So I finally sat down to read Save the Date by Morgan Matson. I’m going to preface this post by saying that Morgan Matson is one of my all time favorite authors and I will read absolutely anything that she comes out with. I also used to be quite obsessed with her Top 8 series the she wrote under the alias Katie Finn.
Warning you now that this post will contain minor spoilers for Morgan Matson’s books.
I’ve read every single one of her books multiple times (except Second Chance Summer, because 1. It makes me sob and 2. I don’t have a physical copy of it) and until reading Save the Date I never realized that there was a common theme in her books that now really bugs me.
In almost every single one of these books, the main character is a high school student (I think every single one is said to be 17) and the love interest is in college. As I was reading STD (yes, I am going to refer to it as that for the rest of this post, sorry!!) I kind of figured that Jesse was going to be a scumbag, it just made sense that Charlie had to have her little crush shattered by the person she thought was her “dream guy”. It made me so uncomfortable that Jesse is a sophomore in college and he’s trying to have a casual hook-up relationship not only with his best friend’s sister but also a high schooler.
Matson’s main characters are all romanced and a few are even implied to have lost their virginities to these college boys. To me this just screams inappropriate. I get that a lot of these are very innocent, I mean apart from scumbag Jesse, the farthest Charlie goes with a guy is a kiss on the cheek from Bill at the end of STD. There’s also a whole lot of underage drinking and other shenanigans… Like in The Unexpected Everything Andie was almost caught drinking at the age of 14, yep FOURTEEN! And okay, maybe I did spend my entire high school career reading books and staying up too late scrolling through Tumblr and taking too many AP classes but I still feel like 14 is really young to be out partying.
When I first read Matson’s books I was in high school and I never thought anything of an age difference or even a lifestyle difference but now that I’m older and have gone off to college and just been in the “real world” for a while I can’t even begin to imagine wanting to date a high schooler. Now I do think it’s different when someone continues to date a younger boyfriend/girlfriend when they leave for college but I also don’t feel comfortable with people who do things like date a freshman when they’re a senior. And yes, most of the characters are just finishing up their first years of school (or in Clark’s case, not in school at all) but that’s a whole year of being an adult and they’re deciding to be with high schoolers.
And you know what, maybe I’m crazy in developing this dislike for the pairings that are developed in these books but I just feel like no one who has moved past high school should be dating someone who is still 17. I’m in no way condemning Matson’s books, but I also don’t want impressionable young girls to read these books and fall for the Jesse’s because it’s “cool” or “exciting” to be in love with a college guy. Trust me, young girls reading this, college guys aren’t that great… Honestly, most guys aren’t that great. Read your books and wait to find someone who actually cares about you!
On a similar note, I also have never found myself interested in books where college students fall for their professors. I just think it’s a storyline that doesn’t make sense. There’s a power difference there that makes me uncomfortable and I don’t really think that there needs to be as many stories involving this storyline as there are.
As I’m working through Morgan Matson’s books again this spring, as I tend to do, I have to wonder how many other odd tropes I’ve just looked over in books before. Like I mentioned in my Rereading Old Favorites post I have to take a step back from a good chunk of my old favorites just because there are so many issues in them now that I completely brushed over in the past.
I really do like Matson’s books but I do hope that girls don’t romanticize dating an older boy because of the couples that she creates. When I was first reading her books it never occurred to me that this could even be an issue, I didn’t know any older boys and honestly I know that not a single one would’ve looked my way anyways. But I know that there are other girls out there that would and still will catch the attention of older men and I genuinely worry. I know that high school relationships can be awkward but that doesn’t mean that we have to glorify dating older people because they’re “mature” and “experienced”.
All in all, I don’t want to just brush this off but at the same time I have to wonder just how influential these relationships might be… I mean, maybe I’m reading too much into things and it means nothing. But I just got that nagging thought after reading STD and had to sit down to write about it.
Do any of you have thoughts on this? Or know of other YA books that have this trope? I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head but I’m sure there are others out there.