Brotherly Love?

Posted January 22, 2010 by Holly in Discussions | 31 Comments

A few weeks ago I picked up a new YA series for my teenage daughter on a whim at Walmart. The books were marked down to $7 (for trade paperbacks) and I thought they sounded like something she would enjoy. I tend to be a rather strict parent, however, and I wanted to make sure there wasn’t anything inappropriate in this book for a 13 year old. I started reading the first book a few days ago, and finished it last night (it was hard to get into at first).

During the course of the book, the main character – a girl of 15 – starts falling in love with a boy a few years older. This is a paranormal book and I could understand why she was feeling that way about him. They shared a kiss or two, but nothing too steamy, though they were both filled with angsty feelings for one another.

But at the end of book 1 – where here had been kissing and such – they find out they are really brother and sister. Naturally they are both very disturbed by this (as was I). I figured this would be explored further in the next book, because it was a major plot point. But I didn’t expect that they would still be intimate with each other. Yes, more kissing. And not of the brotherly kind.

She felt the brush of his lips, light at first, and her own opened automatically beneath the pressure. Almost against her will she felt herself go fluid and pliant, stretching upward to twine her arms around his neck the way that a sunflower twists toward light. His arms slid around her, his hands knotting in her hair, and the kiss stopped being gentle and became fierce, all in a single moment like tinder flaring into a blaze.

Yes, that’s a kiss being shared by brother and sister. Who know they’re brother and sister. Afterward they are both bothered by their actions, but later they talk, wondering why they can’t really be together.

Although I’m not quite to the end of this book and can’t say for certain, I believe it will be proved they aren’t actually siblings. But as for right now, the moment they’re kissing and touching each other, they believe they are. And still they kiss.

While I’m sure this will all be explained later, I can’t help but be freaked out about the idea of a young girl reading this and thinking its alright to be physical in that way with your brother. In the end will it all be explained away, and the actions glossed over?

I’m feeling shades of Flowers in the Attic here. It isn’t a good feeling.

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31 responses to “Brotherly Love?

  1. Omg. I mean. *shudders* I need to wash in bleach now. I’ve even been reading/following your tweets about this creepy horror…
    But I honestly started screaming while reading the quote you posted.

    For all that is holy… *scrubs eyes*

  2. I agree with on all your points. I don’t think this is a topic that can be glossed away. Why – YA are very impressionable and books stick with you a long time and actions linger even when people explain why. I still remember Flowers in the Attic and not for good reasons.

  3. This is one of the reasons why I struggled a bit with Charlaine Harris’s Harper Connelly series. The main characters were step siblings, but they still referred to each other as brother and sister at times. Ewwww.

    Even worse in YA, for sure.

  4. If it’s the Mortal Instruments series keep reading. Everything will be explained in the 3rd book. If you want spoilers, email me at bookluvercarol(at)

  5. Possible Spoliers. If its the book I think it is…

    I’m with Carol(ina), I read that and was like OMGross then I realized hey that sounds like City of Bones. I remember reading it and being angry and freaked out and wasn’t sure if I’d read the next book. But I KNEW they couldn’t be bro/sis. But I had to read to find out…. 🙂

  6. Mollie and Carol(lina), I’m sure it will turn out they aren’t related. But my issues isn’t so much what will happen in the end, it’s what’s happening now. What kind of message is this sending to young girls?

    I realize I’m reading a lot into it, but..well, it’s a hot button issue.

  7. Were you ruined by Flowers in the Attic? Did it make you fall in lurve with your brother?

    Do we assume that because it is YA that means young adults can’t understand the term ‘fiction’?

    Isn’t this sort of the same omg videos/tv/movies/music whatev can’t do that because it is for children!?!?!? It will make them all run out and murder/have sex/do drugs/screw their brother/”namebadthinghere”.

    Teens are dumb but shockingly not as dumb as many give them credit for. And more often than not their parents are the first to underestimate them.

    Of course I read VC Andrews around 12 and had moved on to Jackie Collins by 13…

    I seriously doubt TG will start crushing on her brother if she were to read this nor would most teens.

  8. I seriously doubt TG will start crushing on her brother

    Please tell me that this isn’t what you’re worried about. Isn’t it more the overall message?

    All the V.C. Andrews books I read, at least one book in each series had some sort of incest. Other than Flowers in the Attic, the characters didn’t know they were related.

    I don’t know what I would do here. TG is mature for her age and would know the wrongness of it. Decisions, decisions.

    I tend to be a rather strict parent

    Understatement of.the.year. And I luuuuurve that about you.

  9. No Syb, I don’t think TG is going to fall in lurrve with her brother after reading this book. And no, I don’t think she can’t handle controversial or darker issues. But I still don’t think it’s appropriate subject matter. Especially written as it is.

