I'm Sorry, Bella Swan.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Read this post by Donna & Frankie at First Novels Club. It's in defense of some book-bashing of Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater that occurred at the Rejectionist blog.

Now, I had a bit of a negative reaction towards this post (not in the comments there, elsewhere). And I realise I was a bit harsh. those things don't make me put down a book - don't be worried if you're an author that's written a novel with those things in it - it's just that those are the things that I see too often for my tastes. I try not to let personal dislikes taint my reviews, and I always finish books. Those are just the types I stay away from, because I know I view those things negatively.
Now, you might have noticed in the past I've said some negative things about the novel Twilight. Have you heard of it? It's about this girl, Bella, and this vampire guy, Edward. In the fourth book they have a vampire baby, in spite of the fact that vampires can't have babies and Bella is a teenager and Edward is seventeen still but actually 108 and neither of those ages are appropriate for new fathers. They should be, like 25-40, and certainly not immortal.
See? I can't help myself. But I'm stopping this right now. Read on.

I started thinking. I do this often. It distracts me so much I often walk into things. My thoughts led me to this conclusion:
  • I don't hate Twilight.
  • I don't hate Bella Swan for being a pushover.
  • I don't hate Stephenie Meyer for writing Twilight. I'm sure she is a lovely lady.
  • I don't hate any book.
I don't. I don't hate books because I don't hate anything (except cruelty to animals, ignorance, violence, etc). I like most everyone I meet. I like every book I read to some degree. There is a good in everything. Almost every author pours their heart and soul into their works. And I can appreciate that. Absolutely. I write myself. I am a heart-and-souler.
Now, all of the Twilight-haters will hate me for going back on what I said earlier. And all of the Twilight-lovers will hate me for changing my mind and being a fence-sitter.
But here's the thing I want to say to all reviewers:
Yes, you have the responsibility to your readers to review honestly. But, you need to take into consideration that your readers do not have the exact same tastes as you.
For example: I know I have a lot of readers who adore Twilight. I know I have some readers who are Christians and want to read clean novels. I know I have readers who love edgy, gritty novels, and who don't mind a bit of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll.
I aim to review honestly, but I don't rip books apart. I try not to let my personal tastes come through (inevitably it happens).
Guess what? You can review honestly without being nasty. And if you really, really hate the book, probably due to personal preferences and prejudices, stop reading. Don't denounce the book on your blog. If you have to review it, state what you disliked and what made you feel unfavourably towards the book. But also look for the good things. They're in there. Books published by reputable publishers have gone through a long, expensive process to get to that point. People believe in this book. Thousands has been spent on this book, most likely for the publisher to lose money. There is good in that book. If there wasn't, it would still be sitting in someone's drawer at home.
If you want an example of personal prejudices, here are the things that turn me off books which other people don't mind:
  • Most drug use
  • Most underage drinking
  • Most teenage sex
  • Relationships where the male half is always dominant
  • All image-obsessed girls
  • Anything about 'popularity'
This is just me. These are just the things I don't like. But I can see past these things to recognise a brilliant book, even if some of the themes aren't my cup of tea.

I'm going to say something here, and you're going to want to throw stuff at me, and I'm going to want to stab myself in the eye with a fork, but here it is:

I read the first three books in the Twilight series. And I loved them.

This was last year though. And I'm 15, so I was a completely different person last year. In defense of Stephenie Meyer, Twilight, vampire baby abominations and Bella Swan, I say this:
  • No offense, teenage girls, but most of you are like Bella Swan. You know it's true. But that's why it's popular! Girls identify with being completely infatuated with people, and with feeling as if that person leaving/dumping you is the end of the world.
  • Twilight-haters - you know you're mostly irritated by the fact that Twilight has a huge fan base and some of the fans are crazy. Like, really crazy. I said, 'some', okay? Don't attack me, Twihards.
  • In response to everyone saying Twilight has no literary worth: No. It doesn't. Who said it had to? It's a bestseller. They're not usually literarily worthy. They're intended for mass consumption.
Dear people who hate books (myself occasionally included), here's the thing: You don't have to hate them at all. You don't have to hate anything. (Except make up being tested on bunnies. Hate that.) What do you really gain from it?
So here we are:
  • I'm pro-creative expression. Write what you want. (But, um, don't make it sick or wrong, OK?) Don't censor yourself because you're afraid of the 'gate-keepers' of YA fiction - teachers, parents, librarians. Don't censor yourself because you think you'll offend someone, or because you read that a certain fifteen-year-old doesn't like teenage drinking in books. Guess what? I'm nobody. I don't matter to you. But you matter to you. Write what you want to write, write what you love, don't tear other writers down.
  • I'm pro-open mindedness. I'll read anything. I'll look past sparkly vampires in novels.
  • I'm anti-book banning, burning or bashing. If a book is really that harmful, it won't reach widespread publication. Relax, your kid reading a book about sparkly vampires or homosexuality is not going to make them go out and engage in illegal or dangerous activities. Blame their friends for that. Keep them locked in a tower room if possible. But give them all the books they want! Even Madame Bovary! And Lolita!
  • I'm pro-positive book reviewing. I don't want to give books star ratings, or tell you every single book I read is Pulitzer-worthy. I want to write detailed reviews that'll give you an idea of what a book is about, whose tastes it'll suit, whether it is worth you, personally, getting. Because there isn't one book that everyone will love. I hope that my blog allows you to find books you'll love, even if I didn't love them.
Feel free to disagree with me (I do love a good discussion).
But, um, I'm going to continue making jokes at the expense of sparkly vampires. Sorry Edward Cullen and Co., but I don't have a whole lot of comedy material.
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