TOXICITY IN YOUNG ADULT NOVELS

IVY MADDY
(she/her)
ivymaddy.myportfolio.com
maddyir@vcu.edu

I love reading books and I spent a lot of middle and high school reading YA novels. At the time, I really enjoyed them. But looking back, there are a lot of storylines I disagree with. Twilight is the series that got me into reading– and guess what? Bella and Edward meet 15 criteria for an abusive relationship. And that was my first look into teenage love, as it was for many other kids and teens.

So for my senior thesis, I did research into toxic storylines that are prevalent in YA novels and how they affect the teens that read them. On my website, I write about the good and the bad of YA novels. I give examples– both brief and in depth– of toxic YA novels and talk about what makes them toxic. On books that I talk in depth about, I include content warnings because some emotional and triggering topics are included.

Not all YA novels are bad. But many of them display negative behavior that teens should not learn from. I think it’s important to learn about these things, but not in a book that romanticizes them or normalizes the behavior.

I included books from a few different genres (within YA) and tried to cover different toxic topics. I talked with other readers to get suggestions for titles and feedback about what makes them toxic. There is a tab on my website where you can suggest titles for me to add too.