Synopsis: “Love hurts … but should it hurt this much? Reeling from her mum’s sudden departure, Anna finds the comfort she needs in her blossoming relationship with Will. He’s handsome and loving, everything Anna has always dreamt of. He’s also moody and unpredictable, pushing her away from her friends, her music. He wants her to be his and his alone. He wants her to be perfect. Anna’s world is closing in. But threatening everything is a dark secret that not even Will can control… Eve Ainsworth’s gripping second novel is a pitch-perfect exploration of love at its most powerful, addictive and destructive.”
Crush is a short read about 14-year-old Anna who is dealing with anger and family problems in the wake of her mother leaving home. We follow her growing relationship with Will, who has his own family baggage and a bad way of dealing with it.
As a narrative on toxic relationships, this book should be a staple in all school libraries. Crush doesn’t only deal with physically abusive relationships. Yes, posessiveness, jealousy and threatening behaviour are all fairly obvious signs of abusive relationships (at least from the outside) and of course they’re important to emphasise.
But Crush also deals with controlling behaviour that is harder to pin point, such as demanding that someone looks or eats a certain way, using guilt and love to gain this power. As such controlling behaviour can also manifest in relationships without elements of violence, it’s great that this book gives the message that emotional blackmail is not okay in any form. This could really help young people understand and speak up about similar isssues in their lives or others’.
What I think Eve Ainsworth writes particularly well are Anna’s feelings of responsibility for Will’s anger, emphasising why anyone in her siutation could find it difficult to see there’s a problem. Once again, this is an especially important theme for teenagers. If the abused party is young and naive, they may not have experienced any other relationships so don’t realise they should be treated any differently.
This effect is doubled when as a young person you feel as if you don’t fit in and nobody understands you, so you’re especially grateful for someone who appears to prioritise you. This is exactly what Anna represents and Ainsworth has captured it beautifully.
Lastly, it’s the friendships that make this realistic. Everyone’s experienced friends getting into a relationship and then suddenly ignoring all their friends. It sucks. Some of us might have even been that person.
“It had only been a few weeks and I could already see a change in Izzy. Will had warned me about it. Told me that mates can “get funny” when you get a boyfriend.”