Your Thoughts On: Large Age Gaps in Paranormal Books

Large Age Gaps in Paranormal Books

If you’ve read any kind of romance book about immortality or vampires, odds are you’ve come across the problem of awkwardly large age differences.

A few books with large age differences

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Assuming my research is correct, at the beginning of Twilight, Bella is 17 and Edward is 104 (but forever has the body of a 17 year old). That means they have an age difference of 87 years!

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

In Incarnate, Ana is 18 years old, whereas Sam has been alive for thousands of years. Physically, they are about the same age, but Sam has continuously been reincarnated and lived many lives. If I remember correctly, Sam has been ‘alive’ for about 5000 years, but it could be a bit less (maybe 3000?). So their age gap is thousands of years!

Persephone by Kaitlin Bevis

In Persephone—a book based on Greek mythology, Persephone is a 16 year old girl. She falls in love with Hades, who is a god, so naturally he’s been around since practically the dawn of time. At least thousands of years, but possibly millions. In this book he has the body of about a 20-25 year old man. Their age gap could be as much as millions of years!

Are these relationships awkward or inappropriate?

Sometimes I read these books and get really, really creeped out. But other times, it doesn’t bother me at all. I suppose ultimately it comes down to how well the author can convince me that the relationship is ‘worth’ the age difference.

But if I spend too much time thinking about the book and analysing it, then I usually get more and more weirded out. Just because their bodies are the same age, does that suddenly make their relationship okay?

Honestly, sometimes I think that if the author ignores the age difference then I tend to ignore it too. If it’s never ever addressed or mentioned in the book, then I start to imagine that there is no age difference and that it’s just a normal relationship. But if they discuss it or talk about ages in the book itself, then I can’t stop thinking about it and it becomes harder for me to accept it.

Are these relationships realistic?

I would think that in reality, someone with hundreds or thousands of years of experience, would look at a ‘normal’ 18 year old and find them young, immature, and inexperienced. And relatively, they would be correct. For that reason alone, it’s hard for me to imagine a real situation when someone that old (mentally) would fall in love with someone so young.

So how do you feel about huge age gaps in these books?

Do you get grossed out? Or do you tend to accept or ignore them? If we really had immortal beings in our world, do you think they would actually fall in love with younger immortals?

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  1. I think the massive and unrealistic age differences in ya books are meant to resonate with the struggles of smaller age differences in real life. People talk when seniors date freshmen, and at my school every junior and senior was dating a college kid so people talked about that a lot. The target audience of YA books is frequently dealing with judgement and conflicting emotions because they feel old enough to love who they love and they may be wrong or right. My husband is five years older than me. No one bats an eye now but at 16 people talked.

    The problems in ya books mirror real problems, they just tend to be a bit more fantastical

    1. This is an excellent point Kaitlin! And yeah, age differences are a bigger deal when you’re younger than when you’re older. I think it’s because when you’re younger, a 5 year age difference means you’re in different stages of life. Someone in high school usually has a very different life outlook and life in general than someone in college. In high school you’re still living at home, tied to your parents, being told what to do, etc. But in college, you don’t live at home, sometimes college kids support themselves, maybe you’ll have a parttime job, you’re living by your own rules, etc. I think sometimes it’s just harder for people to click when they’re in different stages like that.

      But when you get to be later in life, 5 years age difference usually still means the same “stage”. You’re both probably fully supporting yourselves, living on your own, holding steady jobs, etc. So since you’re in the same place, the age difference matters less!

  2. I don’t mind age gaps, but I agree that most teens aren’t mature enough to make such big decisions based on their emotions.

    I know I’m not. :p

    But these relationships DO make great books… πŸ˜€

    Brandi recently posted: Interview with Christie L. Rich
    1. That is certainly true! πŸ˜€ There are a lot of books I really like that do have big age differences!

  3. I tend to have similar feelings as you, where if the age difference is brought up often enough, I get a little weirded out.

