why ya romance needs to change

Well, it's about time. I've had the idea for this post for a while now, but never felt the time was right to actually--write it.

But finally I've had enough. If I read another YA book with a twisted relationship dynamic, I may well scream a bit, tear out my hair, and then invite everyone to a book burning. And that statement is a testament to how frustrated, annoyed, and exasperated I am by 80% of the romance I encounter in YA today.

Let's face it: YA isn't YA without romance. It's really, really hard for me to think of a single YA book that doesn't deal with romance. Which is okay, I guess, since teenagers are all hyped up on hormones or whatever. FYI: there are some teenagers who don't date or have crazy all-consuming crushes. I guess it's a minority though, and really, I have nothing against romance if it's done well. The problem is, most romance in YA is so botched and distorted it's not even recognizable as romance any more. It's very thin, it's very flimsy, and in case anyone doesn't know yet: LUST DOES NOT EQUAL LOVE.

Just thought I'd get that down.

So where'd this all start?

I really have no idea. I don't know if lust=love is a fallacy that's been perpetuated throughout the whole history (which is admittedly pretty short) of YA literature. But let's just start with Twilight. It's as good a starting point as ever because it facilitated the boom in YA we're experiencing right now, and everybody's heard about the basic gist of the story: passive female main character lets a domineering male character stalk her in the name of true love.

I really don't get to rant about Twilight enough, so excuse me while I do for a bit:

Not only is Edward abusive, the basis of their love is that Bella thinks he’s the most attractive marble pedophile on earth and he wants to eat her like a chocolate chip cookie. I really do think the appeal of Twilight is that millions of girls worldwide can buy into this situation, insert themselves into Bella’s story so they can imagine a "perfect" love interest that lusts after them and fulfills all their fantasies.

Huh, what?

There's a reason why Edward is the most popular character, the source of much shrill squealing and fangirling. Because when you read Twilight, Edward is your boyfriend, he's stalking you, and he's sparkling right at YOU, not Mary-sue Bella.

Which is disturbing, I'd say. Does this mean that girls find stalkerish, disgusting men (under the mask of good looks) attractive?

Here would be the best time to check out the article I linked to in my previous post: Bad Romance (or, YA & Rape Culture) which really is a powerful essay that will make you think. I can't applaud the author enough--she basically laid out the chief points why some YA romance in it's current form is despicable. To quote "The complication is that so often, in Twilight, Swoon, Hush, Hush, Vampire Academy, and countless romances dating back to Pride & Prejuidice and Pamela, we're asked to accept that the outward facade of "I dislike you immensely" masks a subtle underlying attraction."

The author points out that we live in a society that grooms rape culture.

And YA, quite arguably, is at the forefront of this grooming. Do you not see all the girls walking around with Twilight clutched to their bosoms?

But it's not just the rape culture. It's the message in a lot of YA books (demonstrated through relationships) that's so, so wrong.

Usually, I hate to single out books and authors, but I think it has to be done. So here it goes; I'll boil down the basic message of a few YA books that are popular.

  • Willow by Julie Hoban: When everything in your life sucks, find a guy you can cling to and then sleep with him. Then everything will be ALL better.
  • Evermore by Alyson Noel: If a guy is horrible to you, fall in love with him. If your relationship is going badly, go become an alcoholic and get suspended from school.
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer: Let a guy push you around all the time, watch you when you sleep, and stalk you. It's all good romance. Also, fall into depression and then jump off a cliff if he breaks up with you.
  • Fallen by Lauren Kate: So what if a guy is a complete, utter jerk that treats you like dirt? If he's hot, he's your true love.
  • Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick: Sexual harassment is love. Also, the guy who's trying his very hardest to kill you? SOUL MATE!
Get this: all those books are selling incredibly well. I remember there was one week on the NYT bestselling list for YA that had Twilight, Fallen, Beautiful Creatures, and Hush Hush in the top ten at the same time.

Paranormal romance is taking over the world. And I may be offending some of you PR readers/writers but I can't think of a single--not a single-- paranormal romance I've read in the last year or so that doesn't exemplify bad romance. I can't think of one that was actually--good.

I'm done with PR now. Really. This may be a generalization, but from what I observe, authors are really just churning out one book after the other that follows the plotline of: ordinary- (possibly Mary-Sue)-girl-falls-in-love-with-[insert paranormal creature] boy-who-is -smoking-hot-and-their-love-has-no-basis *CUE CREEPY BEHAVIOR*

Um, who decided this was okay?

We did.

This is turning into a never-ending cycle, in which authors write books with twisted relationship dynamics---> the novel rockets to the bestseller list as readers go crazy over it ---> publishers are open to even more books with similar plotlines ---> authors hence write more of these books ---> readers buy MORE of these books.

Oh dear. And it does look like there's more and more books like this every year.

Because I'm just NOW noticing--within the last year or so--that love, as a whole, in young adult literature is based off of the looks of the love interest: teen girls are buying books in volume where the most noticeable characteristics of the love interest is their shocking good looks, smoldering eyes, and tendency to chase after girls either in a manner reminiscent of a psychopathic serial killer or a hopeless puppy, depending.

In Paranormal Romance there's a lot of stalkerish bad boys. In contemporary, as my friend Emilia pointed out to me once, there's the whole "Sarah Dessen syndrome" in which a girl has problems and the only one who can help her is a boy, who is ALWAYS right--about everything.

And from all the books I'm reading, I'm getting this from YA romance:
1) Girls should judge guys off of their looks
2) Lust equals love
3) It doesn't matter if a guy is rude to you, it just means he likes you
4) At the tender age of 16, 17, 18, your boyfriend is your undying, forever, and ever SOUL MATE.
6) If you're a girl with problems, make sure to find a guy who will solve them for you
7) Guys in a relationship should push you around
8)etc. etc. [insert bad messages about relationships here, I'm sure some book in YA will glorify them at some point]

We all know that young adult finds it’s main demographic with girls, and as I believe strongly in the power of books influencing the reader, I have to wonder what girls are getting out of these books. Nothing good, it looks like.

And you have to remember, preteens, young kids are reading these books.

But wait, you say! It's just a book! It's just fiction!

So it is. But I swear that every single book I've read has affected me in some way. And why, oh why, must the message in YA books be so disgraceful when it doesn't have to be? Who in the world thinks bad romance is a good thing? I really don't see the reasoning behind saying that these books are "just for fun" or "guilty pleasures." There's absolutely no excuse to be reading these sorts of books, to be buying them, to be praising them. There's absolutely no reason why we should have a whole freaking genre of fiction (YA) dedicated to romanticizing weak female heroines, stalkerish love interests, and sick relationships.

When I was growing up, I remember I was watching kick-butt shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena. I remember reading books like Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce and Sabriel by Garth Nix. These mediums all had strong female characters that I could look up to, that I could learn from.

What are kids a few years younger than me being exposed to? Twilight & co of crappy romances.

Sure, there's books like The Hunger Games, ( as Tere pointed out in comments) where the main character Katniss is kicking butt and her relationship with her love interest(s) is a healthy one. Of course there's a lot of YA books that are doing romance right. That are empowering strong female characters.

