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My purpose for this website is to encourage an awareness around foster youth in our society. Recently, our society has engaged in the idea to represent the “underrepresented.” For many groups of people, we have done so. However, I feel like the 397,122 children within the United States in the foster care system are still underrepresented. I want to change that and I feel like literature is a great start to bringing about awareness for these kids.
If you click on the tabs above you will learn about the history of education within the foster system, reading benefits and where you can find free books, representation of foster kids within literature, and a works cited page that shows all of my research.
For the past decade, the increase in female heroines in young adult novels is tremendous. The most popular coming of age stories such as Hunger Games have females leading the story which inspires girls to be strong and brave. Nakashima and Irvin states in an academic journal, “It is important for young women to encounter the kinds of stories that will provide them with a rich variety of strong female characters, both young protagonist and older women, to serve as role models at critical stages in their development. These stories help to shape the lives of young women.” The importance of having strong female heroines has not gone unnoticed because if anyone walks into the young adult section in a book store, would be graced with the sight of hundreds of books where the female saves herself. As always, there are critics in this genre towards females that should be adjusted such as the girl on girl hate. The commonality of girls hating on one another needs to stop because the message is stating that it is okay to judge another girl because she doesn’t act or look like you. In a popular book series, The Mortal Instruments, the novel City of Bones, displays hateful females. Clary Fray at the sight of Isabelle Lightwood automatically slut shames her because she is more “beautiful” than her. ( Cruger and Irvin-Mitchel) This happens repeatedly in young adult novels where female friendships barley exist because the overused trope of girl hate is used. Luckily , some progress has been made where female friendships are moving away from the back burner and being presented as such a vital story development piece. Another on going trope in young adult novels seems to be the toxic use of masculinity. In novels, it seems to be telling girls that it is okay to be treated as dirt because they “deserved it”. The shocking amount of Y.A. books that include this is too many. In Sarah J. Maas’s popular fantasy book series, Throne of Glass, presents toxic masculinity through Rowan Whitethorn and Choal Westfall, however, there are arguments for these characters because they end up being better men towards the end of the book and were just expressing their hardships. Although these male characters experience character development for the better, their actions towards the main character, Celeana Sardiothien, exhibit cruelty which is easily pushed over. The justification for the actions of boys being mean to girls is that “boys will be boys.” ( Cruger and Irvin-Mitchell) This toxic representation encourages young girls to accept this norm and not to defend themselves because “it was their fault” or “I really like him but he was just having a bad day.” In novels and real life, this situation should never be allowed to pass as the norm in relationships. Authors write these stories because they know that young readers want to read about mean boys that turn nice but the amount of cruelty that boys push onto the girl should not be overlooked. There also seems to be a troupe where the young unexperienced teen finds their “fated one” because even turning the age 18. This is an unreachable reality in most cases in normal everyday life because teenage love doesn’t last forever anymore. This is setting unrealistic realities to young girls that if they don’t find a boy before they turn 18 then they will never find love. Younger expresses, “Young adult fiction reflects girls lives back to them.” Personally, I have always had novels to help me cope with situations that I could not avoid in my life and the mark it left on the development of me from young teen to adult is one that should not be underrated. Young adult literature help adolescents to identify themselves, so the author must do it correctly to make a powerful impact on the world.
In young adult fantasy novels, the ever-growing female characters are dominating literature. The Young Adult genre has taken off tremendously globally and many adolescents are influenced by the words of Y.A. authors. For this article, I am going to be focusing on specifically the fantasy genre. For some reason, many fantasy related novels have females famously portrayed with the stereotype of “different from other girls.” Cruger and Irvin-Mitchell stated,
“The message is painfully clear: there is only room in the story for one amazing girl,there is only one way to be a girl or woman, and perhaps most troublingly, it’s-impossible for girls to have meaningful friendships with one another.”
In the well known published series, The Mortal Instruments, the the Main heroine of the story, Clary Fray, makes remarks about female characters when they are introduced such as Isabelle Lightwood. Clary begins to slut shame at the sight of Isabelle because Clary isn’t as feminine as her. Younger describes how authors’ words affect the readers point of view, “In many Young Adult texts, readers are encouraged, even directed, to examine characters from the perspective of a judgmental voyeur”. If the reader is made to make this assumption of characters, then how will this reflect into their everyday lives? In City of Bones, Clary characterizes as a girl who wears jeans, baggy t-shirts, and worn out converses while Isabelle wears tighter pants and shirts with heels. Although, throughout the novels, clary’s opinion changes to a more positive outlook and they slowly become friends (Cruger and Irvin-Mitchell) . This is a poor reputation of how young girls should view each other on upon meeting one another. Authors should display this interaction without negative thoughts. Also, it seems that the main characters, such as Clary Fray, must be different from all other females in the novel and usually thats by getting rid parts of her femininity. Authors need to expose more girls who embrace their femininity which doesn’t make them “different.” Rather have their difference be their interests and ideals rather than their appearance. Endorse having no girl hate but rather empower one another!
