I don’t typically try to explain my characters’ motivations and how I wrote them, but it seems I might have gone too far in A Sleeping God. I’ll try to address a number of reader objections without any spoilers.
Let me be clear, Pol and Shira are teenagers. They are both exceptionally smart, talented, and capable people. They are in a relationship that is awkward for both of them. Neither have grown up in a natural environment. Pol struggles to react properly around Shira. Shira, on the other hand, has additional pressures (hang-ups?) that become more apparent towards the end of the book. She covers this awkwardness by pinching, hitting and bumping Pol. It isn’t because she is a shrew, it’s because she is having some real difficulties as she develops a relationship with Pol who is, shall we say, an Imperial male. She expresses that inner conflict through physical means. Note that her behavior doesn’t affect Pol’s feelings, but he is sometimes as lost in their relationship as she is. He just reacts differently.
In my own high school days, I observed the physical behavior first hand and didn’t see it then as abuse, but as part of a girl’s attempt to assert herself in a relationship. Perhaps I went a bit overboard, but when you get an idea, as a writer, you sometimes just go with it. I did.
Her reactions doesn’t make her a bad person. You will note she shows a great deal of affection along with her outbursts of whatever you want to call it. In crafting her personality, I consciously made her a very conflicted girl and a great deal of that comes from her upbringing in a unique matriarchal society in Shinkya. To me, as I wrote her, she remains a sympathetic character. Some readers don’t see it that way, and for them, I apologize.