But right now, the overbearing trend throughout YA romance is a disturbing one. And it's not one I can support, either. I'm not standing for it, which is why-- if I come across bad romance in any of the books I pick up from now on--I'm going to make sure to dedicate a large part of my review to it. I won't ever be going: "I found the love interest to be stalkerish/I found the relationship between the two to be disturbing/etc." and still recommend a book ("But overall it was a good book"). Nope. None of that.

I don't care how hot the love interest is, how much tension there is between the main character and the love interest, how gripping a read it is. I'm putting my foot down: if there's even a whiff of bad romance in a book, I will make sure to tear it apart. And I'm urging everyone one of you book reviewers and readers to do the same.

But discussion time: What do you think about YA romance?

Edited to add:
1)You should definitely check out lovely Para's post: hush, hush, the designated love interest and gender relations in YA
2) Emilia adds that the original "Sarah Dessen Syndrome" terming can be found here: Clowns are never wrong, or Time to Let Go


Adriana said...

I agree with you. Especially with Fallen, Hush Hush, and Twilight.
Fallen the first thing he does is flip her off and she's all over him like "Ooh... he's gorgeous and mysterious." I hated everything about that book. Hush, Hush he wants to kill her, but he's hot so of course it's okay to be murdered by an attractive man.
Romance in books tend to annoy me most of the time especially when the girls get completely obsessed over some guy. I'd rather read books with kick-ass females who fight for themselves and don't have to rely on anyone else.
Thanks for this post, I agree with everything you wrote.

The Book Owl said...

I agree with a lot of your points. I have a bit of a different view on some thnigs, however. See, in real life, I'm a girl who absolutely does not put up with any crap a guy gives me. And the guys in my class respect me for that. They all know that I'll call them out, and that fact has stopped a lot of not okay behavior towards myself.

Because of this, I can go into a YA read about an unhealthy relationship (Twilight, Hush, Hush, etc.) and know that what is going on is not okay but still enjoy the general plot. Because I have boundaries in real life, I'm not affected by YA romance and the images they present teen girls. I think that, because I have morals and limits, I can read a bad romance and come out okay. I realize that what is going on isn't okay, but I don't feel offended, if you will. It may seem degrading to women that we're presented in such helpless terms, but because I avoid that, it doesn't upset me. Does that make any sense? Because of all this, I can still enjoy the plot and general going ons of a book.

Thanks for providing a place to ramble. ;] I hope some of it makes sense.

Kirthi said...

Wow, I totally agree with you on all this! You pretty much put all of what I was thinking into words.
I do sort of feel like I'm a minority when it comes to YA romance, I like adventure and danger, and a little bit of romance, you know?
I agree with Adriana (annoy me when girls get completly obsessed over some guy) and the kick-ass females who fight for themselves. I constantly complain that there aren't awesome heroines out there anymore nowadays!

I totally agree with this post, and authors and publishers have to take a look at this!

"Lust is not love" Way to put it! I rate this a 5 star essay/rant :D thanks for posting!

RaĆ­la said...

Although I agree with you, I must admit I like some of those books - like Hush, Hush. I got crazy for Fallen when I finished, but I also agree that strange couple's relationship. I don't know... It's pretty weird, but addictive. I mean, most of the times, I'm reading this kind of books.

Allie said...

What an eloquent post! I went and read the earlier entry you cited in your last post and agree wholeheartedly with what both of you have to say.

When I was reading more YA, I always, ALWAYS stayed away from the more "girl-oriented" books on the shelves. Why? Because they made me so angry. Fortunately at the time YA really hit it big, I was already past the age where I would believe in the relationships in those novels. it was only after my sister begged me that I read Twilight.

As an educator, I don't particularly like seeing my students walking around with a book that depicts a horrid relationship, or bad scenarios. It makes me cringe and I worry that these girls have false expectations and that no one at home is telling them, "If a boy does that to you, it is STALKING. It is UNHEALTHY and NOT NORMAL BEHAVIOR."

I really hope that YA authors make a turnaround and start writing books that showcase TRUE YA relationships. You're right in that not every boyfriend you have in middle school/high school ends up being your soul mate. That is pretty rare (from someone who did marry their high school sweetheart).

Anyway, wonderful post and I hope people take notice!

baileythebookworm said...

I'm so glad to hear someone say this in such a clear and straightforward manner. YA romance has become a breeding ground for rape culture, abusive relationships and girls setting the bars way too low for themselves -and the fact that adult women are reading these books and setting up the relationships as something positive only compounds the problem. It's nice to see someone speaking up about it.

Tori [Book Faery] said...

Excellent post!

You pretty much just summed up my feelings about Twilight. I haven't read the other books you mentioned (just because I don't have money to buy them and I have plenty of other books I'm interested in reading first).

It definitely is a problem... encouraging stalker-ish and possessive boyfriends in YA lit. And I'm surprised that mothers are actually a fan of the series. The writing is ... horrendous.

It's one thing if you're reading a paranormal romance and there's an alpha male--I think. I love reading books like that, but then again, the heroines have a backbone and will rip the guy a new one if he steps out of line. THOSE kinds of relationships are ones I enjoy, because you don't have a sniveling little 2D brat like Bella, letting some creepy "shimmering, glimmering, sparkly" Edward stare at her and tell her who to associate with and who to avoid.

I think that if you're going to mention the horrible relationship, you do it eloquently so that people don't flame you. But also mention what you enjoyed too. Regardless of whether or not a book has a healthy relationship, people will still read it if it's addictive.

Mrs. DeRaps said...

I love your candid writing in this post. It seems like girls are the major consumers of romantic YA lit, so why are harmful stereotypes so abundant? Let's work to empower girls to make better relationship choices and show them how powerful they can be even without the help of a boy!

I am going to show this post to an all-girl book group I belong to and encourage them to respond to your post. Thanks again!

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

Fantastic post!!! Very well said!

Liz Czukas said...

Thank you so much for saying this stuff. I got on the Twilight bandwagon late, and all I could think through the whole series was "I hate Bella! She's whiny, spineless and can't live without a guy she just EFFING MET!" She drove me nuts. I think it's part of what turns me off to the whole Paranormal Romance phenomenon that's happening right now. I don't like alpha males and I definitely don't like doormat women.

As a YA writer, I'm really hoping to be a force for good in the world of romance. Normal people who don't have perfect relationships. I suppose it goes without saying that I'm having trouble getting published. Think this is related? Hmm...

Thank you so much for this post. I'm going to link to it from my blog because there's no way I could say it better.

- Liz

LilyMeade said...

I LOVED this post, especially the bit about "Sarah Dessen syndrome". I can't stand her works, and no one understands why. Everyone I know is obsessed with them.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Wow. *imagine me giving you a standing ovation, cheering loudly, and clapping like a maniac*

Well said! :-)

Sam said...

I definitely see the "Sarah Dessen syndrome" happening a lot and I love that you pointed out the whole 'bad romance' thing, but I don't know. I think it's just that there's something very alluring about passion being passion, whether its coupled with hate or love. I liked these kinds of books when I was thirteen and impressionable, but now I see that they're kind of eh. I don't know if I'm getting my point across.

