Feral Friday - Possessive males in YA

It’s Feral Friday! And we here at Book Nerd Reviews thought we would discuss a topic that really sends us feral.

This week, we’re talking about possessive males in YA:

Kristy’s say:

I think there is a fine line between demonstrating feelings and being overly protective or possessive, and I think that a lot of books blur (or cross) that line. It may be that because I am *ahem* older, that sometimes when I read books, I don’t find the things that a male lead is doing are appealing - in fact, sometimes I find them appalling. But yet, others swoon over the same things that make me cringe.

Naturally, as a girl, we would all like it if a guy showed a little bit of protectiveness. For example, if another guy is showing some interest, we don’t want the male in our life to be “yeah, whatever” and completely dismiss it. We want a guy to be “hold on buddy, back off” - but in saying that, we don’t want them to go all psycho possessive either. We may want their opinion or help on how to deal with a situation, but not to manipulate us into thinking or doing something, to take away our decision or to lie to us. We want their help, support and understanding - not to take control and treat us like an incapable toddler.

There are some things in books (and not just YA) that honestly makes my skin crawl. I detest overly possessive and over-protective male leads - it doesn’t make me think “isn’t that sweet” - it makes me think “get the hell away from this guy”. If a character is breaking into a house to watch them sleep, I don’t think “yeah, follow them in the woods alone”; I think “quick, go get a restraining order”. I don’t think the male lead he is being protective if he telling the protagonist who she can and can’t be friends with, I think he is being abusive. I don’t think that a paranormal creature is protecting the girl he loves if he is deliberately withholding information (or god-forbidden physically withholding her), I think he is emotionally manipulative, overly possessive sociopath - I just don’t buy the “he was only protecting me, and he knows what he is doing because he is paranormal” mindset - and yes, this goes for the non-paranormal aspect as well.

In real life; if it seems like he wants to kill you - that’s not romantic - that’s a psychopath! If you think he may be dangerous - don’t try to save him, he needs professional help, or to be locked up, and you should be running for the hills! I don’t think it sweet if a guy tries to control your thoughts or actions. I don’t think it’s love when he tells you can’t be friends with another guy. I don’t think it’s romantic when I am being watched without my knowledge. I don’t find it adorable when he takes away all my options to make a choice on my own. So, if these are the things I would desperately try to avoid in real life, why would I like to read books that contain these things? I would much prefer to read about a mutually respectful relationship rather than one where every action depends on one of the characters. Relationships, while not always perfect, should be about fun, love, respect, honesty, laughter and support - not wondering if what you are doing will be okay with your partner, or how they will react. Young love is what it is - it is all consuming - but it doesn’t have to be emotionally abusive. So why do so many books have to be about one character pandering to another? Why is it so appealing when a guy would physically abuse another guy because he asked the girl out? Can’t a good story be about a guy and girl, who like/love each other go through their story without having to control the other, or beat up someone else, or anything else that might actually deserve a restraining order, or actual criminal charges.


Melissa’s say:

There are two things that annoy me in YA, and I think to a certain extent, they are interrelated.

The first thing that annoys me in YA are girls that seek out damaged men thinking that they’ll be the one to ‘fix’ them. I talked a little bit about this in my review of Unbreakable by Kami Garcia posted yesterday and so it’s fresh in my mind. But I think to a certain extent authors need to understand that younger females are reading these books, and if they’re making these types of toxic relationships seem more romantic and beautiful because a girl fixed a broken man, then I think it’s setting unrealistic and bad examples for younger generations perhaps. I am not saying it’s an authors duty or job to only write about good relationships, but I do think they need to be mindful about how this could be conceived by younger people.

Which leads me into my second pet peeve in YA and that is male characters that are possessive over the female characters. I understand as females some of us are looking for a strong male who will take the lead and “look after us”. But there’s a line between being sweet and caring and being dominating and possessive.

In particular when a girl has two male love interests, and the two men are fighting each other for the girl - it annoys me. I get where they’re coming from and where the romantic sentiment is (lets face it, we all wish we had guys fighting over us), but it annoys me that they don’t seem to care all that much about what the girl wants. It’s very selfish and I fear that making young girls think that this type of drama is romantic is not realistic at all. Having jealous men around you using you as a tug of rope isn’t sweet at all.

This is the reason why I like strong kickass female protagonists so much. I am by no means a feminist, but I am 29 and have lived a little, and so maybe what I used to think was hot or romantic as an 18 year old has now changed because I see things a bit differently. But being a strong female is an incredibly powerful thing. And I love books that feature female characters who are strong, who aren’t pushovers, who make their own decisions and don’t rely on a man to come and save them. I think we need more of this and less weak females who let a man tell them what to do and who they can see.


Does anyone else see what Kristy and I are talking about in YA books? Do you agree with us, or are we over reacting? Let us know in your comments below!

What do you think?

  • I’m older too and I agree with you both. Maybe it’s an age thing? I’d love to hear the thoughts of YA readers who are younger.

  • Alyssa says:

    Finally! I’ve been waiting for someone else to cotton on to this. I’m 17 and often read YA and sometimes I find the actions of the male protagonists dominating to the point of nauseating. I do understand the appeal in a forceful, badass male protagonist, but I absolutely agree that forceful does not and should not equal domineering.

  • I’m 16, so I think I still fit the bill for a young adult :D I admit to having liked a guy who wasn’t much of a gentleman, but I think that these male YA leads walk a fine line between possessive and overprotective. I think it’s alright if they stand by the heroines and do what they can not to let them fall into harm, but when they’re doing that by not giving them freedom or holding them back, or becoming paranoid, it’s not very becoming! So yeah agreed :D I don’t understand why some readers my age approve though :(

    • Kristy says:

      Hi Jasmine. I think a lot of us like guys who are a little rough around the edges, but being possessive is a different thing. I think you are right, it is not appealing for someone to be holding someone back, and it is good to know that not only us “older” readers feel this way :)
      Kristy recently posted…Christmas Inspired By Fiction #1My Profile

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