In an Academic Journal, Nakishma and Irvin comment on the importance of how females are represented in literature:
With emergence of mighty female heroines in recent YA literature, empowering impressions help shape how girls develop and understand their identity. Even though teens may turn to books and media for entertainment, they are inevitably impressed by social and character influences from the stories in which they immerse themselves.
The importance of having strong female heroines in literature reflects on how young teen girls will view themselves and their personal choices. Book characters are just as important as celebrities, they leave an impact on someones life. I think the increase in heroines in literature is an amazing movement that should not be hindered, however, the heroines must be written properly to have a powerful impact in the book community.
For one of the many reasons people get hooked into a novel, it is partially due to the romance. Readers want to witness the meet cutes and how relationships blossoms over time. It seems that in relationships in young adult literature, the unexperienced teenager always finds their “fated love” before they are even 18 years old, and sometimes endure mental and/or physical abuse from their significant other before and during their relationship. Many stories endure the story line of the girl meets the boy, and the boy is cruel to her because he simply does not like her. The girl experiences harsh treatment from the male. In the popular fantasy series, Throne of Glass, Celeana Sardothien meets Rowan Whitethorn in Heir of Fire, and instantly hate each other. Rowan hates her so much that he actually physically assaults her. Cruger and Irvin- Mitchell states in the academic journal,
Rowan punched her the face, so hard that she bled and her lip was swollen. Not in a duel, not in training, not in defense, but simply because Celaena insulted him. This behavior is excused almost immediately. As Celaena is lying in bed later that night she would think to herself that she “deserved it.”
Katherine Cruger, and Atiya Irvin-Mitchell. “Men Are Stronger; Women Endure: A Critical Analysis of the Throne of Glass and the Mortal Instruments Ya Fantasy Series.” Journal of Media Critiques, Vol 3, Iss 10 (2017), no. 10, 2017. EBSCOhost, doi:10.17349/jmc117208.
Nakashima, Sarah, and Vanessa Irvin. “Teen Girls Read on Maui: Searching for Identity through YA Fiction.” Voice of Youth Advocates, June 2018, p. 30+. General OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com.dax.lib.unf.edu/apps/doc/A545022860/ITOF?u=jack91990&sid=ITOF&xid=252917ec. Accessed 31 Oct. 2018.
Younger, Beth. “Pleasure, Pain, and the Power of Being Thin: Female Sexuality in Young Adult Literature.” NWSA Journal: National Women’s Studies Association Journal, vol. 15, no. 2, 2003, pp. 45–56. EBSCOhost, login.dax.lib.unf.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mlf&AN=2007301147&site=eds-live&scope=site.
This is a collection of scenes or quotes from popular Y/A books that depict sex, or the surrounding scenes of sex.
Everything hurts, every single thing including the weight of him and I’m crying because it hurts and he’s telling me he’s sorry over and over again, and I figure that somewhere down the track we’ll work out the right way of doing this but I don’t want to let go, because tonight I’m not looking for anything but being part of him. Because being part of him isn’t just anything. It’s kind of everything.
Just as the Bradys were getting locked in jail, Lara randomly asked me, “Have you ever gotten a blow job?”
“Urn, that’s out of the blue,” I said.
“Like, you know, out of left field.”
“Like, in baseball. Like, out of nowhere. I mean, what made you think of that?”
“I’ve just never geeven one,” she answered, her little voice dripping with seductiveness. It was so brazen. I thought I would explode. I never thought. I mean, from Alaska, hearing that stuff was one thing. But to hear her sweet little Romanian voice go so sexy all of the sudden…
“No,” I said. “I never have.”
“Think it would be fun?”
“Urn. yeah. I mean, you don’t have to.”
“I think I want to,” she said, and we kissed a little, and then. And then with me sitting watching The Brady Bunch, watching Marcia Marcia Marcia up to her Brady antics, Lara unbuttoned my pants and pulled my boxers down a little and pulled out my penis.
“Wow,” she said.
She looked up at me, but didn’t move, her face nanometers away from my penis. “It’s weird.”
“What do you mean weird?”
“Just beeg, I guess.”
I could live with that kind of weird. And then she wrapped her hand around it and put it into her mouth.
We were both very still. She did not move a muscle in her body, and I did not move a muscle in mine. I knew that at this point something else was supposed to happen, but I wasn’t quite sure what.