I like the whole 'bad boy' thing because I'm sucker for it, but I think that when 'bad' turns into something that would be more like criminal, then it's time to shut the book.

Emilia Plater said...

Sing it sing it SING IT. I actually got the SDS phrase from this blog post - totally a worthy read! http://yalitanddeath.blogspot.com/2008/02/clowns-are-never-wrong-or-time-to-let.html

You really hit the nail on the head. Just speaking personally, I could never find a guy like that attractive. lmao. At least, I hope to God my hormones will never let me be...

Giu Fernandes said...

Hi, I'm from Brazil, and I just wanted to say that what you wrote in this text was awesome! You know, until I read it, I hadn't noticied this patterns in this kind of YA books, which is kind of disturbing, since I read Twilight.. I haven't read the others books you mentioned (except Vampire Academy, but can I give my opinion? Well, in VA series there is a strong female character and the relationship between the two main character isn't a sick one - and since I read VA books, I realized how weak Bella can be..)
Anyway, I loved every single word you had written! Congratulations, you said nothing but the truth! :)

Nicole said...

I have to say that while I can understand where you are coming from, it must be remembered that while people may read the same book, they never read the same story. People have varied perceptions of a book and it impacts people in different ways so some messages you perceive may not be perceived by others. There are certain topics I don't read about because I can't stand them but I realize others may respond to these books differently. I'm a lover of books and their stories and I always believe there can be something learned from one, whether it's a bad lesson or a good one, well that is left up to the reader and I wouldn't want to generalize my feelings on to them. I hope you read a YA romance you love soon.

Milli said...

Wow. Fifteen comments! ...
I couldn't agree more. Twilight is about a 100 something old man marrying a 17-18 year old girl. Is it just me, or is that sick? What happened to the healthy, sweet, romances out there?

Sandy Shin said...

Brilliant post! I'd read Aja's (bookshop) post a while ago, and in conjunction with yours, I have to say that I could not have agreed more!

The abusive/stalkerish relationship is the main reason I did not read TWILIGHT, and is one of the major factors that marred my enjoyment of HUSH, HUSH (though I did enjoy the plot and prose). I realized I was supposed to like Patch, but all I did was find him a creepy and rather annoying stalker. And their relationship seems to be founded on lust, not love.

I really do wish to read more "normal" relationships wherein the "good guy" wins, rather than the bad boys.

Kirsten said...

Choco, this is a great post. It's definitely time to change the mainstream values of "love is lust" in paranormal YA. It's hard, though, to resist those kinds of books -- I haven't read Hush, Hush or Fallen, but Twilight was so addicting despite its bad romance. What writers and teens are forgetting is that cute romance can be just as/even more addicting. And realistic. Thank you for calling for a new generation of good romance! I hope to be part of it.

Euphoria13 said...

I agree with you! 100% Especially about Twilight! I can not stand it! I really hate that is all mainstream! Bella is a stupid slut and a disgrace to all girls! She is horrible! Weak! Pathetic! And freaking SICK! I hate how so many girls are obsessed about this story and how they want to find their own Edward! Its sickening! As a YA writer, i want to make a difference with my work, i want to show girls that they need to be strong! Yes its nice to fall in love but you can't make the guy your world and main priority! Plus another thing i want to point out about PR Romances are Vampires. Thanks to Twilight PR about Vampires are a trend and majority of books i find being feature in stores are ones about Vampires! Their over rated! I'm tired of it! There are many many stories out there that deserve to be featured and recognized!

Lexie said...

Its a noticeable trend I've seen as well. Like you I grew up on Tamora Pierce, Buffy and Xena--so I'm more used to the female kicking the male's butt for getting out of line then simply allowing it to happen. How many times did Buffy call out Angel because he was doing creepy stalker type stuff and he should cut it out? Or Alanna recognizing that sometimes love doesn't have to mean together forever.

I agree with all your points, though I've only read half the books you mention. I tend to like the PR (ya at least) where the romance is incidental to the plot nowadays. Lisa McMann's Wake trilogy, Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers trilogy or Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampire books. I'd rec all 3 of those if you want to see YA PR with romance that isn't just based around looks. I'd toss in Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle Trilogy, though there's an equal amount of stalking on both sides quite frankly.

I'll be linking to this on my personal journal over LJ :D

Liam said...

Great post, although no all I can think about is Shiver, which has the paintings "Love" and "Lust" in it...:)

Bookalicious Ramblings said...

Wow, what a fantastic and well written post! Thanks for bringing this issue up, I really believe it needs to be discussed! Sadly, I haven't read any of the books you've mentioned (apart from a couple by Sarah Dessen, which I generally enjoyed, but moreso her writing than the actual story). Anyway, those books do not appeal to me at all, probably because they're paranormal stuff (which I don't read), but now that people have also mentioned that the romance part in these books is terribly disturbing, there's no chance I'm ever giving these crazy books a chance (apart from Willow, which I'm planning on reading).
As I said, I haven't read Twilight, Hush Hush, Falled, Evermore etc., but your examples were illustrative enough so now I get the picture, but I still fail to understand why girls/women fall for this crap? I know many, many, many women who think Edward is the perfect guy and they'd pretty much do anything for him, it's all in the name of true love. Lol, what?!
I honestly don't know what on Earth is going on with the world and why these abusive relationships and passive female protagonists are so popular at the moment, but I agree that this needs to change. The books do indeed influence readers and these books are not the kind of influence I'd encourage, hell no.
So yeah, this is a fantastic post and I'm glad that you won't be putting up with this in the future either! Finally someone with some sense! ;)

Christina T said...

Very insightful post. I agree with you about the Twilight phenomenon and the danger of confusing lust for love. I hope we see an end to the Edward/Bella type of relationship in YA fiction soon. While paranormal romance is the worst offender of bad romance I still plan to read YA paranormal romance-selectively. I don't like passive female characters like Bella but not all YA paranormal books are the same. I recently read The Mark by Jen Nadol and I really liked it. I found it to be different from the typical YA paranormal book.

While it would be fantastic to see more healthy relationships portrayed in YA romance I don't see it happening on a large scale any time soon. Attraction is what sells in these books. The idea of the perfect soulmate, the Adonis, knight on a white horse, etc. Not the reality of the nonsparkly guy who doesn't return your calls/texts or put the toilet seat down or remember your anniversary.

While I agree with you that books like Twilight and Hush, Hush, etc. with the abusive unhealthy relationships need to discontinue I do think that it is important when looking at romance to remember that it is fiction. It is meant to be unrealistic in its portrayal of love-not unhealthy like Edward/Bella, but based on women's fantasy of true love. From Eleanor of Aquitaine to Jane Austen and Nora Roberts, romance is based on what women wish for, not what is reality in relationships. The sooner teen girls learn that message, the better.

P.S.-I like Sarah Dessen's books. For me the main point of the story isn't the romance but the growth of the character and family relationships.

Adam Selzer said...

Thanks for this post! Believe me, whenever authors get together these days, half of what we talk about is how so many books confuse stalking with true love, and how much it bug us that THAT'S what's selling these days. There are books out there that avoid this stuff, but it's awfully hard to get the market excited about them.

Kristin Rae said...

