©2018 BY DOMINIQUE TASSELL.

The Problem With Romance In Novels

July 18, 2019

I haven't written a good book-based blog post in a while, but here we go.

 

I've had this conversation with a couple of friends recently, and I thought I'd put my opinion on the internet too because that's just what I do. But basically, what is with the way relationships are portrayed in a lot of books? 

 

I recently went to see the movie After with my friend. It's better than the book (read: still not good). You know why? Because they removed the most problematic aspects from the storyline. Is what they were left with a healthy relationship? No. But better than the books nonetheless. 

 

Within the story, they mention a few classic novels and the romances portrayed in them. And I had opinions. Just ask my friend, Sarah, who witnessed me loudly heckling the screen in response (we were the only two people in the cinema). The two that stood out were Wuthering Heights and Pride & Prejudice. While Pride & Prejudice is one of my absolute favourite books (and a totally badass feminist novel), I've just never understood the hype around Wuthering Heights. And it has everything to do with the romance portrayed in it. 

 

The romance in Wuthering Heights is one that I find referenced a lot, considering it's a terrible romance. Catherine and Heathcliff are, frankly, the worst. They make each other's lives miserable. One of them dies and then the other's a dick to her child. They're co-dependent and arguably incestuous. But that one quote about their souls is so romantic (surprise: it's actually not). 

 

One of the other novels that references Wuthering Heights is Twilight. Is anyone surprised I'm talking about that book in a blog post about crappy relationships? 

 

Twilight mentions a lot of classic novels- because reading classic novels is so quirky and oh isn't she so unique and relatable at the same time. I'm not going to go through them all because frankly I can't remember them. However, I know they were generally romances of the tragic variety. Which I've just never been into. Maybe it's because I'm a child of divorce, maybe it's because I was raised in a mostly-female environment. But I've just never been a fan. 

 

Twilight references Romeo and Juliet quite heavily in the second book, and let me just say this. Their relationship lasted three days. Six people died. Even as a young teen girl, I thought it was pretty damn stupid.

 

I just don't see the appeal in a romance where they end up dead. I came across a quote when I was younger- don't set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm. It's stuck with me ever since. Why do all these romances have a focus on suffering for the person you love? Yes, relationships aren't perfect. But why do so many novels focus on someone giving up huge amounts for another person? And at such a young age? It's not healthy and it's in no way the kind of thing I would want to communicate to people as okay. 

 

Some of the most common YA tropes are deeply problematic. Love triangles? Someone should know they want to be with you, it shouldn't take them three plus books to decide. The term 'bad boy' shouldn't be synonymous with 'absolute douche'. One person should not exist to make someone else better *cough* Manic Pixie Dream Girl *cough*

 

I could go on.

 

I think I've rambled on enough now, but just to cement my point I'll reference a few problematic aspects of popular YA books.

 

In the Hush, Hush series, Patch wants to kill Nora. Just straight off the bat, there's that. Yet they fall in love etc. etc. because of course. Yet, Nora frequently can't decide if she's attracted to Patch or scared of him. Do I need to say why that's an issue? Patch also stalks Nora, which he does while he's deciding if he's going to kill her... 

 

Then there's The Mortal Instruments, the story I found out earlier has ties to fanfiction (also fun amounts of plagiarism). I know, shocking. Jace is kind of a dick to Clary, and then there's literally a storyline about them being siblings. Need I say more.

 

In the delightful Wattpad-originated novel The Kissing Booth, Noah is possessive and aggressive while his brother Lee is selfish and the main character Elle is constantly objectified. I feel like everyone knows this book (and movie) is bad, but I still had to say it.

 

In the To All The Boys I've Loved Before series, Peter turns out to have been waiting for Gen in the hot tub. Why is this okay? Why are they making the second movie when leaving it at one would leave out that part of the storyline?

 

Harry Potter. Okay. This is one of the big ones that has bothered me my entire life. The relationship I'm talking about? Severus Snape and Lily Evans. In the novel, less an actual relationship and more an unhealthy obsession of Snape's part. But my god, the fanfiction. The fandom fights. So many people are invested in this relationship, ship it and think it's healthy. It's not. Snape wanted to see people like Lily die. He was possessive and selfish. He was horrible to her child. I could write an entire blog post alone about why Severus Snape does not deserve the pity and glorification fans give him. I could write another about why he definitely didn't deserve to have his name passed onto Harry's child. Jesus. 

 

Anyway, that's enough of my ranting. I was going to include a few recommendations for books with healthy relationships, but all I can think of is the Weasleys. My friend, Sarah, says you (and I) should read A Court of Thorns and Roses.

 

If you have any recommendations, let me know!

 

xo Dominique

 

 

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