In Young Adult lit, how you portray the male love interest is an important factor. Considering females make up the majority of YA readers, it’s a issue that has to be handled delicately with the utmost care and consideration. Is he going to be the boy next door? Is he going to be a jokester? Is he going to be the understanding type? Is he going to be the misunderstood bad boy? How does he help shape the novel? Is he swoon worthy?
You can find some of the sweetest relationships in YA lit, which is one reason why I keep coming back to it over and over again. But every once in a while something goes terribly wrong. You have a love interest who completely monopolizes the heroine’s time and life, stalks the heroine, emotionally or even physically abuses her or is just an all around awful person to be attracted to. Unfortunately, that’s not even the worst of it. Those traits aren’t highlighted as things to avoid, but instead seen as romantic and the heroine is made out to be the bad guy if she denies him in any way.
It’s a trope that’s everywhere and needs to die in an angry fire. But, of course, there are some books that just do it worse than the rest of them. This isn’t an all-time list, but merely just a few YA books I’ve read recently that managed to sear a hole in my mind.
*Disclaimer: This post will contain spoilers of the books mentioned.
6 of the Worst Male YA Love Interests
6. Lucas (Starcrossed)
On the surface it Lucas may appear to be great love interest. Helen adores him, they have sexual tension, playful banter and great chemistry. But dig a little deeper into their romance and you’d soon discover a few disturbing qualities. Actually, strike that. You don’t have to look that far when you have Helen saying things like this not even halfway through the novel:
“…she decided that if Lucas was gay then she was going to have to get a sex change operation. He would be so worth it.”
Does anyone else see a problem with this line of thinking? We have a young girl who has become obsessed with a boy to the point where she has contemplated the possibilities of a life altering procedure just to have a shot at receiving his teenage affections? Seriously?! Moreover, this guy goes as far to jokingly reference domestic abuse as the excuse for her training bruises, countless times he makes Helen feel as though she is being used, and shows a possessive streak when a guy is seen just talking with Helen in school. Outside of their relationship he could be a great guy, but because he never truly shows respect for Helen and makes a few disturbing statements, he ends up on the list.
5. Shay (Wolfsbane)
What’s wrong with a guy determined to help the heroine break free from her society’s expectations and empower her to take control of her own destiny? Well, nothing. That’s actually pretty awesome. At least until the heroine starts to feel threatened or unsafe around him, that is.
“For a moment I thought he would shift forms and bite me.”
Shay seemed to be the perfect boy for Calla. He was considerate and appeared to have genuinely wanted Calla to have the ability to choose her future. But as soon as he later becomes a wolf, his personality shifts into an alpha male “Me big, strong man. You puny, weak woman.” There are times in the story where Calla does not speak her mind because she is worried about “Shay’s wrath.” He pressures her to have sex and gets semi-violent when she expresses feelings of indecision. Ladies, this is not okay. It can never be okay. If anyone feels as if they have to walk on eggshells so that they don’t set off their significant other, there is a problem. Do you see the potential there for victim blaming? Personal responsibility has to be taken into account and the heroine should not feel unsafe around a character who was written to be swooned over.
4. Galen (Of Poseidon)
This one about burned me up inside.
“He scours his memory for a sweet-natured Syrena who would take care of him, who would do whatever he asked, who would never argue with him.”
Just what every woman is looking for! A big strong man to take away her freedom of speech, her opinions, to have someone to wait on hand and foot. What a catch! That’s just the kind of lifestyle I aspire to have! Do you feel the romance, ladies?!
Galen acted like women-kind were specifically put on earth to appease him. He constantly tries to squash Emma’s opinions and all around dislikes that she has opposing viewpoints. He likes to remain in control of what Emma does and where she goes even when she protests. He devalues her. To him, her opinion and desires means nothing unless it furthers his personal cause or makes him happy. In fact, Galen does not take any character with a set of ovaries seriously. But that is not how it’s portrayed in the book. Instead he’s “just being protective” or “he understands the situation better than the female.” To make matters even worse, the treatment he gives his sister is just as bad. Rayna, who is trapped into an arranged marriage is shown no sympathy. She constantly denies the advances of her betrothed, insisting that she does not like him. But Galen does not believe her and tells her it’s because she hasn’t given him a chance. Because obviously women are so inferior we can’t possibly understand our own feelings. Thank goodness for men!
3. John (Abandon)
There is no other better way to describing John’s attraction to Pierce other than saying creepy. If you think Jacob Black and Nessie’s imprint relationship was disturbing, then prepare to be shocked. John easily makes this list for reasons like stalking, kidnapping and being violent towards the heroine. He has a known past of being destructive and when the heroine seeks advice to get away from him, guess what she’s told?
“So if I might make a suggestion for all our sakes, why don’t you try”–his brown eyes were pleading–“just being a little sweeter to that boy?”
