Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Apples to Apples

Flickr Credit: Oakland Public Library
I have been bothered. And I do not want to sound like a jerk, or that kind of person who you stare at and slowly back away from because clearly, she is crazy. But bear with me.


I’d like to complain.

See, there’s this triad: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Twilight.

And everybody always compares them wrong.

All right, let me qualify that, because as we all know, only Sith deal in the absolute. I apologize; my emotions got the better of me.

Sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that each of these books is an apple, when really we’re dealing with an apple, an orange, and a pear. Fruits, but a different species, each.

People who read these books have a reaction.
“Wow, I really like this book.”
“Actually, this is kind of boring.”
“Oh, I can’t put it down!”
“This just isn’t good writing.”

Yes. Good. We should all have opinions on what we’re reading. If you don’t have an opinion on what you’re reading, I don’t… I don’t know what you’re doing. Indifferent has never really been an option for me, so I don’t have the authority to make any comments on that.

Regardless, that is not the problem.

The problem is that people use books to make judgments about the people who read them.

Well, she likes Twilight; she’s kind of an idiot. 
He read Harry Potter! He must be really smart! 
Anyone who doesn’t like The Hunger Games sucks!

Never mind that each book has its own failures. Never mind that anyone should be able to read and enjoy whatever they want. Never mind that people who are psychopaths and murderers who might really enjoy your book of choice and people who save lives, etc. might enjoy that which you don’t.

I’ve been told that Bella Swan is not an identifiable character because her goal is to be a vampire, and Katniss is identifiable because she wants to protect her family.

So, I’m here, squinting at the screen. And I realize that something like that isn’t fair to say. 

It’s fair for me to say that I like Twilight better than Harry Potter, and Harry Potter better than the Hunger Games. In that, I’m looking at the whole thing—the symbolism I find, the relatability of the characters, quality of the paper, my overall enjoyment, the writing, etc. It works.

book :: book = fair

It’s unfair for me to say that I like Twilight better than Harry Potter because Twilight has more romance. Let’s be clear: Twilight is a romance novel, and the point is that in the end our lovers end up together (just like in any other romance novel*). Harry Potter is fantasy, and the point is that in the end evil is thwarted (just like in any other fantasy novel*). That comparison doesn’t work.

genre :: subplot = not fair

And so, this is my PSA.

If you’re going to compare the books you like to the books other people like, remember these five things:

  • compare apples to apples—remember that every book is different, and each genre, plotline, style, or archetype may not pass fluidly from story to story
  • get your details straight—for the record, Bella spends the latter half of Breaking Dawn gaining witnesses and honing her shield skills to protect her family (side note, that is not the only example I could give)
  • be clear and patient—too many times we have misunderstandings because we failed to say what we meant and jumped in too quickly before we allowed the other person to say what they meant
  • don’t get offended—hate to break it to you, but it’s probably not the end of the world if someone disagrees with you; someone else’s book preference does NOT attack yours (or it shouldn’t, anyway)
  • people are more important than books—I’m probably the last person you’d expect to hear say this, but it’s true: Harry, Katniss, and Bella are not real, and the person you disagree with is


Remember that.

As I write this, I realize that I spent a good five years saying unfair things about Twilight, and the people who read it. Now I am one of those people, and I realize that people say unfair things about me, and I think unfair things in turn about other book series.

Which is totally uncool, now that I think about it.

My point: if we’re going to disagree, let’s be nice about it, and let’s be awesome about it.

Thank you.

So, has anyone ever judged you or your reading material unjustly? How did you handle it?


*by the way, I say this as a generalization—sometimes romances end and sometimes evil is not thwarted, but within my experience the majority of romance and fantasy novels usually end up in a mostly love and triumph sorta way.

14 comments :

  1. I totally get what you mean. I've been a little guilty of judging people over reading Twilight in the past, but most of the time I just let them read what they like and try not to let them know I haven't read, or didn't like, one of their favourite books. People always look at me weirdly when they find out I haven't read Harry Potter or the Hunger Games. But you're so right. It's too hard to compare these books to each other, or any other book to them, and you certainly should never judge a person off what they read. Unless they read all books that you would never read and then you're never going to be reading buddies I'm afraid.

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    1. Yep, and I realize that as a Twilight fan I'm easy prey. But it's kind of you to try and suit their interests—although I don't think there's anything wrong with sharing your opinion and status. I mean, I haven't read most of the books on the planet. I don't feel bad: ain't nobody got time for that! I also think that there's a way to say that you didn't enjoy a certain book, because I have to do that sometimes with the Hunger Games or other books I did not enjoy. Books are very individual, to the reader in particular; sometimes I feel like I've never read the same book as anyone else. But one's reading habits doesn't indicate their morality, mostly, but you're right—there also has to be some compatibility. Ah, well. At least someone came up with the idea of agreeing to disagree.

