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I Love You Despite My Original Intention to Kill You

June 1, 2010

Hypothetical Situation:

An innocent seventeen-year-old girl goes to her Biology class (the class where everyone seems to meet their soul mate) on the first day of her Junior year. She’s landed next to a boy. As all girls do inadvertently when they meet a new guy, she sizes him up:

Whispy, yet untangled black hair. Blacker than black.

Eyes so blue they look silver, as though you could touch them and see the irises ripple like water. They examine her closely, as though they are appraising a meal.

Black jeans, black, tight shirt that accentuates his lean muscles.

Perfect skin, excepting a mysterious, long scar that stretches from his right eye to his chin and somehow, although the girl wouldn’t usually, she finds this sexy.

Over the next few weeks, this boy, always clad in black and staring at her with those icy eyes, light reflecting off his sexy-somehow scar, seems to be everywhere she is. At the grocery store, gas station, and at the park where she walks her dog (although she can’t fathom how he would know she walks her dog there every Monday at seven because he absolutely refuses to speak to her in Bio). Actually, all he ever does is stare at her. She even thought she spotted him in the tree outside her bedroom window that, coincidentally, is planted in just the right place for someone to easily swing inside her room.

Of course, she doesn’t really freak out until she gets an inkling that he has a dark and dreadful past, one that she shouldn’t want to know about. And, going against her better judgement because this interest she suddenly has for this guy overpowers everything she’s learned in the past seventeen years of her life and her personality in general, she investigates. Then, this boy tries to get close to her, ensuring that she has to get a drive from him, walking from class to class with her, never really telling her what he wants but making it clear that he wants something. Badly.

And then, suddenly, because it’s oh-so easy to fall for a guy with a dark, dreadful past, social inabilities, and stalker-habits, she’s making out with him in her bedroom. But, wait: How did they get there? Oh, yeah, he snuck into her room at night with the aid of that strategically placed tree, and she didn’t bother to scream because she trusts him, despite the stalking, mysteriousness, the foreboding feel she gets around him, and the fact that everything she knows disagrees with the decision. Did I mention that he actually intended to kill her originally but found that he was too obsessed with her and that his lust could no longer be denied and that he really, really didn’t like the idea of making out with the girl he’d just killed? And, furthermore, did I mention that she was so in love with him that she didn’t care and simply, after his confession, said, “I know you, dear, murderer-stalker-lover, and I trust you. Now, kiss me again.”

You know, because murderers are just so irresistible.

I don’t know about you, but my heart’s doing cartwheels and I have the sudden urge to go make out with a guy at a bar with a weird scar.

Kidding.

Honestly, that hypothetical story didn’t sound very alluring did it? Were you attracted to this Mr. Stalker Boyfriend? Did you admire this girl for her strength of character and will?

I wasn’t; I didn’t.

Yet, how often is a story similar to this used in YA literature? It seems ridiculous that we instill this idea in young girls that going against their better judgment, oftentimes the better and wiser judgment of adults, and risking everything to delve deeper into the life of a boy, who, quite honestly, is probably not going to be good for them, is an admirable thing. There are innumerable faults with this theory. Here are a few that are instantly apparent:

  1. The girl shows an unfortunate willingness to abandon her values. I can’t find it in me to truly respect someone who cares so little about their values and sense to throw them away on a whim, especially when said whim is one that they know is synonymous with jumping into a lake when you can’t swim and hoping that everything will turn out all right. I want to read about a girl who is strong, not easily swept off her feet by the idea of danger and a mystery. Common sense is an asset, not a liability.
  2. The guy is a creep. A disposition that is not opposed to murder is not attractive to me. So what if he didn’t want to murder you because he’s fallen in love? He’s still willing to murder someone another man is in love with? The total lack of ethics is an enormous turn-off, in my opinion. In addition, in real life, I wouldn’t find the dark and mysterious past interesting at all. As readers, we take emotional risks, but we don’t take physical risks, and whatever may be happening in the novel, we can shut it out with a slam of covers. What if you couldn’t do that? Don’t you see how totally ridiculous the idea of chasing after a boy with a dark past is? In life, we tend to take the easy way out. We stick to  simplicity.

