I don’t think I’d normally do this for many books, but something about this one just really bugged me. And I’ve been planning to write a detailed in-depth post series about books like this that exist in YA (mainly) or were inspired by YA (I’m sure everyone can name this book) where abusive relationships are romanticized and abusive behavior, primarily from “misunderstood” men is romanticized.
And I know these things have likely been called out thousands of times, but I just can’t sit back and not say anything about them just because someone else did. I actually began that post series a while back but accidentally lost it—the perils of forgetting to save as you’re typing, which I still do to this day despite all the words I’ve lost—and just haven’t had the energy to go back and do all that research again.
But, as I recently came across an abuse romanticizing YA novel that is sure to destroy some young womens’ perspective of what a healthy relationship should look like, I wanted to comment on it again. These books need to be called out. They need to be talked about. We can not sit idly by and allow books like this to continue to mar and tarnish the minds of young women. I do not want to see more girls fall into abusive relationships, not realizing that’s what they’re doing, because they read in a book that the behavior meant he loved her.
So, this is just a quick pingback to my review for More Than Friends by Monica Murphy to call out the disgusting abuse romanticizing she has done in her novel and also just a quick list of some books we should all readily acknowledge the problematic abuse in.
Notably, I’m sure many (I would hope all, but I know some people are woefully ignorant) of you recognize the massive amount of abuse in 50 Shades of Grey. And no, I’m not talking about the BDSM. I’m talking about the stalking, the controlling, and the manipulative behavior that pushes an innocent and inexperienced young girl to do things against her initial will. Coercion is a form of abuse and a form of rape that Christian Grey employs to control Anastasia. And it’s wrong. One day I’ll sit down and write something more in-depth about this, but not tonight.
And then there’s Twilight, which I have to reread before I can discuss it at any further length as it has been quite some time since I read it. I, unfortunately, fell into the category of young women who did not know how to recognize abusive behavior in relationships—whether or not it is intentional—and resultingly did not believe this about Twilight at first. But this book is problematic and it does portray some very unhealthy behaviors.
Roseblood by A. G. Howard is actually another one I’ve already written a review for that addresses some of the deeply problematic issues that I found throughout the novel. This one doesn’t really anger me as much as some partially because it’s not as bad but also because I was able to write off the fact that I didn’t like it anyway and some of what I didn’t like wasn’t actually problematic, just dumb. But the problematic pieces are there and resultingly this book can’t be okay with me because of it. It insulted The Phantom of the Opera in a great many horrible ways, but that’s not really what’s important here. Feel free to click the title if you want to take a look at a more in-depth discussion about this book’s issues.
The Shatter Me series almost infuriates me more than either one of those books because while I can at least have the fact that 50 Shades of Grey is terribly written (seriously, did E. L. James ever take an English class?), chalk full of grammar mistakes, poor character development and motivation, and awful plots, I can’t really say that about this series. In fact, I actually loved the very first book in the series. Which breaks my heart, frankly. The worst thing about these novels is the fact that Warner is presented as a “misunderstood” guy who really has the people’s best interests at heart as well as Juliet’s (and of course “he really does care about her”) and so all of his abusive, manipulative, and evil behavior is suddenly okay and forgiven. And I could go on for days about how much this pisses me off. But I won’t.
For now, I just want all of you to take a look at the books I’ve listed here and really think about what makes them representative of the books that romanticize abuse. And then spread the word. It’s 2018. No one should be unfortunate enough to fall for this disgusting idea that the behavior of the men in these novels is acceptable or romantic. I’m sick of it. I’m so sick of it. And every time I see it, every time it comes back into my feed or to my attention for whatever reason, it cuts me a little more to think of all the people out there who might get hurt because they weren’t able to recognize abusive behavior because the books they read lied to them about it being romantic, because the books they read promoted this behavior and pushed their readers to accepting it in the characters and later subsequently in their own relationships.
I can’t condone it. So I have to say something.
To everyone who has ended up in a massively unhealthy relationship because one of these books made it difficult or impossible for you to recognize abuse you went through, I am so extremely sorry. And I hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else.