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  2. Oh my gosh. This. This. This. *hugs you* This is perfect. I love this. Thank you for this. I'll admit, I liked Twilight a lot better than Harry Potter - and Twilight isn't one of my most favorite books ever. (I can't ever say that I don't like Harry Potter. I'll be stoned to death by the fandom. xD) I thought that Twilight was interesting even in spots, and Harry Potter had its flaws, and both were decent, and that's totally cool. (I absolutely adore The Hunger Games.) I have good friends who like Twilight, and good friends who like Harry Potter, and that's cool. It would be a much better place if we could all realize that different people like different things, and that's awesome.

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    1. *hugs back* Yay! I'm glad you liked it. Twilight isn't my most favorite series either (although, to my alarm, I'm starting to fall into the romance genre and I'm wondering if something has happened to me), and although I appreciate what Harry Potter did for me, I also have outgrown that series. Nowadays I'm realizing that if I kept friends close based on book-preference-similarities alone, I would not have friends. XD But you're exactly right: as soon as we master the idea of opinion we'll probably be able to function a lot better. Except opinions are hard. Lots.

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  3. I completely agree, people should read what they like without having to be worried about being judged for it. (I personally loved harry Potter, thought Hunger Games was okay, and could never get into Twilight.) Other than popularity they really have nothing in common, so you're right that it's just silly to compare them. It's really strange when I think about it that they all got so big, but they're so totally different.

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    1. Indeed, it's always important to read what you love—which is why libraries aren't allowed to give out your book information unless you've committed a felony, etc. etc. Although I wouldn't say that it's silly to compare books—I personally love a healthy disagreement—I just think that sometimes people get confused about what's okay to compare. Still, it's a testament to the human race to see all different genres and styles reach popularity each in their own unique way.

      Thanks for commenting. :)

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  4. I have never read Twilight, and don't think I could ever do so, but I love Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.
    I agree, every book is different and we should take them for what they are :)

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    1. XD Well, I can't blame you. Turns out I'm starting to really enjoy romance novels soooo that's awkward for my younger self. But Harry Potter and Hunger Games both have their qualities, so good reading choices anyway.

      But yes, books aren't a competition, most of the time. They are there to endure. :)

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  5. Fair point well made. Some people are so quick to judge these days that I think they will find something - anything - to judge, even if it is not a fair comparison (ie. apples to apples). I have been too afraid to put my work out for critique for this very reason - but the time shall come :)

    Looking forward to more posts from you.
    http://hungryfirefly.blogspot.com/

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    1. *nods* In some ways, becoming that person who says only mean things about a book has become an okay and even maybe appreciated role, especially here in the day and age of the Internet. It's one of the reasons I am not thrilled with sharing my work either, but hey, grow a little more each day.

      Thanks for the comment and the follow on Bloglovin'! :)

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  6. This really made me laugh! How many times have I heard those comments? You do have a great point, the basis on which people compare isn't exactly fair. Personally, I like Harry Potter best, then THG, then.. in fact I wouldn't even say I like Twilight, because characterisation was so poor. Not even compared to the other two... in general. But that's not to say it didn't have good points (for one, the Volturi were awesome.) Ahhh. -wipes tear- XD great post!

    Also, I nominated you for Sisterhood Of The World blogger's award, so I hope you have fun with that.

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    1. I love hearing that! Making people laugh is probably one of my favorite things. And it's cool that you have reasons you dis/like those books—I feel like it's just a little annoying when people say that I, Heather, suck because I happened to enjoy Twilight. Harry Potter and THG fans are totally cool to me. :) (But yes, the Volturi are awesome, even if my sister thinks I'm crazy for thinking so.)

      And thanks for the nomination! It may take me a few days (I have some posts lined up I'm looking forward to) but I'll get to it soon! :D

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  7. HUZZAH I AGREE. I get annoyed that these three are always compared (and books are always pitched as "the next HP/THG/Twilight etc." Urghhhh.) It's not fair. They're not even in the same genre! It makes sense that they would have totally different fan bases because they're such. different. books. I hate that people bash Twilight so much. It's not my favourite book, but it definitely wasn't awful. What I hate most is when authors hate on Twilight. It's so unprofessional and disgusting and honestly makes my opinion of said author go down. :( Why does everyone have to fight about what they love?? No one is going to slap me if I say I really really hate tuna, right?!
    *runs just in case you love tuna*
    Juuuust kidding. ;-)

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    1. You're right about the pitch—and the thing is, that takes away from the author's work itself, because who wants to spend all their time being known as a carbon copy of another author's work? And I KNOW. I mean, conformity when we all decide to stop at the red light is one thing, but there is no one demographic for books. I never thought about authors hating on Twilight, though; I completely agree. Actually, finding words like "unprofessional" to describe such occurrences just helped me figure out why I hate when it happens. XD Thanks.

      And for the record, I'm not a tuna person. ;) You're safe!

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