Thursday, June 21, 2012


I commented to Michelle Witte about this briefly on Twitter after reading a blog post she was upset about. I then went on to read her own blog post on the same subject, and realized I mirrored her thoughts almost word for word. I then went to write most of what you're about to read below in the form of a comment on her blog. I suggest reading the two linked blogs above before continuing on here.

The glorification of the 'bad boy' in YA novels is troubling and disturbing, and needs to end. And you know what? I'm guilty of it myself. Though in saying that, I have to add that I am not guilty of this as a writer. The two male love interests in EVER are confused and confusing at times, but I don't think either one of them is abusive to Ever in any way. Now, that being said, I must admit that I am extremely guilty of this as a reader. I always swoon for the bad boys in fiction. The vampire with the broken soul, or the fallen angel with the bad attitude. Etc. Etc. Etc. The list is endless. 

As women, the allure of the bad boy or the guy who needs to be "fixed" can be just that - alluring. It calls to our inner-fixers and we want to save him from himself.  It’s almost a carnal call to our maternal side. But the allure is safe - for ADULT WOMEN. (Or, for most of us, I should say.)

Now, for our young daughters, glorifying the bad boy can be detrimental and can cause them to choose paths that lead to devastating results. There is nothing alluring about bad boys. They are bad. (bold, italic, and underlined to make a point.) I wouldn’t want my daughter with anyone who was dark and brooding, and those two traits tend to be the least of our fictional bad boys’ issues. Our vampires have a need for blood and occasionally kill people. Whoops! That's ok sexy boyfriend, you'll do better tomorrow. (Um, wtf?) Our werewolves have to run and hide for fear of scratching our faces off - by accident. (Doh!)

Edward Cullen was a stalker and a pedophile, and we sucked him up. Everyone I know who has read Twilight read the series in about two weeks tops. But we were the moms reading Twilight, not the tweens or teens. What we were getting out of it is completely different than what they were getting out of it. They were being taught through this fictional relationship that it’s ok that Edward was a super creeper because he loved Bella sooooooooo much. He was possessive and stalkerish and love is a many splendored thing - this is just one side of it, right? Right!?


Patch from Hush Hush was an abusive jerk who not only berated Nora any chance he could get, but he was abusive and tried to kill her. He tried to kill her! And oh man did we all swoon for him! But again, as adults, he called to our inner-fixers and we wanted to fix that broken boy. Mend his aching heart. Blah blah blah. What our daughters were getting out of it was that it’s totally ok if guys are total jerks, even understandable, but as long as they’re hot and brooding, you should ignore all of the other stuff. Focus on the positive, and the negative will fade away. Won't it?


And oh yes, Daniel Grigori. (See my friend Holly's amusing post on this here.) The first thing Daniel did when he saw Luce in Fallen was flip her off. HE FLIPPED HER OFF and she was instantly and irrevocably drawn to him! Yes. Really. And guess what? So was I. But I'm a grown woman who has the love of a wonderful man at home and fictional Daniel Grigori's shitty behavior will not affect me one little bit. It will however teach our daughters that Daniel cared SO much for Luce that he had to push her away by being mean and cruel to her. *insert utterly confused expression* THIS notion will then teach our daughters the one thing we've battled as women forever- that boys are mean to us because they like us. 

(PS. I'd like to thank the brilliant woman who coined that phrase originally. What a moron.) 

Dear daughters, when a boy likes you, he will treat you like GOLD. If he doesn't, PLEASE MOVE ON.


I want to add a bit about a soon to be posted letter to my YA self.  This is something a few of us will be doing next week via Krystal Wade's blog, and my personal letter has a lot of tie-in to what I just wrote above and the rest of the comment below that I left on Michelle's blog. 

It was my attraction to the ‘bad boy’ that had me in an abusive relationship at sixteen. 

He was beautiful and broken and I wanted so badly to fix him. What I didn’t understand was that I couldn’t. There was no fixing that guy. He was a gorgeous sociopath with no concept of empathy or love, and I seriously wonder how many women he’s gone on to abuse, verbally, physically, etc. 

The allure of the bad boy didn’t stop with him though, which is what I mean when I say that glorifying the bad boy can lead to devastating paths for our daughters/sisters/tweens/teens. Sure, some of us may walk away from that first mistake and never look back. Some of us may never even make that first mistake. But some of us may take a few tries to get it through our thick skulls that you can’t fix the broken boys

Let me repeat that:


You will never be awesome enough, smart enough, pretty enough, etc. because THAT’S NOT WHAT IT IS ABOUT.!!!!


Teaching our girls that the heroine must be awesome enough to fix the boy is lying to them and setting them up for failure, self-loathing, years of confusion, and worst of all – possible years of abuse. 

This has to stop. 

NOTE: I loved all three of the books mentioned above. LOVED them. DEVOURED them. So please don't think differently. What I wanted to relay to you all with this post is that as writers, we need to really be aware of whether or not we are rewarding bad behavior in our stories, and thus GLORIFYING it. 


