Discussion, Problematic

[Discussion] Why Authors Should Take Extra Care When Writing Enemies To Lovers And Why I Avoid That Trope At All Costs #bullying #abuse

There hasn’t been a discussion post on my blog for a while, and there especially hasn’t been one which is… painful to discuss. I hope this won’t bring out all the trolls of the universe, but… I just have to talk about this.

A GIF of a man, chewing on his fingernails and looking concerned

So today… I want to talk about one quite popular trope, which I, however, try to avoid at all costs. Which makes me a avoid nearly all YA and a lot of fantasy.

That is the enemies to friends trope.

I’m sure you are all familiar with it, and a lot of you adore this trope. I have nothing against it in particular, but… I have EVERYTHING against some of the ways it can be written. I never read it because I try to protect myself from when it’s done the wrong way. Normally, I don’t think about it much, it being something I don’t often read, but I came across this tweet recently and it made me think:

It made me think that that is precisely why I don’t read this trope. I’ve heard a lot of people explain how it’s nice if they’re rivals or even friendly rivals, and I agree! But the risk is just too big for me to not drop a book with enemies to lovers. Just because it could be written in all the wrong ways, and if you’ve been bullied, you might know what I mean.

The thing is, a lot of writers slip on this. And I just don’t want to have to read another case of a girl falling for her bully.

A GIF of a woman staring at the camera baffled with an open mouth

That is insulting to me in ways you can’t even imagine. I’ll try to explain why.

Okay, so this isn’t fun to talk about, but I was bullied quite badly for more than a decade. (This is the moment when I’m afraid my bullies are reading this and will pop up and say I wasn’t bullied and I misundersood everything. SURE.) Anyway… I was bullied in ways that could land you in juvy if you were old enough (I will not talk in any more detail.) The effect this has on me hasn’t gone away. Ten years later, I still have most of the same insecurities, the impostor syndrome among them. In fact, this is probably why I’ll always turn down your compliments or think I didn’t deserve my blog awards, even. Bullying is the reason why I’ve wished I wasn’t born, a lot of times (and still often do.) The very fact that I still often feel like that more than ten years later is what bullying did to me. And it will probably never go away. Even the 70 year old me, even if I live that long, will probably still not be able to forget.

I’m not looking for sympathy here though. I’m just trying to explain to you what bullying does to a person.

Anyway.. What’s even worse is how this relates to the enemies to lovers trope used wrong. See, when I was little… like, 7 or 8… I thought that me being beaten and ridiculed and my things being taken away from me and destroyed meant we are going to become boyfriend and girlfriend. Even if that boy will also have another girlfriend whom he bullies.

ESPECIALLY take in that last bit. EVEN IF they will have ANOTHER girlfriend to bully.

THAT IS WHAT YOUR TROPE DOES.

A GIF of a man waving his hands up towards the statement and saying “THIS”

……..

That, dear authors, is what this trope does to little kids, because it ends up in books, shows and movies. Once I was 12 I was smart enough to realize that maybe I was being gullible and that’s not how life works. But that’s still about 5 years later.

You guys who write stuff like that give little girls these thoughts. SO STOP. RIGHT NOW.

A GIF of a man holding his hands up and saying shut it down

If you’re writing a bully to lover trope? I’m honest to god, recycle bin or fireplace.

A GIF of Moss from IT Crowd, saying ‘Burn it’

Right now. You don’t know what you’re doing to someone else.

And, okay, this is controversial here and I’m expecting someone to say “you should have been less stupid and opened your eyes”, but I was seven, okay? We tend to think fairies are real. So why wouldn’t something you see on TV or read in fairytales be real? It’s set in stone when you’re told that at that age.

A GIF of two children talking, the boy (with a weird 90’s hairdo) is saying “I don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore”, and the girl is saying “What?!” with a strong reaction

The thing that I thought that still haunts me to this day. That I could think that about an abuser. However gullible I was (hint: I grew up to be gullible too.) I still can’t forgive my seven year old self for being THAT STUPID. And that’s part of the problem. It’s really the fault of the wrongly used trope (over and over and over again in the media.) I should know better that a seven year old is not capable of understanding the difference between what you’re told and what reality is. But I can’t continue blaming my own self and feeling ashamed.

Because most people who were bullied still think it’s their fault. That everything is their fault. Because why else would they be bullied, right..?

A GIF of a man woman shrugging in disbelief and shaking her head

So back to the trope.

Yes, write rivals to lovers by all means. Write two warriors in opposing armies or two warlocks defending two different kings or queens falling in love. But never, never, NEVER write love between someone who is bullied and their bully. Never write love between an abuser and the abused. That is not your fun. That is nobody’s fun. That is sick and twisted, and if I read that, that does REAL DAMAGE. To people like me, this might bring suicidal thoughts, self loathing, spells of guilt (and I mean months.)

