YA Epidemics is an original feature in which I
numerous trends and cliches plaguing the YA genre. The Epidemics are posted most Saturdays.
Comments and discussions are encouraged!
He's cute, but not sexy. He's a good kisser, but he doesn't make her forget how to breathe properly. His conversations are just interesting enough to keep her present, but nothing she'll think about for the rest of the night, not like when she talks to him, the one she really wants. He's good, but not great. Fun, but forgettable.
He's the plot-device boyfriend.
I know, I know; Another jab at YA love stories? Getting old, Kelly. But, hey, I work with the material these books give me, and not much annoys me quite as much as the plot-device boyfriend.
In case you're unsure of just what, exactly, one of these PD boyfriends is, he's the guy the author brings in when she's trying to keep romantic tensions high, but all other plausible obstacles between the End Game Couple have been exhausted. He fills up a couple of chapters' worth of pages, gets our real romantic interest riled up, and reminds our Leading Lady just why she loves her Prince Charming so much and why no other guy will do. Then he's politely tossed to the side and completely forgotten about by writer and readers alike. It's similar to the love triangle, but it's got one major difference; not once do the readers or the protagonist think this might be the guy she chooses.
What bothers me so much about this Epidemic is that it's just So. Freaking. Obvious. As soon as the MC - we'll call her Jane for brevity's sake - agrees to go on a date with Brandon the coworker or classmate or guy her BFF is so sure will be perfect for her instead of going out with the guy she's obviously in lurve with (we'll call him John), you know you can just skim the next hundred or so pages with him in them because it's always the same. Jane goes out with Brandon, has a decent time but not-so-secretly wishes he was John, John gets all sexy and jealous, Jane finds out he likes her back, they have a big blow-out scene that ends in a passionate kiss, and voila! Instant soul-mate couple. Brandon is given a few short pages to have his heart broken then sent on his merry way, and Jane and John live Happily Ever After.
These plot-device boyfriends are a really easy way to show us both Jane's and John's true feelings. It's a way to increase the chemistry, up the tension. Brandon's inclusion in the novel is a way to show John's jealousy, which is, like, the number one way to show us that he for sure, for sure likes her like she likes him. It gets him all vulnerable and irritable and protective, which in turns sends her feelings for him through the roof. It leaves us readers on the edge, unsure what's going to happen because Omg, she has a boyfriend! They can't get together if she has a boyfriend! Ooh, what's going to happen? (I swear, that's what the desired effect is. Does it work? Not if you have two brain-cells to rub together, no.)
After seeing it done so many times in exactly the same way, I'm beginning to look at this as a cheap trick to hook readers. One some of my favorites have, admittedly. I mean, it works. It's not too far-fetched, it's easy to write in, it gives us character growth. The romantic plotline practically writes itself, which makes it about as predictable as boiling water. It's a ride we've all been on a hundred times. We know every twist, every turn, every loop and every jolt. Can it still be fun? In the right hands, yes. But it'll never be original, which means, ultimately, it'll always be forgettable.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree about the Plot Device Boyfriend's predictablity, or is it possible to have an original story with one in it? Has this ever seemed like just a way to hook readers to you? Let me know in the comments!
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