Reality Check

R or M

School is now in full swing for most kids in the U.S. and mine are no different.  My youngest is now in first grade, a “Big Kid,” which got me reminiscing about his kindergarten days.  One of the first lessons his patience-of-a-saint teacher taught him involved telling the difference between fantasy and reality.

He now proudly knows dinosaurs are real, while dragons aren’t.  He may make up a story about driving down the highway on his very own motorcycle, but he knows he’s stuck with the kid-powered version for the next decade or two.  More importantly, he can read an age-appropriate book and tell when the author is playing fast and loose with reality.  Silly author, kids can’t have a T-Rex for a best friend.  So why is it that people continue to think grown women are not capable of understanding this lesson?

Bad boys with worse tempers, or high-powered executives who start out as cold, condescending jerks are the stuff of many women’s secret fantasies.  And the fire to others’ brimstone.

The cautionary comments on New Adult romances, which have been there since day one, are the worst.  And they only keep growing.  What are books like these doing to young, impressionable college-aged girls?  Are books like Beautiful Disaster, 50 Shades of Gray, and Beautiful Bastard turning girls into magnets for abusive men?  Are New Adult authors creating a generation of willing victims?  Someday I swear I’ll open MSN to find Jaime McGuire is being sued for damages in a domestic abuse case involving people she’s never met. But judge, my daughter read her book!

First, let’s get one thing straight—beating someone, female or male is NOT okay, especially when you profess to love the one you are harming.  Got it? Good, I thought so.  This is another concept they taught my son in kindergarten.  By the time you reach adulthood, the law of the land expects you to have figured this out, women included.  And New Adult romances are intended to be read by adults.  Plus, they generally don’t involve the hero physically abusing the heroine.  Only himself in some cases.

It isn’t only New Adult romances that have received such well-meaning comments, either.  Even adult books with dark heroes, such as Karen Marie Moning’s Fever Series, have been called out. Despite Jericho Barrons having a fan base most movie stars would drop their shorts for.

So what’s up? Do the critics think our kindergarten teachers failed us all? I think there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of why so many women read these books. Sure some may be looking for a book that will alter their world view or at least their view on relationships. But I’m willing to bet most read these books for pure entertainment. Possibly an escape from real life.

Our mothers had daytime soaps. We have book boyfriends, many we would never consider a relationship with if they became flesh and bone. Reasonably harmless in moderation. Now, if you go out trawling bars for an immortal sociopath, or a promiscuous underground fighter prone to temper tantrums, you may want to reconsider your reading choices.

Some books of this ilk may fail for you due to the writing style, or the plot line may be full of holes. Or dark heroes may simply not be your cup of tea. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion… So long as authors keep creating new book boyfriends for a variety of tastes. Not only Prince Charming.

Next week I’ll be shifting gears with a world building series on utopias and dystopias. Less reality, more fantasy. Class dismissed.


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