Monday, May 17, 2010

Love Is not a Reward

It's a Theme Week! All this week I'll be posting on matters of romance in young adult fiction. So sit back, invite your favorite fictional love interest, and enjoy. (Oh, for Pete's sake, you ALL brought Mister Darcy??)

With our eighth wedding anniversary fast approaching, lately I’ve been waxing nostalgic about when Hot Stuff and I first met.

I remember the way he used to look at me—like he wanted to kill me, or at least hurt me. It sent wild shivers up and down my spine. I didn’t know why he hated me so bad, but it made me want him. It drew me to him like a magnet--no, like gravity--no, like an addiction--no, like some other huge, inescapable, not always very good thing that I can make a lot of metaphors about. Like that.

Then we got to know each other. He was rude. He frequently mocked me, sometimes even hinting at or directly threatening my safety and my life. He’d stand me up. He’d lead me on, and then shut me down. He constantly lied to me. I never knew whether he was going to be nice or cruel, and always felt like I was balancing on the edge of a knife with him. And sometimes, when he was really angry or trying to warn me away from him, he’d be borderline physically abusive—restraining me, or shoving me, or making it clear that if things continued he would hurt me.

In fact, those were some of my favorite times. It was HOT, the way he reached over me and pulled my car door shut, wouldn’t let me get out of the car even though I demanded he let me go. And then we kissed. Or rather, he kissed me, because it was important that he always be in charge physically.

But I knew—KNEW—that we were meant to be together. And if I could just figure it out, convince him, I’d be able to root out his personal demons. He would confess he simply feared he wasn’t good enough for me/was actually protecting me, and we’d be able to have our happily-ever-after.

As long as I earned it. As long as I was good, and pure, and self-sacrificing. Then I could make it work.

Romantic, isn’t it?

Wait. You mean that was creepy? You mean that no girl should ever, EVER have to “earn” the right to be treated well in a relationship? That if a guy treats her like that, he is not worthy of her?

Oh. Well, turns out I agree. And trust me, Hot Stuff has never been anything but kind, and thoughtful, and sweet. I’ve never felt dominated by him, or scared of him, or worried that if I did or said the wrong thing it would “ruin” things. He’s also not a werewolf or a vampire or half-kraken or anything, which contributes to him not secretly wanting to drink my blood. That helps, too. (He does have bee superpowers thanks to being stung by a bee and then touring a nuclear facility, but that just means that if he dances, he can tell other bees where to find food.)

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not picking on any specific books here. Because those stories can be fun. A lot of fun! Bad boys are interesting. In fiction.

In real life? Not so much. So here’s to making sure that our girls know they are worth far, far more than a bad boy. That they shouldn’t have to work to earn the right to be treated like they deserve. That they shouldn’t have to sacrifice themselves or their dreams for someone to love them.

And they should never, ever date someone who secretly wants to kill them, no matter how much he’s nobly resisting the impulse.

Now if you’ll excuse me, Hot Stuff’s directing a colony to the nearest flower fields, and I like watching him get his groove on.


Jayne said...

Hi Kiersten. This was really great reading. At first I was like uh-oh... and then I saw the 'creepy' word and thought phew! And then I read all the way through and laughed, and read it again. :)

Lily Cate said...

I would apply this to older women, too, who seem to love "romantic" stories where the intended couple absolutely hates each other until the moment they realize they can't stand each other becasue they are actually completely in love. (whaaa...?) Because that makes just as much sense, right?

Isn't that where the bad boy comes from? He must have had parents like that.

Jenna Wallace said...

OK, you totally got me there. As I was reading, I was thinking "NOOOoooo! This can't be true! Hot Stuff always sounds so great! Why would she put up with that? Has he changed?"

So you made your point. Thank you for making it so effectively. I agree. Let's make sure our girls know that they must always be valued and that men must show they are worthy of a woman's love.

Wen Prior said...

