works out? I'm sorry, but there is a 100 year age gap. The word relationship is derived from relate, which is something Bella and Edward could never do. Edward never sleeps, supposedly reads a shit ton, and is ancient. The knowledge and maturity that he has is unimaginable. Bella is... Bella. Creepy, and impossible.

    Didn't realize this was a trend. Guess I am sticking to more sane parts of YA lit.

    1. You'd be surprised how popular this is in YA geared toward the female demographic. Practically every angel, vampire, or demon story (yes, they've begun romanticizing demons now. Sigh.) features one of these romances. Twilight isn't even the worst of them.

    2. Not to be weird, but do girls/women like the idea of being the weaker side in a relationship? Having a powerful, superior man? Some sort of knight in shining armor fetish? Even in books that aren't paranormal, it's usually a more powerful, enlightened man and a plain Jane.

    3. I can't speak for all women, but I think it's more like the fantasy that we can attract the Alpha Male type, be his equal. It's also a lot different in books than in real life, because the alphas in books are usually also loyal, caring, and protective. Real-life alphas are usually, well, asses. It's the fantasy. Kind of how some guys are always looking for the hot nerd who plays video games and wears lingerie and glasses to bed, or the rebel girl who falls for the nerd boy. Doesn't happen like that in reality, but that's why we it makes such entertaining reads.

    4. First off, I'd say the lingerie wearing nerd is different to the alpha male. The nerd is far more psychical based thing, while the alpha male want has a large part of psychology in it.

      So, it's similar to the whole "He could have anyone, but he chose little 'ol me? Then in supernatural fiction, making them immortal bad asses is just the next (il)logical step? Glad I'm a guy. We don't need any of this psychology BS. If it's got boobs, we're cool.

  2. Since we seem to be using Twilight as the example I guess I will as well. This is how I see it.. Sure Edward has been around for a century but the thing is he basically died at 17. Physically he'll never grow older. And though he's lived all this time and gained all sorts of new knowledge over the decades, he's still going to be that 17 year old boy mentally. A much wiser one, but nonetheless that's all he is. Frozen in time. I'm not trying to sugar coat things and make excuses it's just how I see it when it comes to vampires. There are some immortal beings I will agree with you on the ick factor though when it comes to the age gaps.

    Sheri @ Perks of Being a Bookworm

    1. So, you are saying that the brain's development would forever be frozen in time? In their bloodless, indestructible bodies, they are forever limited by their youth at death? Interesting. That would actually make a great character, wouldn't it? More knowledge than almost anyone else on Earth, but only the mental power of a teen to handle it.

      I don't know enough about neuro-science to judge the realism of it, but we are talking vampires here, so I think we can give it some liberties. Even the fact that they develop memories breaks the lore of them being never changing. Also, they can supposedly ejaculate, something that should be impossible for a vampire. Inability to gain an erection in addition to no cell development.

      Even with these liberties though, I still don't think an age gap like that would be easy to overcome. At the very least, it should be a massive hindrance to the relationship. It would be really fascinating to read a relationship like that too, and I think it'd cut down on the disconcerting nature of it.

      Cain Freeman @ No BS Books

    2. Haha I actually didn't write this with Twilight in mind. I used John Green's quote because it illustrates the point perfectly, but he could have been talking about any of dozens of books there.

      I see what you're saying, and it makes sense. I think that's what the authors aim for with their immortal characters. Heck, that's why I'll sometimes let myself fall for said Immortal Hottie lol. But by that same token, if his maturity is stunted, wouldn't she outgrow him within a decade or two? I don't know. This is a prime example of the Don't Overthink It thing when it comes to fiction.

      Thanks for the comment, Sheri! :D

    3. Though of course, I overthink the crap out of it when it comes to these posts lol.

  3. Yay, it's Saturday and these posts have become an essential part of my Saturday treats! Great topic.

    I agree totally gross, creepy and wrong! I'm always able to push these views aside when reading though and just go with the flow, 90 really but 17 in body, yes I can get my head around that! I can make it work but only in a book! I mean I can believe in vampires when reading so I can stretch my imagination that bit further to make this seem ok.

