The Boyfriend by Laura Southgate - A case of Toxic Masculinity


You don't always know ahead of time that something is going to be a huge mistake.

If you've read my previous post about my top three disappointing books of 2020, then you'd know that The Boyfriend is at the top of that list. But if you're here for the first time - or you just like reading my rumbles - let me go deep into why I hated this book so much.

The premise is easy - even though a bit uncomfortable: 17 years old Erica meets 42 years old Donny and start this sort of uncomfortable relationship that makes zero sense and that only brings countless hours of eye rolls.

Okay, it's even worse than that, actually. Erica is young and definitely naif and clearly doesn't really know what is self-respect, when she meets Donny who is actually a creepy stalker that magically shows up at her yoga classes, German club and sleeps in her parents' spare bedroom.

She's uncomfortable around him, but like almost every teenage girl, finds it quite intriguing that an older man could be attracted to her. So she's game. Even though she doesn't like him. 

They start hanging out and things keep happening, without actually happening. It's page after page of "how much he makes her uncomfortable" only to find herself sitting on his lap, sleeping with him, hanging out with him, embarking on this sort of dysfunctional relationship that has zero sense to her and the reader.

Donny is probably the worse character I've ever read about in my entire life. His toxic masculinity is not new, obviously, but it's so maddening and annoying to the point of utter bullshit. 
The first gift was a small tub of Vaseline. 
What I really didn't like about this book is how easy she falls back into the same patterns, even after hitting rock bottom. It's never clear if they have a sexual relationship because it's so up in the air, this book, that sometimes it's even harder to follow.

I think I disliked Erica even more than I did Danny; we see both of them growing together but they never show growth. He's a broken man with some trust issue and alcoholic tendencies - as well as burning anger which he shows especially on Erica who still stands there, motionless. 

That's probably what really bothered me the most: the representation of women as the weaker sex. 
In a society that still sees women as a trophy and not an asset, books should at least teach people to respect women and think of them as a force instead of a weakness. But this specific book does the exact opposite as it's an ode to toxic masculinity, the proof that men can really do whatever they want and women will be there to support such bad behaviour, apologizing and feeling guilty.

It's more about putting the "bad boy" on the page; it's about denying women the power to resist and persist, to fight and be their own, whole self. Books should teach women to be strong and walk head high up, instead of constantly being treated like a trophy or an object in men's hands, ready to be manipulated and used as they please.

The Boyfriend is a representation of extreme toxic masculinity and abusive relationship, an anti-feminist story where women are still denied the right to exist on their own, and make choices without feeling guilty. And as much as I hate spreading bad reviews, I hate seeing women represented in such misogynistic ways a lot more.

⭐/5 just because Kyle and Vince are the only good apples in 261 pages of nonsense.


Erica is 17 and in her last year of high school. Donny is 42 and everywhere - in her yoga class, at German Club, in her parents' spare room . . . 

The story of a young woman who finds herself subject to the gravitational field of a charismatic man, The Boyfriend is a cautionary tale about blindly accepting traditional 'love' narratives. 

This clear-eyed, dismaying and often hilarious examination of sexual desire, trauma and growth is a remarkable debut and a perfect novel for our time. 

Get your copy here.

*A copy of this book has been kindly gifted to me by Fleet but all opinions are my own.