Let’s Talk Bookish: Toxic Relationships in Literature

Happy Friday! Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary LionToday we’re discussing toxic relationships in literature. This prompt was suggested by Mikaela @ Mikaela Reads. I’m going to be answering the prompts as well as talking about both red and green flags in relationships.

 🗣️ Let’s Talk!

Who doesn’t like living vicariously through fictional character’s romantic experiences? As a young reader, I ate up tons of young adult romance without much thought. As an adult reader, who actually has relationship experience now, I’m much more critical of what I read and get frustrated when I encounter toxic relationships in any genre.

How should we address toxic relationships?

Authors have a responsibility to protect readers and not romanticize toxic relationships. However, I have to assume that authors don’t always do this intentionally, which is the scary part. Love is subjective. Expressions of love can vary by culture or individual, but I think there are some ideas about what love is/isn’t that should be universal.

Writing toxic relationships can be appropriate, as long as the author’s intentions are clear. Brittney Morris did a great job of this in Slay, she clearly contrasted Kiera’s boyfriend’s harmful ideas about Black love with positive ideas and didn’t allow him to get away with his toxic behaviour. 

I take issue with a happy ending for couples that have had problems throughout a book; if the resolution to their problems is too easy or requires one partner to compromise far more than the other I won’t be satisfied. Perfect relationships are unrealistic, yes, but authors need to be careful about the messages they send.

What does a healthy relationship look like?

I think it’s equally important to talk about green flags and red flags in relationships because if we spend so much time discussing what relationships shouldn’t be, how would we know what they should be? I am in no way a relationship expert, so feel free to take my opinions with a grain of salt!

Green Flags

Red Flags

Teacher x Student Relationships

These relationships are an absolute no for me because they almost always feature a girl being taken advantage of by an older male. I hated the relationship between Aria and Mr. Fitz in the Pretty Little Liars books and it was even worse in the show. Adults should not be in relationships with minors, period. We can avoid glorifying teacher-student relationships by calling them for what they are, an abuse of power.

Abusive Relationships

really dislike reading about abusive relationships in books. That’s it, that’s the tweet.

Dark Adult Romance

I’m not familiar with this genre but after Googling it, it’s a hard pass. I can’t root for a character who abuses their love interest physically or emotionally. I prefer my romances to be light and funny, sans abduction, violence, or stalking!

Thanks for listening to me rant about toxic relationships. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any thoughts about this post!

16 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish: Toxic Relationships in Literature”

  1. Ariel, the graphics omg. I love the way you wrote this post and you made so many great points in it. I know so many people (myself included) who got involved in a toxic relationship and let it go on far too long because we didn’t know any better or even realize it wasn’t healthy. And I definitely think media has a hand in it and is irresponsible sometimes. Amazing post! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Wren!! 💓I completely agree that the media plays a part in it. You can only do better when you know better so I hope you don’t blame yourself for the past. I’m glad we could all have this conversation today! Thanks again for your words, I appreciate it 💛

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love how you’ve made charts for green flags vs. red flags. It’s super important to know what a GOOD relationship looks like. “Adults should not be in relationships with minors, period.” Shout out to this. I despise student/teacher even when it’s written as adult dark romance.


    1. Thank you, Ritz! Can you tell I love the colour green 😂 After reading the other posts I gained some new perspective and there’s so much more I want to say now hahaha

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love that you included what a good relationship should look like! We do spend a lot of time discussing what’s wrong with relationships but not really what’s right. I hope the media, not just books but all media, portray many more healthier relationships that are real and flawed.


    1. Thanks, Rukky! It’s crazy that the books/media we read when we’re young have such a big influence on us and there’s so many harmful messages within them. I’m really glad that you and Dani facilitated this discussion so that I could talk about toxic relationships, as well as good ones!

      Liked by 1 person

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