This is certainly a well thought out post, and you make valid points, but do you really think the girls reading these books are internalizing the morals/lack of, and acting on them in their real lives? Are they looking for stalkers? Dating guys that are trying to kill them??

I enjoyed most of the books you mentioned, for the story. It's a HEIGHTENED reality... not reality. We that read books aren't looking for reality... we that write books (especially paranormals) are taking a break from reality, and offering up something different... something more exciting than reality (because there are no such thing as Vampires).

Girls clutch the Twilight books to their chests because they think Rob Pattinson is hot. He's a movie star that bats his eyelashes and puckers his cherry lips... I've certainly had a teen hearthrob's poster on my wall and imagined he was MY boyfriend. Who hasn't?

I think parents should read what their kids are reading. If they have concerns about their daughter's vision of how a relationship should work or it's somehow ACTUALLY being influenced by these books, then we should be worried.

I'm certainly not trying to argue, just participating in the forum. I do appreciate what you've pointed out, and as a writer, I will take it into consideration for future projects.

Donna said...

Great post! I actually just commented on another blog that argued for not changing YA romance because it's fantasy and what's wrong with that? I pointed out that the younger the reader, the less likely they are to see the fantasy. Let writers write whatever the hell they want. If they want to write bad romances, let them write bad romances. But keep it to a genre where the majority of the readership isn't going through puberty and can't tell their ass from their elbow in terms of relationship. I don't get the flimsy relationships either.

And I'm going to promote this book until my eyeballs bleed - read Albatross by Josie Bloss. She wrote it as a direct rebuttal to Twilight and the relationship in there is made to mirror that of Edward and Bella's relationship, except from a much more realistic perspective. I have a review of it on my blog if you want to check it out. Josie is also writing up a guest post on the very topic which should be up on my blog soon.

maenadwrites said...

Major YESing to every point you made, especially the "OMG he acts like he hates you, it means he luuurves you!" thing. Way back in 7th grade, there was a boy in my class who just randomly started hitting me one day. Eventually I stood up for myself and hit him back. The reaction? "Aw, they're beating each other up! They must be in love!!" *infinite head/desking*

Who decided abusive relationships were anything but horrible, I don't know, but when I find out I shall spare no mercy. (Me? Violent? No...) But, *resolves to eventually write a paranormal, healthy, romance*

Katie said...

I very much agree with you, on all counts. The trend of"passive girl loves abusing guy" is horrifying, especially to those of us who watched Buffy, Xena, and read novels that empowered us to be strong, independent, and unwilling to put up with abusive guys.

Unfortunately I see my high school girls fawning over Edward, and it makes me want to throw their novels in a bin and burn them all. When I ask them, "Why do you like Edward?", the answer is always the same: "He's so hot!"

Tragic, that we as a culture seem to have regressed.

Faye said...

yes! ditto! i totally agree.love this post. i did a post kind of on YA relationships featuring the love triangles. I just don't get it..

Adam Selzer said...

Well, I get the appeal of Edward, psychologically. He's a Bad Guy Who Will Be Good For Her. He's strong, but not strong enough to stay away from her. He's a monster, but she (and only she) understands him. Plus, he sparkles. It's kind of a textbook way to manipulate teenage girls. If I felt like being nicer or more inclusive or whatever, I'd go with "appeal to," but "manipulate" is probably a better term. The problem is - as with most advertising, teenage girls tend to REALIZE they're being manipulated - many just don't seem to MIND.

Probably bad manners to plug my own attempt to satirize the whole thing here - suffice it to say that a surprising number of girls aren't picking up on the satire in a book in which every girl in a high school swoons over douchebag emo vampire students.


Wow, what a long post, it must of took you forever to write it. I for one, disagree with everything you said. Different strokes for different folks. I LOVE anything YA. Especially supernatural and urban fantasy. I enjoy the lusty relationships between characters. In my opinion, it creates excitement and suspense. However, there is a bunch of dysfunctional relationships, such as the books you've named. But, lets not forget, they call it fiction for a reason, there are no limits to a story. It's all creative and unique in it's own way. For example, Twilight will always be one of my favorite series. The only reason people are slowly hating it is because it blew up. But, if it's so bad, why did it get so popular?

I have no problem with abusive relationships and any other serious issue in books. It's reality. We can't always write about unicorns and rainbows. It's raw. So many girls deal with a lot of situations so why not bring that to light with YA? It can easily influence a reader in a good way. I doubt it'll effect them in a negative way. If they have any sense of a brain, they'll be fine, it's just fiction.

How about movies? They convey the same message some YA books do but with actual people. I feel those movies will influence people faster than a book would. Eh I love YA and what it stands for. I'm going to be 25 years old and will clearly love YA books for a while. I have no shame in that. Lusty relationships bring them on!

I appreciate your post and opinions :)


Cara said...


Although I did enjoy Hush, Hush, I do see where you're coming from. I've also noticed this trend of weak female character chases hot vamp/wolf/bat/ghost/whatever until they ultimately fall in "love." I agree with most of what you said, but not all. I do dislike this trend of practically psychotic girls, but I disagree that this is becoming the majority of YA fiction. I know tons of books that have not been sucked into the stalker-sphere and have thriving fan bases. So, I guess what I'm saying is that I believe this trend pales in comparison to all of the other truly great stories out there.

P.S.- I really appreciate you bringing up this topic, it's very interesting to discuss! Also, I completely agree with your thoughts on "Sarah Dessen syndrome."


Kelly said...

This is an interesting post. While I agree with some things, others I do not. I think that the whole unhealthy relationships thing in paranormal YA is because without that quality there would be no story and it almost seems like paranormal YA is the exception to the rule. It's like Me + Paranormal Entity = Weirdness, aka This relationship is different than any other one I have ever experiences. If Bella would have said, "Ew, Edward watches me while I sleep. Gross" end of book. I don't know. It's hard to explain. I guess we have to hope that our teens can tell the difference between fiction and reality.

Stephanie said...

AMEN. Thank you!

Jen said...

Very well said!! I have to say that I love Romance and I love YA but I don't always need them to go hand in hand. I am currently working on my current WIP and though there will be romance it isn't the main focus, in fact it's a very very small part!

Justine said...

I clicked this post to see if I would be interested in it (because I've been thinking about the whole genre as well) and expected to read a couple of paragraphs and move on...but once I started reading, I just had to finish it. Way to engage me. Haha.

Anyway, when I think back to the end of my 2009 year (which is when I read Hush, Hush), I feel shameful! Because the reason I liked those kinds of books was because I felt really tense and thought that the relationship between the main couple was fiery, passionate (though the proper word would be obsessive). After reading a bunch of other posts about bad romance and the YA genre, I realized the wrongs. Twilight--It's sort of shameful to admit that I was obsessed with it. To be honest, I was one of those girls who would dream of "the perfect guy who loves loves loves you". There was a post I read a long time ago on fictionpress about what is wrong with Twilight, and ever since, I've never forgotten it (well, I don't remember the exact things, however). I could apply those things to other books such as Hush, Hush and Fallen (that one especially) and it would make sense. The main relationships in those books are really similar.

