Monday, March 12, 2012

Beautiful Disasters, Facebook Blocks and Why Abuse is NOT Romance.

At the beginning of the year, I read the self published novel "Beautiful Disaster" by Jamie McGuire. My opinion was less than enthusiastic. In fact, it overtook "Hush Hush" as the most abhorrent book I have ever read it terms of problematic content masquerading as romance or "bad boy sexy". You can read my review here. The reason I never posted my review onto the Sparkle Project, my oft-neglected blog where I post all my reviews, is that I didn't consider it to be YA, even though I had seen it marketed as such. It definitely reads like it was written for a younger audience and the characters are within YA age but the classification of young adult literature is more complex than its characters ages.

The author herself recently posted a Facebook post, which I cannot read any more, where she asserted that the book was not YA and was not about an abusive relationship, something I vehemently disagree on. The author's denial on the YA issue was interesting considering her own post asking fans to vote for the book in the Best YA category of the GoodReads awards. I posted a reply stating this and screencaps from my brief interlude with McGuire can be found here. I was in the middle of typing my 3rd reply when I was blocked from the conversation.

I want to make this clear. This is not some attack blog post, or a jealous hater rant or whatever it will undoubtedly be classified is. My issue here is that I was not allowed to state my case in full before being blocked entirely from the conversation only to be referred to as "need[ing] some medication before she hurt somebody in her basement" by one of McGuire's fans, while she let this ableist insult go by. So I shall do so here. Nobody will be blocked from this conversation, no comments will be deleted, unless personally insulting to me or other commenters, and I shall reply to as many replies as possible.

I hated "Beautiful Disaster". This is a book where the romantic hero repeatedly beats up people with pretty much no cause to do so, emotionally blackmails the heroine into staying with him, frequently leaves her and their friends scared by his behaviour and controls her actions, such as choosing outfits for her to wear. That's not romantic or sexy or any other connotations that are positive, and just because there's a self aware element of how disturbing this all is, that doesn't make it any better. Just because the author says it's not abusive that doesn't mean it isn't. It carries all the hallmarks of an abusive relationship and for her to even suggest it as a YA novel, be it passively or otherwise, is terrifying. Then again, this book disgusts me no matter how it's classified. There's no authorial control over the abusive content, and no consideration for what the realistic consequences of how a relationship like this would end, despite the author saying she wanted to keep it as realistic as possible. That's my issue with this book. The YA classification element is just another part of the problem that needs to be addressed. If McGuire was so adamant that the novel was not to be considered YA under any circumstances then why did she not correct anybody when it came to the GoodReads awards issue? Was it okay for her to cash in on this for publicity when the occasion called for it? Why is it not okay now? Is it because people have a completely justifiable issue with the content? And if the book is indeed adult contemporary romance, why does that justify the content?

"Neither the rating, nor the book conveys the message that abuse is okay. As the author, I can attest to that. The main female character is not abused. The characters are adults."

The issue of authorial control is a complicated one. Once a book is out in the open for all to see, read and analyse, the author's reading of it is no longer the authoritative interpretation of the text. If one is able to read something different from the author, it will be read and discussed. As an English lit student, I've seen some weird and wonderful interpretations of apparently simple texts. If I squint hard enough, I can see a modicum of what could be considered sexy and alluring about "Beautiful Disaster" but I'm far too aware of how disturbing it is to rose-tint a violent, emotionally unstable and manipulative man into something akin to a "bad boy". I've seen it more often in young adult fiction than I'd ever wish to read. I'm extremely passionate about addressing these issues in fiction aimed at a young and impressionable audience, and since "Beautiful Disaster" has in some shape, way or form been marketed or viewed as YA fiction, I need to talk about this. Even if it was never classified as YA, I would still have a major issue with it. The author's statements on the book do not match up with the material she has written, published and profited from. The characters may be adults but that does not make their actions and (lack of) consequences any more justifiable than if they had been written as sparkly vampires. See the previous post I wrote on Chris Brown for proof of that.

Frankly, I feel a little stupid for even addressing such a molehill of an issue and this free publicity is most likely what the author wants, given the recent attention being paid to another questionable & problematic vanity published romance novel. But I don't like being ungraciously kicked out of a discussion before I can give a proper reply, only to have people say I need medication for ever daring to bring up evidence contrary to the author's post. I also don't take kindly to being referred to as "the lynch mob that's been following me [McGuire] around for months" when that is a flat out lie as well as a ridiculously offensive piece of imagery. I will defend my name and I will defend up review of this book. Given the not infrequent spats with authors and bloggers as well as a burgeoning self publishing market, this is something we need to sort out. We need to talk about this content in fiction, be it teen or adult marketed, and we need to be able to do so without being called "haters" or "bitches". It needs to happen without getting personal, without getting incendiary and it needs to be done with a modicum of civility, otherwise we go round and round in circles and nothing will ever get fixed. We'll still be having these arguments in a year's time and we'll be writing the same Facebook and blog posts. Who wants that?

EDIT. McGuire herself refers to her book as young adult here and here. Isn't Google amazing? My thanks to my friend Has for that find.

No comments:

Post a Comment