Sunday, July 14, 2013

Disturbing trend in #Youngadult & #NewAdult books



I read a ton of YA and NA romance, and I’ve noticed a trend for some time now that bothers me.  For a long time, I ignored it and let it go, but it has gotten to a point that I feel I need to speak up.

Dear teen and adult readers:  Jealousy, possessiveness and violence do not equal love.

I like an alpha male as much as anyone, but I find so many authors turn their male leads into brutes.  If your hero punches a guy in the nose for having a perfectly innocent conversation with the heroine, he has anger and control issues.  That’s not cool.  If the girl can’t speak on the phone with the boy who has been her best friend since they were in diapers without lying to the hero about it for fear he will lash out, there is a problem.  If the heroine is afraid of the hero’s violent, jealous outbursts, that is abuse.




I’m not talking about the normal every day jealousy within reason.  If the girl has given the hero a reason to mistrust her, then I can see him being upset or cautious when he witnesses a situation that looks bad.  But if an entire relationship is built around him controlling her that is wrong.

My concern here is that by romanticizing this bad behavior, authors are sending the wrong message to young women. I won’t say which books I’m talking about, because I’m sure you all have your own examples, but I finished a book this morning where the entire story revolved around the hero and his brothers being psychotically controlling over the girls in the book, including their (not so) little sister.  While the guys were acting like bullies, the girls giggled and made excuses about how much the guys love them and want to protect them. 



This is not normal behavior.

When I was in high school, my best friend was a boy.  We each dated plenty of other people.  Whenever a guy expressed an interest in me, I let him know up front the role that Phillip played in my life.  If he had a problem with it, then he was free to move on to someone else.  That said, most guys were cool with it and didn’t give me any grief.  So if real guys can be reasonable and understanding, why can’t book boyfriends? 

Oh, I know.  The jealousy creates a conflict and thus adds to the plot.  If this was happening in only a few books, I wouldn’t have an issue with it.  If in the end the hero learns his lesson and grows from it, I’d be over-the-moon excited.  But lately it seems to be the main plot point in most of the YA and NA romances I read, and it is always the heroine giving in to the hero’s ridiculous rules and demands in the end.

Authors, I’m pleading with you, please be a little more responsible about the messages you are sending.  Be careful equating romance with things like possessiveness and control.  Would you want your daughter dating a guy who treated her in this way?  If not, don’t do it to your heroines.  





24 comments:

  1. *standing ovation* THIS. So much this.

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  2. Thank you! Its this issue and another I struggled with in the genre, I've actually returned to adult genre where the heroines tend to be portrayed more aware of the issue and confidence to overcome it.

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  3. Yes! Yes! Yes!!!! This so needed to be said!

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  4. Absolutely. Jealousy and possessiveness are not love.

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  5. So very true. It's ok to for a hero to feel a little possessive or jealous on occasion but controlling and bullying are signs of danger! We need to be careful of this as authors!

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  6. Very true! Unless the controlling boyfriend is actually put in the story as a sort of antagonist, the reader will probably feel alienated. If the girl in the story sees this as a good thing, we won't be able to relate to her.

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  7. If the writer is making a point about what not to look for in a boyfriend, then I'd understand the crazy-possessive behaviour. Since that's not what romance is about, I get what you're saying.

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  8. You got that right! I'd tell my daughter to run, but more importantly I have to SHOW her why this behavior is not acceptable and creepy. And since a story book is showing, glamorizing jealousy, violence and possessiveness, it is giving readers a stronger message.

    I just finished a book where the hero beats up people in the school cafeteria, bloodies them, and I wonder why campus security hasn't been called. So many heads are busted, but the hero is not busted. Is that realistic or even acceptable?

    Danger signals should be flashing. One of the best books I've read on domestic violence is written by a police officer. Whether I'll Live or Die - by Stacy Eaton. Yep. now THAT is a book I want my daughter to read so she can beware.

    thanks for bringing this up. I ought to blog about this too because it's bothering me also.

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    1. I will definitely check that book out!

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  9. Great Point! I have noticed this issue quite a bit and it is one of the reasons I do not read YA or NA. Not that all authors do that, I don't mean to lump them together, but I came across way to many that portray a longing for the teenager to belong and willingness to put up with controlling behavior without a message that this is not ok.

    Thank you Rachelle for the shout out on Whether I'll Live or Die. While that book is not about teens - it does follow a young woman along a very realistic plane of life through violent relations.

    This is a great topic that you have brought up - and I hope you don't mind - I'm going to jump on this one and continue it on. I will be linking this to my blog post! The more people that know - the better!

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    1. Please do continue the topic. We need to do something about the messages YA & NA romance is sending. I was talking to my mother who is a 65 yr old former hippie. She said that when she and her friends were working on women's liberation in the 60's and 70's, she never imagined that young girls in 2013 would behave the way many do today as far as how they allow boys to treat them. I think it's important that the work my mother and her generation did is not forgotten, but built upon.

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    2. Yes, it must be painful for that generation who fought so hard for us to enter the workplace, get almost-equal-pay for equal work, and put sexual harassment laws into place.