I hope you are burning that manuscript and signing up for a plot construction class.

A GIF of a woman dropping the mic and walking away

I’m Evelina and I try to blog about books that matter, with a bit of fun there too! Disability and equality will be topics you see a lot, but there’s also a lot of scifi, fantasy and… GIFs. I’m also the proud founder of #ARCsAnonymous.

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Susan
Guest

I love the “recycle the fireplace” – that is fantastic!

Lou @ BookMurmuration
Guest

Great discussion Avalinah. I love enemies-to-friends when it is done well. Usually there is some misunderstanding which makes the secondary character less of an enemy and more someone who might have a genuine problem fitting into a setting. You’re so right that women falling for manipulative bullies is never a positive thing.

leetha_rose
Guest
Thank you so much for sharing this! I had never thought of it that way and I am ever grateful that you opened my eyes to this. I guess part of what I have seen in the enemies to lovers has always seemed “normal”…because as you said, we are told through literature (and adults) that we are being teased because someone likes you. But you’re right. It isn’t healthy. That is something I am starting to realize as I get older and read different pieces of literature and there are some extremely unhealthy relationships that end in “love” out there,… Read more »
Northwoman
Guest

I agree with this. It’s a distinct line. I don’t care much for the trope even with rivals if it gets too nasty. Anne – Books of My Heart

Taiwo
Guest

Excellent post Evelina!! This is just one of the many reasons why I’ve started to avoid YA fantasy. Books like The Cruel Prince are a big no for me. I know you mentioned that you don’t want sympathy but I’m very sorry you went through that and I hope you’ll soon free yourself from those feelings your bullies left.

P.S. I don’t blog hop so much again but wasn’t there a “like” icon before?

Kaleena @ Reader Voracious
Guest

This is an amazing post, Evelina, and you handled it wish such care. There is a fine line here and I have encountered books that seems to (inadvertently) almost glorify Stockholm Syndrome. It isn’t for me and is a huge reason that I steer away from the romance genre. But you are right that it does happen a bit in fantasy, although not as often as you’d think!

“And I just don’t want to have to read another case of a girl falling for her bully.”
^^^ 1000x this!

Lyse
Guest

Thanks for talking about this! I was never subjected to bullying much (I didn’t know many people as a kid!), but I can see how damaging it would be to see those unhealthy attitudes modeled and repeated. Way to own your voice and publish vulnerable, scary things. You’re going to make (are making) a difference in the world this way.

Ruby @ Ruby's Books
Guest

This is such a great post! I know exactly what you mean. When I say I love enemies-to-lovers, I usually mean someone from opposing sides of a battle, no matter what battle it is, but never about bully and bullied. It’s a fine line, that most don’t really think about. I hate it when bullying is used as an excuse to explain a crush.
I’m sorry you were bullied. I know you said no sympathies, but I hate to see one of my friends suffering *hugs*

Susan Crosby
Guest

Im still picking my jaw off the floor from my mom telling me she loved 50 shades of gray. That is so many layers of wrong I could make a cake.

Sophie
Guest
So …all enemies to lover aren’t bullies to lover! They are often “rivals” to lover or “despise to lovers”. Few are bullies to lover honestly! I don’t classify “bullies” as “enemies to lovers” either. We also have bully and bully. I certainly don’t want to brush under the rug what happened to you and I completely understand this is a major trigger (I would probably react that same way) but in several books the “bullies” never were as drastic as what you are describing. Was it right? No, never. But I also know from childhood that boys like pestering girls… Read more »
Shruti
Guest
I totally agree with this! Enemies to lovers is one of my favorite tropes, but my blood boils each time an author misinterprets it. In fact, I’m now working on a post about how the Mr. Darcy syndrome is so misinterpreted in retellings. Bully by Penelope Douglas is the best example of someone who took enemies to lovers too far. This is not right. Everyone has become so desensitised to it. And I also blame parents who say, “honey, he’s bullying you because he likes you.” NO! Don’t tell your kids that. That is just not right. Anyway, this is… Read more »
Tanaz
Guest
Avalinah I am so, so, sorry you had to go through this. This is terrible. I can tell how difficult this must have been for you to write and how much it still affects you by the way you keep trying to explain why you believed that abuse=affection–and you know what? You don’t need to explain yourself, because it was not your fault and we know that. Thank you so much for writing this discussion post, because this is a topic that needs to be talked about. I personally hate this trope when it is not done right, when an… Read more »
Ara @ Open Pages
Guest

This is very true! There’s a line between enemies to lovers and bullies to lovers. I honestly feel enemies to lovers needs a middle ground before it can go from point A to point B. enemies to grudging allies to friends to lovers is my jam, honestly, but I’ve seen too many ‘enemies’ to lovers that are borderline bullies to lovers, so I understand why you avoid the trope. Keep yourself safe from any potential trigger. And thank you for opening up about your past!

