Everybody who has kept up with the Sparkle Project or follows me on twitter knows my opinion of Becca Fitzpatrick’s debut paranormal romance YA novel “Hush, Hush.” If you do not and are not in the mood to read a lot of ranting in my review, the short explanation is that I despised it. No book has angered me in the way that book did. I could not believe that a published bestselling author, let alone a woman, would write a book aimed at teenagers in which a girl is sexually harassed, stalked and ultimately threatened with death by a man who she ends up falling in love with and this was all viewed in a positive light. I hated the book so much it made me indirectly defend “Twilight” because at least Edward Cullen in his sparkly glory never held a sobbing girl against a bed and threatened to kill her. I’m not the only person to say this about the book and some reviewers have received quite differing opinions on the book, such as the comments left in the Book Smugglers review. But it was this particular article entitled “In Defence of Hush, Hush” that I felt the need to reply to in some way. I’m going to tackle this rebuttal in the same way I review the books in the Project, by taking it piece by piece and dismantling it the best way I can.
The article’s writer, Frankie Diane Mallis, is a YA writer herself so I find it particularly interesting that she is defending this book. She starts her piece by mentioning how many reviews “hinted at some serious allegations towards the story.” That’s much kinder than anything I would have said but I digress:
“I have no intention of butting heads here, or calling out the reviewer or even disagreeing with some of their points. Many of the points are valid. Patch is not a perfect gentleman. But he's not supposed to be. Becca set out to write the ultimate bad boy love story, and she did. She spent 5 years perfecting her craft and writing and revising and achieved her dream of becoming not just a published writer, but a New York Times Best seller and that is AWESOME. And none of that achievement should be dimmed by people who suddenly fear her book.” (Emphasis mine.)
Nimbly bypassing the news that it took Ms Fitzpatrick 5 years to write her novel (you all know my opinions on the prose, plotting, etc), I feel the need to tackle Ms Mallis’s comment about Patch. He sure is a bad boy but this story is not a love story. It verges into Stockholm Syndrome territory frequently and as I am so fond of mentioning, I don’t think attempted murder is very romantic. All writers have the right to write whatever characters they please but they also have the responsibility, especially if they’re writing to an impressionable teenage audience, to show consequences. One of the check points on my Sparkle Check-List is ‘lack of consequences’ and this book is the epitome of that trope, an all too common feature in the genre. Patch is a bad boy but he’s not a romantic figure and having him portrayed as some desirable figure is seriously misguided.
“BUT...here is where I became concerned and uncomfortable. This review has been reposted and has led to comments along the lines of:
"I was going to read this, but now I won't."
"I no longer want to read this story."
"I'm spreading the word that this is a bad book...pulling it from my library...telling students not to read it...etc"
"What is wrong with the author? Why does she want to promote such negativity?"
These kinds of comments make me so uncomfortable, I can't even tell you. Because this is the start of censorship and it's reminiscent (though granted on a MUCH MUCH smaller scale) of the witch hunts and attacks on Harry Potter.” (Emphasis mine.)
Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s not censorship although granted I am not an expert on net neutrality and the like. It is the job of the reviewer and the critic to praise and to critique, be it positively or otherwise. The YA genre has become a hotbed for criticism, some of it extremely undeserved, and many people have gone as far as to censor or ban books aimed at teenagers and children (if I remember correctly, according to the ALA, over half of the 10 most banned or challenged books in USA are for children/young adults, with the most banned writer in the country currently being the TTYL creator Lauren Myracle, a writer I greatly admire). I completely support reader democracy but I also support the right to point out faults and things I see as potentially damaging. Surely we should encourage a debate about issues such as rape culture, sexual harassment and the marginalisation of feminism and women’s rights in literature instead of putting our fingers in our ears and screaming? I’m not out to get Ms Fitzpatrick for writing this book (although I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to talk to her about it) but I fully support the right to tell her that I think her book has many problems in it.
“I hate the idea that people can see a book as dangerous and attack it. A teen girl is no less likely to seek out an abusive relationship after reading Hush, Hush or even Twilight, than a middle schooler is about to become a member of the occult after reading Harry Potter.” (Emphasis mine.)
