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Modern Fairytale: Cinderella and the Seven Count Felon

Written by: Ruby Perez

Author Bio: Ruby Perez is an undergraduate student at Columbia University studying Political Science and Computer Science. Hailing from the underserved and predominantly minority community of South Central California, Ruby hopes to  uplift communities through her voice and writing. 

What’s hotter, kidnapping or coercion? What’s cooler, domestic abuse or sexual assault? What’s more romantic, sexism or misogyny? 

Are you appalled by the insensitivity of asking about any of these topics in such a way? Yes? 

Then why are publications accepting these narratives in literature? 

Wattpad’s tag (Wattpad’s version of a hashtag) “Kidnaping” holds over 1.8k stories. Under this tag, stories about “mind-blowing” and “sexy” romantic development between a kidnapper and the kidnapped are held. Because nothing screams love like “the crime of seizing, confining, inveigling, abducting, or carrying away a person by force or fraud.” 

This isn’t an issue unique to Wattpad. Kindle Unlimited is a rabbit hole of coercive, sexist, and abusive romance books too. For instance, His Secretary: Undo by Melanie Marchande, describes the love between a boss and his secretary, whom he harshly treats. The problematic romantic composition of a male higher-up mistreating his employee holds an underlying meaning: sexism is okay; sexism is hot.

Kindle Unlimited and Wattpad are self-publishing platforms, but this has begun to creep into more traditional and formalized ways of publishing as well. Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us, has recently been under fire for its romanticization of domestic violence. Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses holds no accountability for the main character’s lover, who originally sexually discomforts her. Even as the romance develops, there is no acknowledgment of how he hurt her. 

That both Kindle Unlimited and Wattpad fail to uphold authors' guidelines and that formal publications of these books are becoming more prevalent demonstrates the enabling of this harmful ideology in society.

These distorted ideas on gender discrimination are especially damaging when we look into the audience of these publications. The minimum age requirement for Wattpad is 13 years old. I picked up my first Kindle Unlimited with these topics when I was 14 years old at the influence of my peers. 

Maas’ work was previously categorized under Young Adult, ages 13–18; now it's under “New Adult,” but it’s still widely promoted to youth. Additionally, though officially a mature book not intended for minors, many, such as “Medium,” confuse It End with Us as a young adult novel. On social media, it’s often put under the YA list. 

There was a time of Prince Charmings and blue dresses; instead, teens are exposed to a dark and harmful idea of what romance and love can be. At the credulous age of 13, we cannot ensure that the glorification of toxicity and violence will not misguide them in real life.

“Unholy Vows,” by Mila Kane, just one of the many “Dark Romance” novels within Kindle Unlimited, has a reviewer who said, “This was such a great story outline. I loved the MC. Loved him. But I do dislike the main female…I had to stop at about the 50% mark, which is a shame.”

The female character who was coerced into the relationship is the one this reviewer shames.  Instead, they boast about the emotionally abusive, cold-hearted male who forced her into the relationship. 

Internalized misogyny and victim blaming—the consequence of this literary negligence is already arising. Readers and the youth have been misled in how they perceive these interactions, so much so as to have a negative opinion of the victim rather than the aggressor.

Do not misunderstand, this is not a call for publications to ban these topics within literature; on the contrary, it’s a call to protect and refocus them. In doing so, we uplift awareness and advocacy surrounding these topics. 

As Amanda Charles wrote in “Sexual Assault and Its Impacts in Young Adult Literature,” “combatting the discomfort of reading about sexual abuse is well worth the effort when the result is an enlightened and uplifted generation of young readers.” These topics are important to bring into books as a way to bring awareness and acceptance amongst real victims, even when it is not the most comfortable topic.

However, by writing about these topics in such an indifferent manner—worse, in a manner that glorifies them—and allowing their publication, is to discredit the impact of books like “Lovely Bones” or “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” as Charles highlights, do. Instead of “enlightened” and “uplifted”, they result in a vulnerable and misguided generation of young readers.

I am the testament to the poor principles instilled by all of this. Because at the age of 13, it wasn’t until my junior year that my sex education class introduced domestic abuse to me, believing that it was normal in relationships. I was lucky enough to be reguided, but this isn’t true to everyone. The importance of this is underlined by the escalating domestic abuse cases in the US, currently 30% of women. 

The poor representation and romanticization of toxic romance books misguide the youth's susceptible judgment. As publications, to continue to sanction this dangerous rhetoric and fail to maintain proper regulation is to commit a disservice to the youth. We must set authors and publishers to a higher standard and hope that the youth never apply these ideals, for the consequences of this would be catastrophic.

Image Citation 

Fiorillo, Katherine. “The 29 Best Young Adult Romance Books to Read in 2022.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 8 Feb. 2022, 

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