Although I’m in my mid 20’s I still adore a good YA book. I’m a sucker for a good romance – as long as it is fictional.
Whilst reading I noticed a common character trope appearing in these books. Many of the male “hero” characters in YA books had a few qualities that in real life would make me run a mile. It was the possessive, jealous and manipulative male that has been so widely romanticized in all media. The Edward Cullen type that the female falls for, even if she is strong and independent. This kind of behavior is usually excused because he is only acting like an asshole because he loves her right?
I will admit I bought into the whole macho hero fictional male, although it took some getting used to. Some of the books were so good that it made was easy to pretend this behavior was not toxic. Until Sarah J Maas came along, now if you haven’t read “A Court of Thorns and Roses” and “A Court of Mist and Fury” – there are spoilers below.
These books introduce you to a magical world where Fae beings (fairy type creature) and humans live. The storyline itself is amazing and honestly, these books will change your life. It is beautifully written and induced Harry Potter-like feelings for me. But that wasn’t what made me love this series so much.
The books are a twist on Beauty and the Beast, Hades and Persephone, and the tale of Tam Lin. There are three books that follow Feyre – a human who after killing a Fae is taken to live with a high lord in the Fae kingdoms. The first book shows her interaction with the high lord of the spring court; Tamlin. Tamlin is described as many of the YA men are; he is gorgeous, troubled, possessive but he means well right? So as a reader you follow Feyre through her relationship with Tamlin, you excuse his faults because he is an alpha male. Plus those abs, right? You end the first book satisfied that they end up together and happy.
Then comes “A Court of Mist and Fury,” oh boy do things change. It shows what happens after the “happily ever after” with these types of characters. His behavior gets more and more controlling to the point it is suffocating. He locks Feyre up for her own safety or his own piece of mind – it’s arguable which reason why. So she has a mental/magical breakdown.
The book depicts mental health and depression in particular so well and doesn’t shy away from difficult topics. It wasn’t until Feyre was taken out of the environment that she realizes how toxic it was. She manages to escape and deals with her own guilt for leaving as well as recovering from the abuse she had received from the person she loved. It was a shock to me as the reader – see we’d all been watching the signs of a mentally abusive relationship and not realizing. Hell, most of the first time readers had been rooting for them.
The books are amazing for many reasons, but for me, they highlight dominating and unhealthy behavior. After Feyre takes time and comes to term with her mental health, she enters another relationship which is much healthier. The books make many subtle comparisons between both relationships which are eye-opening. In one instance Tamlin had wanted to keep her safe to the point where she could not leave the house, even when she begged. Her new love interest Rhysand shows his concern but ultimately makes her aware that everything she does is her own choice.
She shouldn’t be told what to do.
I hadn’t realized how unhealthy the characters I had been idolizing were. There is a fine line between being protective and being possessive.
And sure maybe that is a kink for some of you all. I can enjoy YA books and know that in my real life I would not put up with these traits. But the thing is YA books mostly target young teenage girls. It creates misconceptions about healthy romance and what kind of behavior is acceptable.
Because someone breaking in to watch you sleep is not romantic, sorry, Bella.
I honestly think everybody should read these books and learn about the important signs of abuse shown here. It is all good and harmless to enjoy books that depict these alpha males but I’m just concerned about when that mentality spills over to real life.
I’m so grateful for these books for waking me up to the reality of the kind of behavior I was excusing.