  1. Dark & edgy boys in books = good.
    Dark & edgy boys in your bed = bad.

    Novels need conflict. Seriously, my husband is way too nice and boring to be a good book character, but that makes for a great husband. :)

  2. LOL, yes, I get that! ;-)

    I like dark and edgy in books, and a little bit in life. What I don't like is how much abuse we're seeing in books that just gets completely ignored and becomes acceptable. I loved all the books I noted above. I DEVOURED them. But do I want my daughter to grow up thinking Patch's behavior (for instance) was ok? Absolutely not. So I think there's a fine line. I think we can successfully create dark, brooding, mysterious guys without allowing them to also be abusive sociopaths. Does that make sense?

  3. SO TRUE! I can't wait to read your letter...even if I am on vacation.

  4. See, Edward irritated me, Patch downright pissed me off, and I didn't even want to go there with Daniel. This trend in YA makes me want to BECCA SMASH.

    I love me some brooding vampires (re: Angel) and some troubled bad boys (re: Dean Winchester), but when did bad boy come to mean rude-and-controlling-to-women? Or at least the MC? That's not what makes a bad boy, people. At least, not any bad boy worth crushing on.

  5. I agree with you on this. A male character can be interesting, and even a bit 'bad' without being abusive, controlling, etc. Wanting to fix a boy can be a dangerous thing. I tell the teen girls I work with, never date a boy based on his potential. He may never live up to it. Pick a guy who is worth dating as he is right now.

    1. THIS: I tell the teen girls I work with, never date a boy based on his potential. He may never live up to it. Pick a guy who is worth dating as he is right now.

      That is so perfect. I will be telling my daughter that some day, so thank you. Its so true. I was always trying to fix guys because I (told myself) there was something in them worth loving. But sometimes there just isn't.

  6. I think the biggest thing that bothers me about this whole trope is the lack of REALISTIC CONSEQUENCES for abusive and stalkerish behavior. I elaborate on it more in the post linked to in the post, but essentially, actions make a person who he is. Bad and even evil actions—like, say trying to kill the heroine or almost sexually assaulting her in front of class—usually end tragically with the girl in an abusive, destructive relationship or with a person discovering her discarded body sometime later.

    It's that message I find most harmful, telling teenage girls that if he climbs in your window and watches you sleep, it just means he's so devoted to you. Wrong answer. It means he's a creepy Peeping Tom who doesn't understand personal boundaries or even laws that rather explicitly state you can't enter someone's house—and especially bedroom—without their permission.

    As for women who want that fantasy, great. Sometimes I enjoy a story with a dark character and a tumultuous romance. But writers shouldn't sell that message to teen girls who don't have enough experience to know the reality versus the fiction, or if they do understand the concept, the experience to know how to apply it to their own lives. Save it for adult fiction.

  7. I don't like that trend either. My all-time favoritest male character I've created, my dear Max, whom I've been with for over 20 years now, certainly has his share of faults in his younger years, but even in my earliest writing days, I never would've dreamt of making him an abuser or stalker. It's enough that he's a bit of a cocky playboy and womanizer, and that he's often called out on his less than positive behavior by his father, his female best friend, his female cousin whom he lives with, and others. His behavior is never depicted as okay or appropriate, and it's obvious all along that deep down he's a really nice guy who just needs to grow up a little.

  8. This is one of the main reasons I read so much YA literature right now. My daughter will be 12 in about a month, and she's starting to venture into the YA section. I want to make sure we can talk about the more questionable characters, that I know enough about them to ask her important questions about the choices she would have made in those circumstances. I want to be able to point out the creepier things some characters do in the name of luuurve. Hopefully she'll learn how to spot the bad apples before she falls for one.

  9. Laura, you deserve a Great Mom award. This is what I wish more parents did with their teens, instead of forbidding certain books or, on the opposite end, not paying attention to what they read. *applauds*

  10. Truly fantastic post, Jessa. This is something that bothers me a lot. Other than my post about Fallen/Twilight, I also have pages and pages of scribbled notes of the bad boy in literature and pop culture, but it is such a difficult subject to get one's head around. Your post has highlighted a lot of my own concerns and pointed to some others. Also thanks for the links to Michelle's post. This is something that we, all of us (though I think especially writers), need to think about.

    I firmly believe that writers, particularly ya writers, have a responsibility to their readers that goes beyond providing an enjoyable read. We have to remember that our audience takes more than just a brief escapist thrill from our work and, as you so personally (thank you) pointed out, we can really affect people's lives - and this can be a good thing as much as it is often a bad thing.

    In the case of the bad boy, I'd love to talk to you more about this. I should get round to writing up my post so we can put some of our thoughts together. Something that really concerns me is where to find paradigms of sexy, gorgeous, awesome heroes that aren't... (how do I put this?) fuck faces! In writing the hero in my current piece I am finding this a very difficult balance. The thing is, I WANT him to be hot by teen pop culture standards, but our examples for what that means are MOSTLY bad boy shit heads. (Don't get me started on Patch... oh dear).

    Unrelated to literature, you have probably already read it, but if not, I think you might enjoy this post from Views From the Couch ( ). It brings up some fantastic points.

    Also, Sharon has brought up that other dimension to this which just blows my mind. What are teens meant to think about these mixed messages?! And Rachel's comment: That is so perfect.

    Thank you! What a great read: posts and comments, all of it!