    Flowers in the Attic was a horror novel, written in such a way that it was meant to be disturbing (and I believe I was around 10 the first time I read it..I’d moved on to King and Steele by 12). This isn’t. It’s written more in a scintillating way. Which makes it wrong.

    But beyond that, it’s the feeling I get that it will all be explained away in the end. Brushed aside and laughed off as a silly, uncomfortable joke. If you’re going to attack a heavy issue, why not follow through?

  10. It’s written more in a scintillating way.

    That is exactly what’s disturbing. Cathy felt shame about being with her brother, which is obviously not the case here.

  11. C2

    Umm…EWWWWW? Do not want YA sibling love. >.< Not even if it turns out to be untrue. Bleh. I don't the TG needs to read it or you either, Mom. ;) Spaminator word: conken <--- What the author needs: a good conken on his/her noggin.

  12. I kind of feel like I need to finish it now. I need to get to the part where they aren’t brother and sister, otherwise it’ll always be in my head that they are.


  13. To be honest I was less bothered by this, than I was say by the giving up of Zoe’s virginity in the House of Night books to … SPOILER…. a teacher.

  14. I completely understand the original ICK factor involved with this storyline. But I’m going to brave the possible angry mob and try to explain why it didn’t bother me.

    First of all, and yes… it’s a spoiler… there is NO WAY a YA publisher is going to publish a series with incest as the main relationship in the storyline. Not gonna happen. So even though it’s somewhat convincingly written, there’s no way I ever believed it would end up that way. The passaged quoted was taken from a scene where neither of them WANTED to kiss. The antagonist in the scene imprisoned Clary and used their feelings for each other for her own amusement. If anything it’s a mark on the evil fairy queen, more than the other characters. I may need to re-read the second book (it’s been a while since I’ve read the trilogy, so I may be wrong) but I believe that was the only kiss once they began to believe they were related, and it was done to free Clary. As far as having feelings for each other, the feelings developed BEFORE they were given any reason to think they might be related… and they did everything in their power to get past them once they thought they were brother and sister. I do remember on many occasions reading how both characters made efforts to stay away from each other, and commented about the “inappropriateness” of their feelings. They, like the rest of us, didn’t have any choice in who they fell in love with.

    As far as young girls reading this and thinking it’s OK to act out feelings for a sibling, I sincerely hope that parents have tought their children better. And that no matter what the book content is, they’ll behave properly. I don’t believe that young girls reading about other YA heroines that go on adventures to solve crimes, fight monsters, perform magics, or any of the other subjects of YA paranormal fiction think that is a logical way for them to behave in their real life either.

    I think your choice to read the books before your 13 year old daughter is spectacular. And I don’t, at all, begrudge you your objection to the storyline and your opinion of the book itself, for her. This just takes me back to my feeling about blaming a hard rock song for some listener’s criminal bahavior. Each person makes their own decisions based on their own common sense. A parent’s responsibility is to choose what is appropriate for their own child, and to ensure they know what is fiction and what is real.

    I would have no problem with my 13 year old sister reading this series, and would be more than happy to talk her through anything she may have questions about.

    I just wanted to give my take on the situation.

  15. Reading all of a series is important before making judgements/comments.

    As is context. They 2 characters didn’t know each other existed for 15 years. They met, had feelings for each other and then found out they are brother and sister.

    It’s a bit creepy, but they didn’t grow up together playing doctor or something.

    If this is the series I believe it is.

    And becuase they continue having feelings for each the reader KNOWS they aren’t related. You just can’t figure out HOW they aren’t when all evidence points otherwise.

    It’s the City of Bones trilogy. Which was very good. Clary is a much better heroine than Bella.

  16. The first time I picked up City of Bones couldn’t finish it cause of that. But a few months later I picked up and finished the whole series. It’s not as bad as you think. I definitely recommend reading books 2 and 3. Things are explained in the end.

    Speaking of Flowers in the Attic.. I was at BN the other day and they have the first two books in an omnibus and it was in the YA section. I thought huh, that so shouldn’t be in this section.

  17. Jennifer,

    First, you’re right, there is no way they’re really related. I understand that.

    Second, you’re mistaken, there are several times in City of Ashes where they kiss and/or tough, though not as deeply as the one I quoted.

    They were forced to kiss in the scene I quoted, but only because that was the thing Jace most desired in the world. And once they started, it wasn’t like they were still thinking they were brother and sister, or that they didn’t want it.

    And they did try to avoid each other, but again it struck me as wrong..that it was more like lovers than siblings. Which I understand they are..but they don’t know that. Which is where my issues come in.

    The chances of a young girl reading this and thinking it’s ok to have a physical relationship with a brother..well, they’re very slim. To have this as a major plot point is fine. I think many teens are more than capable of processing situations like this just fine. But there is a chance some will take it wrong.

