Relationship Survival 101
If you’ve been reading me for any time at all you know that Date Rape Culture is my social issue of choice. And, judging by the amount of books on the subject I’ve seen popping up lately, a lot of other people are concerned about this issue as well. It’s everywhere: Entire novels, subplots, movies, short stories, news outlets. Date Rape Culture is prevalent in our society and I don’t think most people know how it starts or how to fix it. If I were teaching a college course (because I wouldn’t recommend some of these books for high school ages but all are definitely college-appropriate) based on YA literature
I would open up the class for discussion and exploration on the subjects of Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships, Emotional Maturity Relating to Appropriate Physical Contact, Consenual Sex, and Modern Romantic Relationships And The Ways They Are Treated. This is gettin’ serious, y’all.
1. The Revenge Playbook by Rachel Allen
I would start out the semester with this hilarious and poignant novel because it introduces almost every topic I would want to cover in this course in a fun, easy-to-read package. Themes in this book include but are not limited to: Slut slamming, controlling boyfriends, date rape, favoritism, virgin complex (where people try to make others feel inadequate because they haven’t had sex), harassment, sex shaming (where people try to make others feel inadequate because they have had sex), religious judgement, chastity guilt, controlling parents, bullying, etc. I could go on. There’s so much going on. And so many different opinions and viewpoints are represented that I‘m betting it would get a really good discussion going in a college-classroom setting.
2. Easy by Tammara Webber
This book opens with an attempted sexual assault. Which is somewhat graphic. And goes into detail about two separate relationships the main character had, neither of which were very healthy. So why would I want to make people read this for my Relationship Survival Course? Because it’s so unhealthy. There are a lot of good how-not-to-behave-in-a-relationship moments in here. Also, with the sexual assault storyline, there is a lot of very good advice for people who have suffered from events like this. Part of this novel is basically a how-to in the area of reporting a sexual assault and what to do afterward. Every girl needs to know this stuff.
3. Modern Monsters by Kelly York
This lovely little book deals with a boy who is wrongly accused of rape. It’s kind of eye-opening in the way that we see what happens to those accused; How it affects his family, his friends, his job, his everything. Rape stories are so very often told from the perspective of girls that we almost never to get to hear about it through a boy. This novel would very appropriately and tactfully round out our discussion on rape and sexual assault.
4. Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford
This book is just fun. I’m gonna throw it in here for a nice, entertaining, light read after those heavier reads. Well, that, and this book (and whole series) very accurately portrays the teenage boys’ mind, especially in relation to girls. Every girl should learn how the mind of the male works because once you figure it out it makes life a whole lot easier. Well, relationships. It makes relationships a whole lot easier. And throughout the Carter series we see a very normal progression of a mostly healthy teenage relationship.
5. Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
This mind-twisting book will bring us back to the Land of the Serious with a vengeance. With this novel we will delve into mental stability in relation to sex, and how abuse can affect… well, everything. No lie, this book is dark and insane but so worth the mind-bending to learn about some of the ways in which sexual abuse can impact lives.
6. Invincible by Amy Reed
This novel is all sorts of unhealthy. After reading about a boy who is mentally unhealthy because of sexual abuse, we will get into this novel where a girl who is mentally unstable turns to sex and drugs for escape. Here we will discuss how sex is not love and a connection with another human does not mean you are emotionally ready for sex. This book would make an interesting discussion for so many reasons but, for this course, we would try to focus on the unhealthy ways in which this girl treats relationships, romantic and otherwise.
7. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headly
This novel actually does a decent job of showing what healthy relationships are as opposed to unhealthy ones. There are a lot of unhealthy relationships going on in here: Family, boyfriend, friends. But there are also some nice, healthy relationships. I would like to focus on the differences between the healthy and unhealthy relationships and how the main character’s attitude toward herself affected the type of relationship she had with each person in her life.
8. Get Happy by Mary Amato
Here’s another sweet, fun read I would throw in at this point in the course to show how a sweet, fun romance evolves in a natural, healthy way. And then to also use the main character’s parents as a really fascinating example of a festering wound of an unhealthy relationship and how something like that can start and then affect your life way down the line.
9. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Here’s another book that is all sorts of unhealthy. I don’t even know where to start on this one. For one thing, the love interest is the main character’s cousin. So there’s that. And the main character’s relationships with just about everyone she meets seem to be unhealthy. Especially her relationship with herself. I would love to have a discussion about how the protagonist’s self-image affects her view of everyone around her and the unhealthy ways in which she deals with her own issues.
10. Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt
Finally, I would end the course with another sweet, funny read. Because you should always end on a high note, right? This book is one of my favorites, mostly because the teenage romance feels like a regular teenage romance. It’s not an all-encompassing passionate affair, it’s not one of those leave-my-friends-behind kind of relationships. It’s normal. And pleasant. But fun to read about. And there’s some other stuff going on in here, too, but mainly I would focus on the healthy relationship stuff. Because we‘ve already read a lot about unhealthy relationships and I’m done talking about them now. Focus on something happy now, dangit! because there is happiness everywhere. You just have to find it.