Oh and I have a question. How about Shiver? I'm currently reading it and am squealing about it because Sam is an amazing guy. The relationship is sort of, but not really the same as the other books (like Twilight & Hush, Hush). Ah, well. I like it. It explores the male side of the relationship, which is just helpful and clever. But anyway. What I wanted to say after all this was: AMAZING POST!!!

Steph Su said...

Well, I've been looking forward to this post ever since you mentioned earlier (last week or so?) that you were writing it. And while my stance on bad YA romance is not nearly as strong as yours, I do see where you're coming from. I believe I'm coming from less of a feminist stance than you and the author of the Bad Romance/YA Rape Culture post (very insightful, btw, I'm saving it for future reference), so allow me to use my comment here to brainstorm a future blog post topic. :)

I totally see the whole "weak girl loves hot/strong/masochistic guy" trope in YA paranormal fiction, and it bugs me to no end. The Dark Divine was, I think, the last straw for me, and really got me thinking about YA romantic tropes, and why some people (and by people I mean writers here) somehow believe that the most successful way of portraying a tru-luv romance is by making the female protagonist as bland as possible. Apparently, these writers feel that blandness = relatability, when even mediocre fiction teachers, professional or not, will tell you that it is only by making the characters as specific as possible by you can have the readers empathize with them. So I really wish writers would remember that when writing.

bookshop's YA Rape Culture post is interesting, but it really does coming from a strong feminist stance. Yes, everything a female does could possibly be construed as wanting to have sex with the male, but isn't that what human nature is built upon? The desire to mate and reproduce, to keep our genes flowing? I'd like to examine the males in YA fiction to see whether or not you could boil their characters down to the same almost animalistic instinct of reproduction. It's also interesting because lots of readers love Kristin Cashore's Graceling while an equal number of reviewers on places like Goodreads often bash the book for being so obstinately anti-marriage. So either side can get battered, I guess.

I'm not really sure that's what I perceive the "Sarah Dessen syndrome" to be, because I think it's like you said: what is YA without at least a dash of romance? LIFE in generally is more interesting with romantic complications in them. I like Sarah's books and don't find them symptomatically problematic in that way because, with the exception of This Lullaby, she doesn't write straightforward love stories. Yes, the boy-girl romance always seems to work out right as the girl solves the main problem in her life, which could be accidentally misconstrued as a correlation. However, I haven't seen the SD boys doing that for the SD girls; the protagonists' revelations are aided by, but not the direct result of, the boys' positive influence on their lives. Much the same as anyone--parent, friend, teacher, other kind of role model--can influence our lives. Except that in fiction this character that helps the MC undergo her necessary change often appears in the form of a romantic figure because, er, that's what sells and appeals to teens.

I think I'll stop here because I could go on a lot more, but you've definitely got me interested. I wonder if I could somehow include this in my thesis... YA romance... Hmmmmm... :)

Tiff@FictionDistrict said...

I don't really have time right now to join in the discussion (except to say that your post was very well written and I agree with most of it). But, I do want you to know that I'm a follower now, because of this post. I respect your candidness and support your stance.

However...I don't think that the issue is going anywhere. Writers can write whatever they want. Creative license and all. And being a writer myself, I'm all for that; my message is my message. I'll never put a gun to your face and make you read it.

That being said, TO ME it closely resembles the issues in the video game industry, where M-rated games get into the hands of young people. Rather than lash out at the messengers, I think that more could be done to persuade parents. This, of course, is my opinion. I don't expect anybody to agree.

AnimeGirl said...

Margo, I think you nailed most of the reasons why I don't like most paranormal books (including the YA's that are currently so popular).

I'm a long time romance reader, I love and look for romance in every book I read but I never found any of those male protagonists -Edward Sparkles Cullen, Patch, etc - any appealing. I tried to read the books in good faith (more than once) 'cause a couple of my friends were raving about them but in the end I just thought "that's so wrong" and it's not even romantic.

I think that's because, in the words of Lisa Kleypas (an awesome romance author), the one thing Romance novels are supposed to convey is not that love or sex are important, but that women are important. I think those books (like Twilight, Fallen, Hush Hush) fail to say that, and that's why I didn't like them and I didn't find them romantic.

I had also never thought about the Sarah Dessen Syndrome, I enjoy her books quite a bit but you are kind of right, in most of her books the guy is the key of the girl's personal growth.

The Realm of placeholder-doormat heroines is another thing that boggles my mind, seriously.

I guess that's why I tend to gravitate toward other type of YA books.

Anyway, it was an awesome post!


Remilda Graystone said...

I love you, and I love this post! You are so right. I thought I was crazy for noticing this, for pointing it out, and not wanting to read books like it. This is why I haven't been able to finish a book in forever. All of them have romance in it and all of them involve the girl being codependent and that makes them damn near impossible to relate to and extremely annoying.

Just because something is popular it doesn't make it good. Hello: What is popular may not be right, what is right may not be popular. These books are a great example of that.

Excellent post.

bookaholic said...

I love this post! I agree! I agree! I agree!

Amy said...

You make some really good points and I agree wholeheartedly with the majority of them. I understand that you're done with these types of paranormal romance books (and personally I loathe a lot of the ones you mentioned) but I'd be pretty damn gleeful if you'd read some more and then bash the living daylights out of them in some reviews :)

What makes me inexplicably furious is how many brainless a**holes-ahem, I mean, people- out there are buying this junk and supporting these authors who dare to write this kind of ridiculous nonsense. I point you to this article by Publisher's Weekly:


which charts the best-selling books of 2009. You might be able to tell but some of the books there (and at the TOP of the list, too) made me want to tear my hair out in frustration. Can you believe that brainless fodder like Twilight and Evermore have made MILLIONS in sales, while worthwhile reads like The Hunger Games and Catching Fire pale in comparison? It's cause for sorrow, this recent influx of paranormal romance.

The Book Junkie's Bookshelf said...

Of the books you mentioned in your post I've only read Twilight and I have to agree with you 100% about the Bad Romance. I NEVER liked and STILL don't like Edward Cullen because he was so manipulative, stalkerish and just down right BAD for Bella.

inkspatters said...

As always, you make a LOT of good points. And I feel this is a great ideological standpoint from which to view these books and this genre -- because it's true, there are a heck of a lot of disturbing love stories in YA and in romance, in general.

That said. I don't think books are about presenting a world full of healthy and kocher values to the reader. The author is, often, simply messenger for the values of the society they grew up in, that are ingrained in their psyche and become inherent in their work. I do not believe that ANY of those authors wrote their books to express something about the way things should be, or with any sort of didactic message about the role of women in mind. I think we're viewing these texts, in these current discussions, in a deconstructive light. Looking at what's not there -- a strong female character etc -- as indicators of what values are inherent in the text. And some books aren't meant to be deconstructed, you know? And when people deconstruct things (usually from a feminist or orientalist perspective), a shitload of criticism can be heaped upon pretty much any book. So, let's look at Hush, Hush from an orientalist perspective: Why is The Other (fallen angels) characterised as threatening and frightening? Why is this our perception of everything different to us? etc (I know this seems like more of a long shot than the feminist deconstruction, but trust me, the majority of books can be absolutely SHREDDED like this).

