Toxic Relationships in YA

***I want to start off this discussion with the disclaimer that the books mentioned in this post were suggested to me by other readers/bloggers as well as ones I have read. They also do not reflect on what I think of the author or their previous works.***

I think when we are caught up in the love of a book its easy to overlook the relationship aspect. As a blogger I have learned to analyze different aspects of books and as I get older and enter romantic relationships I've taken notice that some relationships in Young Adult novels are actually super toxic and super harmful. 

I  started reading Young Adult novels when I was thirteen years old. The first romance that I really adored was Bella and Edward from The Twilight Saga. At the time I didn't realize how toxic the relationship in the series was. At twenty years old I look back on the series with horror on how controlling and manipulative Edward was and how dependent and the lengths Bella was willing to go to win Edward back. But at thirteen I didn't understand that that wasn't what a "normal" relationship was (well, as normal as it can get considering the vampire/human thing) and it was something that I looked up to! (How I can hug the young me and promise her that there is better in the world....)

In our teenage years our hormones are raging (as many characters in YA books are) so naturally they are going to be attracted to what ever is in front of them at that moment and not realize how toxic it is. For example, I recently read The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. Now I know I am the unpopular opinion in this but I found the ship between Jude and Cardan extremely toxic. Cardan all but kills Jude several times in the novel and then towards the end they share one steamy kiss and suddenly Jude is unsure on her feelings for him. In my opinion girl, I would run far far away from Cardan and abandon those butterflies while you still can. Now, just because I didn't like the ship and found it toxic I still LOVED Holly's writing and I am planning on reading her other novels. 

The biggest trend I have seen as of lately is that ships have been super manipulative or emotionally abusive. There is such a fine line between okay and not okay sometimes and those lines are steadily being crossed and being made acceptable. In The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout, Luke is super controlling of Evie and even going as far as "attempting" to kidnap her at one point. If you have been around The Book Bratz before you know how much we love Jennifer L. Armentrout and her books. So it hurt reading such a toxic relationship from one our favorite authors. Now, I don't know if Jen was intending for this or not. But the Luke and Evie ship was super toxic. 

When I was still in high school reading was a huge part of my life. I didn't have many friends and I've kept to myself. Books taught me a lot of what I know. I've I have gotten older and entered relationships, both romantic and platonic, I've realized how much of the things that I have read were toxic and harmful and I thought they were normal. I don't even want a young girl or boy to pick up a book, read it and think it is okay for someone to manipulate them or mistreat them in anyway and think that it is alright in anyway.

I know there are going to be people who agree and/or disagree and I would love to hear your thought on this issue! I think this is really an important issue that needs to be addressed in Young Adult literature. Leave your thoughts below! 


  1. Great post, Amber! I totally agree. It's really a problem for teens to see toxic relationships romanticized and idealized in YA.

  2. As an author, I like to see what people think about toxic relationships, so I don't do it myself, LOL. Although in the book I'm currently writing, my female MC's parents have arranged her to marry someone she's not interested in, and she kinda finds someone she actually is interested in before they make any official announcement... I'm not sure if that's toxic or not.

    I did like The Cruel Prince, but I agree that it probably shouldn't be the model relationship.

    1. I wouldn't find that toxic. I'm talking more about how the relationship in The Cruel Prince was or other novels. I am very intrigued in this book you are writing though!

      I thought the writing in TCP was amazing and I liked everything else about the book except Cardan and Jude's relationship.

  3. I completely agree! There are so many toxic relationships that I, as a naive teen reader who really wanted a boyfriend of her own, romanticized and that now horrify me. I haven't read the second two books, but based on what you say, I also wouldn't be a fan. I'd love to see more healthy relationships in YA!

  4. I think the clockwork angel trio had the most toxic relationship out there tbh. I thought Tessa was disgusting and Jem and will deserved so much better
    I mean she sleeps with will 10 min after Jem dying even though she was engaged to him and when will dies she marries Jem cuz oh why not that's not weird at all


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