Before I entered the wonderful internet world of readers (oh what a sad bookworm I was before I had PEOPLE to talk to about books) I had no idea HOW other people read. I knew how my brain processed books and what made me like them and not like them and feel certain ways. I knew what bothered me and what would distract me from the book. But, until I started getting into Goodreads and the book blogging world, I never got to see how other readers processed what they read.
It’s been really a good experience because I feel like I’ve learned a lot from other readers and how they see things. I’ve become a more observant reader and just more open-minded. It’s been a good experience but I’ve also noticed how completely opposite I can be from other readers which was (and still is) always eye-opening to me. It’s always been amazing to me how many people can read the same book and have vastly different reactions and perspectives on it. It’s great because there’s always something to talk about and think about.
Today I wanted to talk about 3 of the BIGGEST things about me as a reader that I’ve discovered are different than a lot of readers.
(I shouldn’t have to make this disclaimer but I am: I’m not saying I am right or they are wrong or reading one way is better than the other. There is no wrong or right way to read. You just read and I just read and we come to our own glorious conclusions and that’s what makes reading so fun. I’m just pointing out things about me as a reader. And I would love to hear about you as a reader — especially if you differ from me!)
1. I do not have to like the characters to like the book:
Sure, it’s always nice when I LOVE the characters of the book I’m reading. But I could totally HATE a character and still give the book a high rating. The character could be the most difficult character ever and I could still think the book is good. I think, for me, what I need is some connection or understanding of why the character is like that. Feel like there are real and believable motivations behind them. I need it to feel real. I read Tease by Amanda Maciel recently and it’s from the POV of a bully who doesn’t think she’s to blame at all when a girl she bullied commits suicide. Yeah, that is HARD to read because I want to punch her but I thought it was a really interesting and compelling book — mostly because the character had a lot to her that I could UNDERSTAND.
I think another thing is that sometimes I realize characters, like people, aren’t perfect and they do dumb things and they aren’t always nice or are at a time of their life where they aren’t their best. (I think it’s also I see it as a very human thing to be flawed so sometimes they feel more real to me). I think a lot about Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy. The character is downright awful but, oh god, did I feel her…what it must have been like to think you were dying, to act a certain way because you thought you were, and then you suddenly have your whole life ahead of you. There’s anger and confusion and it manifested. I just GOT her though I know a lot of people didn’t like the book because they couldn’t stomach her (which I understood but felt differently!).
I like watching my characters grow and sort through messy things and NOT be perfect. As hard and frustrating as it might be sometimes and as much as maybe I’ll find myself NOT loving them. Doesn’t mean I like EVERY flawed and difficult character but it doesn’t equal insta-dislike because they are hard to like or do something I don’t agree with or are very difficult.
2. When something happens in a book that is HORRIBLE, to me, it doesn’t mean that the book/author is condoning it, so I don’t rate based on how much I dislike a THING that happened:
For example, just because there is racism or slut-shaming or horrible behavior in a book, to me it doesn’t mean the book is condoning it. (However, there are cases where there are things that are inherently racist or sexist in a book. That’s not what I’m talking about and I believe we should always think about what IS implied). I’m just talking about when something bad happens in a book that, just because I don’t like that THING, it doesn’t mean I will hate the book because I think the action in the book is wrong.
So when the word “slut” (like in Tease by Amanda Maciel) is thrown around a lot it might hurt my heart to hear it and see the slut-shaming but I don’t believe (though I don’t KNOW I suppose) that the author condones this…I more so see it as they are showing these awful things that unfortunately DO happen in real life. I can’t tell you the kind of slut-shaming I saw and maybe silently contributed to (or just haphazardly used words like slut) back in the day. I learned. I grew. I was not an evil person. It can be hard for me to read some of these things but I don’t see that that the book is saying THIS IS OKAY but more like a) just being realistic because not everything is perfect in life or b) using it as a vehicle to tell a story that people need to hear and could hold up a mirror and make someone think about their life.
I mean, I read a book about slavery, something I obviously hate and think is awful, but I personally don’t DISLIKE a book just because I don’t agree with slavery or I’m not going to see an author saying YES THIS WAS A GOOD THING. Things like racism and slut-shaming SHOULD make me mad, but for me, my rating is not based on how much I hate what the characters are DOING..it’s more about the overall story, how these factors play in and how it’s executed for me even though things might be hard for me to read about. Just because there is something I don’t like (bullying/slut-shaming/racism/sexism) as part of a story doesn’t mean I’m going to rate THE BOOK based on my dislike/not agreeing with those things because I don’t think it’s in there to say THIS IS OKAY.
3. Similarly, getting angry at a book doesn’t mean I hate it.
Sometimes the best things I’ve read are the things that light a burning fire under me and make me so, so angry. Now, sure, there are books that make me mad because they just don’t make sense or I don’t like but sometimes getting angry at a book is a GOOD thing for me. I like a book that challenges me and that has the ability to get me all riled up. I can always tell if someone skims a review if I’ve said “this book made me so MAD!!” and they say “sorry you didn’t like it” but, in reality, I DID like it. Anger does not always equal bad experience for me.
So what about you? How do you feel about these 3 things about me as a reader? Do you have ot like the characters in your books? How do you approach books when you don’t like issues that are happening in them? Like I said, there’s no right or wrong way, I’m just pointing out how I interact with books as reader and I’d LOVE to hear about your experience ESPECIALLY if you read differently because I learn so much from how other people see things as they read. Outside of what I’ve talked about, are there are any things you can think of that you’ve noticed about how you read compared to the rest of the reading community?