Let me tell you a story about me. Years ago, long before I met my boyfriend, I was single and ready to mingle. My friends decided that a vacation overseas would be good for us, so we packed some bags, hopped on a plane, and landed in a foreign country. We met up with some other friends there, and I had no idea what this vacation would give me.
I was in a different country, a whole new culture, somewhere I didn’t even speak the local language. Using English was passable, but most of the signs were not in English. I was feeling a little lost, overwhelmed, but also excited.
That is when I met him, a cute boy from that country. For privacy reasons, let’s call him “K”. He and I had mutual friends so he hung out with us during our vacation. His English was really good, so he became our translator for the trip. He was kind, helpful, liked to laugh, and liked to smile. K would tell me all about his culture, about the everyday customs that seemed mundane to him but seemed new and interesting to me, and he made this new country feel less confusing.
With K by my side, I had a really great time. We had our share of movie moments: taking pictures in the midst of a crowd, night walks around the city with neon lights illuminating our faces, eating local food and drinking local alcohol, and sneaking glances at K as we walked.
Soon, our time in his country was coming to an end. Knowing that I had a slim to none chance of seeing him again, I told him that I liked him. He had helped me experienced a beautiful culture, and gave me so many happy memories. He liked me too. But we both knew we couldn’t make this last, and we parted on good terms. I still think fondly of K, and hope he’s doing well, wherever he is.
So that’s my story of what I call “Travelbug Instalove.” What is this phenomenon?
A type of instalove that hits when the MC is in a new country or region, and meets someone special to make the experience a little less scary, and a little more steamy.
Symptoms of the MC:
- MC has to go to a new country or region or state, and leave behind their entire life for some amount of time. Usually for school, or to visit other family/friends.
- If MC is reluctant, this is accompanied by a lot of angsting about missing out on life back home, and MC worrying that their old friends will forget them.
- If MC is excited, this is accompanied by the feeling of “clean slate, it’s time to get crazy!” MC is ready to embrace freedom, have some fun, and party!
Whether reluctant or excited, the MC will find this new place very different from their home. Reluctant MCs will face loneliness and sense of being an outcast, that they just don’t belong or fit in there. They will pine for their home, and want to curse their new location. Excited MCs will be swept up in a wave of event after event, and may eventually become overwhelmed by the flurry. This is a good time for the entrance of a new friend, and that new friend has a group of friends that includes Cute New Guy.
Symptoms of Cute New Guy:
- Helpful type: Happy-go-lucky and super friendly, the helpful type could be a tour guide. They take the MC by the hand and bring them out into all the fun tourist spots, introduce them to the culture, and become the MC’s go-to for information.
- Mysterious type: Not as friendly as the helpful type, this guy won’t push the MC away, but they are not all buddy-buddy. This guy will be the one standing out on the balcony of a crazy party, leading to a quiet moment between him and MC that may lead to a kiss.
- Angsty type: Has “bad boy” written all over him, and the MC is advised to stay away from him because of his rep. But MC totally has a thing for brooding boys and will find herself drawn to him, and she has no idea why. She will crack through his angsty shell and he will become a fluffy ball of love. Maybe.
Varying couples are subject to this phenomenon, but whether or not they really are instalove can be called into question. Here, I present a few examples of different degrees of instalove-ness, and I would love to hear your thoughts on whether they are or not, and your own examples. Basically, I don’t want to make any definitive calls, but would love to know what you think. 😛
Reluctant MC in a new school comes out in Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins), School Spirits (Rachel Hawkins), and Ink (Amanda Sun). Anna and Izzy (School Spirits) are lucky because they get the friendly type. Anna finds a cute boy named St. Clair who seems to be everyone’s friend, and is really popular in SOAP (aka Rich Kids in France School). Izzy gets Dex, a guy who dresses a little weird, is kind of a nerd, and is nowhere near St. Clair on the popularity scale. Katie (Ink) gets the super angsty Tomohiro, who can pretty much be the poster boy for “brooding
anime book male leads” with his glares and constant pushing away.
Other than going for school reasons, MCs may be brought in for family reasons. For Summer in Beach Blondes (Katherine Applegate), she gets three choices, oh my! Mysterious Diver, and cheerful Adam and “does he have a girlfriend?” Seth. For Lena in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares), there’s Kostos who is bowled over by her beauty. The very reluctant Hadley in The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (Jennifer E. Smith) has the friendly and witty Oliver.
In terms of whether any of these MCs get hit by instalove, it depends. Personally, I think that the least instalove-y couple is either Izzy & Dex, or Lena & Kostos. Mainly because the girls weren’t so sure that they liked the boys, and maybe even found them somewhat weird/off-putting. I think the most instalove-y couple is Katie & Tomohiro, as she practically tosses away her new friends to follow him around like a puppy.
But, the thing is, I like some of these books even thought there’s instalove in them. Why? Because the story focused on something else beyond the romance. I can be more forgiving of instalove if I get a solid story and good character development to cover it. If the book is constantly “oh this boy makes me feel things, let me fall over and angst about it!”, I will be put off.
My last three examples (Beach Blondes, Sisterhood, and Statistical Probability) don’t fall into this trap and I love them for it. Instead of having the boy as the focus of the story, the heroines deal with things like family, friends, and their own dark issues. The stories are ultimately about them and their development, and not just an onslaught of romance.
Those are my thoughts on this type of instalove, and I hope to hear from you all down in the comments. 🙂 Be sure to check out the Instalove 101 schedule for other awesome posts!