Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chill Out!

With much deliberation, I’ve decided to post my first ever blog rant. It’s a big lengthy, and probably full of gibberish, but one thing I’ve learned as a book reviewer is that opinions are something to make known. And keep in mind, all of this in my opinion. If you agree, that’s great. If you don’t, that’s completely fine. Comments are welcomed, but please go easy on me! I’m not so great with explaining myself, but I hope I made at least a little bit of sense.
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Everybody walks away from a book differently; some hate it, some love it, some are so-so. I understand this and I respect this. I also understand that everybody has a different aspect on how they read. Some read for entertainment, for laughs and good-hearted emotions that certain books can provide. Others, like myself, read for an escape from real life; to put yourself in another story, maybe even another world for just a few hundred pages. And if you’re reading this right now, and agreeing to everything I‘ve said so far, I‘m pretty sure you enjoy finding those escapes in young adult fiction.

Fiction. As in, not real. As in, completely fabricated from the imagination of the author. The point of this rant is that I’ve been seeing tons of reviews, posts, comments on how readers are getting frustrated that certain young adult novels/the characters included aren’t realistic enough.

Shall I define fiction once more? A novel or story that describes imaginary people and events. Sure, fiction can, and most do, feature elements of realistic situations. But for the most part, if you want to read “realistic”, you need to be scouring the non-fiction shelves instead.

For me, personally, I like the out of the ordinary and unexpected. Not just in paranormal stories either. Throw a twisted, unlikely love triangle at me and I’ll be very happy. Why? Because I’ll never have a twisted love triangle in my life. Throw a gorgeous literary hunk at me, I don’t mind at all. Why? Because, well, I doubt I’d ever have a chance with anybody as gorgeous as these stories describe. But if only for a few hundred pages, I can empathize with the main character and get lost in her love story as well. It’s true; these kinds of things are so ridiculously unrealistic, but that’s what makes reading fiction so amazing.

I think some readers just take books too seriously. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing at all, but some readers need to realize that it’s not real. And I know everybody probably gets sick of hearing about this, but I’m going to bring it up anyway- Twilight. Just because Edward barks orders at Bella, and Bella sticks her tail between her legs and obeys his every command, doesn’t mean that Stephenie Meyer is condoning that kind of relationship. Bella and Edward are literary characters. They’re not perfect, they’re not realistic. They’re part of a young adult FICTION novel. (And seriously, looking for human flaws in a relationship where one half of the party is a vampire is just kind of ridiculous, if you ask me.) My point is- it’s not real, and Stephenie probably didn’t intend for her story to send a message such as “girls need to be pushovers when it comes to their boyfriends.” Twilight (and the characters involved) is a work of fiction. I repeat- fiction.

Another thing? And this isn’t really relevant to this topic, I just feel like bringing it up. Not every main protagonist needs to be a strong, independent woman. I’m all for female empowerment, but it’s okay for main characters to be wimps sometimes. It’s okay for them to make wrong choices and end up in stupid relationships with cheesy, pretty male characters. Because you know what? It’s (word of the day) fiction. These aren’t true stories, and reading about shy, geeky pushovers isn‘t going to turn you into one and it isn‘t sending a message that you should be one. She‘s a character in a novel. That is it.

I guess I’ve ranted enough. I probably just rambled a whole lot of nonsense, but I hope my point came across at least a little and didn't offend anyone in the process. Breaking down and analyzing every single teeny-tiny detail about the characters, the stories, the relationships- while it’s in a reviewer’s nature to do so, to an extent- kind of takes all the fun out of reading. I do believe that most books have realistic meaning and messages to them. But at the end of the day, it’s just fiction, people. Lighten up and enjoy the book.

27 comments:

  1. I think I know what you're responding to and I have to say I agree with the other post AND I agree with you. I think the complaint isn't so much that these kinds of stories like Twilight exist, but that its mostly what we've been seeing lately and as much as they are awesome and FICTION and not real, etc, etc...it's nice to have other types of stories too. But I hear what you're saying. I personally think it'd be nice to see some more realistic relationships in paranormals and healthier ones...but...hey...I did publicly announce I'd make out with Patch from Hush, Hush. There's a place for glorified abusive type relationships and super hot beyond belief guys, and its nice to see something else too. Glad you're sharing your opinion.