I'm all for saying healthy relationships in YA, definitely, but then...A lot of books are dealing with incest, and I don't think they're bad books: How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff (not paranormal, but still). And screwed up relationship dynamics are everywhere (Jellicoe Road has some of the most screwed up characters I've ever met).

The defining factor in whether or not that romance is good or bad, for me at least, is that there have to be consequences TO the crappy actions. (I will gladly read a book where stalker boy gets his comeuppance/gets arrested. Or even where the female MC realises she's getting abused and deals with her trauma...). Every action, whether we know it or not, tends to have a consequence, and I'm pretty sure that making a decision to date a sparkly hundred-year-old vamp is unwise, and things will not end all rosy and happy as they so often do in fiction land. It's really a suspension of disbelief issue, as well as one of dangerous values.

Also, as a side point and something to conclude on: I think the nature of romance in YA is symptomatic of a larger problem in society. It isn't the authors who are perpetuating this culture, intentionally. It's society, and our culture, that is perpetuating these negative attitudes and authors are simply becoming mouthpieces.

No, every text does not have to conform to my values. No, I'm not some freaking moral arbiter and I'm not going to decide what can and can't be published. But I am a voracious reader, and the only thing I can do to I feel, fairly voice my opinion on books of this type, is to simply NOT buy them. And that's exactly what I'm going to do.

Oh, and one last note: WHY IN GOD'S NAME IS IT THAT PARENTS THINK TWILIGHT AND BOOKS LIKE IT ARE GOOD, CLEAN FUN? Just because the characters don't have sex? I think our culture needs to change the way it views sexuality -- sex as something obscene, something that must be 'taken' from girls -- if anything is going to change. The fact that creepy-stalker-vampire boyfriends are OK, but sex isn't (and from what I've heard, in some places the eff word isn't), tells me that there is something severely wrong.

Penny said...

Very interesting post. I agree on some points on not on others. Personally, I love Y/A Urban Fantasy. I am a fan of Twilight, Hush, Hush, and The Immortals series by Alyson Noel. For me this is pure, indulgent, escapist fantasy and I don't want a mundane relationship that's going through the motions. Also, I need my urban fantasy to have a little romance! The relationships in these novels are exaggerated beyond belief for our reading pleasure. And they work. Well, they work for me. I should point out that I'm very much an adult who just loves reading young adult books - as I said, pure escapism. Nowhere in adult fiction will you find the intensity of Y/A romance. The thing about teenage romance, is that it often does border on obsession. Any guy I fixated on as a teenager was pretty much on my mind 24/7.

That all said, I think you make some very good points. I know that girls a lot younger and more impressionable than I are reading these books, and I do wonder about the negative effects on people who actually buy into these romances as reality. Romance is not like this in reality. Period. I have also cringed at the way the girls in many of these books become totally dependent on their perfect soul mate and cannot function without him, to the point where everything else in their lives melts away and nothing matters but HIM. Of course it's not healthy, and you are quite right in saying so. But, as I said, for me, it's pure indulgent escapism, and I'll continue to love it.

Lynsey Newton said...

Interesting, thought provoking post. You mentioned a lot of books that you thought were portraying YA romance wrongly, I would have liked it if you had balanced this by mentioning books that were doing it right - which ones, in your opinion, ARE doing it right?

houndrat said...

Very thought-provoking post. I've read all of the books you've mentioned, with the exception of Willow, and liked/didn't like them in varying degrees. But not always for the reasons cited here.

I pretty much concur with everything InkSpatters said (OMG, is she *really* 17? REALLY?) And plus, as someone who's read romance novels longer than a lot of your readers have probably been alive (cough, cough) I can tell you this isn't something that's just in YA paranomral romance lately--it's been in romance for years and years and years.

I'm totally torn. I agree that it's disturbing to continually open books and read warped romances, but then again, it is a matter of creative license. Plus, I heartily, heartily agree that parents/schools should be involved in reading choice, opening them up for discussion so that teens can read whatever but have an adult to bounce ideas/thoughts/theme off of. After all, that is our job as parents, right?

Also, I'd say that I know a fair amount of girls/women who feign dislike/disinterest in a guy when they really have feelings for him. I'm not saying it's the best choice, but man, it's prevalent. And, while I agree, most people don't find their "soulmate" in high school, OMG, a lot of girls I knew thought they had. And I do think SM, better or worse, captured that feeling very well. ;)

Also, in Buffy, there was a fair amount of bad love choices/scary romantic stuff. I think the advantage of a TV series is that you have enough time to see the consequences/character revelations related to those things spelled out, while books don't have as much time to deal with everything. (huge Buffy fan, btw--HUGE!)

I think the main reason I'm torn is bc I'm anti anything that sounds remotely like censorhip. Remember how people wanted to blame that movie Natural Born Killers for that one killing spree? Wasn't there even a lawsuit? Or ban certain types of music bc they're "bad?" Heck, wasn't the same type of arguement made about rock n roll when it first came out--adults wanted it gone bc they thought it corrupted youth? Well, I don't belive in that... at all. It's a hard balance, to be sure....staying true to your creation/vision, yet trying to factor in some kind of social responsibility to your audience. Unfortunately, I'm not sure where the line is.

Really thoughtful post, Choco. This is definitely an issue I'm going to continue pondering for awhile.

houndrat said...

P.S. I think the solution is to address the rape culture of our society as a whole--raise our girls to be strong and not take crap--and maybe the books will reflect that, not the other way around. Bc I think the books reflect society, not that society reflects books.

pirate penguin said...

I'm having mixed feelings on that article you pointed out the other day---I agree with what you're saying, that these "bad boys" in YA literature are NOT a good representation of what the ideal romance should be but I know that as I read these stories (I personally liked Fallen and loved Hush, hush) I know that it's fiction. For me, reading about Patch and his thrill-seeking ways is awesome but if he were to approach me in real life I'd run the hell away! I KNOW what's real and what's not so it's easy for me to say that while I think Patch is sexy as a literary character, I wouldn't want to date him in real life. But then I think about the other readers, the more impressionable ones that take away a lot more from a story than I would. A perfect example: twilight fangirls. How many 11, 12 year olds are dreaming about being bitten by Edward Cullen? (which is sick and wrong in so many ways.) How can these girls even think that this fictional character is even worthy of fantasizing about??? And not even the young girls but grown women who supposedly HAVE more common sense? So I'm unsure as to how to feel exactly. I freely admit that I indulge in these stories but at the end of day (or the end of a book) I come back to reality. I know what constitutes as a healthy, NORMAL relationship/romance between a guy and a girl...

and ugghhh, I'm still confused as to how I feel. It's a bunch of things rolled up into one. Not that this is a bad thing. It's good to point these things out and I'm really glad you did, Choco. Because it's definetely an issue that needs to be addressed in the blogging/book world. I totally applaud you for bringing this up :)

bookshop said...

This is an *excellent* post and I'm so glad I found it. I'm really happy to see other people standing up and calling the whole culture of YA fiction out for this, and making so many great points in the process.

