Books have always been an escape from reality for a number of people across the globe. Reading different genres and feeling like they are being transported to different worlds, gives individuals an amazing feeling, helping relax their mind. But, often, books also end up promoting such toxic and unhealthy ideals that they end up becoming more harmful than beneficial.
Young adults who read books with portrayals of relationships, that are extremely unhealthy, as ideal, can grow up to believe that being in such relationships is normal, in many cases even idealize it.
Many young adult novels, especially those in the romance genre, have couples that are in a relationship that can only be labeled as harmful. One partner controlling the other, emotional abuse and other unhealthy patters are labeled as “love” and presented to the readers. Themes of stalking and sexual activities without the consent are also portrayed as romantic, and deep, true, love.
Stereotypes that portray harmful gender roles and norms are common. Women are shown as objects to be lusted over and the male characters generally are billionaires, with alpha male tendencies. Such portrayal is beyond harmful for young readers, helping reinstate such stereotypes.
Gaslighting, and emotional and mental manipulation are often extremely common, but go unaddressed in stories. No matter what toxic behavior one partner partakes in, the other ends up forgiving them for it by the end of the book. Behaviors that can only be described as creepy, is very simply chalked up to ‘healthy obsession’ and ‘love’. Having a person’s address, phone number, and in many instances their job and account details, without ever asking for them, are borderline criminal, but are never addressed as such.
Romanticism of mental and physical abuse in romance novels is another topic of concern. These novels sugarcoat the illness and hide in under the veil of love, never actually showing the true negative effects that they have on an individual suffering from it.
Couples often communicate very little but have amazingly strong relationships which in itself is a wrong standard set for young individuals, dabbling in their first relationships. Focusing solely on their sexual relations, and spending absolutely zero time doing other activities, is shown as the norm for relationships in their early stages.
The complexities of adult relationships are left behind for a sugar coated version of one. Reinforcing negative gender stereotypes, such as, women becoming stay at home mothers after marriage, men having to be extremely rich in order to be attractive, and many other such plot points not only have a negative impact on young readers but also can be triggering for people who have faced such problems in their lives. These behaviors, if shown as normal, and healthy, can lead many people to look at them in the same light in the actual world.
Infidelity and emotional cheating are often forgiven in these kinds of books. The men generally are either extremely in love and controlling, or are complete ‘playboys’ who never want a relationship and keep stringing their partner along for a mentally and emotionally abusive ride.
All that can be said here is that authors, publishers and editors should be very careful about the type of content they are exposing their readers to and how any form of media can have long lasting effects. Creating a mentally and emotionally secure environment for readers is extremely important and necessary in this day and age.