Too Much Instalove Will Kill You

I’ve written about instalove before, but suddenly feel a pressing need to do so again. Various people seem to be talking about instalove once more and how unfairly maligned this particular trope is. As such, I need to put my opinion out there again just for the record.

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In most cases, I do hate instalove. Yes, I did say and do mean most. Instalove can be done well, but it generally isn’t. Often, instalove is used as an excuse not to develop the relationship between the hero and heroine. What could there be to develop if they’re already in love? So often, instalove occurs and then the couple never has any problem staying together, aside from the external forces trying to pry them apart. In cases like this, automatic hate. No relationship is perfect. It’s like love is supposed to mean you never fight and I suspect this applies in something just above zero percent of couples.

As has been pointed out by people who love the instalove trope, couples do apparently meet and fall in love at first sight. It’s not something I think I’m remotely capable of, but I am not all people. Everything that happens in real life doesn’t necessarily make for compelling plot points. Think, for example, of car crashes. They happen frequently. People die or are gravely injured. Putting them in books is realistic. Yet, in almost all cases, car crashes come off like terrible plot twists designed to remove a character’s agency or to make for a tragic ending. The fact that View Spoiler ». Or how about the ending of View Spoiler »? I’ve heard that one much criticized as well. The thing is that having a main character get hurt or die in a car crash, though totally realistic, always comes across as a convenient way to force the characters into a situation. Instalove comes across much the same way most of the time.

gif new girl really bad at making decisions
So let’s run one of the two guys I’m in love with over with a car.

Plus, I imagine that even when people fall in love at first sight, they don’t usually tell the object of their love on day two. That tends to scare people off. Even if you feel the love so quickly, you generally would keep it inside for a bit longer, which never happens in the instalove books. My definition of instalove necessitates the love confession, actually. They can both think about being in love right away, but telling each other is something entirely different to me. If a guy told me he loved me after a week of dating, I would run away, so that definitely impacts my enjoyment of these romances.

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There are, of course, readers who will love instalove romances most especially. I’m not talking about them, but about myself, since those people are not the ones being discussed around the book blogosphere at the moment. The fact that a lot of blogger readers generally end up disliking books with instalove seems to be offensive. We’re reminded that other people, like authors, might love this trope and want to write it. In saying that I hate a trope, I in no way mean that no one else should enjoy it. Another romance trope I generally dislike is forbidden love, but I know plenty of people for whom that’s the pinnacle of romance tropes. Then, there’s my love of genderbending as a romance trope; it’s one of my favorites but few people join me in this one. If you’re not sure what that is, check out Gillian (Writer of Wrongs) post on it. I’m never going to love genderbending or hate-to-love any less because of people who don’t like it. No one is saying that authors have to stop writing instalove; however, authors also shouldn’t expect readers to change their tastes either.

Hating the book because of the romance is completely fair. I’m a hundred percent positive it’s frustrating as an author to have people hate a book but only mention the instalove as the reason why. However, this is a legit reading experience. Poorly-written instalove has definitely ruined whole books for me. If the novel is almost entirely about the romance, then the romance being bad will completely destroy the book. This isn’t just the case with instalove by the way. If there’s poorly-written instalove in an epic fantasy novel or something else more plot-based, it will irk me, but probably not change the rating more than a half star.

New Girl ugh couples

Instalove can be good, though. I still maintain that instalove can be written well. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s going to be a much harder sell with most readers than a slow burn. However, it can be done. Readers are, I think, open to the exceptions. I detest sappy sentiment, but somehow loved the first two Katie McGarry books. No matter how much you hate a particular trope or writing style, there are books you will find and love that do it so well that you don’t mind. Another example: I loathe second person, but Jullie Berry’s All the Truth That’s in Me was entirely in second person but somehow it really worked there. Just because readers complain vociferously about love triangles and instalove doesn’t mean they can never be done well.

