So, an interesting thing happened to me recently, something I’m sure isn’t really all that shocking in the long run for many bloggers. But it really threw me off a bit because I’ve never had it happen before. And honestly? I really wasn’t sure how to respond, though I hope my end reaction was at least somewhat respectful–I’ll explain the somewhat bit, I promise.
This post isn’t about how to respond when someone says you wrote a terrible review, though that’s a great idea for a future post. Rather, this is my reaction to a comment made on a review I wrote for a book that I saw, and still see, as deeply problematic and disturbing. I fully agree that people are entitled to their own opinions and people can like what they like…but I have a lot of feelings about this particular book.
If you’ve been around for a while you’ll probably know that I make no secret of the fact that I have a strong distaste and problem with books that romanticize abuse. I review them accordingly, I discuss the problematic pieces, and I make it very clear what I think about the idea of authors who write books where the abuse of potential partners is seen as romantic. It’s disgusting, full stop. And I wrote a review about Monica Murphy’s More Than Friends addressing the frankly disturbing level of abuse romanticism I saw in literally just the first few chapters.
I should disclaim here that I did not finish this book.
Every aspect of it bothered me and I felt so disgusted not even halfway through with the level that the main love interest was predatory and abusive toward the main character. It was horrifying. And I did look at the reviews for the book, specifically looking for spoilers to see if there would be some sort of commentary regarding abusive relationships in the vague and unrealistic hope that perhaps the author would go a head and admit that Jordan Tuttle was abusive and thus result in this book being a cautionary tale about the sort of relationships young women should never find romantic or want to be in.
But, much to my disgust and displeasure, that was not the case. The couple is endgame and ends up together. And somehow people seemed to think this was cute. I won’t go into detail about the degree to which this novel romanticizes abuse here–I already did in the review, so you can read that if you’re curious–because this post really isn’t about that. Though I will say the abuse romanticism here was spades worse than anything that ever happened in Twilight, though probably not as bad as Fifty Shades of Grey.
Why I’m bringing this up again.
You see, someone commented on my review the other day, calling it a “terrible review on a great book.” And I’ll be honest here, my first reaction was to laugh. I actually typed out the cry-laugh emoji’s on my response comment–which I have since removed because I now believe that was rather insensitive of me–when I initially went to reply because I just couldn’t fathom the thought process behind it. It was so utterly and painfully clear just from reading the first third of the book that Jordan Tuttle had the makings of an extremely abusive boyfriend, that Amanda was so clearly a victim already from his actions.
I know abusive relationships. I’ve been in one. I have friends who have been in them. I’ve spent an incredible amount of time reading on the subject because I needed to understand what I had been through. This is not something I wouldn’t recognize nowadays. And More Than Friends wasn’t even subtle about its abuse romanticism. So, I laughed…because this was not a great book. And it was deeply problematic.
I don’t even care, honestly, that the commenter referred to my review as a “terrible review.” I’m sure there are plenty of things I could do to re-write it and make it better. I could definitely include links to articles that detail why people who behave the way Tuttle did are abusive. But, that’s not really the point in the end.
I’m just…sad for this person. And I’m sad for the world.
The truth is; there are too many people who do not recognize abusive behavior.
And ultimately, though I find it hilarious in some ways that someone has the gall to post on someone’s review saying that it is a terrible review, what I feel the most in response to this is an immense disheartening over the fact that people might read this book and see abusive acts as romantic. What happens if they meet someone like Tuttle? What happens if they like them? If their Tuttle pursues them?
What happens when they are in an abusive relationship questioning whether if they are in the wrong for their reactions to predatory and coercive behavior? What happens when they compare their abuse to a couple they loved and supported? What happens when they don’t understand that they’re being abused because it was presented as romantic in a YA novel they read as a teenager?
It’s hard to think about.
And it kills me inside, just a little bit.