Ah Kiersten, you rock. Actually, you ROCK, because you rock too much not to use capitals.

The mental image of Hot Stuff as a bee, yeah, going to take a while to shake that one. Nonetheless, you still ROCK.

Also, ditto everything you said.

Kristan said...

"but that just means that if he dances, he can tell other bees where to find food"

LOL omigod hilarious!

I'll admit it took me a second to realize what you were doing here ("did you see what I did there?") but dude, you are so right! FOR SERIOUS. Some of these books drive me nuts. I know Twilight gets a lot of flack, and I can sort of understand why, but there are several out there that are WAY worse, they're just not in the spotlight so they are spared some of the glare.

Sometimes the Bad Boys are just plain bad.

However, I am glad you pointed out that, in fiction at least, sometimes the Bad Boys can be good too. ;)

Liz Czukas said...

As soon as I started reading, I knew you had to be putting us on. There is just no way that the fun and wonderful Kiersten who writes this blog would put up with one of those YA bad boys. Phew!

Thanks for reminding us about the good, the bad and the ugly of teen romance.

Tell Hot Stuff to send the colony up here, we could use some more pollen for this crappy spring.

- Liz

beth said...

Oh thank God! When I was reading this at first, I was seriously thinking of how I could reach you and shake you and make you see that abuse isn't love. You totally had me going!

SUCH a good point, though. Thanks for this!

twaddleoranything said...

Oh man, this made me giggle -- especially since I'm currently crafting a fictional bad boy of my own...

Giles said...

I COMPLETELY agree. I never understood why so many young women dream of having a "strong, rebellious, bad-boy" who happens use her as a punching bag sometimes. If my wife and I have a daughter, she'll learn from my example that a REAL man will love and cherish her and treat her well. Maybe not like a princess, but like a human, equal and deserving of respect and kindness. After all, that's how I treat my wife :)

And for any women out there who need to hear it, there ARE men out there who will love you, no matter what you look like, as long as you, in turn, don't treat them like crap. If you're nice to us, the good guys will be nice to you. And if you're not nice to us, then the good guys will simply leave you alone, not abuse you in any way.

Kelly Bryson said...

Hahahahaha. Love the bee superpower. That's HOT. Thus his nickname, I guess.

I've read a few books which I will not name here that have come out in the last 6-12 months and I wanted to shake these girls. He wants to KILL you. Get a restraining order. Do not invite him into your house. AHhhh!

I know know know it's fiction, but I will put down the next book with a simpering, too perfect female protag who is so good that the evil male rethinks his plan to kill her.

That's not Paranormalcy, right? Evie is awesome and smart and not into hanging out with flat-out evil boys, right?

And it didn't bother me so much in Twilight, because Edward was trying to be a good guy. But the movie made him way creepier than I imagined him.

Natalie Whipple said...

Oh, I'm excited for this series. Excellent post.

Anonymous said...


Melissa said...

WOW. am I actually first? Amazing.

I want to thank you for this post. While I occasionally enjoy these stories myself, I find myself... a bit worried that young girls will think this kind of behaviour is okay. And it totally isnt.

So not only is this a great post.... I'm also super impressed someone posted about it in general!

CMOM Productions said...

Is a "HELL YEAH!" inappropriate here? The book(s) in reference (or not in reference if your prefer) are certainly not good for the minds of young girls. Congrats on your upcoming anniversary! :)

Marsha Sigman said...

LOLLLL, Hot Stuff may have like the best super power ever!!

rissawrites said...

pshht! Mister Darcy- heck no! I brought Angel. Sure he's a vampire but he only wants to drink my blood if we...oh...wait. Um, whats the fun in that?

I want to change my date to Mr. Schuester. Gotta love a man that can sing to me.

Kiersten White said...

Ha, sorry guys : ) Trust me, I'd never, EVER put up with a bad boy. I had some iffy boyfriends, but by the time I was through with high school I was ready for stable and kind and wonderful. And I found him my first week at college : )

patdwhite said...