    I feel a bit of the reverse when I read, I'm older than 17 and crushing on characters decades younger than me. Not in real life, no way, no how, what would we ever talk about! But in a book, I can make it work.

    Great-great-grandpa gets a boner for the head cheerleader. - LOL, great line!!

    1. Aww, and your comments on these posts have become one of my favorite Saturday treats!

      I understand exactly what you mean. I let myself overlook it if the romance is hot enough and the story good enough because it is a book, and books can't be taken too seriously.

      And yup, I'm also a book-boy cougar haha. But those fictional seventeen year olds are more mature than real thirty year olds! So I use that to justify it to myself lol.

    2. Cougar in real life too! Hubby is 4 years younger :D

    3. Ah! Freaking nice, Trish! I bet you still look younger, though. ;)

  4. And a guy who stays 17 mentally forever? That's not a shocker really, I know lots of men who have done just this! And not in a good way :)

  5. Great post! I usually don't even think about it. I'm not sure why. Part of it I think is the whole fact that he looks younger than he actually is, and part of it relies on the fact that I know people who have dated with large age gaps. Of course, I do think it makes a difference if the person is UNDERAGE! Yikes.

    I think you bring up a really great point with the maturity difference though. I mean, if you are hundreds of years old, I cannot see how you could possibly want to spend more than five minutes around a teenager. Once you're out of that stage it usually seems that most of them are very annoying and childish and dramatic. Even their own parents have a hard time being around them and they raised them! If we were realistic and there was such a huge age gap, I don't think the guys would be so in love as they usually seem to be, or they at least would try to lecture the girl for being so immature.

    1. Yeah, that's what bugs me so much. Bella was 17, Nora from Hush, Hush 16 or 17, I forget which, Nikki from Everneath 17, that girl from Embrace 17, etc. It just seems obvious to me to make them 18 if they'd be 17 anyway.

      I was so close to putting in a paragraph about most teens' immaturity and the obvious choice of an immortal choosing another immortal, but decided to cut it. It was getting a bit too ranty without it haha. But I only left hs four years ago, and I already hate passing high schools right as they let out because of the high concentration of immaturity. I can't imagine how I'd be able to actually date a teenager decades from now, ick-facor aside.

      Thanks, Asti!

  6. Oh I completely agree, the whole phase is completely weird. Also, are you are nerdfighter? I'm guessing you are as you watch vlogbrothers... Sorry for being nosey, I'm just obsessed with John and Hank's videos! :D

    Ruby @

    1. Haha omg, I've geeked out to hours of YouTube videos with the Green brothers! Total nerdgasms. Hank cracks me up lol.

      Thanks so much, Ruby! I'm doing that nerdfighter arm and hand sign thingy through the computer right now. Or my completely butchered version of it.

  7. If you are being realistic yes it's super gross and if this happened in real life I would be like 'WTH were they thinking?'.
    But it's fiction so no I don't mind it.That is as long as the relationship is not wholly based on good looks("wrinkle-less face and Channing Tatum abs"-LOL!). Yes being a legal adult would make things better.
    P.S.-Hellooooo fellow nerdfighter!DFTBA! :D

    1. Also did you notice that in YA most of the time the guy is decades older than the girl and NEVER the other way around? ;)

    2. Haha dftba fo sho! And I agree. I really am a bit of a hypocrite this week, because I have loved an immortal hottie or two...or a dozen, if we're talking relationships with a legal adult.

      And I did notice that! It's always the special, super-human, super-hot, super-smart, super-rich guy falling for the average girl. Which I won't get into too much here because that sounds like another YA Epidemics topic. :p *grabs notebook*

      Thanks, Nuzaifa!