Instalove can and has been done well. This is, in part, why I continue to try some books labeled instalove. Plus, people have different definitions of this and I want to know myself. Or, sometimes, the plot of the book sounds so good that I hope I’ll like it despite a bad case of instalove. The fact that readers might want to try books that they are skeptical of beforehand seems to be frustrating, but readers are a curious bunch. I like to try new things and push my personal envelopes. If an author’s book has been published, I can get it from the library or buy it even if I know I’m going to hate it and snark review it. Though, honestly, I’m never a hundred percent sure how I’ll feel about a book going in. Once a book is published, anyone who obtains it can read it for any reason they choose.

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In recent months, I’ve read both bad and good instalove, but I want to talk about the good ones. Currently, I’m most of the way through Isla and the Happily Ever After and I would definitely class it as instalove, but instalove done so perfectly right. Josh and Isla fall in love in under a month, but both claim to have been in love before that. While I do see those claims as a bit of retconning (a very popular sort of retconning in real and fictional romances), I still totally SHIP IT. They have so much chemistry and are completely adorable together. They have doubts and have to deal with getting to know each other for real. Most of their relationship problems are internal. What most instalove doesn’t have is the characters dealing with the reality of each other. They loved what they already knew, sure, but someone is not going to be showing all that they are at first sight. As such, the relationship will have some growing pains and doubts to work through, like any relationship. I also didn’t mind the instalove in Dissonance or in I’ll Give You the Sun. The main thing is that I need to understand the attraction and feel the characters’ love. So often, I’m told they’re in love now, immediately, but they have nothing to talk to one another about. In I’ll Give You the Sun, there’s passion bursting out of the interactions, so, even though I don’t ship it strongly, I do believe that Jude believes herself in love.

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With instalove, to charm the skeptics, an author’s going to need to show the couple working through some rough patches. It’s one of those things where you can’t know it’s truly been LOVE at first sight until some time has passed. They might have known it all along, but I also imagine many couples thought they were in love but later found it was lust. For me personally, if you want me to buy into the love and truly believe they’re in love, they need to get together early on and work through problems, like in Isla. Even if they don’t work through problems, I won’t subtract points for ones where I feel that the character truly believes they’re in love even if I’m not certain that will hold up in the long run; I don’t tend to ship those, but I do think they’re well done. What’s important in instalove, even more than with other tropes, is to sell the characters’ emotions. Without impeccable character building, instalove will never work. The reason is that calling it love holds that connection to a much higher standard for me. Lust at first sight I am always on board with in fiction, but as soon as they break out the “I love you”, I expect epic romance from them.

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Instalove will never be my favorite romance trope, but I’m not saying it shouldn’t exist. In fact, I’d love more books that handle instalove the way Stephanie Perkins does in Isla and the Happily Ever After. I will, however, continue to dislike or hate any instalove that fails to establish the relationship between the characters. Sorry not sorry.

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7 responses to “Too Much Instalove Will Kill You”

  1. You make SUCH a good point with the verbal part of instalove! I never thought about it before but it makes a lot of sense. You can feel in love but for goodness sake don’t tell the other person so fast! I remember your last instalove post. Both are very articulate and good representations of the subject. It does get heated, doesn’t it?!

    I’m excited to read Isla, I’ve heard a lot of readers express what you have about it being believable instalove. I’ll have to try Dissonance too, your review got me interested in it!

    I think on principle I don’t have a problem with instalove being “real”; my now husband and I fell pretty fast, but we talked online/on the phone for hours every day for a month before our first date. So even though it was falling in love over the space of months, it wasn’t days or weeks like most books. Like you said, it’s when it’s for story convenience or the love isn’t SHOWN that it gets irritating. Plus I love banter and sexual tension and almost kisses and all that jazz. Give me some of that in the form of arguments at least after getting together!

  2. Ellis says:

    I INSTALOVED ON THIS POST

    IS THAT A PROBLEM FOR YOU

    DOES THIS OFFEND YOU

    Okay, so I basically liveblogged this post to you in chat, but this sentence –> “What most instalove doesn’t have is the characters dealing with the reality of each other. ” is everything because seriously, what kind of truth. I just basically have a problem with it being called instaLOVE and LOVE at first sight, because while I get lust and attraction and interest the moment you see someone’s angel face, love to me is something you have to work for, and it takes time and effort.

