Unhealthy YA Relationships | The Romanticization of Emotionally Abusive Relationships |

Unhealthy YA Relationships.png

Let me just say this first; not meaning to offend anyone, all opinions are my own, you can either agree or disagree, just please agree or disagree politely. This is a discussion post, not let’s all yell at each other post.

Okay? Great.

I recently read a book with a very clearly abusive relationship in it. Disgusted, I turned to Goodreads, only to find that the book had an average rating of four stars. Four. stars. The abusive love interest of this book is called an asshole in the reviews, but that’s used right along with the words “sexy” and “swoon worthy”, which is a problem within itself.

Before I go into the problems within the book, I’m going to say something that should be totally clear: someone does not have to hit you for it to be an abusive relationship. An abuser is focused on breaking you down, making you feel small. And they can do that in different ways; with fists, or with words.

Most of the physically abusive relationships in YA I have seen being called out as such, because it’s obvious. It’s easy to have a love interest punch someone and call it an abusive relationship.

But we also need to call out the emotionally abusive relationships in YA. We need to say that these relationships are not okay, also.

Which brings me back to the original book. It’s called Paper Princess.

In the book, the main character, Ella, goes to live with a family of…well…rich assholes. And one of those assholes takes an interest in her. And Ella finds herself falling in love. Or is she really?

She’s not. She’s dependent on this boy. She doesn’t want to leave this boy because she knows he would be broken hearted. She doesn’t know if she could live without this boy. She’s showing classic signs of being in an abusive relationship, and yet the book has an average of four stars.

Reed orders Ella around, he walks into her room without knocking, he tells her he will rape her so she won’t ruin his family. And this book has a four. star. average. rating.

Which brings me to Hush, Hush. Another book with a four star rating. Another book with an abusive relationship.

In it, the MC, Nora, spends most of it hating Patch. She spends most of it scared of him. In one scene, he corners her in an alley and she wonders if he’s going to rape her. He doesn’t, but she is so scared of him that she thinks she’s going to assault her.

And yet, he’s her “true love”, and you know they’re going to get together. And people ignore that it’s an abusive relationship. They ignore that when Nora says “no”, Patch takes it as “yes.” He may not rape her, but he does not get consent for the simplest things. Do you really think he’ll care if she yells “no!” when they go to have sex?

In the novel Evernight, the love interest, Lucas, demands that the MC, Bianca, spends less time with her family, her friends. And when some people, recognizing that this is a clear sign of an abusive relationship, and ask if Bianca needs help, Bianca lashes out in anger. Again, because Lucas is Bianca’s “true love”, it’s okay for him to treat her like this.

Which brings me to Twilight. Oh, Twilight. Loved and hated in equal measure. And hosts probably the most famous abusive relationship in all of YA.

Edward stalks Bella. Bella becomes so dependent on Edward, when he leaves her she attempts to commit suicide. He orders her around, shows up in her room while she’s sleeping, and this is all shown as romantic.

This books all romanticize abusive relationships, and yet people ignore them, even glorify them, saying that they’re romantic and sexy. This is why there are so many men and woman who are stuck in abusive relationships because people don’t believe them. Because books like these, because TV, the movies, our society takes relationships like these and calls them romantic.

They are not romantic. They are healthy relationships. They’re abusive. A hand does not need to be laid on you for a relationship to be abusive.

Happy Monday,


If you think you’re in an abusive relationship, go the website of the National Domestic Abuse Hotline. They can and will help.

16 thoughts on “Unhealthy YA Relationships | The Romanticization of Emotionally Abusive Relationships |

  1. Omg, I thought I was the only one who felt that way about Paper Princess. Reed was clearly a dick, but everyone seem to ignore that because of his hotness. Great post.


  2. One of the reasons I often skip out on YA romances with the phrasing ‘bad boy’….because chances are, he’s just an abusive asshole. It scares me to think back to the days when 10 year olds were reading Twilight and believing that that was love, and a healthy relationship…like no…why did we ever let that happen??
    Also the Twilight fanfiction turned massive movie franchise that’s happening at the moment is really damaging too.
    Great post!


    1. Yes. There are a few YA bad boys who aren’t like that, but most of them walk the line. And the Twilight relationships…neither Bella and Jacob or Bella and Edward were healthy.

      I’ve heard that the movies are trying to turn it around, though; make it healthier and consensual. But that’s only what I’ve heard; I have no desire to read or watch the series.


  3. Was the author trying to portray him as the perfect love interest? I haven’t seen many books where the relationship is abusive, but most people don’t read it as such/the author didn’t ‘intend’ for it to be that way, so I’d be more interested in more books where the MC recognizes how horrible the relationship is and it’s condemned in the book! I also think it’s interesting how I read now vs. the kind of love stories I liked around 8th grade–I think I’m much better at recognizing those problems now, but it shouldn’t be taught to young YA readers that this kind of thing is okay!


    1. I honestly don’t know. Because the guy was not nice (I mean, clearly). But it was never actually said it was an abusive relationship. Maybe in later books (which I will not be reading)? But I have the feeling that it’s treated as “true love” sort of relationship.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I AGREE! If it is portrayed as abusive, Why does it have 4 stars? A book like that shouldn’t even deserve to be published! I for one haven’t read anything like what you are talking about, but now I know that I need to skip this one! Thanks for everything! Have an AMAZING DAY!


  5. Geez louise, I’ve never read any of these books (except for Twilight, god help my soul), and I’m certainly glad I haven’t. One of the main reasons I don’t love reading romance is because of lines that get crossed, especially in YA. People – kids, especially – deserve to read books that model respectful romantic behavior… I hate the idea of my teen sister reading that kind of material, and then thinking that that’s what adult relationships look like.


    1. YES. Like, I can think of maybe a dozen YA books with actual healthy, communicating relationships on one hand, and that’s bad. That’s really, really bad.


  6. Thank you for this. I am so deeply shocked at some of the relationships that are being portrayed as romantic and healthy in books. And we’re not talking about one or two, we’re talking about seeing this kind of insidious, emotional abuse again and again and again, and not once is it highlighted as a problem. All the people involved in bringing a book to life – the author, the agent, the editor, the entire publishing team, the ARC readers etc – and none of them seem to see how dangerous this is.

    The message that is being sent to thousands and thousands of female readers is that if your boyfriend is manipulative or controlling, if he dictates what you do, what you wear, where you go, and who you see, if he is violent or aggressive, if he invades your personal space, ignores your wishes, then it’s okay, because really he’s just showing how much he loves you.

    It takes the horrible relationships that so many people are trapped in and glorifies them. It will potentially lead more girls and women into abusive relationships because they may not actually realise they’re being abused. They’ve been fed a diet of romanticised abuse, they’ve been led to believe a relationship isn’t abusive if no actual physical violence is involved, and as a result they may end up stuck in exactly this kind of relationship. Except they won’t get the happy ending that people in book relationships do.

    I am so exhausted with seeing abuse and misogyny being dressed up as romance, especially when it’s peddled to a YA crowd, and I am exhausted with seeing vile, dangerous male characters being presented as heroes, as the kind of man that women should aspire to be with.


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