She stayed still. I could feel her nervous breath. For minutes, for as long as it took the Bradys to steal the key and unlock themselves from the ghost-town jail, she lay there, stock-still with my penis in her mouth, and I sat there, waiting.
And then she took it out of her mouth and looked up at me quizzically.
“Should I do sometheeng?”
“Urn. I don’t know,” I said. Everything I’d learned from watching porn with Alaska suddenly exited my brain. I thought maybe she should move her head up and down, but wouldn’t that choke her? So I just stayed quiet.
“Should I, like, bite?”
“Don’t bite! I mean, I don’t think. I think — I mean, that felt good. That was nice. I don’t know if there’s something else.”
“I mean, you deedn’t—”
“Urn. Maybe we should ask Alaska.”
So we went to her room and asked Alaska. She laughed and laughed. Sitting on her bed, she laughed until she cried. She walked into the bathroom, returned with a tube of toothpaste, and showed us. In detail. Never have I so wanted to be Crest Complete.
Lara and I went back to her room, where she did exactly what Alaska told her to do, and I did exactly what Alaska said I would do, which was die a hundred little ecstatic deaths, my fists clenched, my body shaking. It was my first orgasm with a girl, and afterward, I was embarrassed and nervous, and so, clearly, was Lara, who finally broke the silence by asking, “So, want to do some homework?”
We crawled into the bed, my freedom circumscribed some by the oxygen, but even so I could get on top of him and take his shirt off and taste the sweat on the skin below his collarbone as I whispered into his skin, “I love you, Augustus Waters,” his body relaxing beneath mine as he heard me say it. He reached down and tried to pull my shirt off, but it got tangled in the tube. I laughed.
* * *
“How do you do this every day?” he asked as I disentangled my shirt from the tubes. Idiotically, it occurred to me that my pink underwear didn’t match my purple bra, as if boys even notice such things. I crawled under the covers and kicked out of my jeans and socks and then watched the comforter dance as beneath it, Augustus removed first his jeans and then his leg.
* * *
We were lying on our backs next to each other, everything hidden by the covers, and after a second I reached over for his thigh and let my hand trail downward to the stump, the thick scarred skin. I held the stump for a second. He flinched. “It hurts?” I asked. “No,” he said. He flipped himself onto his side and kissed me. “You’re so hot,” I said, my hand still on his leg. “I’m starting to think you have an amputee fetish,” he answered, still kissing me. I laughed. “I have an Augustus Waters fetish,” I explained.
The whole affair was the precise opposite of what I figured it would be: slow and patient and quiet and neither particularly painful nor particularly ecstatic. There were a lot of condomy problems that I did not get a particularly good look at. No headboards were broken. No screaming. Honestly, it was probably the longest time we’d ever spent together without talking.
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Comment submissions here for more books to be added to the list!
Holes centers around Stanley Yelnats’ coming of age story in the juvenile corrections camp, Camp Green Lake. One of the books three plot lines follows the friendship of the protagonist, Stanley and his friend Hector (Zero). This plot portrays positive examples of boys having compassion for each other in a healthy friendship. Another good discussion to have with students is how Stanley creates his own identity as a young man separate from Mr. Sir’s idea of a man (someone who is rough, crude, and aggressive).
“Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?” reads the poster inside our protagonist Jerry’s locker.
While The Chocolate War ends in a dark place it can still prompt discussions on the importance of fighting for our individuality and disturbing the order. Our protagonist, Jerry disturbs the order by refusing to sell chocolates for his school to the disapproval of a school clique and a corrupt teacher. Jerry fights for his right not to sell chocolate until the end of the book, where he ends up being physically beaten for not selling chocolate. While Jerry admittedly does regret “disturbing the universe”, you can discuss with students why it is important to challenge the status quo even when you do not affect change. Encourage your students to discuss disrupting the status quo in regards to gender stereotypes. One example discussion might address the need of boys to be emotionless and violent, conversely, girls might discuss their own pressures to meet societies gender norms ,
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an excellent example of the problems that affect boys and girls as a result of toxic masculinity. This book discusses many important issues such as homosexuality, domestic violence, suicide, and sexual abuse. The sexual abuse portrayed in the novel can serve as a discussion point for older students on why society rarely discusses male victims of sexual abuse when one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn eighteen years old.
Discuss with students the similarities and differences of Jack and Ralph. Have the students dissect these similarities and differences in a Venn diagram. Examples of traits they share are strength and leadership. Highlight how Jack uses these traits as a way of dominating others and spreading violence while Ralph wants to use these traits to make peace and help them coexist with each other.
The Outsiders, opens up opportunity for discussing the boys’ experience with friendship, gang violence, grief, and suicide. The Curtis boys display an interesting dynamic of shifted gender roles due to the absence of their parents with all of the boys cooperatively sharing “traditionally” feminine tasks to maintain their household.
