September 28, 2011

Guest Post: YA Novels about Relationship Abuse (and Giveaway!)

I'm happy to welcome Jessica from Confessions of a Bookaholic to the blog today for a Psychtember guest post!

Relationship abuse is a topic that touches every teen or young adult at some point in their lives. Either they are dealing with abuse personally or know someone going through it. As I’ve researched various articles while in graduate school, I’ve discovered so many interesting facts about relationship abuse and adolescents. One of the best finds was that YA books focusing on abuse seem to be spot-on! They really get the characters and their thoughts. They go through the various layers of a relationship and capture the emotions, personalities, strengths, and weaknesses of each person. It’s easy to think that you could read a story about abuse and never see why the character let it continue. You’d think “How could she let him talk to her that way? Why not just break up with him”, but it’s never that easy. While reading YA books on abuse, I found myself truly understanding why these individuals fell in love. Why they held on to something that was constantly hurting them.

In June I hosted the event Stand Up Against Abuse and I featured 3 new YA books that focus on relationship abuse; But I Love Him by Amanda Grace, Stay by Deb Caletti, and Bitter End by Jennifer Brown. The surprising thing about these books was that each explored a different level of abuse. They were very different in the way they presented the female characters and the severity of the physical or emotional abuse.

Stay by Deb Caletti explores Clara’s relationship with Christian. During this story we see Clara after she has isolated herself from Christian by going to a safe location with her father. The story takes us back into the relationship from the start to see how they fell in love and how things fell apart. Christian was mentally abusive to Clara. He was paranoid, demanding, and threatening. Readers can see Clara begin to change as the relationship progresses. She becomes broken. This book grabbed me the most because it represented many aspects from a past relationship I had as a teen. I was not really physically abused but the mental abuse was always there. Ia think teens can relate to this book because this is the most common type of abuse. People can try to break you down or make you feel useless just because they want to feel they have power. It’s a cycle that is hard to break. Many teenage girls just look for the affection a relationship brings, or never realize that jealousy and rage does not equal love.

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown involves Alex and Cole. This book focuses on the way a relationship can make a person turn away from their friends, family, and all other social outlets. Cole doesn’t like that Alex hangs out with her friends so he manipulates her to make her feel like he really needs her all to himself. Alex, a once popular, friendly personality, turns into a quiet, scared girl who doesn’t know how to make Cole happy anymore. The relationship goes out of control and soon turns violent. Bitter End shows how a teenager can fall for an individual who is perfect at first but soon changes. Promises are broken, and no matter how many times the person says they will stop, it rarely happens. Relationships like this not only change the outward nature of the person, but it changes the personality as well. Once outgoing, friendly people can become isolated and depressed. That is the time when it becomes even more difficult to break free from abuse.

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace presents the most severe case of physical abuse in these books, and it is told in a very interesting way-- backwards. At first we get to see Ann at her lowest point. She is battered, broken, and completely alone. This is the time when we can really think “How did she let this happen?” But, soon we know why. This book goes back in time so we can get an idea of how this cycle started, but instead of starting at the beginning of the relationship, we start at the end. Ann loves Conner and she has tried every way possible to make him happy. She gave up so much and is in a constant balancing act to try to keep him content. When we first meet her, she is aware of every trigger he has. She blames herself if she makes him angry. Even after so much abuse, Ann could see the good in Conner. That was her focus, but even with all that effort, it wasn’t enough. By the end of the book we get a glimpse of Ann whole, before the relationship; however, at the same time we see her at her lowest point. The unique benefit of this is that you really get a chance to compare the two personalities of Ann during this part. It’s easier to see just how different she really seems now that she has been through so much.

All of these books involve girls who were looking for love and affection. Each story explores an abusive relationship in a different way and different level of physical or mental abuse. But abuse is abuse --plain and simple-- and it is wrong. Teenagers can struggle with knowing how to break free. This happens to guys as well and I do hope that a YA book explores that instance as well. Having a background in psychology really allowed me to better connect with these books. I could see how the research connected with more “true life” stories of abuse. It puts more of a face with the research pertaining to why this happens.

Psychology background: I have my BS in Psychology from Pikeville College in Kentucky. I am currently a 2nd year graduate student studying general psychology with an emphasis in child and adolescent development. I am graduating in March 2012. I hope to someday develop programs that help teens and young adults with abusive relationship and cyberbullying. 

Thanks very much, Jessica, for this thorough exploration of three YA books dealing with relationship abuse!

And now, Jessica has generously offered up a copy of Amanda Grace's But I Love Him as a giveaway!

The rules:

- US/Canada only
- Entrants must be 13 years or older.
- One entry per person.
- Following and tweeting are not required, but always much appreciated.
- Winner will be selected randomly and contacted by e-mail for their address, which will then be passed on to Jessica, who'll ship out the prize.
- Ends Oct. 17 at 11:59 pm EDT. 

This contest is now closed.


  1. Out of these I read Stay and really enjoyed it. I liked how the time shifted to before and after so we could see simultaneously how Clara's relationship started and where it had taken her.
    The backwards story of But I Love Him also sounds like an interesting way to see how the relationship got to the point it did. Need to read it and Bitter End, heard good things!

  2. Your post was spot on! I'm a psychology major too, with my master's in social work. Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn is another YA novel about an abusive relationship - with an interesting twist as it's told from the male (abuser) perspective.

  3. Wow, what an awesome post. It was completely well written and gave lots of food for thought. Out of the three books, I've only read Stay but I really enjoyed it as it explored a world that I was ignorant about and it felt real.

    I was curious and glad that I read that book and look forward to reading other books like that.

    I think it's important to educate teens these days to let them know that they're not alone. There are always people they can turn to if the relationships that they're in go bad. I feel so sad for kids that are going through what Clara did and don't know how to get out.

    Anyway, great post.

  4. Thank you so much!! I've wanted to read But I Love Him for a while!!

  5. No need to enter me, but just wanted to leave a comment to say what a great post this was. :) Thanks!

  6. What a great post! Having had an abusive relationship in the past, I can relate how difficult it is to get away. Thanks for the giveaway!

  7. Wow, I had no idea that there were so many abuse-related YA novels out there. Thanks for sharing!

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Albatross by Josie Bloss
    Asking For It by Shannon Kennedy
    Beaten by Suzanne Weyn
    Bitter End by Jennifer Brown
    Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
    Break From You by Rebecca Green Gasper
    But I Love Him by Amanda Grace
    Damaged: Natalie's Story by Talia Jager
    Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
    Falling For You by Lisa Schroeder
    Fault Line by Janet Tashjian
    Fingerprints by Suzanne Casamento
    In Too Deep by Michelle Kemper Brownlow
    Knee Deep by Jolene Perry
    Leslie's Journal by Allan Stratton
    Losing Elizabeth by Tanya J. Peterson
    Love Doesn't Leave Bruises by Tamika Hall
    Painting Caitlyn by Kimberly Joy Peters
    Rage: A Love Story by Julie Anne Peters
    Raylaina by Carrol Wolverton
    Shackled by Angela Carling
    Stay by Deb Caletti
    Take It by C.E. Starkweather
    The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor
    Things Change by Patrick Jones
    Unlovable by Choice Jane Doe


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