I read this amazing, moving post on Beautiful Bookish Butterflies – and it just made me finally voice my opinions on this issue : using rape/sexual assault/abuse as a plot device, and not doing it actual justice in books (especially YA).
I have talked about this on my blog before (probably in some review which I cannot seem to find right now) but I’ve never really gone in depth about this topic – and reading that post made me drop everything and just pen down my thoughts about this.
Now, I really do not like books which use sexual abuse as a way to garner sympathy towards their characters. I’ve read way too many books dealing with this issue, especially YA books, in which it seems like as soon as the character gets attached to a backstory dealing with some form of abuse, immediately people lose it and suddenly the character becomes ten times deeper and more profound and well-loved, which is a wrong way of character development.
Authors who use abuse as a plot device – to make their characters’ life more sympathetic, or to make their characters more ‘deep’ who has gone through a lot, or to make their characters seem older and profound and more mature – I just feel that authors are doing it wrong.
Abuse is atrocious. And when authors use abuse in their books, and do not do it proper justice, and do not spread the proper message, and do not make it clear that it is a crime, and do not show its true affects and consequences and impact – and merely use it as a backstory to gain sympathy – that’s a shame.
And let’s look at the bigger picture – diverting from the topic for a while – and comment on how authors use some devastating incident to make their characters more deep and sad and in a way, make us as readers feel more about such characters. Parent’s death, parents’ divorce, single mother, single father, sick other, sick father, sick best friend, best friend who died, abusive aunt, abusive uncle, abuse in childhood, abusive relationship, abusive ‘dad’s friend’, abusive neighbor – I’ve just read so many, many versions of horrific incident which don’t really talk much about the incident and its impact, but do more in making the character more loved.
Sympathy is always used as a way of making characters more loved. Be it the famous William Herondale who wascursed in his childhood (he was, right? Something about the people he loved being taken away from him? ) or Neville Longbottom whose parents were killed, or Charlie from Perks of Being A Wallflower who had an abusive aunt or Augustus Waters who died of cancer.
Things is, we love sympathy. We love sad back stories, we love broken protagonists, we love tragic childhoods. Readers gobble it up, and feel more for their characters and instantly love more.
But are these sad back-stories – are they done right? If they don’t even reveal the real impact of the incident, if they don’t even comment on the event, on the society?
-coming back to the topic-
I don’t like it when authors use abuse as a way of character development without really entailing the severity of depth of the event. There is also a part of me which feels like the more we read about such stuff – the less are we impacted. Like, five or six years ago, when I read Perks of Being A Wallflower and read that Charlie was abused – it hit me hard and the impact was huge. But now, when I read a book involving abuse or rape – it pulls at my heartstrings but comes nowhere close to invoking that kind of an impact. Which is a shame, but also a reality.
So yes, I feel that authors should look at abuse as more than just a tool – and work on how to actually make a difference by adding them in their books.
WHAT DO YOU FEEL ABOUT ABUSE IN BOOKS?