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