  8. Wow, thank you so much for this post. This has ALWAYS bothered me. I mean, it just never made sense why a person who's lived so many years would be interested in a fricking teenager. Truthfully, teenagers are immature, inexperienced, angsty, whiny, naive... Not that they're BAD, it's just that they're just still so YOUNG. I mean, I'm 30 and I haven't been interested in teenagers for a very long time. I can't imagine that if I turned into a vampire, in another 60 years I'll be pining for a 17-year-old. It just doesn't make sense.

    1. Shoot, I'm 22 and I couldn't stand the thought of dating a 17 year old. I get they're trying to build a fantasy escape for their readers, but there's next to no realism in it. Not that there could be realism in a story with an immortal being anyway, but you know. Point still stands. I concede that it's entertaining to read about in certain stories, but it's just as entertaining to poke fun at. ;)

      Thanks, Kelley!

  9. Yeah. This is one of those things that is reeeally creepy if you think about it too hard.

    I suppose it's an outgrowth of the slightly more realistic "May-December romance" thing, where an older gentleman and an ingenue fall in love and (once the plot difficulties are out of the way) live happily ever after. This has fallen out of favor in "young adult" fiction because of the culture shift against crossing the adult/teenager divide, but persists in genre romance where the heroines are slightly older.

    So the "he's immortal but looks teenish" is a workaround. (In male-oriented fiction, especially manga, the equivalent is "legal jailbait", the twenty-something guy gets hooked up with a woman who looks to be in her teens (sometimes very early teens, squick) but it's okay because she's actually extremely slow-aging or immortal.)

    If one wanted to deconstruct this, either the "he quickly tires of her because his libido made her immature personality seem attractive until he actually had to deal with it for months on end" or "she realizes she doesn't have a clue what he's actually thinking because he starts spouting outdated and uncomfortable opinions" or "he has the knowledge base of a two-hundred-year-old but the brain maturity of a sixteen-year-old, and that really starts to grate once she hits twenty or so" gambits would work nicely.

    Note that Bella Swan gets around the last by having her own brain frozen at her current maturity level, and she's a-okay with Edward being much more knowledgeable and controlling than her. (One of my friends who likes Twilight does so because she recognizes that Bella is a very damaged person.)

    SPOILERS for Revolutionary Girl Utena:

    The "prince" Utena's been looking for, and is her romantic ideal, turns out to be an immortal guy in a teenish body. This is, as it happens, a very BAD thing for all involved.

    In the fanfic I and a collaborator wrote for the series, the protagonist is a thirtyish man trapped in a teen body and forced to attend high school, so it teases this kind of relationship a bit. He does, after all, have a teenaged boy's hormones and trying to hook up with a woman his chronological age would also be problematic. It never reached the point where this would be the focus of the plot as it only lasted a few weeks of story time, not enough for true love to blossom.

    Complicating that from our protagonist's perception was that of the girls he was getting close to: the intelligent, mature acting one was a thinly closeted lesbian; the spunky fun girl is obsessed with her "prince", who the protagonist does not resemble; and the exotic-looking girl is creepily passive (the fact that she also was an immortal trapped in a teenish body was unknown to the protagonist.)

    The unreleased chapter just before the fic died involved a twelve-year-old declaring the protagonist her boyfriend, to which his response was "no to the power of fuck" but trying to put it nicely as she'd had a rough time of it.

    /end SPOILERS for Revolutionary Girl Utena.

    1. I don't watch much anime or read much manga, but my brothers are obsessed so I know what you mean. Giggling schoolgirls seem to be the preferred type for guys of all ages.

      I've read a lot of the non-YA older man/younger woman romances, especially in historical settings. You bring up an interesting, and probably very valid, point in comparing the outcropping of immortal lovers in YA with that romantic trope.

      I've never heardof Revolutionary Girl Utena, but it sounds pretty interesting. Especially if it inspired fanfiction from you. ;)

      Thanks so much, skjam!

