When I was in my bad romance in high school (the one my new young adult novel, Bad Romance, is based on), it was hard for me to be honest with my friends and family about what was really going down in my relationship. For one, when your partner is a master of manipulation, it can be hard to know what exactly is going on in the first place. I can’t tell you how many arguments began with me accusing my boyfriend of something, only to end with me apologizing to him. Teen Dating Violence isn’t just physical or sexual abuse: it is often mental, verbal, and emotional.
Here’s a scary thing: one in three teens are affected by dating violence. One in three. I don’t know why this surprises me, since nearly every girl I talk to admits that she’s had an abusive boyfriend or knows someone who was in a bad romance. Maybe she’s with him now, or maybe they broke up ages ago after too much shouting and crying and hurting. Maybe he was emotionally or physically abusive. Maybe he was verbally abusive. Maybe he was just plain mean. Some of my guy friends have had abusive boyfriends or girlfriends, too. It’s kind of ridiculous, how much heartbreak so many of us are willing to put up with just so that we don’t have to be alone.
As a young adult author, my goal when I sit down to write a story from a teen protagonist’s point of view is to present their experiences as authentically as possible, to try to get in the skin of this character and see the world the way she would in 2018. The vast majority of us who write for teens do so because our teen years still resonate deeply with us. Sadly, in many cases this is because we had particularly tough experiences growing up including, in my case, teen dating violence.