Much to our surprise, when we started this little project, we were met with a few roadblocks. The first and one we wholeheartedly expected to run into, was the lack of academic conversation surrounding our topic of discussion. This can be largely contributed to how we integrated Postmodernism and its themes into the discussion, serving to operate as an anchor to draw back to. The second issue, and one that ended up changing our conversation, was just how much money these “bad movies” made in the box office, often making triple or even quadruple their budget.
The conclusion we reached was as follows:
These movies grossly misrepresent the youth they pander to as air-headed, popular-culture obsessed mannequins. Blumhouse as a production company (and Hollywood, on a broader scale) recognizes that originality and innovation are not needed to turn a profit, as displayed by their clear ability to produce ground-shaking movies (Get Out) while also pumping out films like Truth Or Dare. The laziness born from misrepresentation extends into what they consider to be horror. While horror itself is incredibly relative from person to person, little is done to subvert the genera in order to adapt to a wholly different set of values, and as a result, of horrors. As we explained in our dissection of what exactly Postmodernism is, the tropes of yesteryear are either not being applied correctly, or simply fail to hold the same statues as they once had.
The novel Children of Eden, by Joey Graceffa is about a girl named Rowan who is an illegal child of Eden. Eden is a safe haven for the survivors who were lucky enough to survive the end of the world. In Rowan’s society a couple who are eligible to have children are only allowed to have one child since they are over populated. As an illegal child Rowan is considered a monster who should be killed. The Children of Eden is based on The 100 series by Kass Morgan. Rowan from Children of Eden is based off of the character Octavia from The 100 series.
The 100 takes place after a nuclear fallout and the survivors live in the twelve sections in space. In the space craft couples are only allowed to have one child and if they have a second child then they would be “floated” for bring danger to the people. Octavia is a second child who was hidden in a compartment in the floors for fourteen years until she was discovered at a party. Her mother was killed, floated, and she was arrested since she was not yet eighteen. The book is about 100 kids that get sent down to Earth to see if it is livable after being in space for three generations or about sixty to seventy years.
If anyone would know how to relate to young adults, it would be another young adult. In the case of writing, that idea plays a rather large roll in the YouTube author community. Although the addition of YouTube to the equation is new, the concept of youth writing for youth is not. Dating back to the early Jane Austen writings, there is a parallel between her earliest works and its relevancy to youth audiences. According to one article, “Austen’s earliest writings appear to have little in common with the restrained and realistic society portrayed in her adult novels. . . . By contrast, they are exuberantly expressionistic tales of sexual misdemeanour, of female drunkenness and violence” (Cumming 2017). Austen’s early writings parallel to many of the themes society associates with adolescence, such as sexual promiscuity and experimentation of substances. (2017). When it comes to YouTubers and how they successfully draw in their audiences, the method remains the same. Statista statistics has found that ninety-six percent of internet users in the United States ages eighteen to twenty-four accessed YouTube in January of 2018 (2018). With a committed pool of adolescence consistently tuning in, channel creators like PewDiePie, who is currently the highest subscribed YouTube channel, are able to market books (2018). PewDiePie, who’s real name is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, is the author of This Book Loves You which instantly became a New York Times Bestseller (New York Times 2015). In a sense, YouTubers such as Kjellberg have become the 21st century versions of Jane Austen because of their personal connections from their youth to their stories.
“U.S. YouTube Reach by Age Group 2018 | Statistic.” Statista, www.statista.com/statistics/296227/us-youtube-reach-age-gender/.
According to a recent study, research suggests that online influencers may draw more attention from young people than music and film stars. In fact, some YouTube personalities have recently been classed as celebrities by their large fan-bases. Big name celebrities may not have as much influence in promoting products to young adults audiences as they have with previous generations (Dunkley 33). Young adults spheres of influence focus around digital influencers due to “consumers no longer have to listen to brands. Consumers only listen to other consumers” (Pollack 2013). These online influencers-consumers are regular readers who create their own content on YouTube and have grown into leaders in opinion formation in their field of choice, influencing other viewers in the same community (Dunkley 32). Although each influencer is expected to give their opinion whatever topics their aesthetic calls for, sometimes these consumers have an idea not to only produce video content, but create their own YA novel for their viewers. YouTube literature has become increasingly popular over the past decade due to the growth of online celebrities and followers.In a market as current and subject to popular culture as YA literature, publishers are desperate to be on top of what they think the next big book will be, which might just be an autobiography or a work of fiction from a YouTube celebrity (Kint 12).