Somehow the tables are turned and Pierce is being accused of not being nice enough to him. As if his actions are her responsibility. There’s nothing like a bit a victim blaming to get the blood going in the morning. -_-
Then we find out the biggest kicker when it’s revealed John has been watching Pierce and been in love with her since she was seven years old.
So we have this psycho who is attracted to children, stalks her, kidnaps her all in the name of love. If this were a person in real life, you’d call the cops. But are any of these tendencies supposed to turn the reader off? Of course not! He’s le hottie! Duh.
2. Patch (Hush, Hush)
Speaking of psychos… Patch well deserves that label too. I think we are all familiar with this story and if you’re not… well… ignorance truly is bliss in this case. Patch considered one of the hottest love interest in YA these days. He’s known for being the tortured character who loves the girl whose death is to be his only salvation. (At least that’s what I remember from the story. It’s been a few years since I’ve read it and I’m trying desperately to purge it from my mind.) But no one seems to really talk about the real issue and how majority of the book he follows her around, scaring her, with the intention to kill her. Yet, what is the closing scene at the end of the novel? Nora and Patch making out.
1. Stalker (Enclave)
Enclave was one of the first Dystopian/Post Apocalyptic books I read after finishing The Hunger Games. At that time I was new to reviewing, new to being the YA addict that I am today and I hadn’t yet developed the strong opinions on books that I hold now. Basically, certain things just did not bother me. For me, it took reading several bad YA romances to wonder, “Why the hell are so many females treated like shit in these books?” And I think in a lot of ways, my anger at the love interest in Enclave stems from anger at myself for not seeing the problem with this book the very first time I read it. I gave this book 4 stars and later dropped it to 3. Truthfully, I’d like to drop it to one and erase the entire review, but I keep it to remind myself something: It really says something about our society when we are so brainwashed into being insensitive to the abuse of our own gender, that we try to rationalize it away or don’t even notice the mistreatment when it’s right in front of our eyes.
In Enclave there is a character named Tegan who suffers from rape and abuse for an extended period of time. She alludes to getting pregnant and losing the baby as well. This is because Stalker, who is leader of a gang of boys, allows it to happen. It is unclear if he himself ever raped her, but it is clear that Tegan blames him for her abuse. When circumstances place Tegan, Deuce, the heroine, Stalker and Fade, the main love interest, into a traveling group, she is told by Deuce to get over it. Let that sink in for a moment. The heroine tells a rape victim to get over it. Does Stalker apologize? Not that I remember, though it’s possible that he does in book 2 ( I haven’t read it). But as far as remorse, he had none, saying he did what he did to survive.
But again, that’s not even the worst of it. After that scene he becomes a love interest for Deuce. Why? Because Deuce finds his strength and ability to make “tough decisions” in the face of hard times attractive. She has very little sympathy for Tegan and finds her weak for allowing the abuse to happen in the first place. Victim blaming at its finest.
So to recap, we have stalkers, controlling men, men who wish to take the heroine’s rights away, men who have intentions on killing the heroine, pedophiles and even rapists/rapist supporters as love interests. These characters could have appeared in the stories as something the heroine rises up against, but instead this is who she loves. This is who is written to appeal to other young adult women. These are the guys that girls are swooning over. This… this is NOT okay. When will we all be sick of reading this shit?
“At that time I was new to reviewing, new to being the YA addict that I am today and I hadn’t yet developed the strong opinions on books that I hold now. Basically, certain things just did not bother me. For me, it took reading several bad YA romances to wonder, “Why the hell are so many females treated like shit in these books?” And I think in a lot of ways, my anger at the love interest in Enclave stems from anger at myself for not seeing the problem with this book the very first time I read it.”
This is exactly how I feel about “Hush, Hush”. I reviewed it when I was new to book blogging, before I’d really got my feminist strut on. Knowing what I know now about YA love interests, I feel guilty every time I think back to how much I enjoyed reading it.
@EMaree Yup me to with regards to Hush, Hush. Funny thing is I disliked Hush, Hush, just not for the same reasons I have today. Before I disliked it because it was way to similar to Twilight in my mind and didn’t offer anything new. It’s amazing how reading YA lit has changed my perspective on a lot of issues.
i just hope these books teaches girls in the real world that “those relationships in the books” are not real and if you are seem to find you yourself in a troubling situation that you would get help immediately.
@LenaMarsteller I would hope so too, but when I see girls talking about how hot these guys are, my faith diminishes.
@Stephanie Sinclair but it is FICTION and I hope people realize that when reading YA novels… i mean i enjoyed the Twlight series… but I would not act like Bella in New Moon…. i would get on with my life…. haha On a side note, I cannot wait to see Breaking Dawn Part 2. 😀
haha great post 😀 you could probably add the Raven boys to this post…. in my opinion…
@LenaMarsteller WOW, really? I haven’t read that book yet. That’s really sad. : /
@Stephanie Sinclair see my response to EMaree below for further explanations. 😀
@LenaMarsteller I just read the Raven Boys, but I didn’t get an abuse vibe from Gansey, Adam or even Noah (Ronan was quick to flip out, but he was never viewed romantically and this was always portrayed as not good behavior). Do you mind elaborating? I’m curious what I might have missed.
