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 for...well...you 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?
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