Way to be Kitty Bug, save the world one young woman at a time!

Love you tonz!!

Valerie said...

EXCELLENT post! And I love that Hot Stuff can signal to bees with his dancing.

For the record, I brought Peeta from the Hunger Games as my love interest because he only wants to kill people who want to kill me, and that's way hotter than a half-kraken that wants to eat me!

Can't wait to read the rest of this series!

Dara said...

Interesting post--you had me going there for a moment!

I must be weird but I don't really like reading the bad boys in fiction. Not much anyway. I like when the hero and heroine cannot stand the sight of each other but I'm not too keen on the ones where the guy is borderline abusive with the girl.

Anyway, I met my husband the first week of college too! :) He was actually my first boyfriend as well so I think I was extremely blessed.

Holly Dodson said...

::Stands up and applauds.::

Great message to send out there.

Dawn Embers said...

Well played. *gives a small applause*

I have never been interested in the bad boy, or bad girl. Give me nerdy and nice any day, the bad ones can go off on their motorcycle cause I don't care for them.

My BF tries to tell me he's bad, but I laugh at him. He's a "bad" guy defending an "astrophysics"(maybe) and something else thesis for his Master's degrees that writes love poetry about me but won't show them cause I grade poetry and might critique them(I don't but he thinks I do with his poems). Yeah, he's real bad. ROFL

That bee stuff, awesome! Very funny and a great set of lines.

L. T. Host said...

It's not April first! I call shenanigans playing that kind of joke!!! Lol.

Well played, Kiersten, well played.

I went through like the five stages of grief reading this... denial, acceptance, then back to denial, then bargaining, then anger, then depression, and then it was okay!

marissaburt said...


Well said.

Anthony said...


You got me. You really did. I was like NO WAY and you kept on going and I was like NO THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING and I would read another paragraph and I was like AHHHH NO! NO! NO! and then you giggled. I like heard it.

I title you honorary Sith Lord of the Literature. All you need now is construct your lightsabre. In red.

Kiersten White said...

Guys, HONESTLY. You've read my blog. Do you really think I'd put up with that? The one and only time I was semi-dating a guy and heard he'd called me nasty names behind my back know what I did? NEVER TALKED TO HIM AGAIN.

Which isn't to say that I didn't let myself be manipulated in other relationships, but I learned from it and moved on and was then able to recognize THE BEST when I found him : )

What I think is interesting is that, in these books, there's always some REASON. Some big thing that, when revealed, justifies the behavior. But in real life, is there every anything that justifies being treated that way? Personally I don't think so. Which isn't to say that people who behave poorly are irredeemable in real life--just that the relationship is (or should be).

Anthony said...

You got me because your post has a sad, bitter foundation in reality, both in American culture and in some American literature targeted towards girls.

But yeah, I should have know better I have been reading your blog forever. But the button you pushed was a very big one.

I am off to drink more coffee. Obviously, I am not awake. (^)_(^)

Jess Tudor said...

Oh, goodness. THIS topic.

You didn't catch me with it, but I loved it anyway.

As a rule. I vote for the nice guy. I have to trust you before I can like you.

maybe genius said...

If it's any consolation, I picked up on what you were doing :D

Right on. Sometimes this set-up in YA can be done in a way that doesn't make me absolutely cringe (like when the guy is just sort of cynical, as opposed to outright mean), but it's hard to do well.

Kiersten White said...

Maybe Genius--Yes! I'm cool with cynical. He can have a dark streak, sure. It's when that streak bleeds over into being abusive/borderline abusive that it bothers me.

Liz said...

This post is hilarious! I'm surprised so many people didn't catch your sarcasm. Anyway, I definitely agree that we need to make sure our teenage sisters/daughters/nieces, etc. know the difference between fiction and reality.