@EMaree I just think that all of boys were obsessed with something or their own problems…. I don’t think it would be a good idea for Blue to date any one of them. I didn’t find either of them attractive…. but it was cute of Adam to have crush on Blue though… depsite his major problem.. Basically i found them all to majorly flawed…
@EMaree to be majorly flawed… sorry for the missing words.
@LenaMarsteller Ah, that makes sense! Agreed there, that’s a sensible way to look at it. I think Maggie was trying to show that despite all the money around them, the boys were still totally messed up. And in reality you’re right, that definitely doesn’t make a good boyfriend… though they were all sweet guys in their own ways.
@EMaree totally agree 😀
If all the men/boys in novels were good, wholesome, well-behaved, thoughtful feminists completely in touch with their female side… How interesting would THAT (not) be? Nice boys are boring. Give me a bad boy love interest every time. Sorry but… I think you’re missing the point.
I think you are confusing a ‘bad boy’ with an abuser. ‘Bad boys’ frequently have issues with authority, are mean to the people they love, let people down and exhibit destructive behaviour. In contrast, these examples mentally and physically intimidate or hurt the girls they want to possess or control. I think she hit the point on the head.
Lol, not so. I like historical romances and there are lots of “bad boys” in them (rakes, etc), but most of them still manage to be good reads that are not horribly sexist and/or have abusive males who want to silence and rule over the females. I think that’s the point of the article. Everyone likes a good bad boy in books, but I think some of these YA characters are just too… bad. O_O
I’m not asking for the love interest to be a any of the things you mentioned. I just want them to have some respect for the female character and not sit and abuse her. Is that too much to ask from someone who professes they love you? I don’t think so.
There is nothing wrong with writing the “bad boy” as the love interest. Him being a “bad boy” doesn’t mean he must be a turd muffin to the heroine. Want your character to be insulting and hurtful? FINE. But why does the heroine have to endure that and be placed as the one to blame? Why can’t the female character say, “Hey, he not treating me well. Perhaps this isn’t healthy for me?” Why aren’t these love interests doing anything to redeem their past actions? Why are these heroines forgiving them over and over so easily after being complete assholes?
There is a difference from a love interest being the “bad boy” and straight up abusive and, I’m sorry, but I find no entertainment value in seeing women mistreated.
@Stephanie Sinclair Of course it’s not too much to ask IN REAL LIFE. But this is FICTION. I’m fascinated by the idea that fictitious love interests should be politically correct. I mean, those books exist, and if you want them you can find them. But I wouldn’t read them. It sounds like something written by the local council as a PSA. “This, girls, is the kind of boy we would approve of you fancying. You’ll know him by his sympathetic expression and recycling habits…”
I think you are misunderstanding what I’m trying to say.
1. I don’t have an issue with a book showing messed up characters in messed up situations, exploring the mindsets of the characters, as long as the message is clear: This is a very disturbing relationship.
2. The problem I have is when these messed up characters are ROMANTICIZED. When the love interest is abusive to the heroine, but hey it’s okay because he loves her and by the way, ain’t he hot? *swoon* The problem with the above examples is that the heroine doesn’t SEE anything wrong, often accepts the treatment given to her and then blames HERSELF for HIS actions.
3. I don’t think a book being a work of fiction excuses a character’s behavior. I’m not asking for them to be politically correct. We’re going to have to agree to disagree on that.
@Stephanie Sinclair Fiction influences life (as proof you have all the uber-fans of well-known abusive characters like Edward from Twilight. When girls think that a stalker-ish, controlling dude is their dream guy, something is wrong). Plus, I think what Stephanie means here (just what I think, not sure) is that sure, male characters can be portrayed as sexist assholes, but it’s wrong to reward them for it. Or end the novel with the idea that they were very happy. That’s not right, in my humble opinion. So I don’t think that she’s saying that love interests have to be politically correct, only that if they display abusive behaviour, don’t reward them with the heroine’s undying love and affection and acceptance.
@Stephanie Sinclair Oops, sorry didn’t see your post before replying. 🙁
@Stephanie Sinclair I bring your attention back to Heathcliff. One of MANY famous stalker creeps in romantic fiction. Should Bronte have made it more clear that loving him was wrong?Or shouldn’t each reader make up his/her own mind about what kind of love is right or justified?This is too much like political correctness in fiction for me. It would make all books like those boring Radio 4 plays where the only reason not to like the love interest is because he whines too much while donating to good causes. Like those books if you must, but don’t diss books that take chances with love interests. Because those books are brave and interesting.