And at the end of this, I want to open up the comments for anyone who reads this to list a book they’ve read that I haven’t mentioned which romanticizes abuse. I want to be aware of these titles. I want to read them so I can talk about them. I don’t want the young readers in our community to not know abuse in a book when they see it. Hopefully, it’ll make a difference in lives if we open up the conversation now before it’s too late for someone.
Apologies for the dark topic, you guys. I hope you had a good day.
7 thoughts on “Problematic Books in YA; The Ones that Romanticize Abuse”
Honestly it makes me grind my teeth when it comes up in a book, I hate it. I actually really enjoyed Shatter Me, but it’s the only one in the series I’ve read so I think I’ll not read on.
It’s a dangerous thing to portray as romantic, and I think authors and publishers bear a lot of the responsibility. They have the power to influence it.
Cora | http://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk
This post is wonderful! I’m 17 y/o and I’ve never been in an abusive relationship, but a friend of mine was in one and she didn’t understood why we kept telling her that she should have left him.
Many books romanticizes abuse: A Court of Thorns and Roses, This Man trilogy by Jodi Ellen Malpas and many more I can’t think about right now 💚
Hey, I thought I’d write a comment under this post because the topic is very close to my heart. I also agree that the media (movies, songs, books, stories etc.) romanticize abusive love. Adults who have gathered some experience in their lives know what abuse is and will immediately spot it in a YA novel. However, YA novels are most often read by teenage girls, who later learn to associate negative patterns with love (especially if there was an abusive family member in the household).
I read YA novels very seldom, so from all the books you’ve mentioned I only know Twilight. And this is why I would like to ask you, why do you believe that Twilight showed an abusive relationship. I remember Edward as a character who loved Bella unconditionally and accepted her flaws, while trying to fulfill her wishes. It was Bella who formed a borderline attachment to him, chose to isolate herself and live a dangerous lifestyle (jumping from cliffs etc.). I believe that if Edward loved any other girl, the story would have been different, and I don’t think that he was abusive towards her. Yes, he left her in the New Moon, but break-ups happen all the time and it’s not consider abuse. So, I’d really like if you could explain why you chose to mention Twilight. I am curious if we have the same thoughts about it! Personally, I read the book as a 15 year old and I liked it. It was something new at that time. However I’ve noticed, that Twilight unlocked an avalanche of other books in which vampires were ‘more real’, meaning, ‘more cruel & more dark’.
Overall, I really liked this post! Keep writing!
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Sorry for taking so long to get to this. The thing about Twilight is that there are a lot of exceedingly unhealthy aspects to it and it would take a lot of time to break it all down. Edward’s behavior isn’t always abusive and it’s harder to tell from the first book. But one thing to take note of is the fact that he very early on develops a need for control over her that he exhibits in various ways–the stalking, for one, is incredibly problematic and while it does get a small pass because he’s a vampire and obviously pieces of this story aren’t meant to represent a real relationship, can you imagine someone sneaking into your bedroom to watch you sleep? There was a moment, also, in the first book where he refused to let her make the autonomous decision to drive. But, honestly, if you want a more in-depth explanation, I’ve written about it in the two posts linked below.
Additionally, there’s the matter of Jacob and how he influences Edward’s actions as well as the actions he himself takes. You see, both Edward and Jacob point out the fact that the other is manipulating and controlling her, each ironically showing the abusive nature that they are acting with. And then there is the matter of Jacob sexually assaulting Bella and then later threatening suicide if she doesn’t let him kiss her. These are also explained in more depth in a third post linked below. There’s a lot to it and much of the abuse really does seem to hide between the lines, but I think it’s also important to note how easily overlooked problematic behavior is when you’re young and don’t quite have a full grasp of it yet. I did it, many other teens did it, I’m sure you must have. It took me re-reading the entire series to realize how bad it actually was because prior to that, I honestly thought it was just something mild and not really worth complaining about. But you live, you learn, and then eventually you know better.
Thank you for explaining this further! I agree with your points. I think that maybe I didn’t pay much attention to these things as I read the novel as a teenage girl (I was 15 at the time, I think). Also, I agree, Edward and Jacob being supernatural beings kind of “rationalizes” that type of behavior. I think I’d scream if someone got into my bedroom at night! Haha.