      The books and themes also confuse young men too. Their mothers tell them to respect women, that women are equal, but they wonder why all the bad boys get the girls. My son is perplexed. I tell him he has to be friends with a potential girlfriend and treat her as a person. But he sees all the players and he says it is sad out there, really sad. There are guys who specify when a woman can call him to hookup and don't bother him other hours. Guys who have rules that the women better not complain about other women or they're off the hookup list. Treating women as objects and the women are allowing it when there is no absolute need to be a doormat. Not when they're college students, able to get a career, go places and do things to grow.

      The only thing I can think of is that novels with this behavior sells and when a formula sells, there are authors willing to sell out the younger generation of impressionable girls to gain profit and fame for themselves.

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  10. Thank you. It's the reason I won't read many of the popular NA books out there.

    I'm an NA author and I'm not young--and with age (hopefully)comes wisdom--so I'm coming at this from at from decades of living and learning.

    As you can imagine, since I write NA, I love the whole young/first love time in a person's life but what I'm seeing in too many NA novels is abuse (emotional), serious anger and control issues.

    I love a jealous hero as much as the next person. Keep him on his toes and not so assured of the heroine's complete and utter adoration. What I don't like is that "the guy's got serious psychological issues and he's going to get locked up eventually if he doesn't straighten up" behaviour.

    I'm with you, I don't want young girls to believe that this is healthy or normal. I don't want them to believe that behaviour like this means he really loves them. Too many young woman end up in a bad way because of boyfriends/husbands/fiances like this.

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    1. You hit it right on the head. A little bit of normal jealousy can be exciting, especially when the relationship is brand new and they are trying to figure out where they stand with each other. I just see way too many books cross the line.

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  11. Personally, I want to read about good boys. I write about good boys. I want my daughter to know the difference between a bad boy and a good boy and to WANT the good boy.

    Thanks for writing this.

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    1. The romantic male lead in my Arcadia series is definitely a good guy. He doesn't begrudge her having male friends, she doesn't have to check in with him every ten minutes, he doesn't insist on watching her while she sleeps.

      The thing is, I love men. There are so many good ones out there. I just don't want girls to think that the good ones aren't exciting enough because they don't come with all of that emotional drama.

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  12. OMG. YES. THIS. That's my standard. If I wouldn't let it happen in real life to my teen daughter, I'm certainly not putting it in the fiction I write for that age group.

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  13. I've thought a lot on this topic as well, and some of the major conclusions I've come to are:

    1) Women writing these books understand that "bad boy" behavior is a fantasy, that their solid and supportive husbands/boyfriends are what they really want in life, but they're living vicariously through their teen characters for that rebelliousness they'd never act upon in real life. Most teens, however, don't have enough life experience to understand to put that into perspective.

    2) These books don't show *realistic consequences* to characters' actions and behavior. If a guy says he wants to kill a girl and is doing everything he can to stop himself from eating her, she'd most likely end up as dinner when he's having an off day.

    I go into it in a lot more depth in a blog post I wrote about a year ago, and touch on some of the points you make, but I don't want to clutter up your comment feed, so I'll just post a link for anyone who's interested: http://michellewittebooks.com/2012/04/danger-of-the-bad-boy-fantasy-in-ya There are links there to other posts on the same topic as well.

    Basically, I completely agree with you and am glad that you're broaching this subject. It needs to be talked about more.

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    1. That's exactly what it is. The writers are able to separate fantasy from reality because they've been around the block a few times. But the readers may not. They're swooning over the wrong guys and reading about happily ever after, and then wonder why they're not attracted to a well-balanced, considerate and caring man.

      I've had people comment that my hero is not "persistent" enough as if that's not romantic. Well, he's letting her have space and decide. He's not going to be in her face all the time and she needs to own up some responsibility for her inconsistent behavior. If you give off mixed signals, don't expect a guy to continue battering down your door. So, maybe I won't sell well, but I write what my conscience allows.

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  14. Excellent blog post. This is a good issue to discuss. Publishers also need to be held accountable and called to act. They are publishing this type of material and can direct the authors to "clean up their act."

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  15. Just wanted to let you all know that I just finished a New Adult book that did everything right! Check out Lost and Found by Nicole Williams. The male lead is sexy, strong & sensitive. He is powerful without being a dick. Also, the female lead doesn't drop all of her dreams to run off with the guy in the end. They work it out so she can have it all. Good female role model.

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  16. Excellent post. I get so annoyed in PNR where the 'hero' is a violent bully or would-be rapist and lots of readers swoon over him. I don't get that. Violence and intimidation is NOT sexy or romantic to me. I read a very popular Kresley Cole novel where the guy chases the girl, scares her witless and tries to rape her, and she falls in love with him. The excuse was 'he's had a hard and tortured life'. By the way, I'm not slagging off the readers of those books coz we all have the right to enjoy our reading, whatever books we choose to read, and I'm not trying to slag off the writer's ability in any way. I just feel there are so many ways to make a great hero that I don't get the need for this bad hero stuff. *stops ranting, embarrassed*

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