    2. I do recommend the TV anime of Utena, it's very trippy and has a lot of layers to interpret. For example, the harm that's done when you try to force women into a Madonna/whore (called "princess/witch" in series) dichotomy. The writer and director had very different ideas of what was going on, which provides some good tension.

      The manga (by the writer) is a more straightforward adventure story, while the movie (by the director) pumps up the surrealism and lesbian subtext at the expense of making sense.

      Ma Vie et Roses (the fanfic) was an interesting experiment in trying to work around one of the problems of self-insert fan fiction, that the author and thus the character knows too much about the characters and plot. I had not seen the series at the time, so only wrote the visiting character, while my collaborator who had seen the series wrote everyone else. Thus Skyler was genre savvy but not prepared for the twists.

    3. Oh, sounds interesting! I'll have to check it out.

    4. New plot idea!

      It begins like your typical teen paranormal romance novel. Marie Suzanne is a sweet young thing, told she's very pretty but can't quite beleive it, doesn't quite fit in with the crowd. She sees hunky, broody guy, mysterious and maybe a touch dangerous. They meet cute, and it's insta-love.

      Guy warns Marie she's better off not knowing him, she keeps prying into his life. Eventually he relents some and then turns kind of possessive and stalkery.

      Meanwhile, there's this creepy-looking old guy Marie catches staring at her in random places, never while Boyfriend's around.

      Surprise! Boyfirend reveals that he is an immortal hottie in the body of a teenager. Marie is thrilled, she knew he was special, and maybe his immortality will be contagious. Plus she's the first woman to pierce the wall he's put up around his heart, the centuries of loneliness...

      So far so typical. But Marie starts spotting small clues that maybe Boyfriend had in fact dated other girls before her, and some of the things he says about his past don't quite add up. Boyfriend gets even more controlling and borderline abusive when she starts asking questions.

      In reality, Boyfriend is a Bluebeard. Every decade or so he gets a bad case of blue balls and finds a pretty but naive maiden to seduce and slake his physical needs. After a couple of years, when he's tired of her, Boyfriend will kill the girl, move to another city, and start over.

      (In fairness, the first time he did this, it was an accident. He was still new to his powers and overestimated his lover's durability.)

      Marie must now somehow survive this unkillable murderer. Creepy-looking old guy turns out to be a retired FBI agent who's been after Boyfrind for years, but he's no physical match for the immortal.

    5. HA! I love that! You should write it, I would totally promote the crap out of that story!

  10. I am blanking out on the title, but there was a YA book I read not long ago where the girl was around 14 and being lusted after by two older guys. Does this ring a bell to anyone? I'll bet I'm going to think of it as soon as I hit the post button...

    1. Ew. That's excessively wrong even for this trend. Thankfully I don't know which book you're talking about, but I know your frustration. Right on the tip of, but the damn title won't come to ya.

      Well if you remember it, feel free to drop back here and rant some more! Haha.

  11. It's definitely the case that in real life, from personal experience, what can easily make or break a relationship is the (im)balance between maturity levels. So yeah, that to me is always a big question mark with this kind of trope. Though I guess I don't really seem to fall for these types of romances either. Usually it's not just that they're so much older, but usually it's a combination of bad writing, instalove, and clichés that put me off entirely.

    I think the 17 year old thing though is that that would put the characters still in high school... usually high school is used as the plot device that gets the two characters to meet. But maybe with the New Adult trend - where college is more often the setting - they'll start changing this. It would be a relief for sure, but I think a lot of YA authors are also scared by that because they'll have to tackle "controversial" topics like sex and stuff that their usual audience may not be comfortable with.


As you may or may not know, life is eating up way too much of my spare time right now, so pretty please don't hate me if it takes me a few days to get back to your wonderful comments. I read each and every one from my phone, and they always make my day. <3