Girl sees boy entering the school cafeteria. As she listens to the girls around her swooning, she watches him cross the room with a cocky grin playing at his perfect lips. He's tall, with light brown hair that glistens and wicked golden eyes. She notices as the sun bounces off his skin making him look like - yeah, he definitely sparkles. And she knows in that moment - even if he hates her, turns away every time the wind blows her scent in his direction, threatens her life with his own bloodlust - she'd fall for him 10x over just as she's falling now.
Yes, yes, I'm poking terrible fun at the plot of Twilight (but don't get it twisted, I love Twilight). It seemed an appropriate introduction considering the subject matter of this post and the fact that Stephenie Meyers released a secret Twilight book yesterday. (Have you seen that?) Twilight gets a bad rap for a lot of reasons, one of those being what readers call "insta-love." And as today is actually my "date-iversary", I thought the topic of insta-love appropriate :)
Insta-love also gets a bad rap in the book community. Most readers find the story line (or lack thereof) to be improbable and frustrating. And I have to say that, in most cases, I fully agree. But recently, I've found that under certain circumstances, not only can insta-love be done well, it can be both essential and even imperative to a believable story line.
You can't believe that I just said that. How could insta-love ever make sense? To put it simply: when it's the only thing the character knows or has left. This year I encountered two novels in which insta-love was arguably present and in my opinion, a positive part of the story - Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon.
(*Note: don't worry about major spoilers here. The synopsis of both novels centers around the fact that they are love stories, and all of what I mention here literally comes from the first 20 pages.)
Whether you've read it or not, you've probably heard it said that Eleanor & Park is a sad story. Although I think it's more of a moving story with very sad and very cute parts, the reason the book has this reputation is because of the circumstances that surround Eleanor's life. At the very beginning of the novel, we learn that she is coming back home to live with her siblings, mother and step-dad, who kicked her out a year prior. The bathroom in her house has no door, she has to bathe before her step-dad gets home, and she can't be sure the state he'll be in when he arrives. They are poor and broken and their entire lives (her mother and siblings) are hinged upon the emotional state of a giant man-boy with his own host of issues. And that, isn't even the half of it. The point is Eleanor doesn't have much to look forward to. So when she meets Park and he shows her a shred of kindness, she latches on to that kindness like it's the only thing she's got left - because it kind of is. So when she falls in love with him quickly, we get it. It's easy to fall in love when you never thought you'd really have it.
The entire story of Everything, Everything exists in a world of unique circumstances that many of us know nothing about. Madeline is 18 years old and has never stepped a foot outside. She has a condition that makes her allergic to everything and so has lived her entire life in a bubble. The only people she's ever seen in person are her mother and her caretaker and the occasional tutor or visitor brave enough to go through an extensive decontamination process. So when she meets the boy next door and he's not completely turned off by her life, she clings to him. Normally, I would side-eye the hell out of said immediate attachment, but here in this story, it made perfect sense. It enhanced the story and really bought the world that Madeline operates in into sharper focus for the reader. Clinging to the boy next door feels normal for Madeline because it's one of the only sources of happiness she has.
I am aware that both of these examples are not necessarily pinnacles of healthy relationships. But I do think that these situations are a reality for some people. It's fair to assume that most of us agree: love is everything. But can insta-love be everything too?