Topic Tuesday – Problematic Themes in Literature

Hellllllo everyone! I hope everyone is having an amazing Tuesday! I had to wait until nap time before I could jump on! Below is a triggering topic, so if you are triggered and upset easily, please do not continue reading. I want my blog to be a safe space for everyone! It’s going to be a doozy!


After reading The Wicked Deep, I wanted to talk about problematic themes in literature. Now, I’m not one to get offended easily. I have gone through a fair amount of trauma in my past, which I am very open out; thankfully for me not a lot triggers me into panic. However, there are some topics that make people upset. There are many problematic themes like violence against women, rape, abusive partners that make it into our books.

I for one do not like reading Bully Romance, which is a huge reason as to why I did not like the After series. The reason why I don’t like it is not because of the topic itself, but it’s because sometimes those themes do not serve as a vehicle for the plot. Sometimes these characters are just shitty to be shitty and I can’t stand behind that. With books like The Cruel Prince, Jude and Cardan are SO MEAN to each other and there really isn’t much reason for it other than to be a dick (in my opinion, don’t @ me LOL). In After, Harden and what’s her face (I forgot already), were abusive to each other and then they would make up and then everyone would just gloss over it. They would have intense sex and then all is forgiven until they are screaming at each other in public and emotionally manipulating each other. That is NOT okay for me.

What I mean for a problematic theme to be a vehicle for the plot, is that it has to be addressed in some way and have a meaningful impact on those characters. There are many books out there that talk about race and prejudice and we see those characters go through some tough stuff, but it gets resolved. Someone learns something from it. The aggressor realizes that it’s NOT okay to behave this way. Most of the time, especially in YA literature, we don’t see it addressed – everyone just sweeps it under the rug.

Now to The Wicked Deep. If you haven’t read it, don’t read this paragraph as I will be discussing spoilers. The Wicked Deep is about the spirit of 3 dead sister witches who inhabit the body of girls and lure boys to their death out of revenge from their drowning. Penny, the main character, has what I believe is sex with the main love interest, Bo. Later on it is revealed that it is a sister witch, Hazel, inhabiting her body and she used Penny’s body to get close to Bo. The author literally swept this under the rug. No one even talked about how fucked up that was, not even Bo! Hazel says, please don’t tell Penny what happened, I will leave the good memories for her. Like ? Then we are not told if Bo reveals the truth, which I’m sure he doesn’t since the ending he’s still obsessed with Hazel even though he’s with the real Penny.

That is rape you guys. Penny did not consent to this. It doesn’t matter that she was unaware and that a witch possessed her. It doesn’t matter that Hazel left the “good memories.” Penny could not consent. I am not pointing all of the blame on Bo as he did not know at the time, but I do think it was his responsibility to tell her the truth once he knew and she was Penny again. I had a long conversation with Kibby (www.somethingofthebook.com IG: @somethingofthebook) about how wrong this, in fact she’s the one who initially brought it up and I was like wait no, wtf, I didn’t even think of this!

If the author were to have made Bo reveal what happened and discussed how wrong that was even for a freaking paragraph, I would be singing a different tune. This is how we perpetuate rape culture. It is NOT cute that Bo and Penny are now together and Hazel is a ghost in the wind still whispering she loves him. NO! It’s like Bo got to have his cake and eat it too (thank you Kat IG: @kathardistywrites for this phrasing because it’s PERFECT).

Don’t get me wrong, I still think this is an enjoyable book, but those things need to be fixed. We cannot keep sweeping these problematic themes under the rug. They have to be there for a reason, it has to drive the plot forward. I heard people are boycotting Ninth House because of a problematic theme but then from others I hear it’s addressed in the story. It’s okay to have traumatic events in book! What’s not okay is acting like it’s normal and not discussing the issue for those characters and for the readers.


Well,  thank you all for reading my rant if you’ve made it this far! How do you view problematic themes in literature?

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Author: Rachael @rqdreads

I am a happily married, coffee drinking, cupcake baking, makeup loving mom of two rowdy boys. Find me on Instagram @rqdreads

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