Dunkley, Lydia. “Reaching Generation Z: Harnessing the Power of Digital Influencers in Film
Publicity.” Journal of Promotional Communications 5.1 (2017): 31-39. Print.
Pollack, S., 2013. Say hello to The Next Generation: iGen [online]. UK: PR Week. Available
[Accessed 20 November 2018].
In Young Adult Literature the market place has grown significantly since 1967. The prices of books differ in price depending if they are hardback or paperback because the market place thought that the more expensive the book is the older someone had to be to buy it and read it. Readers want to buy the more expensive books since they are considered more mature and they want to be treated more like an adult (Yampbell 354). Readers are also looking for books that are small enough to fit in their pockets, so they are more likely to buy a book that is in paperback than in hardback. But over time the young adult audience are looking for books and authors that they can relate too. Young adult readers can relate to now rising YouTube authors because they have been following their videos, their experience, so the readers can relate to the story they write, whether it’s a story about their personal experience or a fantasy novel.
Yampbell, Cat1. EBSCOhost, login.dax.lib.unf.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hus&AN=18589392&site=eds-live&scope=site. Accessed 19 Nov. 2018.
The genre of young adult literature has changed a lot since the pioneering days of Judy Blume books lining the shelves of curious adolescent’s bedrooms. As with everything, we see a shift in culture with every generation; this one just so happens to be influenced by social media. So what does that mean for young adult literature? How do social media platforms influence adolescent literature in the 21st century? The answer to that is rather simple. With over 50 million creators and 5 billion videos viewed daily, it is no wonder that YouTube’s annual revenue is a whopping $13 billion. This success ultimately comes from those 50 million creators, whom have amassed an almost cult-like following from all age demographics. Many of these creators are young themselves. As with any fandom, there is a plethora of marketing tactics that coincide with YouTubers, and one of them happens to be targeting adolescence through young adult literature. These books climb quickly to the top of best-seller lists, creating a wave of fandom-powered sales.
Nearly 100 years after women’s suffrage and the fight for equal rights between men and women, stereotypical ideas are still casted upon women. Although women now have the equal opportunity to achieve anything that a man can, there is still an unwritten hierarchal system between the two sexes. In young adult literature, there are many examples of women having to subject themselves to men. Young women who are reading these famous text may think that not being your own individual is okay. Stories like Push by Sapphire, Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston, and even Twilight portray the patriarchy system that has been established in America.
Dessen, Sarah. Dreamland. New York, Penguin Group, 2000.
Kapurch, Katie. “‘Unconditionally and Irrevocably:’ Theorizing the Melodramatic Impulse in Young Adult Literature through the Twilight Saga and Jane Eyre.” Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012.
Mafi, Tahereh. Shatter Me. New York, Harper, 2011.
Mafi, Tahereh. Unravel Me. New York, Harper, 2013.
Meyer, Stephenie. Twilight. New York, Little, Brown and Company, 2005.
Oakley, Samantha. “’I Could Kill You Quite Easily, Bella, Simply by Accident:’ Violence and Romance in Stephenie Meyer’s ‘Twilight’ Saga.” Mankato, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2012.
Silver, Anna. “Twilight is Not Good for Maidens: Gender, Sexuality, and the Family in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Series.” Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010, pp. 121-138.
Storer, Heather L. “’It’s Not You; It’s Me:’ The Representation of Teen Dating Violence in Young Adult Literature and its Implications for Prevention.” Seattle, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2015.
Common tropes of toxicity in YA relationships:
- For example, every time Edward says, “silly Bella” or Warner’s derisive way he calls Juliette “my dear” and “love” (Meyers 281 and Mafi 74, 75, 131). In Twilight, Edward constantly treats Bella like a child. Edward calls her “an insignificant little girl” and is often pictured carrying Bella like a kid (111). Edward “reach[es] out with his long arms to pick [Bella] up, gripping the tops of [her] arms like [she] was a toddler” (297). He also sings her to sleep with a “lullaby,” making Bella seem like a baby and Edward seem like the dad (311).
- In a toxic relationship, one person is always borderline stalking the other, showing up randomly, needed to know where their significant other has been, and stating what they can and can’t do. In Twilight, Edward even watches Bella sleep without her knowledge and “follows her” to make sure she’s safe, which is creepiness at it’s finest (174). In Shatter Me, Warner constantly tells Juliette what she is and isn’t capable of, which isn’t his to tell. In Dreamland, Rogerson gets mad anytime Caitlin hangs out with anyone other than himself. She says herself that “I couldn’t talk to anyone because if Rogerson saw me he’d assume I was (A) flirting or (B) discussing him” (169).