I also want to point out, for everyone who's responded in comments about the nature of escapism, that there *are* ways to practice healthy escapism that don't involve reinforcing harmful social perceptions of gender and the power dynamics that exist between men and women. 1 in 6 women have been raped. "1 in 3 women around the world will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime."

Those statistics don't *not apply* to girls who read YA novels. And when you consider the horrifying statistic that 73% of women know their attacker, the basic fact is that we're encouraging girls to view fictional male characters as great boyfriend material because they do things that, in real life, lead to men stalking, emotionally and physically abusing, coercing, raping, and in some cases murdering their girlfriends and wives.

I think it ultimately comes down to the question of priorities. You can write book A) or book B).
A) plays out an escapist romantic fantasy involving questionable power dynamics.
B) sends a message to young women (and really women of all ages) that there's more out there for them than choosing boyfriends based on how they look and forgiving/loving them no matter how dangerous they are,

If what you want to write is book A), then maybe you shouldn't be writing YA fiction.

YA Vampire Books said...

Great post! You definitely have a point!
I've read Hush, Hush and Fallen and my reactions are similar to yours. The romance wasn't realistic or good.

Tere Kirkland said...

Didn't have time to read all the comments, but you are so right about YA paranormal romance. And it's good to see so many people agree with you.

I'm so frustrated with them right now, and that's the genre I love to write! Hopefully, there'll be a change in the way girls perceive these heroines and their (I use the term extremely loosely) "heroes".

Maybe it'll start with one of my books! ;)

Karen said...

I agree with a lot of what you had to say especially the "true forever love" when it's really teenage lust. With Edward from Twilight I felt young girls may look at the controlling behavior of their boyfriends and believe it when they say it's because they "love" them so it did bother me. I also had a problem with Bella giving up all her friends and family for one guy she just met. I had a problem w/Jacob too. He always thought he knew what was best and wouldn't listen to what Bella was saying and would manipulate her.
I disagree about Willow. Guy didn't make her problems go away with sex. They didn't even have sex until very late in the book. He challanged her to think @ what she was doing to herself and their relationship helped her think about things in a healthier way. She's still cutting at the end of the book and it's clear she still has more work to do with her issues. There probably could have been more mentioned about going to therapy vs just Guy helping her but to me it was implied that she would be headed in that direction.
Overall a great post.......I think the bigger problem is the blandness of these books. They are all starting to be the same. Shy/different/isolated girl with a boy to save her or even more common now - the love triangle.
A lot of people are just putting out a formula now instead of a well thought out challenging story.

The Library Lurker said...

I agree with most of your points: The ones about Twilight and Hush, Hush etc. and the obsessive, abusive, stalkerish relationships in them, but there are a few things that I don't agree with:

1. Your views on Willow. That wasn't the message that I got out of it at all. It wasn't about clinging to a guy, it was about letting someone in and not going through her problems alone. That is of course, just my opinion.

2. Sarah Dessen Syndrome: Yes, Sarah's books have romance in them, but to me, that's not what the books are about. The books are about the main characters finding themselves and dealing with their family with some romance on the side. Once again, that is just my opinion.

Other than that I did agree with your points, though I don't feel quite as strongly about them as you do. I applaud you for such a great, thought provoking post though.

Patty said...

This is a fantastic post!
I agree with you. I recently read Hush, Hush. And the fact is not that I didn't like it but that many people are confusing lust with love...WHICH IS NOT THE SAME. I still think they're entertaining but there comes a point where all of these characters are copy & paste. I am a writer and the book I'm writing now involves a few points you mentioned (even though it's contemporary) but it's important to not only see the impact that the GUY has on the GIRL but what she does with it. How maybe she learns something. It's the lust/love thing that most tick me off, though.

Hayley said...

Can I just say you are my new hero for writing this post! I felt the exact same way about Fallen, a book I've heard nothing but praise for, and Twilight too! As a writer I've caught myself suffering from the Sarah Dessen syndrome at one point and time in my writing career but I've also realized that the little bit of Sarah Dessen syndrome made sense how it played out in the story. But thanks again for posting this it was just epic.

buffrx said...

Wow I thought I was one of the few that felt that way. Awesome post, you speak such true words.

So glad to have this posted and so many who responded. I spread the link a few minutes ago!

I gotta say Stephanie Meyer inspired me to write a novel (I'm a scriptwriter lol so it's new territory for me) however, I wanted a great novel for YA. I'm still young and I think it's awful that the books are just truthful of the YA life. I think it's time other writers clean up their mess. @genemarie1

Becky said...

I'm doing my catching up thing. Very interesting points that I actually agree with but that makes me a hypocrite because I am a serious Fallen fan. I totally agree that Dan is an **** but it is the angel mythology that interests me. Also I interpret Luce as strong because she is willing to look beyond the action and find the truth. I guess I like people who search out truth and don't wait for it to fall in their laps.

Having said all this, I'm watching vampire diaires and it pee me off that Alena (sp) wants to go out with Stefan when Matt is the lovely all round nice guy. A mystery indeed.

April (BooksandWine) said...

Thank you for this post! I agree with every single one of the points you make. Half the time, I read a book that so many people rave about the male love lead, I can't help but wonder why, especially when the guy is a raving douchebag. I mean, okay, he might do a few things nicely, but for the most part, giant douchebag. Why would you want that?

I do like YA, and I do like romance in YA, but I wish more books would show the idea that the person you date in high school is most likely not your soul mate, and it's okay to just experiment with dating at that age -- maybe not take it so seriously. Actually, I also wish there was more pro-sex YA.

Preach on girl, preach on.

Liz said...

Great post! You make a lot of great points and i agree with you about a lot of this. I will say that with Pride and Prejudice, Darcy acts like he dislikes Elizabeth for different reasons than Edward, who knows he could be dangerous to Bella. Darcy just does not have good manners. However, I think it's still a great point--we should be teaching young females that they deserve someone decent!

This is actually my first visit to this blog, but I look forward to reading more from you in the future!

Dwayne said...


I suppose I don't agree to everythiiing you said since, uhm one or two of the books you've singled out I am totally liking. I do get your point. Part of me wants to consider how completely absurd it is to uhm fall in forever-love with . But at the same time, I think you're right at mentioning that teenage hormones do get better of us sometimes. At times I feel that as much as I'd like to decline YA romance, I keep being drawn to it.

There ARE YA romances that I certainly do find richness in though: Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles is a wonderful novel, as is the romance in Kimberly Derting's The Body Finder. Not sure how you take the two, but I think the romance in them contain more weight.

Very thoughtful post here - I like!

Michael Antoniewicz II said...

Check out the weirdness of #1 ... you just can't wrap your mind around what they were thinking:

Andrew The Eternal said...

I think, sadly, this problem of twisted 'romance' in paranormal romance stories started because of Buffy.
Wait, wait, let me explain:

Buffy has relationships of a sort with two vampires, one of them being David Boreanaz (instant sexy that he is). In the series, both relationships are clearly bad ones. Angel's, because he is also Angelus, and Spike's because Buffy lets off steam by abusing or fucking him depending on her mood. The condemnation of the bad relationships is far from subtle in-series, but never really spoken aloud. When the inevitable fad-copiers got to work, they noticed that Josh wrote this while still getting acclaim as a feminism, so the storyline was obviously feminist-approved!