Anne @ The Reading Life
Guest

I completely agree. I love this post. Authors need to be extremely careful to make sure that these tropes include guys (or girls) that are redeemable, and not just flat out villain, bully, and to prevent accidental and unconscious promotion for abusive relationships.

I still love this trope though, just please authors, BE REALLY CAREFUL ABOUT THAT LINE.

Sim @ Flipping Thru the Pages
Guest
First of all, so sorry that you had to go through all this bullying in your childhood. Though I have never gone through bullying, I can still understand what effect it had on you. I love Enemies to lovers trope but the trope which I love is more like “rivals’ to friends. Like they tease each other and always make fun (not bully) of each other. But I loved your discussion. There is certainly a thin line between a bullier and an actual rival. Writers should take care of their readers that how their story can effect the ones who… Read more »
Louise @ Exploring by Starlight
Guest

I’m so glad you wrote this post 🙂 I was really badly bullied when I was in school and would constantly get told “it’s because they’re jealous” or “it’s because they actually like you” and I never for one second believed that. If someone actually liked me, they wouldn’t abuse me. I tend to stay away from “enemies to lovers” stories because of being bullied so badly, and even though I know that not every story is abusive, I still won’t touch it because I’m so nervous that it actually will be.

Dhawal Joshi
Guest

Honestly, even I find that thing super annoying as well as cliche. Like why a fierce enemy would start loving without any strong reasons. Although agreed they say hate is just a form of love but well not everytime. You need to give off it a strong base and storyline. Not just whoop now friends from enemies or lovers from enemies. Like that’s most rubbish done ever.

Cris
Guest
Yikes… I guess I haven’t read any bully-to-lover stories, because I can’t believe that even needs to be said. (I mean, if someone wanted to write it as a redemption story, I could see that, but I still wouldn’t want to read it and it should be the exception rather than the rule.) Rivals is good, a “you irritated me when we first met” type of deal, or as someone else said, a misunderstanding… those are all fine when done well. It’s not my favorite trope even on the well written ones and I could see how it’d be difficult… Read more »
Laura Thomas
Guest

I was bullied in school for many years and still feel the damage that it caused. I read this post several times. Thanks for sharing!

Greg
Guest
Nicely said, and I just flat out think bullying to lover as a trope shouldn’t happen, period. I mean why romanticize that AT ALL? Ever? Baffles me. And bullying is something that sticks with you no matter how old you are, I think, so your comment there about still feeling the effects resonated with me. I was bullied as a little kid in elemntary school and while I no longer had the problem by high school, it still is with me to this day. I mean you just don’t understand why someone you’ve done nothing to hits you or whatever… Read more »
ERK @Musings of a Confuzzled Reader
Guest
Excellent post Ava! I do like to read the Enemies to lovers trope but I absolutely loathe when the enemy is the abuser. I have seen this not only in books but in media as well. Tv Soaps use this as a means to gain TRP, and guess what they always end up gaining what they wished for. The romanticisation of the abuser- abused relationship is wrong on so many levels and that couldn’t have been explained better if it wasn’t for you. In fact, I am so inspired by your post, that I may write a discussion on the… Read more »
Nicci @ Sunny Buzzy Books
Guest
I see what you mean. As I mentioned on your weekly wrap up, I enjoy the enemies-to-lovers trope but definitely not the bullies to lovers. I’ve read some dark romance that is definitely bully/abuser to lover and it doesn’t sit right. However, I think the only YA/NA bully-to-lover I’ve read (fortunately) that is straight up bully-to-lover with no shades of anything is Bully by Penelope Douglas. I know, I know, the title should have given it away, right? But so many people raved about how awesome that book was so I read it and was just like “what in the… Read more »
CG @ Paper Fury
Guest
I definitely agree there’s a difference between “snarky rivals” vs “bullying and abusive person declares they love you at the end”. I am going to say a big fat NO to the last one and agree with how horribly inappropriate and damaging it is. I hate the whole “oh he’s mean because he likes you!” (big reason why I’ll never ship Ron and Hermione) because it just paves the way for so much toxic masculinity to rule here?! So while I usually put this on my list of tropes I like…it’s got to be written right! And you’re so so… Read more »
Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy
Guest

Wow, I have honestly never thought about it like this. So sorry you had to go through that. You definitely want to stay away from The Cruel Prince by Holly Black!

Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer
Guest

When done right it can be fun. Usually the two trade barbs or snarky comments but you are right I can remember one or two books where the hero was insulting or demeaning and I couldn’t get past it. I am sorry you were bullied. My youngest was and it changed her perspective on things.