    But having just read Kaitlin’s comment, I think she has a very valid point – and I found myself nodding in agreement with everything she said. So maybe there’s more to the age difference than it just being creepy! Lol

    kelly recently posted: Book Review: Owlet
    1. Yeah it’s weird how it feels so creepy and inappropriate in some books, but in others it doesn’t bother me at all lol.

  4. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I think it all depends on how the book is written,some books can be convincing to a point that they make you re-think your opinions.

    Mostly I don’t mind it but sometimes HUGE age gaps come across as weird(especially when the younger person in the relationship is a BIT too obsessed).
    Quite an interesting post.Thanks for sharing your thoughts! πŸ™‚

    Nuzaifa @ Say It With Books recently posted: Review : Dear Teen Me - Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves
    1. Thank you,
      You guys make excellent points as well πŸ™‚

      One other point I feel needs to be made is that it’s not black and white. There’s no magic point where someone is grown up and emotionally mature enough to make sound decisions. I know adults that never get there and I know teenagers who have been through SO much more than any human should ever have to deal with. Neither person is better than the other, they just have different life experiences. So in some of these books, take Twilight for instance, you have a vast age difference but not a very obvious emotional one. I’m not saying anything negative about Edward but when I read it I didn’t notice much of an emotional difference between him and Jacob. He was possessive, and jealous, and spoke in absolutes. He tried to commit suicide when he believed Bella was dead, clearly not a healthy emotional response.

      On the other end of the spectrum you have protagonists like Penryn in Angel Fall who has to make life or death decisions and be responsible for her family. She wouldn’t be a good match with Jo-Highschooler because they are on completely different levels.

      Persephone is not one of those protagonists, at least not in book one, and that’s why Hades has a big problem with their relationship. But she’s also not human, and the gods of Greek mythology aren’t exactly known for their emotional maturity

      Kaitlin Bevis recently posted: Mythology Monday: Cassandra
  5. Goodness, yes, this IS a problem! I don’t mind, really, but these relationships are never quite believable for me. I see how little I have in common with a 16-year-old and I’m, like, 30, and I can’t imagine wanting to be with one when I’m a hundred or more. It’s just unfathomable. It’s good that you’re starting these kinds of posts because they need to be discussed.

    Maja (The Nocturnal recently posted: Review: Beyond: A Ghost Story
  6. Was actually just thinking about this the other day. It can definitely seem a bit creepy – I guess it depends on how well the author has made the relationship seem believable. The idea of an immortal falling for a much younger mortal is very powerful, and it adds a compelling edge to the relationship. Those kinds of stories have also existed for a very long time, right back to myths. So I can see the appeal.

    I find with vampires, and with other creatures that have literally died and then remained the same age rather than being born immortal, that it often seems as though they ‘got stuck’ at the age they were killed. Emotionally, Edward seems 17 to me. It’s the same with a lot of vampires. Also explains why they would even contemplate going to high school! And if you think about it like that, it does add a layer of poignancy to the stories – anyone turned into a vampire gets to live forever, but never to grow or really change.

    The other thing is that for some reason when the age gaps get ridiculous (supernaturally big), it becomes less obviously creepy. Think about a science fiction story in which a 70 year old man pays for his consciousness to be put into the body of a 17 year old, and then he goes to high school and hits on a 17 year old girl. That makes me shudder. Weird how similar that is to some of the ‘immortal boy loves human girl’ stories, and yet the latter never seem quite as creepy.

    Really interesting post and discussion! Particularly like Kaitlin’s point about it mirroring real but less dramatic age-gaps in real teenagers’ lives πŸ™‚

    Vicky Hooper recently posted: British Books Challenge Wrap Up and Sign Up
  7. It creeps me out when the older person (usually a male vampire) knew the younger person (usually a female human) when he/she was a baby and into childhood, etc. I read one book where she called him her uncle because he was around so much during her childhood. She used to sit on his lap as a child, and he’d tell her stories. Once she was in her 20s, then it was on. We didn’t actually see her childhood in the story – just got the info through memories and flashbacks, but it was too weird for me.