Problem was, as intellectual bootleggers tend to do, they transferred the sexy stuff a lot better than the intellectual and moral stuff. So now, we drown under stories where they write Angelus as a love interest assuming we'll see Angel in him and write a Buffy sans Buffy save a few hollow echos of strength as our heroine.

On a more positive note, I liked the romances in Animorphs very well.

ReadingRainbow said...

Wow amazing post. It definitely made me rethink a lot of things. I have had problems with Twilight for awhile now and you pinpointed why. I like Jacob but even he is a bit of a bully. I am thinking of throwing away the books but then I don't want to be a Nazi/censorship figure either. I think I will just stick them in a box and try to forget Stephanie Meyer ever existed. Her books were recently banned from some libraries and ALA is against them I believe. As they should be. The others I haven't read but I guess I will stay away from them. I like Sarah Dessen books so I will have to examine why they are upsetting people more closely.

As for Twilight, it positively creeps me out that adult women over say 40 or so, are still swooning for these books and giving them to their daughters. Twi moms are scary to me, sorry but they are.

And I have a big problem with Buffy. Spike tried to rape her didn't he at one point and he went on to keep breathing, well living in an undead sort of way. I swooned at these sorts of things 10 years ago when I was a teen and it did effect me and lots of girls. You are what you read. To say books and TV and entertainment don't affect one is madness. I think parents need to be more actively choosing what their children read.

Also, these themes crop up in adult romances too. I can't count the number of times I have read about a "hero" literally raping a heroine and going on to give them a romance. Luke and Laura still disgusts me after all these years!

Kayla & Cyna said...

God, this SO MUCH. Me and my cousin have taken up reading these books pretty exclusively now, and book after friggin' book have these stalker/stalkee relationships. And the girls deal with it differently - I mean, you have flattered Bella in Twilight, freaked out Nora in Hush, Hush, initially angry Ever in Evermore - but they all just get over it because the story says that otherwise sensible, smart girls behave this way around good-looking (occasionally) charismatic guys. I mean, yeah, there are occasionally exceptions (Rose in Vampire Academy being one example, although I don't really like her for other reasons), but the overwhelming majority take a leaf from Twilight and portray these creepy guys and their obsessions as being the ultimate expression of romance. If he stalks you, OBVIOUSLY he just loves you too much to act like a normal human being. He can't help himself. And quite often, it's the girl's fault for being so damn beautiful/difficult/existing.

It's really painful for me to read this shit because I grew up on very different YA paranormal romance heroines. It was the height of the badass chick craze, and the girls, if nothing else, stood up for themselves when their guys were assholes, and as a kid this really shaped my idea of how women can/should behave around men (for better or worse). But now we've got this girl-and-her-stalker dymanic just dominating the YAPR genre, and it's absolutely infuriating, because you know girls are getting these same romantic ideals from the books they're reading now.

tl;dr I agree!

Pebble said...

I came through from Aja's post and again, agree with many of your points about what these books are portraying as normal relationships to the teenage audience.

However, I can point a few YA paranormal books where relationships are not all skewed: Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely, Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver and Kelly Armstrong's Darkest Powers series. All those books portray strong females who don't equate lust with love, and approach relationships with more than a tiny bit of common sense.

imelda72 said...

Reading this was like a breath of fresh air. I particularly appreciate the vow you've taken to condemn any book with a dangerous relationship dynamic, rather than glossing over it as we so often do. It's rather like the Bechdel test-- you may be tempted to enjoy the story otherwise, but really, you've got to take a stand at some point.

As a few others have said, though, I encourage you to reconsider whether "Willow" really belongs on this list. It in no way depicts a negative relationship, and Guy is exactly the kind of person girls should be encouraged to look for. He doesn't "heal" Willow with his magic penis or anything. He is just a positive influence in her life, which is great.

Janna said...

Great post.

Personally, I don't see Sarah Dessen's romances as being dangerous in any way. Yes, they might be unrealistically perfect, but I needed that escapism as a teen sometimes. The problem with Twilight and other "bad romance" books is that they are portraying abusive relationships as good. I'd like to point out that Sarah Dessen wrote a book about a girl in an abusive relationship ("Dreamland") that does a beautiful job of showing how easily a girl can fall for someone like that, but ultimately shows how unhealthy and dangerous it is.

In reply to ReadingRainbow's comment about Spike trying to rape Buffy: Spike was evil (soulless) when he tried to rape Buffy. It's not until after Spike regains his soul that he is accepted back into the Scooby Gang, and even then only begrudgingly until he can prove himself as a hero.

Kay (Dead Book Darling) said...

It's late, and this post took me a while to read, so let me just say: You are awesome and completely and utterly right. And your creepy mini summaries? Ludicrously spot-on.

I am SO DAMN GLAD I found your blog.

Katie said...

I completely agree with all of this; you're so right. I read Fallen and had to push myself to read past the part where Daniel sticks his finger up at Luce. It revolted me, and to date, I had absolutely zero respect for the author of that book. Behavior like this - disgusting, disrespectful behavior that should never be directed at any one, young or old, male or female - shouldn't EVER be glorified and twisted into some sick love story.
I myself am planning a career as a YA writer, and my main motivation was reading all the books you listed, and more, and wanting to stamp them out once and for all with a new generation of YA. Something exemplary, that promotes healthy relationshipS and strong heroines with their own lives, agendas and destinies. Something in which rape culture DOES NOT EXIST.

Blythe Woolston said...

Hi. If YA requires romance I'm so doomed.

I might not be doing things right, but my stories are different than that. If you use NetGalley, request CATCH AND RELEASE. It's scheduled for release in late January, although I like to think of Ground Hog's Day as The Day.

I found your post via Tez Miller.

Kat said...

Once a Witch, while somewhat predictable, features a healthy and normal relationship between two magical human teenagers. Plot twist: there's an actual plot. I'd recommend that if you ever want to read PR again

Ian Wood said...

100% on the money! Great blog post!

Elle said...

Oh wow, I love this post. I never really liked Paranormal Romance (the creepy-but-hot male love interests just never did it for me), but I haven't seen the problem so much in other YA. What I see *there* is insta-love. Gah. It's rare that I like a relationship in a book, but it's hard to do while keeping the plot moving at the same time. It either gets creepy or is pushed to the side. Thanks for the post :)

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I just had to post because, omg I hear ya! Would this be a really bad time to point out my books? Only 'cause I wrote them for this exact reason. I wanted to see a girl in an epic, action packed, peeing my pants, hilarious, bawling my eyes out, magical adventure with just a smidge of romance y'know. Where is that these days? Not just for me but my teenage daughter. I hate the idea of her thinking jerkoffs are the norm and it's okay to be shit on. Ooooohhh don't get me started! Anyway, I wanted to share my books because they were literally born out of this need and I'm happy to accommodate...lol! If I crossed a line I am truly sorry...I just...oooohh, don't get me started! :):):)

Oh, the series is called The Bone Grit Historeum. It's got great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, which means there are more of us...bwah hahahahaha...Emotionally intelligent, fun, adventure-seeking buttkickers unite!!

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