2020 was definitely a year for finding ways to escape, learn, reflect, and decompress. As I sought comfort in the new and the familiar, I did, in fact, learn a few things about myself.
I am officially immune to hype. After struggling through several adult contemporary new releases that were hyped to the moon and back (The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue being my latest example), I discovered that just being exposed to lots of people squealing in joy does not mean I will contract said experience. I will undoubtedly sound very, very old when I say this, but it is now a proven fact: I like what I like, and cannot be swayed by hype. I’ve now tried 4 novels by V.E. Schwab, and the verdict is in: This author’s style and my expectations for reading do not gel.
This is not something I have to be ashamed of! It’s pretty liberating, really, to come to the conclusion that not getting excited about all the 1,947 impending publications for any given year will save me time, money, and heartache. I don’t have to apologize for being a picky reader! I still appreciate that other readers are massively delighted when mainstream bestsellers publish something new, and wish all the bookworms and the writers love and success.
And I officially no longer feel like I’m missing out — because I know that I personally am not. For me, there is no amazingness in poorly written dialogue, inconsistent characterization, improper historical research, and thinly veiled political agendas masquerading as plot. What used to be YA lit is now rife with all these things, and it’s why I’m done reading what’s marketed as YA these days.
Less than 75 pages into These Violent Delights and I heard the final nail banging down into the metaphorical coffin lid — I am DONE internally fighting with cardboard characters who speak and think as if they’re in 21st century America no matter their setting or time period, with editors who allow way too many tangents that don’t advance the story, and with writing that head-hops, doesn’t explain the world, and leaves a bunch of plot holes.
What I previously loved most about YA — the simplicity of story, fresh characters, and a bold, honest approach to make that connection with readers — is now absent. So, yes, fans of these trends, flail away. But if you need me, I’ll be over here in my fairy-light-ringed blanket fort, enjoying Maggie Stiefvater and Terry Pratchett classics for the dozenth time.
Will I actually tackle more “grown-up” selections, though?
Probably not! There was so much relevant non-fiction and opinion pieces coming out, especially this summer, that the flood couldn’t be ignored. After reading a number of opinions disguised as facts (and appropriately throwing them at awesomely cooperative walls), I found that adults really just want someone to listen to them, whether they’re right or not. It’s the same argument that was made for including controversial topics in YA fiction, back in the day. And the listening part is where a lot of people are failing lately.
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? was the only book I read this summer that gave me hope for the future — not just regarding racial relations, but of relating to one another as humans. I’m aware of injustice, of intolerance, and hatred; but I want to see something else, something beyond pain and sorrow. I’m not one for wallowing; and since nonfiction publishing is intent on drowning in the crap right now, I’ll be striding off to another section of the bookstore.
This was also the year that my family finally started using streaming services. And I do feel myself drawn to the comfortable vibes of the known, the well-loved, the favorites. Baby Yoda is the mascot for all of this — including the prequel-we-didn’t-realize-we-needed syndrome — as well as for finding light in the darkness.
I want to be awed, inspired, and happy when I read or watch something meant to make me temporarily forget my troubles. The Child provides the perfect example of all that. We can address the tough topics in a rough time without furthering despair and anxiety. We can remain hopeful and find love and beauty in the midst of hurt.
Given the world circumstances, seeking warm fuzzies has become a passion. I dove into Studio Ghibli’s back catalogue, a brilliant move. I am not too old for anime, or for children’s stories that appeal to everyone. And quite frankly, I WANT to live in a world where the cat bus can take you around the forest, and sharing your umbrella with an enormous furry troll brings your family ultimate protection.
So, settling in with the comfy and the tried-and-true doesn’t feel very edgy; it sounds tranquil and calming.
I’m not just older; I’m also wiser. And more secure in the decisions I make.
After a year of craziness, a more steady pace is desirable.
And this moth will embrace it.