So, I just finished a review for a middlegrade book that I read recently and I’m still kind of angry about it. I try not to let myself get into angry rants about books but with this one, I just couldn’t help it. And perhaps my anger is justified. At the end of the day, I just cannot condone when a book suggests abusive and violent behavior is okay.
It’s bad enough when it happens in young adult books, where the market is very clearly older teens. But at least I can say that teenagers, while still impressionable, are reaching a point where they can start to critically think about the problems books like Shatter Me create when they romanticize abuse.
This is the first time I have ever seen this sort of normalization in a book marketed toward even younger readers. I guess it was that thought alone that really set me into this horribly infuriated mood. Children are so easily influenced by the world around them and what they read that if they don’t have someone with them to explain to them what is wrong with the messages a book might be sending, chances are they won’t recognize the problem.
And then it sits there in their mind and they go on to read more books that normalize this despicable behavior. Suddenly you’re left with children who’ve grown into adults in a world where the novels they’ve read have told them that the way those characters acted was not only okay, but it was warranted and is, at times romantic.
As many of you know I have been working pretty hard on providing in-depth commentary on books that romanticize abuse and I began with Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me Series to point out how horrible it is that Warner ever became a love interest, let alone the guy that the main character ends up with. This most recent book suggested that it is okay for women to lash out violently when someone upsets them.
It wasn’t okay when men were written as romantic when they did this, it’s not okay when women are written as in the right for it.
So, while this post is partially a long stream of consciousness borne from fury at a disturbing trend not only in books written for young readers but even in film and society…I really wanted to take a moment to implore anyone reading this to be intentional when you think about how you write your characters. Be intentional about calling out abusive behavior in the books you read.
My voice is only one voice. Normalizing and romanticizing abuse is not okay. It will never be okay. And I hope there are more voices out there who are willing to spread the word on this one.