Many years later, I worked in a school supporting teenagers and quickly realised that this was still a big issue. Many young people are still being attracted towards a negative kind of love – the type that controls you, that constricts you and yet makes you believe that you are truly loved. I watched as young girls, and boys too, were pulled into relationships that slowly began to affect their entire personalities. I watched as young people moved away from friendship groups, isolated themselves, neglected their school work and in more severe cases, hid their tears and covered up their bruises.
One girl in particular affected me. She was one of the loud ones. Very popular, bright, with bags of potential. She was the one who had a smart answer when you asked her why she was late for class, or was talking at the back of the room. She was cheeky and a little naughty but her candle burnt brightly. Then at fourteen she met her boyfriend. Her was older, a drifter. He charmed her at first, he made her feel special. Suddenly she wasn’t with her friends as much, later still she wasn’t with them at all. She missed school. She became shrunken and sullen. She told everyone she was ok, but we saw the bruises lining her arm. We knew she was lying. But she resisted all help given to her. We didn’t understand. This was love. This was different.
Her candle no longer burnt brightly – it barely flickered a flame. And that was the saddest sight to see.
Writing Crush wasn’t easy. But neither is a toxic relationship. It’s not easy for the person involved, nor is it for easy for the people that witness it – especially those that care about the person being hurt. In Crush I also wanted to show that there can be reasons why someone might want to control another. I believe that fundamentally we all want to be loved, but some of us really don’t know how to love properly. Love and control can get entwined. And if these issues aren’t picked up at a young age, it can cause significant problems in later life.
Crush is a book about control. It is a book about love turned bad, a toxic love. But it is also about making the right choices early on. It is about hope.
And all above all about the need to love yourself.