Obviously, the dark and mysterious past plotline is intriguing when you look at it from a reader’s point of view, and I don’t have much against it. However, there’s still an undeniable fault with the overall idea of a girl toying with danger for a guy she knows isn’t good for her.

You could argue that the girl’s emotions have taken precedence, that her common sense has been overpowered (BEEP! Another sign of weak will-power.), but, quite honestly, when has that ever happened? There is always a choice. We are born with the free will to decide what we’d like to do with ourselves. We have the ability to say no. We’re encouraged to say no to bad boys, remember?

Then again, I don’t mind reading this sort of plot, as long as the murderous attributes don’t play a part. That seems to cross a line entirely. It’s ridiculous. A man with little opposition to murder is not romantic. He is not a good man. He’s selfish, actually, for keeping what he wants (the girl), but being willing to take away someone else’s loved one.

I’d love to hear the opinions of others on this topic. I acknowledge that it’s fun to read things of this sort, but it’s the underlying selfishness and the murderous qualities that make certain variations of this story ridiculous.

Here are a few examples of similar love stories, some worked, some didn’t:

Nora and Patch from Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush: I did enjoy this book. I am looking forward to reading the sequel. However, Patch is not an admirable guy, for the most part. I liked Nora far more than I liked Bella (see below, and also see this awesome post entitled, “How Not to Pull a Bella Swan”; it’s ingenious), but I still disapproved of her silly and hasty decisions to go along with Patch at times. Often, there were other less dangerous alternatives. Patch was intriguing and exciting, but of the men in this list of couples, he seems the less desirable of all. A majority of the time, he seemed to lust after Nora rather than love her, and his general indifference to murder was plain creepy.

Bella and Edward from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight: First of all, of these girls, Bella is the most spineless, whiny, and irritating, in my opinion. As the series moved on, she was a slave to the “passion” she felt for Edward. I don’t want to be a slave to anyone or anything. Anyway, Edward’s urge to kill made much more sense. It had to do with primal instinct, not a murderous tendency in his personality. The stalking, though? The watching her sleep? Those were ultimately creepy qualities. And, later on, even he got really irritating. Why was he never mad at her for cheating or being a brat? TWILIGHT RANT ALERT. MUST MOVE ON…

Clary and Jace from Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones: Best combination. Jace does appear to be mysterious and brooding originally. His sarcasm could be a turn-off. He needs to grow up a little. Yet every little personality tweak that wasn’t admirable was something he could grow out of. He’s seventeen for goodness’ sake, not centuries old like the other boys. Indubitably, he is the safest bet. He was never prone to murder or stalking. He simply appeared to be dark and mysterious. This appearance had the same effect the others did, but the guy underneath was forty times less frightening. The relationship was more advisable. Clary didn’t go against her better judgment to follow him, but went with him out of necessity. In addition, he never gave an impression as foreboding as the others’.

What do you think is the best way to pull off the mystery bad-boy plot? Do you think it’s overdone? Is it stupid to begin with?


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11 Comments leave one →
  1. Torrie permalink
    June 4, 2010 3:55 PM

    Fantastic post! Loved the intro scenario– very well written, as always. 🙂 I love the ‘sexy-somehow’ line.
    I’m pretty sick of ‘bad boys’ in YA (and adult novels for that matter…) and I never really did like them all that much in the first place. I love me a good sweet, John Green-style nerdy, genuine nice guy MC. Which explains why I love Chuck so much.
    And as for FC’s, they should be strong in their morals, intelligent, positive, and pretty much Not Bella Swan. Why does everyone assume teens are so dang sullen and moody? WE AREN’T. (For the most part)

  2. June 3, 2010 6:19 PM

    LOL to the title of this blog post and HIGH FIVE for the subject. I admit, there is a big-time love factor in my love/hate relationship with Twilight. But when it comes down to it, Bella and Edward’s relationship is ridiculous on its face. (but somehow when I am reading the books… I can’t stop reading!)