@Stephanie Sinclair Also, I can’t believe you think Edward from Twilight is abusive. He’s just a bit clingy and he’s a FREAKING VAMPIRE. So… probably not a realistic model upon which any girl should base her romantic choices.
@Stephanie Sinclair Well, he’s not exactly a great person. O.o I used him as an example because there are ACTUAL, real girls swooning over the guy. He might be a fictional character and a vampire, but he has become a model of the ultimate boyfriend for many young girls.
Thing here is, adults and teenagers aren’t the same. Adults have real life experience and they can use it to judge if relationships in books are or aren’t right. Teenagers? Not so much. It’s also politically correct to not include violence and sex in children’s books… maybe we should start including them and letting children make up their own minds? :/
Anyway this is just my opinion. You’re free to have yours. 🙂
@Stephanie Sinclair I think protecting 16-year-old girls from character ambiguity is probably a losing battle, and a pointless one, especially given that 16-year-old girls also read adult fiction. And you can’t stop them from doing that. And that, as we all know, has even more Rapey McRapists to lure them into Rapeland, or whatever you think is going to happen to them if they fancy an imaginary vampire named Edward.
@Stephanie Sinclair True that. We could however avoid perpetuating sexism in books we actually know our teens read (or will probably read).
No I don’t think that (no need to be condescending, I think I am being civilized enough… I simply disagree with you).
But I think women have been striving to achieve equality for a long time and that if our YA literature teaches younger generations of women that they should excuse abusive behaviour, we will go backward instead of forward in terms of mentalities. I think this is the main concern here, it’s what is being discussed. If you don’t agree, fine. But please allow for different opinions. 🙂
LOL, actually I DO think Edward was controlling. So ok, remove the vampire in him, now he is suddenly a great love interest, telling Bella what to do and who to hang out with? Stalking her?
So if it’s fictional it’s okay to present blatant abusers and rapists as heroes? You don’t see anything wrong with that—-in fact, you think it’s FICTION, so it’s okay?
Oh, wait, the use of the phrase ‘politically correct’ says it all. Shouldn’t have wasted my time.
@Stephanie Sinclair Heathcliff was presented as an example of a bad guy in a bad relationship.
Oh, and a second political correctness! We have a true rebel here.
complainathon Clingy? He breaks into her house to watch her sleep—without her consent—-and takes the engine out of her car when he doesn’t approve of where she wants to go.
This was supposed to be a reply to complainathon, as was the other reply.
Well said. I haven’t read any of these books, and now I’m counting myself lucky! I actually have Enclave, just haven’t gotten around to reading it. Now I’m not so sure I want to, because what you described was just horrific. Seriously disappointing. I love this column, and I hope you write more!
@heykelley The sad thing is Enclave is actually a good book. I especially enjoyed the first half. It’s just that one issue that leaves a really bad taste in my mouth.
@Stephanie Sinclair @heykelley Just replying to say: I agree, Enclave has a good base story, but I kind of think it was a bit like Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky (except the abusive male, which doesn’t appear in Metro), which I had read a few months before I read Enclave (so the story was fresh in my mind). :/
I am so tired of these tropes and (if you’ll forgive the link) we’ve hated on Paranormal romance tropes in general for the same reason: http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2011/10/abuse-as-true-love-in-paranormal.html
I am so tired of these terrifying visions of “romance.”
1) if your love interest FRIGHTENS YOU, that is not romantic
2) If your love interest hates you being near any other man – let alone willingness to attack them – that is not romantic
3) if he needs to know where she is and what she’s doing at all times – that is not romantic
4) If he has to be in control at all times, that is not romantic, including ignoring your input, making choices for you and overwhelming your decisions
5) if he ever ever ever makes consent even slightly dubious IT IS NOT ROMANTIC. Yes that includes touching and kissing and creepy flirting after she says NO. No more of this “I hated him but he was persistant in harassing him so now he’s my twu lub” stalking storyline crap!
And a relationship is not healthy if:
1) he hurts you/lies to you/frightens you/imprisons you/removes your choices “for your own good”
2) It consumes everything in your life so you have nothing BUT the relationship to live for
3) Pleasing your partner becomes an all consuming obsession that overwhelms self-interest and even survival
4) Youn are willing to forgive or ignore any crime your partner commits against you or others for the sake of twu lub.
And I am sick of all of this being “explained by the woo-woo” the fact he’s a werewolf, vampire, incubus, whatever, doesn’t make the abusive relationship all roses, chocolates and happy-dappy-unicorns.
You may have guessed, these tropes make me cranky
@Fangs4Fantasy As always, I agree 100% with your comment. Especially this:
“And I am sick of all of this being “explained by the woo-woo” the fact he’s a werewolf, vampire, incubus, whatever, doesn’t make the abusive relationship all roses, chocolates and happy-dappy-unicorns.”
Being a mythical creature does not mean he can be a dick to the MC and it’ll be acceptable. SMH. I’ll have to stop by your blog and check your article out!