    Like you, I also understand it when characters believe themselves to be in love, because fuck you and your confusing ways, stupid emotions. It’s why I’d like for more books/characters to have a like declaration or an in-love declaration instead of immediately jumping to the love declaration. Again, I do believe that early love declarations happen, and I’m actually jealous of people who are so open and comfortable with their feelings, but it seems to be the only step in so many YA romances and that’s what makes it almost unrealistic and, frankly, tiresome to me. But then again, people like what they like and that’s totally okay.

    So I guess the next step is for me and this post to start dealing with the reality of each other. I’m excited.
    Ellis recently posted…Top Ten Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From But Need to Read MoreMy Profile

  3. Gillian says:

    “What most instalove doesn’t have is the characters dealing with the reality of each other. They loved what they already knew, sure, but someone is not going to be showing all that they are at first sight.”

    “So often, I’m told they’re in love now, immediately, but they have nothing to talk to one another about.”

    THESE QUOTES ARE SO GOOD THEY ARE DAMN NEAR PILLOW-WORTHY

    NO. THEY ARE BEDSPREAD-WORTHY.
    Gillian recently posted…Review: Made for You by Melissa MarrMy Profile

  4. Nikki says:

    I just have to start out with a huge UGHHHHHH YESSSSSSSSSSSS to this whole post. Because UGHHHHHHHHHH YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

    “In saying that I hate a trope, I in no way mean that no one else should enjoy it.” <– This.

    The BIGGEST issue I had with the insta-love-hater-hate (hah) happening the other day was that apparently they had no problem saying FU to a whole group of people based solely on the fact that those people had an OPINION about something that that person didn't like. I thought most rational people had grasped the whole "we all have opinions, some of them will differ, get over it" thing. I guess not.

    "Hating the book because of the romance is completely fair. … this is a legit reading experience." <– Again, THIS. We are consumers and, again, we are entitled to our opinions. If insta-love ruins a book for us, that's a) disappointing, but most b) TOTALLY LEGIT. We're allowed to feel this way! It's not like we're going out of our way to have on the insta-love whenever it shows up, but if it ruins the book, that's just the way it is.

    Personally, I have no HUGE problem with insta-love as a general concept, but it absolutely has to be done well – an I totally agree that it CAN be done well. Insta-love with absolutely no reasoning behind it, or as an excuse not to deal with developing a relationship, has absolutely no place in my books.
    Nikki recently posted…ARC Review: WINTERSPELL by Claire LegrandMy Profile

  5. A very cool perspective on instalove… But also those New Girl gifs are PERF.
    KatOfDiamonds recently posted…The Secret Diamond Sisters by Michelle Madow | BookTubeMy Profile

  6. […] Christina says too much instalove will kill you. […]

  7. Meg says:

    As certain ugys have mentioned, “What most instalove doesn’t have is the characters dealing with the reality of each other. ” is the kind of truth on which other truths are founded. Or something. Whatever it’s early. The point is, YES.

    “It’s like love is supposed to mean you never fight and I suspect this applies in something just above zero percent of couples.” <——WHAT ARE YOU SAYING CHRISTINA TRUE LOVE MEANS LOSING ALL SENSE OF SELF AND COMPLETELY MIND-MELDING WITH ANOTHER HUMAN. THIS IS A THING THAT HAPPENS EVER.

    (semi-random aside, your New Girl gifs are giving me life)

    I also like how you're saying that just because instalove isn't for you doesn't mean it doesn't work as a narrative whatsit for other people. Kind of like people are allowed to have different tastes and thoughts and preferences and experiences and maybe we shouldn't be assholes and get all peeved when people don't like things other people like and vice versa. Wacky notion, I know.

    Fab post as per usual.
    Meg recently posted…Blog Tour: Echoes of Us by Kat ZhangMy Profile

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