    Anyway it’s so important that YA represent relationships that don’t border on the dangerous. IMHO, I couldn’t get into HUSH, HUSH exactly because I didn’t understand why Nora was attracted to Patch. At all. (It started with the name for me. Patch? Is he a children’s doll?) Anyway, bad boys have to show some redeeming quality (and not just want to kill someone) to be attractive.

    Maybe this is part of the reason I liked IF I STAY so much? Adam was very real, hanging out with the parents and having goals of his own. And Peeta??? Puh-lease, I am a die-hard.

    Also, I have CITY OF BONES on my nightstand right now, waiting to be read! *moves COB up list*

  3. Dominique permalink
    June 2, 2010 5:34 PM

    I never noticed that the pic on the top of the page is of your book shelf. Nice owls:)

  4. June 2, 2010 2:39 PM

    If I didn’t already love reading your blog, that title would’ve hauled me in. 🙂

    “Common sense is an asset, not a liability.” Ohh, I wish the rest of the world were half as wise! Especially since I started blogging, I’ve thought about a lot of the things you brought up. (And these things are part of why I never finished the Twilight series.) Great post, as usual!

  5. June 2, 2010 1:11 PM

    I don’t think it’s overdone…not the way these books fly off the shelves. And I am one of the groupies…It’s an embarrassing admission.

  6. June 2, 2010 11:14 AM

    Lolz. Great post!

  7. Jen G. permalink
    June 1, 2010 9:10 PM

    Yes, yes, yes! I agree completely! I’ve been mostly okay with Edward (haven’t read BD yet), but Patch! Oh, how I loathed Patch. In my review I wrote something like “Bad boys should have a touch of sweet underneath” and I stand by that. Patch was an abusive jerk and I will not be reading anymore of those books, great cover or no.

  8. June 1, 2010 8:06 PM

    Jace and Clary are definitely my favorite out of those.

    Most of the qualities you discuss are NOT ones that I’d appreciate in real life. In fact, I usually fall for the bad boy in books, but I have a good guy in real life. I think that this is due to the fact that, generally, the ‘bad boy’ is a ‘good guy’ just below the tough exterior. I like that the ‘bad boy ‘ is afraid to show off his gooey marshmallow center… until the right girl comes along anyway.

    BUT this is dangerous territory. Most girls can tell the difference between a ‘bad boy’ with a ‘good guy’ inside versus a true bad person, but not all. Which leads to girls saying that their boyfriend, who is actually a bad person, will change.

    Okay, I kind of babbled there. And went off topic. Sorry. :/

  9. June 1, 2010 6:40 PM

    I’m trying to pull this off RIGHT NOW. ; ) And in the best anti-stupid romantic choices, while also wanting the reader to cringe at the trees I put them up and the stones I toss at them. 😉

    Great post. 🙂

  10. June 1, 2010 6:31 PM

    Totally agree!

    I often wondered how any female reading these books would like the girl protagonist. Especially Bella (I’ll take your cue and avoid the Twilight rant).

    The bad boy mystique is one thing, but as you said, there needs to be some decency to the man underneath. Sure, Edward’s urge to kill is explainable, but he is selfish and only does what he believes is right for Bella, never considering what she wants.

    Jace was a bit refreshing in that way. I’m interested to see what is done with his character now that he has a better perspective on his true identity and he can have a relationship with Clary free from certain guilt!

    Glad you wrote this Madeleine, it’s a refreshing perspective right from the target audience. Should give some YA authors something to think about.

  11. Miranda permalink
    June 1, 2010 6:29 PM

    I loved this post. I do like it when guy characters are flawed and depressed and make lots of mistakes, but I think there’s a line somewhere.

    As long as the girl knows what she’s getting into, I don’t have a problem with anyone dating a bad-news kinda guy. It’s her choice.

    But sometimes it seems that desire overrides the ability to make rational choices, and that’s when it becomes unhealthy.

    As a writer — I don’t really write bad boys per se, but I do make sure they are all flawed and act like real guys, cause that’s what readers can relate to.

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