@Stephanie Sinclair Thanks 🙂
Yeah I hate that excuse which I see a lot. You have to walk around him? Terrified of saying or doing the wrong thing? Afraid of challenging him in case he loses his temper and hurts – or even kills you? THAT IS NOT OK! And just because he’s a vampire/werewolf/angry rage monster doesn’t magically change that. But I see it so much – he’s not a controlling arsehat who won’t be argued with – he’s an alpha werewolf! He’s not willing to murder men who look at her because they looked at his mate because he’s a posssessive arsehole who sees women as a trophy- it’s his BEAST, he can’t help it!
Ugh, every time I hear it, i hear echoes of so many poor excuses for domestic violence “he can’t help it” “it’s his way” “he’s normally so sweet” “you just have to avoid X, Y and Z and then he’s so loving”
Sorry but I think you’re all so wrong it’s kind of fascinating to me. These aren’t how-to books upon which we should base our own love lives. This is FICTION, kittens. Would I have wanted to marry Jane Eyre’s Mr Rochester? Hells no. But he’s a compelling, tortured, messed up love interest for a messed up, tortured main character. What about Heathcliff? That dude was FRACKED up. So… should Emily Bronte have made him less of an abusive, stalking, creepy weirdo?
By YOUR logic… Erm… yes.And how about Max de Winter? I mean, he LOCKED HIS WIFE IN THE ATTIC. Did Du Maurier do us a disservice not to show Rebecca seeing right through his LIES and dumping him immediately in favour of a very nice civil servant who respected her opinions and let her choose her own housemaid? Maybe you’d read that book, but it doesn’t interest me.
Admit it: Messed up love interests make for absorbing, dramatic plots. Main characters who do not do what you want them do are more interesting than those who behave in an unrealistically logical fashion. Because romance isn’t logical. If you never dated the wrong guy when you were young, well I’m very impressed. When I was a teen, every SINGLE boy I went out with was wrong. And I think I’m representative.You might not like the way the love interest acts, but nobody’s asking you to take him out to dinner. He’s not YOUR boyfriend. What’s interesting is how the MC reacts. Does she resist his control? Does she learn? Does HE learn, and change? If not, does she put up with it? Is that well explained? Do you understand the attraction, even if you don’t approve?And I’m sorry, HeyKelley, but to actually have bought a book but say you might now read it because of something someone ELSE says about it? That’s lame. Read the bl**dy book. And make up your OWN mind.
*sigh* I think you and I are misunderstanding each other. I’m not saying these characters shouldn’t be written about. I’m saying their behavior shouldn’t be so easily rewarded by the heroine. The way he treats her should be acknowledged that it’s wrong in some way, either by the heroine herself or another character.
And no, I will not admit that. Because I think an absorbing, dramatic plots are not reliant upon messed up relationships. Abuse is not romantic tension. And I’ve mentioned how these MC are reacting. Again: THEY DON’T SEE ANYTHING WRONG. There is nothing learned. That is the problem.
I’ve read two books that stand out right now with the “bad boy” character. They are Obsidian and Unspoken. Both feature attractive bad boys. Both feature stories with redemption and character growth. Both feature MC that do not allow these bad boys to take advantage of them.
As for Wuthering Heights, it’s been a long time since I’ve read it. I barely even remember what happens in the book. The other you mentioned, I haven’t read.
No, Max de Winter did not lock his wife in the tower. That was Rochester. And you’ve completely missed the point of at least two of these books. Rochester’s actions are not glamorized, Jane is horrified at what he’s done, which is why she runs away from him. No one in the book attempts to excuse Rochester’s actions, except maybe Rochester himself; and anyone who knows the story thinks Jane is right in leaving. And despite the silly individuals who claim Wuthering Heights is a romantic love story, I think Bronte is more going for hey look how messed up these narcissistic, abusing, obsessive people are and how they ruin everyone around them in their horribleness. I’ll give you that the book Rebecca applauds Max for what he does, but first, the book has to paint Rebecca to be a complete monster in order to try and justify his behavior towards her. It’s the only way that his actions would have been palatable. (Unlike the books on this list, where the dudes do these horrible things and the only justification offered is rather along the lines of he abuses because he just loves her so much.)
Also, I find it incredibly offensive that you think asking writers to not romanticize abusiveness is PC. Where I come from, asking that a person not stalk, terrorize, emotionally/physically abuse, rape/sexually assault, or otherwise harm another person (or asking that such behavior not be glamorized) is not political correctness; it’s called the bare f*cking minimum of being a decent human being.
I’m really sick of the whole ‘it’s FICTION’ excuse by people who want to excuse some shitty example of crap. FICTION isn’t sacred. FICTION doesn’t mean the author cannot be criticized. This stuff is retrograde anti-woman bull that teaches girls that abuse is romantic. You might not see it, but luckily enough, that opinion does not determine how the book is viewed. I’d bet that anybody who works with abused women or has read anything at all about the subject might find these protestations rather….odd.
