On YA books that make abusive, stalkerish, horrible relationships seem like they’re okay–HERE ME ROAR

WARNING! THIS POST CONTAINS EXTREME OPINIONS, EMOTIONS AND IS BASICALLY A RANT. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

Recently, I picked up a copy of a book called Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey. I was really excited about it, not going to lie. The premise seemed awesome, and the beginning of the book really just came right at you without any preamble. I really, really wanted to like this book, I did–I bought the hardcover over two other books I really wanted to pick up. Let’s just say it turned into $18 wasted.

Shattered Souls has a cool premise, but it’s basically on the back burner as the main character, Lenzi, struggles over feelings for two boys: her boyfriend Zak and her Protector for a thousand years, Alden. I guess Lindsey was going for that YA cliché love triangle in which the readers see too hot specimens of male knights in shining armor and begin to argue about which one Lenzi should be with.

The answer is NEITHER ONE.

I could not finish this book for this very purpose. I could not read page after page of Lenzi agonizing over her conflicting feelings for two boys who were the two most awful specimens of everything wrong with the male population I had ever read about. Zak, well, he’s an angry drunk, to say the least. In the very BEGINNING of the book, he gets drunk, tries to get it on with Lenzi OVER HER FATHER’S GRAVE, ABANDONS her in a CEMETARY in a BAD PART OF TOWN–all of this taking place ON HER BIRTHDAY. The rest of the book gets progressively worse, if you can believe it.

Alden? Well, besides being a creepy stalker who won’t go away even though Lenzi orders him to SEVERAL TIMES, is just…awful. Just try this quote on for size:

He fidgeted and then ran his hands through his hair. “Okay. Your fear is a turn-on. Protectors are stimulated when their Speakers are afraid. It’s what makes it possible to put you in harm’s way. Otherwise, our instinct to protect you would trump everything and we’d never allow you to do your job…”
Well, that certainly wasn’t what I expected. “Get out! You’re turned on by fear?”
“And by pain to some extent.” He winked and pulled his hand away.

NO. THAT IS NOT OKAY.

But the worst thing? Lenzi is perfectly okay with this. When she is not being lazy or whining or otherwise annoyingly passive, she is STILL DEBATING which guy is hotter and twisting herself around in ways that are NOT good for her just because her entire existence seems to revolve around one of these hot guys accepting her. She seems like she’s in such a constant state of self loathing that she doesn’t believe she is worthy of HEALTHY love.

And that would have been okay, if it were ever addressed. If it were ever mentioned. If there was ever a speck of feeling throughout the book that THAT IS NOT RIGHT. BUT THERE WASN’T. Instead, the entire book seems to be telling its readers that if your boyfriend is an alcoholic, abusive, dysfunctional, sociopathic and sadistic, well, that’s okay.

IT IS NOT OKAY. ON NO LEVEL IS THAT OKAY.

I’m fully aware that these kinds of relationships happen in real life; that they are a fact that real women struggle with every day. That isn’t right either, of course, but I’m not being harsh to those women. I’m angry at YA literature that tells young girls that kind of relationship is okay when it really, really isn’t. Being a teen is hard enough. For a lot of us, books are supposed to be an escape. We see strong characters and we try to be like them. But if these books–if our little havens–are telling us that these kinds of relationships are okay, what are we supposed to think? Well I’m just going to take a stand right here.

THEY AREN’T, LADIES. NONE OF THIS IS RIGHT.

Quite frankly, no matter your age or gender or anything at all, we all deserve happiness and real love. We are all stronger than we think. But when YA books write about relationships and even teen girls in this manner, it almost takes a little bit of that strength away. It makes it seem like somewhere, there is this group of adults–from the writer to the agent to the publisher and everywhere in between–that is telling us that these kind of relationships are okay and even normal when they REALLY ARE NOT. I’m picking on Shattered Souls right now because it was the book I was just reading, but it’s hardly the only book like it. I’m sure you guys can give me at least one example of the book you’ve read that made it seem like some kind of teen behavior–whether it be related to relationships or not–was treated without the care and respect that it deserves, and made out to be okay when it wasn’t. Dear Writers, Agents and Publishers of Teen Literature:

THIS IS NOT OKAY.

