It can be a risk for an author to choose a topic that is seen as taboo to be a focus within their story. As a society, we try to sugar coat these forms of examples, so when a writer decides to hit them straight on, it can be a gamble.
These five examples below are books that are focused on these hard topics, and do not shy away from them. Yet, they are done in such a way that it has not taken readers away from the tale, but instead have awarded them praise.
Racism is sadly still a part of our world, and it continues to be a major issue. There are a few examples out there that beautifully tackle this topic that should be talked about more, but does not do it in a way that it takes away from the real important issue.
Nought and Crosses by Malorie Blackman focuses on a young white male called Callum who is known as a nought, and a young black female called Sephy who is known as a cross. Whilst living in a dystopian world where crosses rule and noughts are seen as the minor population, these two prove that it is not the matter of skin that defines a person and are determined to keep their relationship possible.
Due to Blackman focusing on the relationship dynamic, it does not feel that the racism shown is shoved in the readers face. Instead, due to the subtlety like a dark plaster or a change of words, such as blanker, thrown about, it proves how it really can be easily be a part of society today. It proves how racism is always there even when people do not see and that it really is an issue that can destroy lives.
It really heightens the issue that it needs to be discussed more, as even with decades of trying to achieve equal rights, it is the thoughts of individuals that throw around casual racism that keep it alive today.
It is nice to acknowledge that global warming and the cause of damage us humans have done to the environment is a discussion that is beginning to be taken seriously, but there is still such a high cause of issue that needs to be addressed.
A good example of the destruction humans can do to a world is The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin. Similar to Blackman’s topic of racism, this taboo subject is so delicately placed throughout the novel that sometimes it feels like you are not reading about it at all. Yet, it is there, and it fundamentality proves the issues that could arise for us all.
The trilogy is named as The Broken Earth, and it is proof of the issues that could be awaiting us. Whilst it follows a group of characters, it focuses on the damage their world has already caused and the payback it is thrusting on all of mankind. It is proof that we need to care for our planet, as the outrage is shown to be destroying the very home that all mankind are living on. It shows how close the end of the world could be with proving how much destruction the very earth could bestow on the beings living on it.
Even though Jemisin focuses on the characters, the threat is always there, lingering in the back, and proving that it is due to those that need to try and heal the world who have broken it.
Deformity is so often shown in stories. The top one has to be of course the classic, Notre Dame de Paris, or known as thanks to Disney — The Hunchback of Notre Dame — by Victor Hugo, but I want to use a different example, one that might even catch fans of the series by surprise.
Deformity can come in all shape and sizes, but the main focus is the fact that it is seen as abnormal to the human eye and seems to have this stigma that it is wrong if someone is not classified as perfect.
The series I want to focus on is From Blood and Ash, as Jennifer L. Armentrout uses deformity so subtly that a lot of readers might not have even thought twice about her choices. By choosing to have the protagonist to be seen as ‘ugly’ due to her scars, just proves how easy it can be for one to be classified as impure due to their appearance. It really shows the lack of confidence it can be on someone when it shouldn’t be and the affect it can have mentality due to the way people react to their physical appearance. But it also shows that it takes just one person’s kindness to show someone’s worth and that they are not defined by their appearance.
Of course, there are quite a few examples out there, but to me, Armentrout does it in a way that the reader doesn’t even recognise the issue being used throughout the series, and it just proves that someone doesn’t have to be defined by their outwards appearance.
I’m sure there’s no question on the example I am going to be using for PSD, although, there’s a chance that once again, fans of the series might not have even recognised the hard topic used throughout.
Suzanna Collins’, The Hunger Games, focuses on the traumatic effect on those that are involved in violence. It’s beautifully portraying what soldier’s and those affected by trauma can be driven by throughout the rest of their lives.
I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail about the series too much, but the focus after the first book is proving what a traumatic experience has occurred to the survivors of the Hunger Games. It doesn’t just show Katniss’ experience, but those around her, such as Haymitch’s drinking problem and also Peeta’s explanation that he also has nightmares about his time in the arena.
Even months and years down the line, as explained in the epilogue, it proves how the affect never truly goes away and someone with PSD and trauma has to learn to live with it.
It’s a form of mental illness that is so common in our day and age, yet, it is hardly spoken about. Collins proves that it does not need to define you, and to not be afraid to admit that you need some guidance. But the main focus is to prove that someone who suffers from this, is not alone.
- Abusive Relationships
Abusive relationships is such a hard topic to talk about in general because it is at risk of triggering those who read it and also it is seen as such a taboo subject that there’s a risk that people are in one without even realising it.
I thought long and hard about this hard topic as there are examples out there that hit it on the nail but also those that don’t even acknowledge that there’s a chance that an abusive relationship is being portrayed but not talked about. In the end, I decided on A Court of Thornes and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, simply because it completely flips everything and proves that someone could be suffering and they don’t even know it.
Within the first book, as a reader, you are routing for Tamlin and his desire for Feyre and are praying for the two to win out at the end. Yet, the second book flips it 360 that you start to question yourself why you wanted Tamlin to end up with Feyre in the first place.
Maas subtly links those examples of abuse, yet shows a completely different side to it. It is proof on mental abuse and the urge to try and control someone that can be as deathly as physical harm. It was threaded epically throughout the first novel that when it is revealed in the second, the reader does not think twice to argue with it.
Mass proves that there is more levels to abuse and that no one should ever feel ashamed about being in one and can still thrive once they find their way out.
Even if someone was in a similar situation, Mass does it carefully to not trigger someone and still enjoy the read throughout the series to fall and love the other characters.
It can be a risk to have hard topics within a story as it can feel jarring for the reader. But when an author knows how to thread it throughout to make the reader understand what is happening and not to feel overwhelmed, it is those examples that are praised and can still bring up the topic that, even to this day, needs discussion.