Hey friends! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful week. Once again, I am back with this week’s Let’s Talk Bookish post. Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by me and Dani @ Literary Lion, where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts.
Today’s topic is: Tacking Toxic Relationships in Literature (suggested by Mikaela @ Mikaela Reads)
Many thanks to Mikaela for suggesting this topic! I hadn’t really thought about toxic relationships and their impact until Mikaela suggested the topic, but I do have some opinions on the subject.
So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Toxic relationships are just that: toxic. There’s no in between when it comes to them, and many are very obviously wrong (teacher & student, emotionally/physically abusive relationships, etc).
I think it’s fine if they’re in adult books because adults should be able to recognize the difference between a good and bad relationship and understand the harm that comes with them.
But, I don’t think it’s right for them to be portrayed in a romantic way in young adult books. Teenagers are very impressionable, and yes some are mature enough to recognize a toxic relationship when they see it, but not all of them will be able to recognize that.
If it’s supposed to be in an educative way to show the harm of toxic relationships, then fine. I don’t mind that. It just has to be very clear that that’s the case.
One type of relationship that I’m not so sure about though is the huge age-gap kind of relationship that is usually portrayed in fantasy books.
For instance, in Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim, Maia is 18 years old, and Edan is…super old. Like 500+ years kind of old.
When I first read the book, it didn’t really bother me because it’s so easy to think of Edan as a teenager since he acts like one. But after a discussion with a friend, I started to get more and more disturbed by the immense age gap and the fact that Edan had a lot of power over Maia. He could have easily used her or taken advantage of the fact that he knew her secret.
Of course, he didn’t actually ever use his power in such a way (as far as I remember) so it was okay for the most part. But the potential, and the fact that he’s just so much older is still kind of disturbing. It’s also the reason why I’m iffy on if it would be considered a toxic relationship.
I guess that so long as nobody’s abused because of the imbalance, it’s just more like a personal dislike for the trope.
But then, I also don’t think it’s really a good idea for teenagers to be reading that kind of trope (especially teenagers on the younger side) because if it was real life, we’d be immensely creeped out and horrified if something like that happened. To the teenager involved, it might seem like a perfectly balanced relationship, but if you look at it objectively, it might also be a toxic abusive relationship.
So, it being a toxic or not trope is kind of complicated because it depends on the audience and how it’s portrayed.
Also, you could argue that Spin the Dawn is at the tail end of YA since Maia is 18, so it’s for an older teenage audience, but it is marketed as young adult which is 13-18ish and that is what really matters. A thirteen-year old could easily pick the book up since it’s technically within their age range.
I don’t know about you, but that kind of sounds like a terrible idea.
To summarize: If a toxic relationship is in an Adult book, fine. If it’s in a Young Adult book, then I think it needs to be very carefully handled, or not included at all.
And that is my rather short two cents for today.
This Week’s Participants:
What do y’all think about toxic relationships in books? How should they be handled? Do huge age gaps bother you? Do you consider them toxic relationships? Have you read Spin the Dawn? Chat with me in the comments below!