Why Marriage Matters to Teen Readers

You all know how much I love Kiera Cass’s The Selection Series. Well, the final book came out this spring, and I recently got to read it after scooping it up from the Express Bestseller section (it was a never-read-before copy!!!). And, oh, it was bliss. The royalty theme, the romance, the SPOILER ALERT, EVEN THOUTH WE ALL SAW IT COMING wedding at the end END OF SPOILER. I just loved it.

After I finished though, I felt a sense of loss. Part of what I loved about the series, part of what really appealed to me from the beginning, was the princess theme. More than that, I loved the concept of two unlikely people growing together. But let’s go back to the princess part.

There aren’t a lot of really girly princess YA books out there. Maybe there’s just a lot of feminist authors in YA, maybe it’s just the popular preference to kickin’ it heroines. Either way, they’re hard to find. So I Googled. “Princess themed YA books.” There weren’t a lot of my so-desired girly princess books, but there were a few strong contenders. Currently I’m reading a girly princess pick, Heather Dixon’s Entwined a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses,which I absolutely love. Another pick, this one less girly, was Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

Because I’m an aspiring writer myself, I like to Google authors. The reason is that I like hearing about people’s various backgrounds and just get a picture of them, and whatever. Anyway, I checked out Kristin’s website, and was looking through her FAQ, when I noticed that one FAQ was whether two characters end up getting married or not. Kristin posed the question: does two characters not getting together make their love any less valid?

Although I agree that getting married doesn’t make feelings
any less valid, I personally love when characters in novels get married (only when they actually should get married, but we’ll talk about that soon). But this got me wondering; why do teen readers like to see characters get married. Here’s some theories:

1. Marriage Symbolizes Stability: A lot of people may argue with this one, but I think that even if it doesn’t always pan out as stable, marriage definitely symbolizes the hope of stability for many people. Considering that divorce rates are fairly high, and that many people in their teens and early twenties are coming out of an era in which divorce rates were really high, it makes sense that they like the idea of stability.

Speaking of stability, look at adolescence itself. It’s a time of flux, when everything is changing, and nothing stays the same. In real life, people go though unrequited crushes and bad breakups. In books, readers like to see couples who may or may not be perfect, but who are trying to make it work.

2. Marriage is an Intentional Act that Suggests that Love is Requited: Who hasn’t spent time California dreaming about someone, only to never have their affections returned (L.P. and E.S., I’m looking at you.) Worse, there are many people who have been in relationships where they’ve loved someone more than that someone has loved them. While love can be a feeling, that is certainly valid whether or not you get married, or whether or not the other person feels the same way, getting married shows a sort of intention that love is returned.

3. Marriage is Grown Up: This is where I talk about when couples in books *should* get married. I like the whole marriage concept in teen novels only in certain circumstances. They are: In a dystopian society, in a fantasy, and in contemporary novels in which characters have gone through challenges, tests, and grown in a mature understanding of one another. I also like it in an epilogue, like in Mockingjay.

I have read some books where the concept just didn’t work out, but I think the reason that they are still published with that element, is that it’s popular. And I think that the popularity comes from a desire for readers to kind of “read up.” I mean, let’s face it; in many states and provinces, minors need to ask their parents permission before doing certain things. However, if they’re married, then they don’t. Likewise, marriage makes fictional couples seem more mature, and gives teen readers a glimpse into a world that they may enter within a few years.

4. It Just Ties Things up Nicely: This is one of my reasons for liking marriages in YA books. Obviously writers can’t write a whole saga about one character’s life (and probably wouldn’t want to), and doing that would kind of disqualify it as a YA book anyways. But readers still want to know what happens to their favourite characters.

Personally, once characters get married, it sort of solidifies their relationship. Even if the author never gives me an extra glimpse of their lives, I can envision what their lives are like in the future. it’s like tucking them in, and making sure they are OK. And maybe I can even chalk it up to not enough imagination, on my part. To me, the author is the creator of the story and the characters, and as such, if they’ve written something in, it’s true. So basically it isn’t even so much *marriage* that makes characters’ love seem valid, but the author reassurance that the characters are on solid ground.

So that’s some ideas. if you have any of your own, please leave a comment below!


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