Tuesday, November 3, 2015

On the Topic of Unhealthy Relationships in New Adult

Okay, so this is just going to be a quick rant about the portrayal of abusive/unhealthy relationships in New Adult in general and more specifically, Travis and Abby's relationship in Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire.

Beautiful Disaster was the very first New Adult book that I read, and I absolutely loved it. It completely got me hooked and I loved the relationship of Abby and Travis. At the time I just thought it was so overdramatic and unrealistic and over the top, but it didn't bother me or lessened my enjoyment of the story at all. I didn't really think further than that. But now today, I don't even know why, I deliberately started searching for negative reviews of the book and just for people who discuss the abusive relationship between Travis and Abby. It made me actively realize something that I've always known in the back of my mind but never really thought about, namely how very unhealthy the romance in this book is.

I'm not going to go into detail as to why the romance is unhealthy because I honestly don't think I know enough about emotional abuse and such, so I'm going to leave you with a video by Thoughts on Tomes and a blogpost I found by Molly over at Wrapped Up in Books.

I know that New Adult in general often portrays abusive and unhealthy relationships in a romantic way, and I know that there are tons of people who despise the genre because of that. And here I am, someone who reads lots of New Adult and enjoys most of those books. But I want to emphasize that I in no way support abusive relationships or think that they are okay. I just want to try to explain why I still read books like Beautiful Disaster.

So to begin with, I'd like to say that I've had a boyfriend for four years now (almost three years when I first read Beautiful Disaster and got into New Adult) and our relationship is absolutely nothing like the ones portrayed in Beautiful Disaster and such. I don't think a relationship should be like that and most of all I definitely don't want a relationship like that. I wouldn't want to know someone like Travis in real life and I could not stand to have someone so controlling and dictating as a boyfriend.

I definitely see how portraying emotionally abusive relationships in a romantic way in books is problematic. There are lots of girls who have probably never been in a (serious) relationship and don't really know what to expect. I know that I used to be one of those girls. Having them read books like Beautiful Disaster and wanting a boyfriend just like Travis worries me. That's not how it's supposed to be, everyone! It's important to emphasize that again and again. 

But there are also other types of readers. Of course I don't want to promote abusive relationships, and I'm not going to recommend Beautiful Disaster for its portrayal of love. But when someone can see that such relationships are not something to strive for and see the wrongness of it but still like the book, I don't think that's wrong either. Personally, I can distance myself from the characters and the relationship, overlook all the drama and not think too much about the book itself. I see it as strictly fictional and not something I connect to my daily life. It's a guilty pleasure. For me, New Adult is never going to be a genre I would pick up when I want something to think about. I don't think it's good literature and I don't think it's trying to convey important messages. But thought provoking, meaningful books aren't always what I'm looking for, and for when I just want to shut down my brain and read, I usually go for New Adult.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I just want to say that 1) yes, portraying emotionally abusive relationships in a romantic way is wrong and highly problematic, but 2) it's still okay to read and enjoy those books if you are aware of the problems and that it's a fictional and do not try to apply it to your own lives. 

Okay, so I'm just going to stop here because I'm having serious troubles getting my thoughts straight. I won't be able to explain why I enjoyed Beautiful Disaster because when I think about it rationally, it makes no sense to me either.

I would love to hear your opinion. If there are any other interesting posts etc. on this topic that you know of, please let me know. I really want to read/hear more about it and I'll definitely try to look out for signs of emotional abuse in the books I read in the future. I'm glad today has made me more aware of this problem.