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  2. Katie, you will never understand how thankful I am that you wrote this post. People drive me insane with there need to analyze and scrutinize every last detail when they could just step back and enjoy it! Thank you again for saying what needed to be said:)

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  3. THANK YOU, KATIE!

    See, I told you you had nothing to worry about! I understand some people get very fed up with certain common plots and genres. I get it. I really, really do. But you know what I do with books that are about things that I cannot stand? I DON'T READ THEM! I don't waste my time with genres or subjects that annoy me or I have no interest at all in. I have no idea why any would even *want* to waste their time just so they can bitch about a book. Please someone explain to me why you would waste hours upon hours on something that you know is going to suck? Life is full of things that are going to suck (i.e. boring classes, having to go to work) It makes no sense to me!

    Okay, I just kind of rambled off there, but I'm glad you made this post.

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  4. I agree....I have noticed this alot lately. I personally just try to enjoy the story. There is an occasion which just doesn't fit into what they are saying. Like a backstory doesn't chime with the the plot. Either way it is still fiction their world to create and mine to read! Loved the post

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  5. OH MY GOSH!! Thank You so much for posting this!! As long as it is OK with you - I'd like to blog about and post a link to this from FallenArchangel.com. Plz let me know.

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  6. Thanks for posting this! You have no idea how grateful I was when I saw your post. I agree with you that some people do tend to take things too seriously. I don't blame the authors for creating stories based on unhealthy relationships (Edward stalking Bella), it is their own story to tell afterall. Instead, I believe that it is the parent's duty to educate and set an example for their young ones about what is an acceptable in a relationship.

    Another thing about these rants that I don't get is the point of it. What exactly are they trying to achieve by pointing it out? Perhaps I might have missed it in an earlier post. Could someone enlighten me on this?

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  7. I said it on Twitter, and I'll say it here as well: Read it if you like it, move on if you don't. I also read YA fiction to escape reality and I continue to hold on to that fact when something strikes me as odd. Unfortunately, the audience these books are written for can be very impressionable and forget that it's not real. I work with these kids every day and I try to get them to understand that as often as I can. Thanks for sharing your feelings and feel free to rant occasionally. It's good for the soul!

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  8. I love reading rants!

    I agree with what you're saying - I too read as an escape from everyday life and fiction IS fiction, but I can also see the other point-of-view.

    Lately there does seem to be a shortage of books where the romance element is just a crush instead of an obsession. But still, when this is done right, it works.

    As long as the story is enjoyable, I don't really care too much.

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  9. I understand what you're saying but I slightly disagree to some of it :-)

    I also read for an escape but that doesn't mean that I'm not allowed to write about things that annoys me in the books that I read. Even if it's ONLY fiction ;)

    What is the point in reviewing books if one cannot be allowed to criticizes a little along the way? How can an author ever improve his or her writing if none of their readers ever gives a little constructive criticism?

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  10. Thanks for the responses, guys! I'm happy that I'm not being skewered or shunned or something.

    JennM- You can post it wherever you like. I don't mind at all. :)

    Ladybug- I hope that's not how I came across, because that's not what I meant at all. If we weren't allowed to write about things that annoyed us in books, us bloggers wouldn't have anything to do! Haha. Criticizing is perfectly okay, I do it to all books, but I'm shooting towards the nit-picky people who LOOK for flaws, instead of just reading. If there's something you dislike when you're done with the book, that's cool, I get it, things stick. But there are people who analyze every single thing about the story and characters. I guess I'm aiming towards a more extreme group of people, but it gets a bit frustrating at times. But yeah, not frowning upon criticism at all. I do it all the time in my reviews. :)

    I have to run, but I'll be back to comment on the other comments much later. Once again, thanks for your input! :)

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  11. I agree, it is only fiction, but I think some people just have a stick up their rear and can't let it go. :)

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  12. I know!!! I hate it when people start phycoanalizing everything in the book :P

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  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  14. Hey Katie,

    I gave you an award on my blog!

    http://headdeskforwriters.blogspot.com/2010/03/events-of-march.html

    -Mandy

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  15. Another thing? Not every main protagonist needs to be a strong, independent woman. I’m all for female empowerment, but it’s okay for main characters to be wimps sometimes."

