Prepare yourself: This will be a rant of epic proportions. I truly hope I don’t offend anyone, because my goal is to promote open discussion and a new way of thinking. But I have been silent on some of these things for a very long time, and now I feel I can be silent no more.
(We’ll see what the reaction is later. Here goes nothing, eh?)
If you push for diverse and more tolerant novels, but insist that this cannot possibly include conservative Christianity/Judaism and/or some currently un-PC views, then you are in fact being prejudiced yourself. There is a massive difference between agreeing to disagree with someone or a group, and standing on your soapbox and yelling through a megaphone that any views that don’t line up perfectly with your own should be banned. This approach is how dictatorships get started. If an author has written something that you don’t agree with, then love the free society you claim to be fighting for and revel in your ability to choose not to read it. Trying to force everybody around you to feel exactly the same way you do — about anything from religion to the price of apricots in Japan — is a very slippery slope.
This is a very personal subject for me, as I subscribe to a Judeo-Christian belief system, and many of my social media folks are reporting being bullied for standing up for their beliefs. That is wrong, people. If you don’t agree with me, and in fact think I’m wrong, well, I’m sorry — but I one hundred percent support your decision to have that opinion. I just ask that you respect my right to do the same.
There are several really popular series that I simply cannot get on board with, and I am done with feeling like I need to apologize for not liking them. The Hunger Games, Divergent, Six of Crows, Throne of Glass, A Court of Thorns and Roses, all the Shadowhunters sagas… Sorry, folks, but none of these do it for me. In some cases, it’s very personal (I just don’t like reading sex scenes, and I shouldn’t have to apologize for that, either); in other cases it’s because I felt the writing was bleh and the characters weren’t well-developed, and the premise was thin… All reasons we’re supposed to be able to say this is why we didn’t like a book. And we should all be able to say this without getting our heads ripped off. Remember that free society thing that so many people are screaming about?
Fiction should not need to meet a checklist of current social issues to be judged on its artistic merits. What if to “make a work more diverse” would mean wrecking its historical accuracy? The Book Thief and anything about WWII and the prevailing views/concerns in that time period immediately springs to mind. To Kill a Mockingbird as well — racism was the point of the whole story. What if portraying a character as biased or non-forward-thinking presents a discussion the author is hoping we have? Just because somebody writes a novel about, say, the antebellum South — in all of its slavery-was-good unfortunate-trueness — does not mean for one second that they condone those ideas.
People, please, please do not write in books. Even books you own. Of any kind. I know some bookworms/bloggers/reviewers are doing this as they read, so that it helps them remember certain things for their reviews. But for crying out loud, you could use anything from your laptop to an old grocery list for taking notes!!! I seriously find this disrespectful to the written word, to the work of the author/editor/publisher, and to anyone else who may read that copy. (Library books and re-sold textbooks instantly come to mind.)
Remember when I posted about the importance of not liking something just because “everybody else” likes it? Don’t try to coerce others to share what is just your individual perspective. Yes, it’s great when we go onto blogs/forums and find lots of people who are flailing over the same book we are currently flailing over. However, if we come across a lovely nice almond who simply thought that series was a bit rubbish, please do not spend the next 156 hours of your life making them feel like utter crap. Especially if they state their thoughts in a kind and respectful manner. If they present a “well, live and let live” attitude, then for the love of mercy and humanity, please follow their example.
There is far too much swearing, violence, sexual references, and bad-behavior-made-acceptable in YA fiction, and I don’t want my children reading it. Authors need to sit up and take notice of what parents think, if they want to keep making sales to their target audience. (Or maybe they need to change their target audience.)
Can we please find some more original ideas than zombies, “chosen ones,” young women who need to get married before their 18th birthday, and the world is about to end? This is one of those more personal-taste things, but I am so tired of picking up (and then immediately putting down) “new” releases that sound 96% like four dozen other bestsellers from the past few years. Re-tellings in particular are getting on my nerves. Why not try to find a story/concept that hasn’t been done to death in the last decade? Like an updated take on the works of Jack London, given that things like the Iditarod race is in extreme controversy these days? Or put The Twelve Dancing Princesses in a modern ballet company? Or truly break gender stereotypes by having the princess rescue the whiny, self-absorbed prince, then dump him to go rule her own queendom?
Authors really need not to write about a very serious subject unless they are doing it justice. The number of published novels that misrepresent — for example — autism, or mental illness, or blindness/deafness, PTSD, being a veteran, being in a minority culture, having an anxiety disorder, ADHD, or even being allergic to ferrets is way too many. What’s the oldest piece of advice given to writers? To write what you know. If you honestly don’t know much about these things, leave it alone. Let those with firsthand or secondhand experience write the truth of their lives.
All right, I’m done whinging. Again, I honestly don’t want to make anyone feel bad, or start calling me a hater. (Be warned — I’ll just delete any nasty comments, anyway.) But these are topics that are growing in my awareness, and I think it’s necessary to present both sides when we’re having a conversation — not just a conver-stop.