Discussion Post: Don’t You Know That You’re Toxic or Why Don’t People Get the Point of This Book?

Posted February 10, 2023 by Lisa Mandina in discussion post / 12 Comments

Okay, I keep having to stop myself from commenting on reviews on Goodreads of a specific book. Or I’ll comment, then I have to go back and delete my comment because I know that a person’s review is their opinion. BUT!!!!! This specific book, and what they are saying is making me angry because they obviously have never listened to the author speak and don’t know anything about her family. It also feels like people can’t stand to see anyone break out if it isn’t their author of choice or if they have any kind of issue with a book, etc. Or if they just think that TikTok shouldn’t be the way people learn or get excited about books. I can’t figure it out exactly. I just know that it makes me angry. And there is one specific book that I am constantly having to stop myself from commenting on reviews about.

So, you may disagree with me. Nowhere am I saying that if someone doesn’t like the writing or the story in this book that their opinion is wrong. I just want them to think about the author’s background and what I have heard the author say IN PERSON about the story. I had someone I commented on their review before thinking better of it. And they had to tell me that unless I was the author I didn’t know what they meant by the story. Which, true! But I’m basing what I said on what the author SAID she meant or why she wrote the story, so isn’t that kind of the same? And this person was an English teacher, who we all know teaches novels and tells students what the author meant, even when there’s no way they know that!

Before I mention the specific book that sparked this post, I want to talk about a few others that have gotten some of the same or similar treatment in the past and what I think about those things. First I also want to say that why is it romance books that people assume can’t have bad characters or not so perfect/healthy romance storylines? I mean, people go out and read serial killer stories, murder mysteries, and do we make a fuss that people shouldn’t read them because it will cause them to become serial killers or murderers? Everyone seems to realize those are fiction, and that people can read and take them as fiction. But people, some people, assume that romance readers, women/younger girls especially, can’t read romance and not think that’s what is real. That we can’t just realize it’s fiction and enjoy it for that.

And I kind of did a similar discussion post on this HERE.

One of my first examples when I really started noticing that was with the Twilight series. Yes, I love the series. Yes, I realize that he kind of stalks her in his vampire ways. But um, wait, there’s something in that last sentence that you’d think would make people realize it’s just fiction. Um, he’s a vampire? They’re not real? So….yeah. Now to be fair, the Harry Potter series also got hate from a different group because of the magic making it evil, and that’s not romance, but it’s one of the few that I could name for this post that don’t fit the romance scenario. But back to Twilight. As a middle school teacher, who saw so many of my 8th grade students pick that series up and devour it, some of them being reluctant readers before, and then moving on and reading and reading and reading, I can tell you that not a one of them talked about wanting a guy to be exactly like that. Yeah we joked about the Team Edward and Team Jacob thing, and book boyfriends kind of, but I did not see anything from them about thinking that the boys they would date should be like that in real life.

First, before you go on, just know that I can’t do my thoughts on this without a few spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book in the next sentence, probably might want to stop if you plan to read it.

Okay, finally, let me get to the book that has me on my soapbox right now. The book is by Colleen Hoover, It Ends With Us. HERE is my review if you want to read that.

Now, I’ll start by saying that while I do love Colleen Hoover, I don’t always read all of her books. A few of them just don’t grab me from the synopsis. But the ones she has that I have read, I loved them. And this was one of them. First of all, I have to say that if you don’t know much about Colleen Hooveer, or CoHo as we fans tend to call her, let me give you a little info that she has shared. Her mother left an abusive relationship to get her kids out of that situation, and so in a way, that book was inspired by her own mother. She also was a social worker, so she knows what and how people in those situations act. But let’s also take a minute to remember the book is fiction too, not a memoir.

The things I’ve seen people say that it “romanticizes” abusive relationships. I understand what they’re saying. Because yes, I loved Ryle, and I hated when it turned out he was what he was. And I was crying as Lily decided she had to leave him. But you know what? For me, that just made it real. Because sure, as someone who has never been in an abusive relationship, and just knows that I would never put up with that, this story kind of made me see how someone could convince themselves to stay. All the reasons that Lily thought about in the story that made it hard for her to leave, I would think those are reasons someone who has co-dependency issues might feel and maybe not be able to overcome as well. For me, the story was about feeling those things, but being able to get out anyway. And to me, that seems like it would help or could help, someone in that type of situation to see that maybe they could leave too. I totally felt like this book helped me to understand someone who was co-dependent better. Instead of being self-righteous and thinking why is that person so stupid to stay with that person who is hurting them, it helped me to see what their thought processes might be. What they might be wrestling with internally in their decision.

To me the fact that she does leave him is setting a GOOD example. It’s not romanticizing staying with someone abusive. Did she leave right away after the first incident? No, because again, it makes sense that a person in that situation might feel like it was a fluke. Especially if they have anything in their history that affects how they would view things.

And that’s probably enough of my soapbox. I don’t know if I’ve explained my thoughts clearly here. I hope I haven’t offended anyone with my thoughts either. As I said at the beginning of the post, if you don’t like the writing or the story, I get it, that’s your opinion and that’s what we book reviewers are here to do!

Have you read this book? Whether you agree or disagree with me, I’d love to know if you already knew the author’s back story when you read or made your opinion of the book, and how that may have affected your thoughts like it did mine. Or are there any other books you think get a bad rap because people don’t really get them or what the author meant?

And I’ll go back to scrolling past reviews that get me fired up again! 🙂 Enjoy the video of Toxic which fits my post!

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12 responses to “Discussion Post: Don’t You Know That You’re Toxic or Why Don’t People Get the Point of This Book?

