10 Toxic Relationships in Teen TV and YA Books

Wood nymph hippie goddess in human form Shailene Woodley is making the press rounds for the imminent release of her potential blockbuster, Divergent, and in an interview with Teen Vogue, the 22-year-old ripped into the blockbuster hit Twilight. “Twilight, I’m sorry, is about a very unhealthy, toxic relationship,” Woodley complains. “She falls in love with this guy and the second he leaves her, her life is over and she’s going to kill herself! What message are we sending to young people? That is not going to help this world evolve.”

That’s true, Woodley, but here’s the thing: unhealthy relationships are the lifeblood of YA books and teen dramas. There are whole shows dedicated to the forever-love between a teen girl and her English teacher. Feminist classics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars have strong female leads who turn to mush around the bad-boy vampires and rich kids. Attempted rape, stalking, and emotional abuse is painted as dreamy if it’s just coming from a dreamboat who needs redemption and rilly likes you, too. Even the original Mr. Romance himself, Pride and Prejudice‘s Mr. Darcy, has been described as “a character who is the epitome of the dominant patriarchal male” in The Guardian. To pay tribute, we’re counting down the unhealthiest romances in teen lit and TV.

Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley in The Spectacular Now

10. The Spectacular Now: Aimee and Sutter

In James Ponsoldt’s excellent 2013 adaptation of Tim Tharp’s fantastic book, popular kid Sutter Keely is trouble. He’s the life of the party, always making a scene, and he is an alcoholic. When he strikes up a friendship with pretty and shy Aimee Finecky, Aimee goes along with the party, developing drinking problems of her own. It comes to a point with a car crash — in the book, it evolves the way life does, and the movie is vaguer, with a lady or the tiger potential happy ending implied. That said, this film doesn’t glorify the main character’s problems, painting them as romantic-with-flaws; those problems are problems, and they affect the relationship.