- Dominance is often showed being overbearing or using strength to control a significant other. In these relationships, men’s voices are typically “low but full of authority” and girls follow instructions “obediently” (Meyers 166, 169). Often times, the guy barks “commands” or “order[s]” instead of asking politely or simply talking (Meyers 169, 391). In Twilight, Edward has to constantly control his desire, he has to put “mind over matter” and be “strong enough” to not hurt Bella (301). He even says himself, quite nonchalantly, “I could kill you quite easily, Bella, simply by accident” (310). In Shatter Me, the eventual love interest, Warner, is constantly physically assertive, pushing Juliette against walls or holding her face and chin tightly just to keep her looking at him (Mafi 132). In Dreamland, Rogerson is obviously dominant in that he physically harms Caitlin by hitting, slapping, punching, or kicking her (Dessen 143, 155, 156, 165, 184, 214).
I remember reading Sarah Dessen’s Dreamland at a very young age. So young, I realize, I couldn’t wrap my brain around what was happening; all I remember was the relationship in the book was wrong and I didn’t like it. Re-reading it as an adult however, I see that Caitlin and Rogerson’s relationship is filled with toxicity, but for a reason. Dreamland is a novel to show young readers that abusive relationships do, indeed, exist. Since my point is to show toxic relationships romanticized, Dreamland isn’t the best evidence for me to use. Their relationship, in the end, isn’t romanticized, it’s criticized. Rogerson goes to jail and Caitlin heals. They don’t end up together.
That being said, Dessen establishes the tropes of toxicity well. Rogerson and Caitlin are inseparable the first second they meet. After sharing a tiny conversation about getting change for a ten, they see each other across a party and Caitlin decides to leave with Rogerson, even though she barely knows him (56). Caitlin remains or grows more insecure as she gets to know him: “He didn’t talk to me, and I couldn’t think of a single thing to start a conversation that wouldn’t sound even stupider if I said it aloud” (73). Rogerson is domineering, both emotionally and physically. He pushes Caitlin to smoke, to “just trust [him]” and do whatever he says (79). According to Caitlin, “Rogerson was always impatient, finishing whatever business he had and heading straight to the door, making it clear he was ready to go” (93). It didn’t matter what Caitlin wanted, if she wanted to stay and talk with friends or if she wanted to stay in the car. They even argued over what music to listen to, Rogerson obviously always winning and playing what he wanted. There are absolutely no compromises. It’s Rogerson’s way or no way, and that’s not right. Also, along the theme of toxicity, Rogerson basically follows Caitlin around.
From that day on, Rogerson was suddenly just there. He drove me home every day. He came over from Perkins at lunch to take me out and called me every night—usually more than once—and then again before I went to bed (90).
He also gets mad if Caitlin is late to a date, or if he didn’t know where she was for an extended period of time. He asks questions like “where were you this afternoon” and “where the hell have you been,” each time being irritated by the answer, saying “oh… I waited for you a long time” and “I’ve been waiting for you for an hour” (142, 214). Additionally, as with most abusive relationships, the one being abused, in this instance Caitlin, dismisses all negative behavior. She continuously brushes off his actions by saying, “but this was just how it was with Rogerson,” “it was fine,” and “that was Rogerson, or so I was learning” (91, 93). Once Rogerson’s abuse turns physical, the harmfulness of their relationship becomes that much more evident, and Dessen highlights the trope of asserting dominance in a toxic relationship. Rogerson repeatably hits Caitlin, whether by punch, slap, or kick, and each time he does, it’s directly correlated to Caitlin attempting to defend or stand up for herself.
This fact and all the facts above exemplify abuse and toxicity in relationships. As a young child, the idea that this story is a warning to young teens that relationships like Rogerson’s and Caitlin’s are real went over my head. So, the one warning I have to writers like Dessen that attempt a story like this is to make the negative nature of this relationship obvious. Explain more why Rogerson was a bad person, more about why he had to jail, more about Caitlin needing to rebuild her life after being “broken” by him (218). While reading it as an adult, I see how their relationship is abusive and toxic, as a young reader, I couldn’t tell that that was the message Dessen was conveying. I recognized the relationship was toxic but was more confused as to why Dessen thought it okay to romanticize it. Young adults are hard to target, and a complicated relationship like this may not be fully understood, however, I appreciate Dessen’s attempt to show the truth about such a toxic relationship.
Let’s start off with a list of some of the crappy things Warner has said to Juliette (to document them all would be exhausting):
- “But if you chose to disobey? Well… I think you look rather lovely with all your body parts intact, don’t you?” (54).
- “Besides, it’d be a shame to lose such a pretty face” (55).
- “Don’t confuse stupidity for bravery, love” (74).
- “No one asked what you like, love. Now eat. I need you to look your best when you stand beside me” (75).