  1. I have not read the book yet, but I have it waiting on my bookshelf. I skimmed the part or your discussion where you talked about the book. I kind of already know what the book is about from all the attention it’s been getting. It’s hard to avoid the spoilers, but I’m still trying to avoid as much as I can. 😉 So I can’t comment on the story, but I have seen readers who take this book out of the romance genre and just label it contemporary fiction (or women’s fiction, which is a term I detest! Ha!) But I think a lot of the issue comes down to romance readers want happy books and happy endings. I wrote a discussion post about how I don’t think all romances require HEAs, but I know I’m in the very very minority there. To me, if a romance or love story is the bulk of the book, it’s a romance, however it ends. 😃 But yes, I think real life, real love, is messy and I want the books I read to reflect that, as well. Now, I may feel completely different after I read the book, so who knows. I’ve read several of her books and I kind of have mixed reactions to them. I was not a fan of November 9, but it’s more about the writing than the subject. I’m even more anxious to read this one now, so I can better understand the issues. Great discussion!

    • Lisa Mandina

      I would agree that it isn’t really romance. It is more of a “women’s fiction” or just fiction. At the bookstore where I worked, we kept all of Hoover’s books in just the regular fiction section when I worked there. And some of her books I am not a fan of. I’m sad you didn’t like November 9 though, it was my first book by her and I loved it!

  2. What a thought-provoking post! I also loved, It Ends With Us, and I thought it was a realistic portrayal of an abusive relationship. I don’t see how the relationship was “romanticized” at all. It’s realistic that an abuser can be loveable and charming most of the time and a monster some of the time, that’s what makes these relationships so tricky. I think some people want to make the issues black or white, good or bad, when in actuality, they are very grey, which makes it so difficult to get out of an abusive relationship.

    • Lisa Mandina

      I agree, in order to portray something realistically, sometimes it does have to be kind of shocking, or at least some people will not be able to see the grey.

  3. I haven’t read this author as I tend to avoid “romances”. I think you make a valid point about demeaning romance readers for always needing a happy ending, or reading fluff, or whatever – the opposite can certainly be said for people who like thrillers. I never thought of it that way, but it’s true. Readers should be able to choose their genre w/o judgment from other readers.

    Then, for this book – since I haven’t read it, I certainly can’t comment on the writing or the story. BUT, I can comment on judgmental reviewers who make assumptions about meaning and experiences, etc. The key word to me is that a book is FICTION. That means there are made up parts to the story. The author makes choices about how characters will feel and react. Those choices might reflect personal experiences, a friend’s experience, or an imagined experience. The source doesn’t matter, it’s FICTION. I agree totally on saying ‘the writing isn’t for me’ or ‘would have liked more character development’, etc. But to try to second guess motivations and use that as a way to tear down a book seems small minded and judgmental. Which I guess some people are, therefore the rude reviews. Not every book is for every reader – and if I come across one I don’t care for, my standard review is “it wasn’t for me because ….. but it might be for you if you like ……..”
    Very interesting, thought provoking topic.

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    • Lisa Mandina

      When I worked at the bookstore, we didn’t keep Hoover’s books in romance. That might have changed though. But like you, if I don’t like something, I’ll say it wasn’t for me and tell why, but I know that may be what other people like. Thanks for joining my discussion!

  4. I haven’t read this book, but I have read a few by CoHo and loved most of them. There was one I really didn’t like, but I don’t expect to love every book an author writes. I do think a person should be able to write their own opinions on a book on Goodreads and not be called out by how they feel about a story. It’s an opinion and not everyone is going to have the same one. I do think getting out of an abusive relationship is probably harder than it looks from the outside. Why else would someone stay? Especially if it’s not all bad and the person being abused is hopeful things will change for the better. Keeps getting assured that things will be changed for the better. Nice, thought provoking discussion post, Lisa!

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    • Lisa Mandina

      Yeah, I have to stop myself from commenting on reviews on Goodreads anymore because it isn’t right for me to do that. Everyone gets to have their own opinion!

  5. I haven’t read the book, but I have read books and then afterward read reviews for it that didn’t jive with how I saw it, or like you say, what I knew about the background. That said, I just leave it alone and let them think what they think.

    I do have a long ago instance when in my review, I questioned some choices for a character in a book who went through abuse. I didn’t think a person would act the way the character would (I have two aunts who were domestic violence survivors and I was a family services worker- so you think I’d know better than to say that) and the author called me out and said it was her situation and it did happen that way even though she tucked it into a larger fictional romance story. It was a good reminder that there is no formula for living in abuse or surviving it. Sounds like this book you read makes that clear.

    Good discussion, Lisa!

    • Lisa Mandina

      Yeah, I’m having to work on just letting people go with what I know. I keep telling myself it is their review and I would hate if anyone did that to me on my own reviews. It’s just hard I think to see an author that I have met and have great respect for having people say bad things about I guess. I prefer to make my reviews about a book and not an author. But yeah, I’ve got to get over that!

  6. I haven’t read anything by Colleen but I do hear a lot about this book, and I have heard about her mom. I’ve seen a lot of reviewers say they wish it wasn’t pushed as romance, and so that might be the issue for some people. They go in thinking it’s a romance and then it’s most definitely NOT that in the end. But yeah, sometimes it’s hard to read reviews of certain books and you’re just thinking “what the heck? what did you even read?” haha

    ShootingStarsMag recently posted: My Month is Booked: February 2023
    • Lisa Mandina

      I agree that it probably should not be pushed as romance. When I worked at Barnes and Noble we kept all her books in just the regular fiction section, which I where I believe they should be. Most of them are not just romance, but have more to the story than that. Unfortunately it is the readers/reviewers/TikTokers doing most of the romance promotion for them.

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