I received More Than Friends by Monica Murphy from a Goodreads giveaway, which I think is quite lucky as I doubt I’d have read it otherwise. And while this review is going to be quite scathing, I am glad that I read this book and I’ll tell you why. More Than Friends is a deeply problematic book. In fact, this book is so problematic that I find it to be more of an affront than the trash that is 50 Shades of Grey, and from me that’s really saying something.
Within moments of starting this book, I found myself horrified at the level of abuse romanticizing that Monica Murphy does throughout her novel. And I would be doing an incredible disservice to all the young girls out there unfortunate enough to come across this book if I didn’t take the time to discuss this issue. The main love interest in this book has the makings of an extremely abusive boyfriend.
In the first 20% of the book, Jordan Tuttle ignores Amanda’s lack of consent, has absolutely no respect for her in any real way, treats and refers to her in possessive ways indicative of a predatory and borderline violent need for control, and is blatantly disrespectful to women in general (see random girl at a party who performed sexual acts for him prior and he doesn’t remember her name or even have the basic human decency to apologize for it, but rather makes a snarky, disrespectful comment instead if you need an example).
And somehow we, as readers, are supposed to find this behavior romantic. When Tuttle says, “I’d take more, but you scare easy,” we’re supposed to love him for it. When he’s described as “star[ing] at [her] like [she’s] a rare, exotic animal” we’re supposed to find it romantic. When he glares at her and tightly grips his desk while she’s talking to another boy, we’re supposed to see it as some sort of cute jealousy. Somehow this is supposed to be representative of how much he cares about the main character because a) he’s obsessed with her, and b) he doesn’t give a damn about other girls. For the love of everything good in the world, I need people to understand that this is not romantic. This is abusive.
What truly frustrates me about Jordan Tuttle’s disgusting behavior is how the author writes the main character’s reactions to it. I don’t care that this creep has liked Amanda since he was thirteen, there is absolutely no excuse for how he treats her. And throughout the awful things he does, not only does Amanda regularly question if she is in the wrong for her reactions to his predatory and coercive behavior, she is manipulated by those around her into seeing his actions as okay. When he kisses her and she pulls away, “trying to escape,” his response is to manipulate her into feeling bad to the point that she proceeds to call herself lame.
And when Amanda expresses concerns about his feelings for her, Murphy attempts to manipulate readers into feeling sorry for Tuttle as though Amanda is somehow the bad guy for recognizing his predatory and womanizing behavior and calling him out on it. She presents Jordan Tuttle as a misunderstood guy who genuinely cares about Amanda since he “thought [he’d] already show[n her how he felt]” when his actions tell an entirely different story, when his thoughts show quite clearly that he sees her as an object he wishes to obtain.
Amanda is portrayed as viewing Jordan Tuttle as the bad guy she just can’t help being unreasonably upset with while simultaneously extremely drawn to while the abusively manipulating behavior of Tuttle is presented as something Amanda misunderstands. We’re regularly coerced into believing that Amanda is being unreasonable for not bending to his every whim, that she is entirely wrong to worry that he doesn’t want to be with her and only her. Her own thoughts are disturbingly toxic as she regularly references how “drunk” she is on him and is later criticized for being “rude” to Jordan. Predatory comments are referenced as cute or sweet, the moments of dark, “I should own you” like behavior made to imply the level at which he cares for her.
I left this book queasy and terrified. I already referenced that, at one point, Tuttle is described as glaring and gripping his desk tightly all because Amanda is speaking with a different boy in class at school. And how does the author have her main character respond to this enormous red flag? Amanda immediately wonders whether that means our dear abuser Jordan Tuttle is jealous. Is she creeped out? No. Scared? No. Instead, she calls herself a bitch for wanting to make him jealous.
And not only that, but when this same boy later asks her to be his lab partner, Tuttle rudely interrupts by claiming her as his partner and is described as “looking intimidating as crap with his arms crossed in front of his broad chest and a glower on his face that could slay a thousand dragons.” Then, to make matters worse, not only does Amanda express a very clear and strong desire to not partner with Tuttle for the lab, she is subsequently forced into it by the teacher’s inept misreading of the situation.
Listen, if the boy you like acts in the same way as Jordan Tuttle, you desperately need to run immediately as far away from him as you possibly can. This is the beginning of an extremely abusive and unhealthy relationship and the author should be ashamed and disgusted with herself for misleading young women into believing that this sort of behavior is in any way romantic or okay. It genuinely terrifies me that a book was permitted to push actions of ignoring a woman’s right to give consent, predatory and controlling behavior, and manipulations as romantic actions of a love interest.
For every girl who has developed a deep misunderstanding of what a healthy relationship looks like because they have been subjected to a book like this that promotes abusive behavior as a sign that he cares, my heart breaks for you. No one deserves to be brainwashed to fall for such horrible and disgusting misrepresentations of romantic relationships. This is not what a healthy relatationship looks like. And no one deserves to be treated so horribly.
If you decide to read this book, and frankly I urge all of you to do so if only for this purpose, I want you to take a serious look at how abusive it is and please spread the word so that no young girl has to go through an abusive relationship because some moron gave her the idea that harmful and possessive male behavior is romantic. I’m honestly furious and frankly you should be, too.