- “I’m willing to treat you as an equal” (125).
- “I can change your world” (125).
- “’The world is disgusted by you,’ he says, his lips twitching with humor. ‘Everyone you’ve ever known has hated you. Run from you. Abandoned you. Your own parents gave up on you and volunteered your existence to be given up to the authorities. They were so desperate to get rid of you, to make you someone else’s problem, to convince themselves the abomination they raise was not, in fact, their child” (125).
- “I know everything about you, love” (131).
- “You’re absolutely delicious when you’re angry” (132).
- “You should be thanking me” (134).
- “I like watching you squirm” (137).
- “No one will care for you. No one will come near you—you’ll be an outcast like you’ve always been! Nothing has changed! You belong with me!” (185).
- “Don’t lie to yourself, Juliette. You’re going to come back with me whether you like it or not. But you can choose to want it. You can choose to enjoy it” (264).
- “God I’d love to just take a bite out of you” (265).
This is how Warner is presented to the readers. This is who he is. This is how he speaks, what he thinks, how he treats others, and he doesn’t get enough redemptive factors in the sequel to make Juliette’s ending up with him okay in any way.
Juliette also responds to Warner’s touch repulsively, but he doesn’t care. After all, “Warner will not be discouraged” (266).
- “Warner slips his arms around me. I cringe” (104).
- “He tightens his hold around my arms and I can’t squirm away from him” (132).
- “He touches gloved fingers to my cheek and tilts my head up, catching my chin in his grip when I flinch away” (132).
- “I’m vibrating in disgust from head to toe” (132).
Additionally, as with most toxic romances in young adult literature, dominance and authority is romanticized, and violence is often connected to romance:
- “He cups my face in his gloved hands, holding my eyes in place. The same hands he just used to kill a man […] His thumb brushes my cheek. ‘Life is a bleak place,’ he whispers” (109-110).
- “I won’t answer your questions if you won’t look at me when I speak to you” (123).
- “Possessive is not a strong enough word for Warner” (127).
- “I stumble backward, stunned, and catch Warner watching me hungrily, eagerly, his emerald eyes bright with boyish fascination. He’s practically trembling in excitement” (171).
- “He tugs so hard on this rip that it splits open the fabric and creates a slit up the side of my leg. ‘That’s a bit better’” (180).
- “’I have a question,’ he says, and I try to kick him in this worthless dress and he just squeezes me up against the wall, the weight of his body pressing me into place […] ‘I said I have a question, Juliette” (181).
It’s important to note, in Shatter Me, Juliette never likes Warner, she is dating Adam. However, through the rest of the series, and in the end, Juliette ends up with Warner. Personally, I planned to just read the first of the trilogy, but after I finished Shatter Me, I needed to read the rest. I needed to see, if in some miraculous way, Warner gains some redeemable qualities. Now I’m here to show you, he absolutely does not.
Once again, here is a list of quotes that prove my point better than I could (from Unravel Me this time):
- “Warner has already touched me, that his hands have known the shape of my body and his lips have known the taste of my mouth—never mind that it wasn’t something I actually wanted” (267).
- “[Warner is] the person who forced me to torture a toddler against my will […] I see him as the leader of an entire sector, eager to conquer me, to use me” (269).
- “He’s not going to hurt me. I hope” (269).
- “Warner, on the other hand, has ransacked my mind” (280).
- “Just thinking about being near him makes me feel anxious, nervous, so vulnerable. I hate that he known my secrets. My secret thoughts” (280).
- “Because he’s playing games with me, because he hasn’t changed, because he’s still trying to get me to do his bidding. He’s still trying to get me to be his project and he’s trying to hurt me” (301).
In Ignite Me, the last book in the Shatter Me series, Mafi attempts to redeem Warner’s character by giving him quick reasons as to why he acted the way he did, placing monologues in the text to explain why he did and said such horrible things, but in my opinion, it’s still not enough. The reasons are not good enough and his excuses are too easily accepted by Juliette. One second she hates him and the next she’s suddenly okay with all the disgusting things he’s done and decides she likes him. It isn’t done well, and their relationship remains toxic.
I present this information in such a format because I am hoping these sentences can be proof enough that this relationship and character is wrong in so many ways. It’s my hope that, in this society, I don’t have to explain extensively how these words, actions, and intentions are disrespectful and toxic. I hope respect is clear enough and the lack of it is obvious.
I’m going to use the information I’ve obtained through the following articles, dissertations, and journals when navigating through other popular young adult books. Many of my sources speak about Twilight because Edward and Bella’s relationship provide clear, demonstrative, and textual evidence of abuse in romance, but it is important to note how many other popular books, stories, and relationships demonstrate and romanticize toxic relationships. It’s my hope to use the research I’ve gathered to find examples beyond Meyer’s novel and expand on the limited conversation of relational abuse in adolescent literature.