    YES. This. :D

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  16. I BOW TO YOU! You have put everything that I've been thinking lately into one comprehensive post, which is more than I would have been able to do. I do agree with some things that have been said on other blogs about YA romance, but I think that it's been taken a bit too far. Again THANK YOU!

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  17. I get what you're trying to say and I understand the escape that fiction, especially ya, can offer.

    However, I disagree that "fiction" and "realistic" have to be mutually exclusive. Personally, one of the main elements I judge characters by is how realistic they act (even if the situations they are in are far from realistic).

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  18. The thing is, the brand of "fiction" can't be used to completely throw away cause and effect. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. What people are complaining about is that there's a cause but no effect. Action without consequences. If you have humans in your story, and your story takes place on planet earth, even if it's fiction, it has to abide by the rules that exist on earth. If you have fantasy, even if it's an entirely new world, it doesn't give the writer the excuse to write from the hip. Every world has rules that it must adhere to, fantasy or reality, and when a writer deviates from those rules, whether they're their own or Earth's, people are going to notice.

    No, not every story needs to have a bitch with balls but if the MC is a wimp, other characters need to react to her appropriately. Having all the secondary characters fawning after her and bending over backwards for her and so on isn't realistic. It's Suethor fic. Fanfiction.net is riddled with it. If that's what you want to read then head on over there.

    No, SMeyer probably had absolutely no intention of writing the books she did with the undertones it had (which is downright scary but that's besides the point). But she did write it and to many, many people it's an atrocious romance made okay by the author. The issue isn't with people reading it that can differentiate fantasy from reality. It's those reading it that can't. When a 13 year old reads something like Twilight and takes away from it that Edward is a good boyfriend, that's a problem because then they're not escaping anything. They're removing portions of a book and projecting it into their real lives and starting to seek out guys like Edward. That's a problem.

    Words are very powerful things, but only if the individual makes them powerful. For a lot of people, it's trite fantasy, a guilty pleasure (shit, I have the first three Twilight books on my shelves despite the fact I can't stand them, or at least I can't stand Edward, Bella or Jacob). We read to escape. Nothing wrong with that. But some people do take books too seriously and it's not the people ranting about them. They're the girls that stalk Robert Pattinson and scratch their necks so they can "bleed for him." That's why people get riled up about books sending the wrong message. Because that message is being received by very impressionable minds and interpreted exceptionally passionately, sometimes violently. The Twilight books alone was spawned some seriously rabid fans, some willing to inflict very real pain on other people for disagreeing with them about how fantastic those books are.

    Remember wimps in real life are not interesting. People don't bow to them. They normally don't get the guy. People walk all over them. They're pretty invisible. They fawn over others in the hopes of being noticed, not the other way around. Not all characters need to be Xena, but would you really want to read a story about a person without a backbone?

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  19. Let's be friends. That's all I have to say because I agree with you. It's fiction. It's creative license. It's creating a great story, a story that draws readers in. I've ranted about stuff like this on my blog before too- if a reader really makes their life decisions on a book, there's a whole lot more going on than the content of that book. And I've said this before too... I think a lot of this it's sending a bad message thing is an excuse for parents to blame things on someone else when they aren't monitoring it. Do I think parents should censor books? No. But should they pay attention to what their kids read, and make themselves open about it? Yes.

    That's my addition.. but, you're completely right and thank you for posting this because the few I've seen lately about peopel calling this a rape culture- that's ridiculous. That phrase alone completely cheapens rape- what it REALLY is, what it REALLY does- this isn't a rape culture.

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  20. agreed! i don't understand why people are getting on the case of authors now a days!
    That person that wrote the book wanted to share it with the world, for they believed it was good enough to be shared.
    judging the book for what it is or who wrote it or what it entails means you shouldn't be reading these kind of books if all your going to do is scoff at someone else's story when they've tried so hard for it to come to life.
    Did you write the story?! You didn't like the book?! well then GO WRITE YOUR OWN BOOK! you see what it is like to have people hate you because of what you wrote.
    Every book has its qualities, why are we so prone to pointing out the faults when we know we couldn't of done it any better!

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