By: Nercya Kalino, Staff Writer and Petra Chase, Arts & Culture Editor
Content warning: mentions of abusive relationships, racism, and xenophobia.
Out: The romanticization of abusive love interests
It’s fun to indulge in a steamy romance novel every once in a while, but when the romantic interest displays controlling and forceful behaviours, that’s a different story. If you’re an avid reader, you might have felt pressured to read Colleen Hoover’s romance novels. Don’t be fooled by the sensationalized sex scenes or the dainty cover of It Ends With Us; Hoover’s stories often romanticize abusive behaviours from men, setting up dangerous expectations, especially for young and impressionable readers. The hype for Hoover is like Fifty Shades of Grey all over again, and we should be over it in 2023.
In: When romance is not the only attribute of the story
If you’re like me and you appreciate romance as a side-plot or in small doses, Alechia Dow’s The Kindred is perfect. It features science fiction, drama, and romance all meshed together. With characters of diverse gender identities, and a world set that reminds the characters of the ideological constraint of identity and classism, the story does not only focus on romance. This offers a more realistic and refreshing depiction of love and relationships, where they exist in a wider socio-political context. The Kindred is also a story of relatability through lovable characters and struggles that feel all too familiar.
Out: Love conquering all, including serious political differences
Say what you want about the enemies-to-lovers trope in fiction — in most cases, if one or both characters have a change of heart, you can root for the rivalry to become love. This couldn’t be further from the case with Tess Wakefield’s book-turned-Netflix-movie, Purple Hearts, where two characters’ serious political differences are swept aside for the sake of love. The male love interest, Luke, is the kind of guy who calls protagonist, Cassie, a “snowflake” for supporting Black Lives Matter. He’s also xenophobic towards Cassie and her mother, who are Mexican immigrants, and silences Cassie for speaking out against racist comments from his friends. The plot is set up to make audiences expect a major change of heart. Yet, the only compromise that’s shown is Cassie hanging an American flag beside her BLM and Pride flags. It’s dangerous that this kind of message has reached a mainstream, young adult audience.
In: Authors reclaiming their narratives by telling stories based on their lived experiences
Unfortunately, marginalized groups have had their stories told and identities sensationalized by white writers. That’s why, in 2023, the voices of those whose perspectives have been underrepresented in the media should be pushed to the forefront. Reading personal stories, be it fiction or memoir, is a good way to learn from experiences outside of your own. Vancouver publisher Arsenal Pulp’s Winter 2023 catalogue is a great place to discover novels from diverse perspectives.
Out: Brilliant killers hidden in plain sight
The idea of brilliance in the planning of kills in murder mystery novels, and a killer always being one step ahead certainly plays with readers’ emotion and builds anticipation. However, this formula has become so overdone it’s lost its effect. This is the type of spine-chilling thriller we often find ourselves reading, but there are other types of crime and thriller books that are equally as anxiety-inducing. It’s time for more variety in this genre. For instance, I Will Find You by Harlan Coben, which will be released in March, has a unique plot. The main character is serving his life sentence for the murder of his son. Once new information arises he has to find a way to jailbreak in order and use his freedom to uncover the truth about the night his son was murdered. This is quite different and makes a reader wonder how each step of the main character’s goal will be achieved. This book leaves readers anticipating how the character will achieve his goal without getting killed or caught.
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