Heather L. Storer’s “’It’s Not You; It’s Me:’ The Representation of Teen Dating Violence in Young Adult Literature and its Implications for Prevention,” explains and defines teen dating violence and expands on its popularity in young adult literature. This text will be a primary source for my argument as it depicts abuse clearly in real life and exemplifies where it often shows up in young adult literature. Storer also shows how “postfeminist protagonists [… and] poor decision-making skills [play] a role in the continuation of […] abusive relationships” (76). This text is not necessarily talking about the dangers of romanticizing toxic relationships, but it does help provide information on the patterns and popularity of teen dating violence (TDV) in adolescent literature. Storer defines TDV as “a pattern of controlling and coercive behaviors from physical abuse to verbal abuse to social isolation in romantic relationships” and describes how “frequent[ly]” violence against women occurs in “various media genres” (1). One important note to consider is Storer’s claim that while cheesy romance novels, like Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, may be easy to brush off as unimportant, they sculpt a generation’s mindset and display a culture’s values (1). Storer also goes into detail about the different ways novels show TDV, but mainly focuses on victimizing and normalizing. According to Storer’s studies, “abusive behaviors such as monitoring of a partner’s whereabouts were positioned as normal components of courtship behaviors” (25). Justification often shows up as brushing off controlling behaviors, i.e. the common idea, “some men just can’t help themselves” (25). This ongoing trope in young adult literature pushes the normalization, romanticizing, and justification of TDV and one partner’s need to control the other.
The findings in this study reinforce how language is anything but neutral. The framing of teen dating violence in young adult literature, especially considering the similarity with depictions of [Intimate Partner Violence] in other media genres, should be concerning for researchers, advocates, and activists committed to ameliorating TDV. (107)
In “’I Could Kill You Quite Easily, Bella, Simply by Accident:’ Violence and Romance in Stephenie Meyer’s ‘Twilight’ Saga” by Samantha Oakley mainly describes how Twilight depicts relational abuse and rape culture, but she also summarizes the common characteristics of any toxic relationship in literature. Books that display abuse generally focus on pushing gender roles. The man dominates the woman in every way. Overall, Oakley uses Meyer’s Twilight to represent similar tropes seen throughout young adult literature. Most anything said in this article, pertaining to Twilight’s main characters, Edward and Bella, can—at least in some way—relate to toxic relationships in other books. Oakley separates common abusive characteristics into three parts: violence, interactions reflecting rape culture, and the loss of mind or bodily control. According to Oakley, “these occurrences […] draw attention to how” toxicity in relationships “normalize, excuse, or belittle violence against women” (11). Oakley doesn’t go far into detail, but she points out how the sheer number of times Edward’s power was inflicted on Bella, whether implied or apparent, prove how “normalize[d] and romanticize[d] violence towards women” is and how “physical abuse is an expected reaction for displeasing a romantic partner” (12). Additionally, Oakley suggests any actual physical harm Edward places on Bella occurs because he loses control over his passion for her. By connecting violence to an outpouring of passion, Oakley argues that Twilight pushes the acceptance and romanticizing of toxicity in relationships.
It is this cultish following that makes the implications of marketing a romantic relationship that is obsessive, violent, and all consuming damaging to its audience, especially when it is championed as “pure” love.” (4)
Katie Kapurch in “‘Unconditionally and Irrevocably:’ Theorizing the Melodramatic Impulse in Young Adult Literature through the Twilight Saga and Jane Eyre,” continues Oakley’s claim, focusing more on the strange popularity of Twilight, given how toxic it is. Kapurch displays Twilight fans’ various emotional responses on media websites. Each comment and blog post highlight the melodramatic, intense reactions to the series, proving that young adult literature’s audience for the most part is unaware of the toxicity infiltrating their favorite romances. While it appears Kapurch argues for people to pay attention to the reason behind teenagers’ dramatic reactions and where they display these emotions, she also demonstrates how each response and collaborative opinion holds a key to better understanding adolescent readers. She states, “Such fan reactions demonstrate how melodramatic conventions […] speak to contemporary readers, in this case girls participating in an online fansite” (Kapurch). Kapurch tries to persuade her readers to level with melodramatic teenagers, as their reactions exhibit “sincere, human feelings,” but I see her research and claim as further proof that young adults are truly blind to the dangers displayed in Edward and Bella’s relationship (Kapurch). Since so many young adults fawn over Twilight, adore the characters, and desperately wish to have their “’own Edward,’” the popularization and tolerance toward the abuse in these types of relationships continue to go ignored (Oakley 3).