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

LOL, AWESOME post. And a very well made point. Those stories are fun...but it is a little worrying that these guys are becoming the 'Ideal.'

Oh, and I SO brought Captain Wentworth. I think outside the box. :)

Tawna Fenske said...

Was feeling a little terrified for you those first few paragraphs!

I've never been a fan of the bad boy myself, though they can sometimes be entertaining in fiction.

Thanks for the chuckle!

Abby Stevens said...

@ Jenna Wallace - I was thinking the same thing.

...but that just means that if he dances, he can tell other bees where to find food...

Omgoodness. Hilarious. Random. Perfect.

Great point, Kiersten. I completely agree.

Natalie said...

Well said! And I agree with Shannon, I'd take Captain Wentworth over Mr. Darcy any day.

Karli Dunlin said...

Having read your blog, I wasn't fooled. (Entirely.) I will say that you are a wicked (and funny) person, and I might need therapy from reading this post. You've destroyed my aspirations of marrying a sparkly veggie vampire.

I hope you don't mind that I have invited Mr. Edward Ferrars instead of Mr. Darcy. ;)

MissV said...

You had me shaking in my boots on your behalf. I was sitting here screaming, "RED FLAG! RED FLAG!"

I have never liked the bad boys, even in fiction. They can have an edge but he sure as hell better treat the woman like an angel or he'll alienate me.

storyqueen said...

I was soooo creeped out.

You are a good jokester, my dear....perhaps too good.


This blog is NEVER dull.


Sarah said...

Dancing to show where the food is, what a superpower. I almost fainted from lack of oxygen from laughing so hard.

Zachary Grimm said...

Awesome post, Kiersten! What a coincidence that I am currently creating the romantic bonds between my character "Hailey" and her singer-performer heartthrob "Conner Everett." It is going rather well, thankfully. :-)

Secondly, I hereby put in a request for a YouTube video of Hot Stuff's bee dance. lol. ;-)

Third, I COMPLETELY agree with you on the above. The ladies in my life are SO important to me, and I definitely do EVERYTHING I can to see that they are treated as they should be. I mean, HELLO, girls/ladies ROCK! :)

Madeleine said...

Haha, fantastically honest post. Some YA romances are detrimental to teenage girls' expectations of a relationship.

I like the word "dominated." No one, particularly not the man/boy you're in a relationship with, should ever dominate you. All that stuff should stay locked up in in the 18th century, or something. Women are equal. Women are beautiful and should stand up for themselves. I absolutely hate it when, in fiction (and occasionally in life), the girl becomes slave to the love, and, consequently, the love interest.

It's really wrong. Plain wrong. The teenage girls and boys are so impressionable (trust me. I know. I am one). The bad boy can be fun, but separating fiction from reality can be tough. ;D

Thanks for the post!

Stephanie Perkins said...

Late to the party, but I just wanted to say how AWESOME this post is.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

patdwhite said...

wow, lots of great comments and ideas here.

In a younger way (no virginity questions involved) I think that Hunger Games has a bit of this. Katniss is a bit rough (mostly through necessity) and has the interest of 2 guys. Gale is her hunting partner and appears tough and indifferent like she is (but apparently does like her more than a friend), and Peeta who is gentler on the outside and is quite attracted to Katniss.

I think you should go for it, heck, whats another book in the works for a talented little bug like you!

patdwhite said...

Kiersten, that last post belongs with todays blog, not this one, sorry!

Jess said...

Haha. This is bril! I have certainly been sucked into some popular YA books, only to finish reading them, turn on my critical thinking skills, and be utterly disturbed by the creepy borderline abusive behavior. Especially how it's not addressed. I'd love to see a girl MC call out the hot mysterious paranormal dude on his alpha crap and tell him he's not getting anywhere with her. I'd buy a book like that in a heartbeat.

Annie said...

SOO glad you were kidding about Hot Stuff. Seriously.

And I couldn't agree with you more.