"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know." - John Keats

"You're not allowed to say anything about books because they're books and books are, you know, God." - Nick Hornby

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review #9: Crash, by Nicole Williams

When I was younger, reading YA fiction when I was actually, you know, a "young adult", Judy Blume's Forever was the scandal du jour, the book every library needed to ban so that we wouldn't learn about The Sex. Judy and Forever are about as harmless as a puppy when held up against Nicole Williams and her first book in a trilogy about the "good girl" and the "bad boy".

On the surface, it's not a horrible book. Good girl Lucy meets bad boy Jude on the eve of her senior year in high school, and they fall in love as only seventeen-year-olds can. He is inappropriate for her in every single way, and they both know it, but she doesn't care. He has no family - is living in a foster home, in fact - and her family is a ghost of what it once was, tragedy having torn them to bits years earlier. They come together and fall apart a half a dozen times, finally culminating in a cheesy gradution speech that would make John Hughes cringe.

If all this book was was an on-again, off-again teen romance, I would set it aside, sigh a little at the fact that kids these days have crappy books to read, and move on. (And possibly think about my own high school boyfriend a little bit, and the drama we created. I think I may owe my mom some apologies for that.) Dig beneath the surface, though, and you have a romantic lead who is prone to violent outbursts, which Williams shows in a positive light, and a relationship that is so codependant, so disfunctional, Anna and Christian Grey look like the poster children for a healthy marriage. In fact, you know what this book is? It's the YA equivalent of Fifty Shades, only without the sex. That's terrifying to me and this is why: Fifty Shades didn't bother me because of the sex, or the "abuse" or the psuedo-BDSM business; it bothered me because Christian Grey was an obssessed, possessive, scared little boy, and controlled Anna in more ways than just the bedroom. In fact, I'd go so far as to say the bedroom was the only place that Christian didn't control Anna.

Jude is like Christian Grey, only without the handcuffs and grey silk tie. His possessiveness isn't sweet or endearing or romantic - it's scary. It's the prequel to the husband who slowly but surely isolates his wife, who loves her with the kind of obssessive love that makes you wind up a Lifetime movie of the week. And Lucy's determination to save Jude is admirable, but he's not a puppy she can save, and at seventeen, she needs to be more concerned with her own future than his.

As a single mama who is trying my damndest to teach my daughter that she is a strong, independent woman, and, quite frankly, to teach her that I am, too, especially after years of not being one, I'm appalled at the underlying message this book sends. If Jude is the new romantic leading man that we're selling to our daughters, I fear for their future.

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