Here’s where I disagree. Books are incredibly powerful because, like words themselves, they can make huge changes. They can inspire, they can bring out the greatest emotions in people, they can make you believe a boy with a scar and a wand can save the world or there’s an entirely need world full of the most amazing creatures and people you could ever imagine. They can take you to new places and experience things you’ve always wanted to. They can also shape you as a person. I know because books played a huge part of making me who I am. Books can perpetuate certain assumptions about our society, like the idea that every girl wants a bad boy and when she says ‘no’ she really means ‘yes.’ “Hush, Hush” is specifically aimed at an impressionable age group, and a female one at that. If a girl is surrounded by media (not just books but movies, TV shows, etc) that tell her when a boy threatens you and treats you like dirt it’s because he likes you, and all these actions are encouraged by other characters in the book as well as glowing reviews of the book, fawning interviews with the author and nothing to fight against his assumption, what is she supposed to believe is right and what is wrong? I’m a 20 year old, I know that the relationship in “Hush, Hush” is bad but if I’d read this book at 15, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have thought that. And the big flashing red light about that comment is this. I am quoting from my friend and Made of Fail presenter Dayna/Queenanthai, “Wizards are fiction. Abusive relationships are terrifyingly real. Trying to attract a ‘dangerous’ BF is attainable; going to Hogwarts is not.” Preach it.
“Now back to Hush, Hush, if you're the sort of person who just doesn't like romance, or bad boys or angels or fantasy....then sure, Hush, Hush might not be the book for you. But you shouldn't refrain from reading it or sharing it with others because you think it's damaging, or it sends out a bad message--especially if you haven't even read the book, which is the impression I had from the majority of people commenting.” (Emphasis mine.)
I think people have the right to avoid paying out money for something that might ultimately offend them. Reviews exist for this reason among others. If people want to read the book and end up liking it that’s their prerogative but they have the right to disagree.
“Most teens know the difference between a normal relationship and an extremely unhealthy one, which yes- it does often gets glorified and depicted in paranormal romance. And if there are teens or adults reading a book along those lines, believing it's sexy to threaten violence, believing its healthy for a person to want to kill themselves over you, dreaming of a guy who stalks you...I have a hard time believing that those thoughts and desires stemmed from the reading of a book. Unhealthy ideas about relationships stem from a deeper source than that and are often the fault of other factors, not a story.”(Emphasis mine.)
Really? I’m not saying that reading this book will automatically turn you into the sort of person who goes out to find a stalker, but with everything our society is throwing out at women telling them how to live their lives or look for relationships, you can’t deny that the media we see around us and read/view/etc does have an effect on us, especially when that media is aimed at younger girls. It sort of says something about the conditions the book was written in; Fitzpatrick wanted to write about the ‘ultimate bad boy’ but why? Why are bad boys so sexy? Is it really romantic to think of a 17 year old girl being treated like shit, sexually harassed in front of a classroom of laughing teenagers and ultimately threatened with death by someone just because he’s a bad boy? Rape culture is something that has been perpetuated throughout our culture for far too long now and I think in the 21st century that we have to do better than this.
“I have corresponded with Becca several times and I can tell you with confidence, she's a lovely person and had only the best of intentions at heart when writing Hush, Hush. Sure she likes the bad boy and can write some mean and sexy lines for fallen angel Patch...but I'm pretty sure she also knows the difference between someone like Patch on the page and someone like Patch in real life.” (Emphasis mine.)
One’s personal connection to the writer aside, that may be well and true but as a writer in a genre aimed at an impressionable audience she has something of a responsibility to show consequences and make that difference shown in her work. If she does know the difference between the two then why continue to perpetuate the myth that it’s okay to treat a girl like dirt because it’s love?
“Books are meant to be read and discussed, not banned and feared. If you come across a book in the future that concerns you, don't jump the gun, but use it to open the lines of communication and discussion--it's one of the best things you can do. And if you read a review that brings up concerns about a particular book, I challenge you to read it yourself and see in which ways it makes you question life.” (Emphasis mine.)
I am not for one moment advocating banning the book. Do I think it’s a disgusting book? Yes, I do. This book concerned me so much that I had to review it so that I could warn readers of the misguided messages in it. I’m sick of books and media telling girls that it’s okay to be nothing but a meek, defenceless maiden while the man forces you around and treats you like crap because that’s how love works. I hate that rape culture is so prevalent in a genre I love and I hate how it’s become so popular with barely a word of mainstream questioning. A growing distaste for the messages in the Twilight series has emerged but it’s treated like it’s an isolated incident, and as I’ve been exploring with the project, it clearly isn’t. I know a lot of people might be reading this and thinking ‘god, get over it, it’s just a book’ but that’s the thing. It’s not just a book, it’s an entire culture. “Hush, Hush” is just a small part of it and maybe all these reviews will open up discussion about the issues, I certainly hope so. It’s censorship to talk into a library and demand a book be taken off the shelves; it’s not censorship to give a book a bad review and suggest people not buy it. It’s the 21st century. We have to do better than abusive bad boys and sparkles.
So what's everyone else's point of view on the subject? The next Sparkle Project should be done by next week for those who are interested. I also suggest you go to Made of Fail and listen to their Eclipse episode for the greatest episode of "Horrify the Twilight Noob" ever, with the help of cleolinda