    If they didn’t know each other in childhood, then it’s not so bad for me.

  8. I do think about this sometimes too, Ashley. You’re right though, when the author glosses over it, I don’t pay much attention, but if I think about it, it is creepy. I don’t believe it’s realistic to think someone who’s been alive for hundreds or thousands of years would be attracted to a teenager. No offense to teenagers, it’s just someone with that much life experience might feel like they were immature, and I would think it would be hard to relate. Think of the real world. If there’s an age difference of more than 20 yrs, it’s really hard to make it work and find common ground. Great thought provoking post! πŸ™‚

  9. I find that in Twilight it never bother me but in Persephone, it REALLY bothered me. I think because the author mentioned it ao often it really stuck in my brain, like it did you.

    In reality, no way would thousand year old gods or vampires be in some 17 year olds grill. But that’s why these books are fantasy. Its like taking the idea of dating an older man to the extreme. Most women like mature men. Authors know this. That’s why you rearly see older women/gods/vampires and young men in books getting together. It’s more acceptable that younger women like older men. So it might not bother us too much.

    I think overall, it’s fine in a book because it is FANTASY. We can all decide if its the book for us or not once we start reading. I prefer the author not mention the age difference unless it has a huge bearing (is this the right spelling??) on the plot. Vampires, Gods, or whatever are going to be older than the girls in YA books. It’s how it is.

    Jennifer Bielman recently posted: Book Playlist: Five by Christie L. Rich (Blog Tour)
  10. HA. You crack me up. this topic cracks me up. But you are SO RIGHT! Normally they kinda easier to let go if it’s an immortal but you’re right. Then there is the whole deal of them looking down on you for being stupid and naive. Which most of the time is true.But if it’s in REAL LIFE and it’s a real 3 or 5 year age difference, I think those creep me out the most. Haha. πŸ˜€ *brain whirls and twirls* Anyways..I like this discussion. Much to think about.

  11. You definitely bring up an important concern here. I actually haven’t read too many books with this issue, since I’m currently not interested in reading paranormal romances. I do think the author does have a lot of control over how his/her readers perceive the age-difference in the relationship. In the Twilight series, Bella’s constant obsession over her body’s age kept bringing to mind the difference in mental ages. In Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I have no idea how old either Karou or Akiva really is, but it doesn’t matter. Age (physical or mental) is never brought up as a problem by the characters or the author. But I suppose it’s also important to keep in mind that nothing about these types of stories is real to begin with, so do I need the relationships established in these stories to be realistic from an age perspective? Not really.

    Amanda @ Late Nights with Good Books recently posted: In My Mailbox #10
  12. See, I’m weird with this topic. I think, that if their physical age is about the same, it’s okay. I know that’s weird, but if the character looks and acts like a, say sixteen year old, then I will treat that character like a sixteen year old and not like a three thousand year old. But if he’s a sixteen year old who acts like he’s lived thousands of years and is all wise and prophetic and, “When I was your age…” I’m out of there. Nope, no can do. That’s creepy.

    Blythe Harris recently posted: Waiting on Wednesday (January 9)
    1. LOL that is totally a good point. If he treats her like the child she is then that’s just so creepy.

  13. I think that it all depends on how the author handles the age gap. Realistically speaking if a guy is hundreds of years old and with an eighteen year old girl i can see him viewing her as immature and too young. But if the author writes the girl to seem wise beyond her own years while preserving some of her youth in some of her actions i think it can work. In twilights case i thought the whole age thing was just awkward on Edwards part and couldn’t see him accepting her age but in Incarnate i think Ana complements Sam very well. She sort of brings out the fun side of him and makes me remember that life is a gift and how beautiful it is (of course there circumstances are a bit different) the author also had them sit down and talk about the age issue and while that scene in the book was HUGELY awkward it was kind of nice to find them agreeing their age difference wasn’t ideal and a bit creepy but still loving each other.

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