Hey, look! There’s a troll beneath me. Is anyone surprised? Not me. Whatever…
Anyway, Steph, this is pretty much the exact way I feel about Enclave. You are right on when you say it is so normal in society for that to be okay that we don’t even question it anymore. Luckily my tastes have changed and I was able to go back and realize how wrong it truly was. And I don’t even REMEMBER Deuce telling Tegan to get over it. That’s…APPALLING! Oh my god.
I left my original review too. But I wrote about all the problems I had with that book and Outpost in my review of the latter book. And guess what? I got trolls on that too. *rolls eyes* You are right, Complainathon, it is fiction. But books shape lives. Teen lives. And for that, I think it’s important to get it RIGHT and not have a potential RAPIST be portrayed in a positive light. Give me a break. You cannot compare that to the examples you have provided. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Your argument stinks.
Also, something else about the books that you mentioned? They were ADULT books. We are talking about YA fiction. Yeah…
@Kara_M Newsflash: Everyone who disagrees with you in the world? Is not a troll. There are trolls, yes. But I am not one. I simply in a human being with an opinion that is not the same as yours.
When you keep coming back to argue the same point over and over, and it seems to me, trying to start an argument, you get that label. I simply am a human being with an opinion that is not the same a yours. 😉
@Kara_M You called me a troll. Which was mean and petty. I just wanted to point out that I’m not one. And I’m anonymous because I don’t want you to come to my house and scare my cat. It’s a thing.
Yeah….okay. More like hide behind your computer. I get it. Notice how everyone here is debating with you and NOT hiding behind an anonymous screen name. Something to think about. You Could come to my house and scare my dog. I’m still not anonymous.
@Kara_M I think all that proves is that I’m wiser than you…
Oh yes. You are so much smarter than I am. *snerk*
Also, what is with the anonymous commenting? There’s another big clue.
My only consolation as I depart this disturbing blog, is that all the books you dismiss with the sweeping contempt of people who do NOT write fiction for a living are best sellers. So the teenagers you want to protect so much don’t listen to you. Enjoy your PC party. I’m outie.
So because teenagers don’t always listen, we shouldn’t even try? Ok people: beer, smokes and drugs for everyone underage!
If you don’t speak out about injustice in any form, pretty soon injustice becomes the society standard.
Just because you make money off a thing doesn’t make it right. If it did, overt slavery would be rampant.
Fifty Shades of Grey is a best-seller. Does that make it a great book?
Disturbing blog? Nice. I do not think I have insulted you, Complainathon. You opinion is welcome here even if we disagree.
I called it from your first comment. Anonymous troll commenter. Calling this a disturbing blog? You just proved me right.
That’s the third use of PC as some contemptuous dismissal. No wonder he or she finds the dismissal and cruelty to heroines as exciting. That’s what she or he is doing to anyone who rejects his or her feeling that abuse is not abuse, but romantic.
Gotta love this post!!
I do wish people would take the Bad Romance thing seriously *Shakes head* I hate that “ideal romance” is so often portrayed as obsession and stalker-behavior.
@AnimeGirlAlex I know me too!
I think a lot of the negative commentors are missing the key thing here: abusive, messed-up behavior is interesting to read **if it’s portrayed honestly as unhealthy behavior**. This blog post is calling out books who try to pretend violent, threatening behavior is normal. That’s never OK, especially when your audience is young and easily impressionable.
@EMaree Exactly. There are other books that have love interests that do not treat them well in them, but the MC sees there is a problem. That is the key.
@EMaree This. By all means display any kind of evil, unhealthy, poisonous relationship or character. But don’t romanticise them, don’t say they’re wonderful and shiny, don’t hold them up as paragons of love and romance. Don’t present them as something to want or aspire to
@Fangs4Fantasy @EMaree True to that!! Do not think these novels are true examples of love….
@LenaMarsteller @EMaree They don’t have to be true examples to present an ideal, and idea, a trope and a societal archetype.
We are shaped by our culture, by our media – they shape our dreams, our ideals, and the ever echoing announcement of what we “should” want or aspire to. And the problem here isn’t one example, or 10 – it’s the fact that the message of these highly abusive relationships AS IDEAL is presented over and over again with precious little challenge – even, as we see here, a resistance to challenge
Great post! I DESPISE Galen and Stalker SO MUCH! I still haven’t gotten around to reading Hush Hush, but I’m going to because it’s hard for me to believe a book could be more sexist than Of Poseidon, but apparently this one is.
I actually just read an older YA, The Wind Blows Backward by Mary Downing Hahn, that I think deals with this issue really well. The love interest in that story is disturbed, dangerous, but still extremely appealing…but the author and the female lead acknowledge this. There’s a real reason behind the love interest’s behavior, and he’s trying to overcome it by the end of the novel, but it’s still just a hopeful ending rather than a ridiculous HEA.