    As it happens, I’ll let my daughter read these, because I trust her judgement and know she’ll come to me if she has problems or issues. But other young girls may not have the same opportunity.

    In the end, of course, it’s subjective. As I said above, this is a hot button issue for me and not something I can take lightly.

  18. Willaful,
    The books in question are part of the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I didn’t name them in my post because it wasn’t really intended to be about these books in particular, but about the situation as a whole.

    Asrai, I’ll have to disagree about making comments before reading the entire series. My reaction to this book and the feelings of the main characters may have stopped me from reading the next book. I’m not taking the series as a whole and talking about it, but about the actions of the characters in this particular book.

    I do agree that Clary is a much strong heroine than Bella.


    I agree about FitA being in the YA section. That boggles my mind. But then I think most of VCA’s books have been targeted toward t(w)eens, haven’t they?

  19. I think the fact that you’re reading the book specifically to see if it’s appropriate for your kid means you DON’T have to read the whole series before judging it. But that’s just me.

  20. Anonymous

    “I didn’t name them in my post because it wasn’t really intended to be about these books in particular, but about the situation as a whole.”

    Honestly, I think when you don’t name the book it just focuses more attention on it by creating curiosity.

    I agree with you, I find it hard to see how the rest of the series could justify that scene, no matter how good it is. Brother and sister, deliberately making out is icky, even if they only think they are. But I really loathe incest themes. — willaful

  21. Rowena

    This kind of thing was what bothered me with that book I read last year, I forget what it’s called but they meet, there’s a strong attraction between them and the girl thinks that the guy is her brother and yet she still knowingly lets him seduce her.

    It’s gross no matter what age they’re doing it. Since I know what series you’re reading, it’s going off my radar because meh, it’s not my thing.

  22. JenB

    Err…no, definitely not appropriate. Blech. But I don’t think it sends a message that “incest is best.” I think most young people reading that will be just as creeped out as you are.

    When I read Flowers in the Attic at age 11 I thought it was kind of hot…BUT…I actually managed to block out the brother/sister thing and convince myself they weren’t really blood related. So, even though I liked the book and re-wrote the story in my mind, I still knew the relationship as portrayed in the book was NOT OK.

    Then again, in paranormals I’ll accept pretty much anything. I’m grown and have no children though, so my opinion isn’t the one you really want.

    Okay, shutting up now. *zips lips*

  23. That just shows how careful you need to be before putting a book in your kid’s hands !! What a major insight you had to read it first.
    This is just plain creepy to me… but I guess things are getting creepier and creepier. Just the other day on TV a doctor was explaining how kids having sex was a natural thing (and I mean 12 yo kids)… so really, nothing surprises me anyumore, unfortunatly.

  24. Anonymous

    “Just the other day on TV a doctor was explaining how kids having sex was a natural thing (and I mean 12 yo kids)… so really, nothing surprises me anyumore, unfortunatly.”

    Well, it is, isn’t it? Not a desirable thing, not something we want to encourage, but puberty is nature telling them they should be cranking out the babies. It’s messed up that our civilization is now causing ridiculously early puberties, but that’s not nature’s fault.

    I am laughing uproariously at my word verification: seman. — willaful

  25. You’ve got to be kidding me! It’s one thing for a possible attraction not knowing they are siblings, but for the author to plan for them to be siblings and have them kiss and be semi-intimate, that is disgusting.

    Yes, can we say shades of VC Andrews? But then again Flowers in the Attic are not YA books, even though every time I walk into my local B&N, there they are on the must read YA reads.

    Honestly, what was the author thinking? Would love to hear that reason because I don’t think there is a valid one.

    Incest in any way shape or form is not romantic, regardless if it is written well.

  26. I read the book and was not bothered by the scene because it was easy to understand why they had trouble with thinking they are brother and sister when all these complicated and wonderful feelings were between them. And I think the message sent through the book was not that incest is cool and ok.

    I think Cassandra Clare created an interesting and unusual conflict and I never had the “OMG! That’s so disgusting” – feeling.

  27. Sarah

    I have to admit as a twenty-three year old, I was almost disturbed enough by Clary and Jace thinking they were siblings to quit reading the series. I had the second book on reserve and had to wait a while anyway so I had time to cool off. I realized that there was no way that the author was going to end up with them being siblings and decided to see how the whole thing would play out.
    I think the scenes are intended to make you slightly uncomfortable because you realize that their feelings overwhelm the idea that they may be related. Their hearts can’t imagine or understand how they could possibly be siblings no matter how much they try to tell themselves to ignore their feelings.

    SPOILER: Clary does end up kissing a relative unintentionally in the last book and it is made out to be even more disturbing to her than the scenes with Jace.

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