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[…] @Avalinah’s Books wrote this very important discussion on Why Authors Should Take Extra Care When Writing Enemies to […]

Dani Eide
Guest

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings on this subject Avalinah. ♥️♥️ Been bullied also and can’t stand it when it occurs. Some just don’t see what is happening as bullying. Because of this we can’t understand what triggers can do to another person. Many books border or nudge the line. Thanks for willing to share. ❤️❤️

Hana Bilqisthi
Guest

Great topic Avalina. You make me realize that enemy to lover trope can go wrong. I don’t like bullying neither bad guy/girl.
I love enemies-to-lover when the enemies more like competitive rival, like Netflix Movies Candy Jar 😀

Krysta @ Pages Unbound
Guest

Somehow I wasn’t aware this was a thing. If I were to think of “enemies to lovers,” I would assume there was some sort of misunderstanding. Like in P&P or Anne of Green Gables. Though “enemies” seems too extreme for those stories. I guess I’m thinking more of “not on friendly terms to lovers,” which is quite distinct from the horrendous examples you described!

Fareya
Guest

Well written Evelina! The enemy-to-friends is a big hit or miss for me, but I believe this bully-to-love would always be big no-no

Caro @ bookcheshirecat
Guest

A very great and needed discussion! I like the enemies to lovers trope, but it can very easily go very wrong depending on how it’s written 🙁 It’s indeed very dangerous what a lot of the media is showing little girls and thereby normalizing toxic relationshops.

Katisha @ Reel Literature
Guest
First of all, I’m sorry you were bullied, Evelina. I was abused as a child, and it still affects me to this day, so I totally get it. Second of all, thank you for this post because this needs to be repeated over and over again until it ends. I hate when people act like bullying is not a big deal and just part of growing up. I hate when people tell girls that boys are mean to them and hit them because they like them but can’t express how they feel. Then, these same people criticize women for being… Read more »
Norrie
Guest
The whole bully to lover just seems dumb to me. I don’t read a lot of YA (for other reasons), so i have not come across this happening in any story yet, but i can say for sure that i would drop the book like it was a hot potato. When i was young, around 12-13, i also had this idea that boys who treat my like dirt = boys who like me. I mean, they are at least paying attention, no?? :/ But i wouldn’t want a girl thinking this is ok cuz she read about it in a… Read more »
Brittany
Guest
HOLY CRAP! This is an amazing post and I applaud you for having the courage to write this! First off I want to say that you can never blame your 7 year old self for thinking those things! There are grown woman that still think that way. Personally I was mentally abused by one of my exes and it took me years to realize that something wasn’t right. The fact that 12 year old you realized that something was wrong is amazing. When I was in middle school there was this boy that would step on the back of my… Read more »
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[…] Why Authors Should Take Extra Care When Writing Enemies to Lovers on Avalinah’s Books – a great book discussion not only on a popular trope that can easily go wrong but also on bullying. […]

Olivia-Savannah Roach
Guest
I admittedly LOVE the enemies to lovers trope. And yes, I think it is really hard to do right because it can be like, they bully someone because they like them?? And that is really messed up. But most of the times I read it they are rude to someone either because they have their own inner problems that need solving and somehow the other person is able to help them through it, or they are actually enemies not because of situation but because they are in competition – sports wise or for a certain job or something (which makes… Read more »
Andreea
Guest

This was a great post! I have not read many books featuring this trope, but there are a lot of fan-fiction where it is done quite poorly and takes the enjoyment out of reading. I do like when the lovers are annoyed with each other or not necessarily friends in the beginning, but not when it’s bullying.

Gayathri
Guest

YES! Someone had to say it. In real life most of us wouldn’t even want to look back at our bad days much alone those who caused them. And then there are so many books and movies say that one can fall in love with them? It doesn’t make sense, does it?

I am so sorry that someone caused you pain and that these stuff happened to you.

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction
Guest
Thanks for sharing how important this topic is to you and how it has affected you personally. I totally agree with you, though I hadn’t thought of it in these exact terms. I’ve always hated when you have the enemies to lovers trope and the guy starts out the book being an actual jerk. I’ve said this often in reviews. If the guy is a jerk (probably what you would term a bully) at the beginning of the book, there is very little chance you’re going to get me to want the girl with him in the end. I have… Read more »
lauren
Guest

yess!! this is a great post ava!
and i agree with it so much, its one of the reasons i dropped Shatter Me series after the first book because i thankfull i asked a friend to look into who she ends up with and low and behold (for a long time at least, im not sure how the new release effects this part of the plot) shes with the guy who tortures her, forces her into provocative clothing so he can *enjoy* her through sight simpy because he can’t touch her or he’ll die. EW STOP