Oh man, The Wind Blows Backwards was like my favourite book as a teenager. LOVED it. And yes, much *much* better way of dealing with the tormented bad boy!
I read it as a teen too, but I think I was slightly too young–I was 13 or maybe even 12?–so I got more out of it this time. It’s surprising how well it holds up over time, too–feels very modern, and I think a lot of today’s teens would like it.
Thanks! And I don’t know, Of Poseidon is probably more sexist than Hush, Hush. It was that bad. : /
I agree with everything you’ve said in this post. Frankly, the fact that this post is attracting trolls is ridiculous. The concept of females deserving more than men who stalk, abuse, rape, and want to kill them is nothing radical. It’s basic morality.
Or if you’re going to portray those kinds of relationships, don’t glamorize or romanticize it!
Um, whert? And to think I was thinking about starting Enclave… at some point. I despise people who downplay frigging rape!! Especially another woman who should be more than sympathetic to another woman who has been through such a despicable ordeal.
Ugh, I’m all rage-y now. *shakes fist*
Very good list you’ve compiled here, Steph.
@Lisa FicTalk Thanks, Lisa. Deuce just thought she was weak. *sigh* Deuce was captured by the same gang of boys and would have suffered the same fate, but she managed to escape. This apparently gave her a license to judge and shame Tegan. SMH.
i know right . shay shay i hate him . i hate himmmmm
So why is it there are so many controlling, domineering guys in YA? And so many victims in the girls? I hate it. We need strong girls and strong guys–not alpha, per se, just confident people who don’t play victim to anyone.
@Mary BookSwarm They’re training girls to have low expectations and boys to expect to get away with abuse.
Ohmygosh YES. Thank you thank you thank you! This trend has been bugging me for a while. Bravo for writing about it!
OMG HOW COULD YOU SAY SUCH CRUEL MEAN WORDS ABOUT PATCH!! JUST.. HOW DARE YOU STEPHANIE!!! UNSUBSCRIBING NOW!! D:<
xD Kidding of course, I love your blog too much! LOL.. I’ve only read Abandon & Hush Hush out of all of these books, and i do find the heroes attractive, but by no means do I tolerate their actions. it’s just stupidity. But like you, when I first started reading, I didn’t realize how bad the heroine was being mistreated, until i read about kick-ass heroines like Penryn & Yukiko who will take shit from no man >.< It’s sad, and i’m hoping this Me-man-you-woman-I-bark-you-obey BS is tossed out the window and we’re given actual heroines w/ backbone.
And damn, I was gonna read Enclave, but oh hell… the heroine blaming a rape victim.. i might just put this on my bonfire pile of books Smh!
@Neyra HAHAHAHA! Don’t leave me! 😀
Oh THANK YOU.
Patch is the creepiest thing about the Hush, Hush series. Not the Nephilim menace, not the fallen angels, not the anything else but the ‘HEY BABY, I KNOW I JUST MET YOU, BUT I’MA MURDER YOU, MAYBE.’
And… ugh, I hate myself for it, but I keep coming back to these books. They’re like crack -___-
Can I just say that Cole Holland from Alice in Zombieland deserves and honorable mention here?
LOL! Well, I did read up to book 4 for House of Night, so yeah. hahaha.
And the thing about AiZ is that it will probable sell like hotcakes.
@Stephanie Sinclair Ahahaha! I haven’t ready ANY House of Night books, but… uh… well, yeah. I’m sure I’ve read worse.
And AiZ. UGH. YES. And I can even kind of understand why, which is just *shudders8
There aren’t many things that bother me more than THIS RIGHT HERE in YA books. It seems like it is particularly prevalent in paranormal romance type books. I could maybe deal with it if it had the purpose of commentary nature vs. nuture and animal instincts vs. humanity or whatever, but it never does. And there are never negative consequences. Just once, I’d kinda like to see the heroine get eaten alive by one of these assholes
@mimosastimulus YES! Exactly! They aren’t out to explore the dynamics of a messed up relationship.
Woah, these boys are crazy. I haven’t met most of them (thank goodness) but I do read the Hush, Hush series. I’m with Sarah on this, those books ARE like crack…
Ooh, ooh! Travis from Beautiful Disaster could get an honorable mention also.
@readingwishes I haven’t read Beautiful Disaster, but I have seen enough reviews to have an idea of that train wreck of a relationship.
I have another one for your list – Noah from Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins. He constantly strategizes how to manipulate Rose to do his bidding, thinks of her as a child and basically treat her like his possession. And of course, Rose returns it by apologising after every quarrel no matter who’s at fault.
Sometimes I wonder why I still read YA….
@hikarinotenshi93 Sounds like Edward Cullen. Wonderful.
