Bad Romance is a heartbreaking story about relationship abuse and self-loathing, and one of the most accurate portrayals that I’ve ever read. The book is exceptionally well-written, with developed characters that talked and acted like typical teenagers. It shows how trouble at home can drive a young woman into the arms an abuser, trapped in a relationship because of dependency.
One of the things that worked really well for this novel is that it starts from the beginning when Grace met Gavin and how they fell in love. Too often with stories about abusive relationships the story takes place when things are already bad and nearing the end. The reason that these stories are flawed is that it makes things pretty black and white and it fails to capture what really makes leaving difficult for victims. In Bad Romance the reader goes on a journey with Grace from the beginning of the relationship to the very end, the reader experiences all the highs and all the lows right alongside the main character, and it makes sense why Grace can’t see what is happening to her.
The frog in the steadily boiling water metaphor perfectly captures the pacing of this book. Things seem comfortable, ideal even in the early stages, but over time the relationship starts to change. An insult here, an accusation there, some unreasonable demands or rules, an invasion of privacy, and steadily over time the victim starts to feel less and less sure of themselves. Grace’s loss of autonomy over time is keenly felt.
“When you’re a stupid girl in love, it’s almost impossible to see the red flags. It’s so easy to pretend they’re not there, to pretend that everything is perfect.”
People know to look for the more overt signs, physical and sexual violence, but it’s the emotional and verbal abuse that’s the real killer. It becomes difficult to fight back, and attempts to leave often end in tragedy. How often do we see headlines about a person attacked and even killed by their partner in an act of revenge? It’s a vicious thing that isn’t always clear on the outside and folks don’t always realize when it’s happening to them until it’s too late, much like the poor frog boiling to death.
Abusers don’t need a good reason to be abusive, and they rarely do, which is why it is up to us to worry about the one person that matters: ourselves. The book was so true to life that it will be difficult no matter the reader, it might be cathartic to some, or a lifesaver for others.
I also have to give this book some serious love for the strong female friendships present throughout the entirety of the book. Too often there is a noticeable lack of strong, supportive friendships in YA literature and most female characters spend all of their time competing or snubbing each other. Friends can be and often are the only support system for a victim, so it was refreshing to see.
Bad Romance shows the complexities of a relationship and how abuse can take many different forms but ultimately leads to the same conclusion. It is honest, subtle in the way that it talks about abuse and how it can change the very core of a person. It shows the reader how to recognize abuse when presented with it, even if it comes in a really nice package or seems like an escape. This book would be an excellent teaching tool for teens and could be a conversation starter for family and friends of victims. I loved this book and cautiously recommend it with trigger warnings due to the very sensitive subject matter.