Believe it or not, this post is a lot calmer than I originally planned it to be. Shattered Souls made–and still makes–me legitimately angry. Let me just say, one more time, a few words for the teens reading these types of books:

Abusive boys are NOT OKAY.

Sadistic boys are NOT OKAY.

Drunk boys are NOT OKAY.

Stalker boys are NOT OKAY.

Sociopathic boys are NOT OKAY.

And you know what?

NO GIRL is dependent on a guy.

NO GIRL needs to have her self-worth determined by a guy.

NO GIRL is weak.

We are all talented, beautiful, smart and strong. Just like you don’t listen to any haters, don’t listen to these books. Make your own choices. Let’s all show these writers, agents and publishers that these kinds of messages in writing are NOT OKAY.

(If you were interested in reading more about the horribleness of Shattered Thoughts, check out blogger Lea’s review over on Goodreads here. Her rant is even more impressive than mine.)

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29 thoughts on “On YA books that make abusive, stalkerish, horrible relationships seem like they’re okay–HERE ME ROAR

    • You’re welcome! I live for the day where I don’t have to be thanked for this, because I shouldn’t need to be. This should be common sense, and it makes me angry that it isn’t. …clearly. *eyes rant* >.>

  1. Gretchen I am really impressed by how well you stated your thoughts here on a very serious issue in YA literature– I am so glad that I’m not the only one out there who saw this in the book and said something about it!

    And I really was shocked that no one else seemed to mention it on GR– even reviewers who are usually all over books with bad messages! It absolutely sickened me how Zak was romanticized and even made to seem like a martyr or something by the end of the book. I absolutely HAD to say something about it.

    Awesome post!! 😀

    Lea @ LC’s Adventures in Libraryland

    • Thank you! I still can’t believe that this is holding down a 4 star rating over at Goodreads. Your review was also so amazingly done–every word was so true. More people need to recognize these issues and SAY SOMETHING ABOUT IT. This stuff should be axed out of YA lit by sheer refusal to buy and read them.

  2. Em says:

    UGH. Okay, I’m not gonna lie– this post made me go from “wanting to read this book reallyreallyreally bad” to “shunning this book forever and ever”.

    That excerpt almost made me physically sick. 😛 Was she trying for something similar to the Jem/Tessa/Will triangle? Because, you know, the key to the success of that one is that the guys AREN’T JERKS (well, I guess Will kind of is, but he gets over it) and they both truly love Tessa.

    Great post, and kudos to you for addressing this issue. It really makes me incoherently angry when authors of YA novels treat their leading ladies in this way 😛

    • Thank you! I wouldn’t even put this in the same sentence with Will/Jem/Tessa. Will ACTS like a jerk, but by Clockwork Prince at the very least–and before then if you’re watching–you know he’s all heart underneath. These guys were ALL jerk and NOT apologetic about it.

  3. Oh no, there’s another one? I shall prove how much better I am. My plan involves a dead bunny sacrifice, sparkling, proving that I have the bigger one, sparkling, being possessive and semi-abusive (Don’t use Twitter anymore! It’s not that I don’t want you to interact with other people, I just think that social networking is bad for people! Oh and your friends? They don’t really know and appreciate you. Not like I do, that is.), and proving my eternal and unconditional love! (Who cares that unconditional and loving someone for who they are sort of contradict eachother! I sparkle!)

    *cough*

  4. Alyssa Susanna says:

    OMG! I totally agree with you on this one! I read this book and was like WHAT?!?! WHAT IS THIS?!?! I hated this book with a fiery passion – and that is definitely saying something, because I rarely “hate” books. I don’t enjoy some, but hate is a strong word. This book deserved ZERO stars in my opinion, or maybe 0.5 stars, since it somehow became a book. I’m so sorry that you bought it (I’m glad I didn’t!).
    Thanks for the review!!!!

  5. Jess says:

    Would you happen to know any other young adult novels with abusive relationship themes in them ? im working on a project for my university. please and thank you.

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