I agree with you on Shay one hundred percent. In the first book, I sort of liked them, although they were a bit gross and instalovey. In the second one, I shifted allegiance to Ren, because, though he started out as a douchebag, it seemed like the worse Shay got, the nicer he got.
Fuck Galen. (Not in the euphemism sense) He and his serial killer eyes can travel back to the 1950s or join some religious cult to find the perfect, obedient woman. What really bothers me about that is how many blog posts I saw talking about what a swoon-worthy guy he was. One blogger even wanted to marry him. THE FUCK.
I don’t remember Abandon at all, but I do remember that it was creepy, and probably the worst thing Meg Cabot has ever written. Despite how pretty the cover for the second book is, I can’t.
I feel like some girls are sending such mixed messages to guys. They demand equal rights as the men and not to be treated as subservient yet they obsess over books like Fifty Shades of Grey.
Anyways, great article. I’m glad you’ve written on this issue.
Huh? Sounds like blaming the victim to me.
‘Obsessing over a book’ isn’t a mixed message of any kind. It’s just obsessing over a book. I haven’t read Fifty Shades myself, but enjoying certain genres of fiction and certain types of fantasies has nothing to do with the reality of how you live your life. I’m a big fan of the Hunger Games books, but that doesn’t mean I’d like to take part in the Hunger Games if the opportunity should arise, you know.
Of course, even those who prefer to be sexually subservient in real life DO deserve equal rights just as much as the rest of us, so I don’t quite see what point you were trying to make in the first place.
I agree with what you’re saying, but there are people out there who would love fiction to become reality. They also would love to find men like Christian Grey for themselves. And there are people who gravitate to those sorts of messed up, unhealthy relationships who read books like Beautiful Disaster and FSoG and think that it’s okay. To each his own, but being in an abusive relationship is NEVER okay.
I’ve seen this firsthand recently and I still cannot wrap my mind around it. How can physical and mental abuse be attractive? or appealing?
Keep in mind here, I’m not disagreeing with all that you said, but I also see where @sangyupsal is saying too. You both have valid points.
@Lisa FicTalk @sangyupsal It reminds me of the whole Chris Brown fiasco where girls would say they wouldn’t mind being beat by him. SMH.
@Stephanie Sinclair Exactly. It boggles my mind.
@Lisa FicTalk@sangyupsal Oh, absolutely, Lisa. But like I said – even those people do deserve the same basic rights as the rest of us, no matter how misguided and dysfunctional their romantic lives. (And of course, those people also have the right to change their minds later on. If they’ve ‘chosen’ out of their own free will to get into an abusive relationship, they might (hopefully) want to get out of it one day. In that, they should be supported and encouraged, as we’ll probably agree.)
Women, as a collective group, deserve equal rights by virtue of being human: that shouldn’t be something you have to qualify for by being perfectly consistent at all times or by denouncing certain types of fiction. Among that vast collective group, you’re going to find some women who don’t even want equality in their lives, but that doesn’t invalidate the case for equal rights.
That’s why I didn’t understand the ‘mixed messages to guys’ part. I actually agree that many girls and women internalise cultural mixed messages and keep perpetuating them to themselves and to each other, so it isn’t really the ‘mixed messages’ part that I objected to. It was the ‘to guys’ part. Men shouldn’t be taking cues on the issue of women’s equality from individual women’s reading habits and private fantasies. They shouldn’t be wondering whether women ‘really’ want equality or not, or whether they’re too inconsistent to deserve equality. That misses the very point of equality by a mile.
(Apologies to Sangyupsal if that wasn’t what you meant at all – but I felt that this was an important distinction to make!)
For the record, I’m in no way ‘defending’ books like Fifty Shades as I personally find the phenomenon disturbing. Sadomasochistic relationships are a huge grey area for me: it isn’t really any of my business what people do (consensually) in the privacy of their bedrooms, and it isn’t any of my business to tell people what to read, either. But like you, Lisa, I just can’t bring myself to condone abusive relationships in any shape or form, and I don’t like the way they’re being normalised and romanticised in mainstream fiction.
Good grief. I can understand selective blindness for most of the entries, but number one? “Get over it”? Excuse me while I go and vomit.
Yeah, very insensitive. The main character lost major cool points after that. I should probably mention that Stalker had also captured the MC and had planned on letting his gang rape and abuse her as well. But somehow he is attractive to her. I don’t get it.
@Stephanie Sinclair I know love is blind, but…is it really something you want in your book? Was it necessary to include the rape part at all? Was it necessary that he has a part in it?
I could get it if author was going for the world where no one is good…but it’s risky. Particularly in YA. Look at fuss about ASOIAF, and it doesn’t really have a primary protagonist to sympathize with.
And I just saw it got RITA Best YA Romance. Excuse me, I need to see a man about means of transport to Mars.
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I love this. Thanks for sharing this post. Definitely loved this.
I haven’t read several of these, but I agree with you on all the ones I have read.