Jo Talks Books: Why We Need More Platonic Friendships Between Male and Female Characters In YA

Hi everyone! I’m back with another discussion post for you all, earlier in the month this time, so hopefully I might be able to do my regular two discussion posts this month as opposed to the one I’ve done for the last two months.

This month, I’m talking about something that’s really important to me, and something that I definitely think needs to be seen more in YA: platonic friendships between boys and girls.

The main focus on relationships between boys and girls in YA always seems to be the romance. That’s not to say that there aren’t platonic relationships between male and female characters in YA, but overwhelmingly, the focus still seems to be on the romance. I’ve spoken before about my issues with romance being overly prevalent in YA, and friendships being overlooked anyway, but I wanted to talk specifically about platonic relationships between girls and boys because I think it feeds into a bigger societal issue.

Society, and especially media, constantly reinforce the idea that men and women cannot be friends with each other, that the natural relationship between them should be one that is romantic. Obviously this is a ridiculous result of our heteronormative society, & it is perfectly possible for men and women to have platonic relationships with each other.

If the message that YA books are sending to teenagers is that the only way girls and guys can be friends is if one of them is gay or lesbian, then that’s not a great one for teens to be receiving. It reinforces the toxic messaging to straight teenage boys that girls are something that they are entitled to, that they are objects for their sexual pleasure and not other human beings worthy of respect. It doesn’t send a great message to teenage girls either if the only way that they see boys in the media is as potential boyfriends because it makes it seem as if the only way that we can be worth something is if they are in a relationship.

I’m obviously focusing on heterosexual characters here, but the same goes for queer characters, the only relationships they have with other queer people can’t just be romantic relationships, it’s so important to get to see those characters having friendships, as well as romantic relationships with other queer people. Society is so used to making romantic relationships the be-all, end-all of all relationships, that we forget how important friendships are, and fiction is a great place to highlight that importance.

Centring platonic relationships in fiction would also go a long way in making it a more friendly place for people on the aroromantic and/or asexual spectrum. Of course people who are aro/ace can have relationships of a romantic or sexual nature, but by placing less importance on romantic relationships and showing more platonic relationships, both between people of the same sex and people of opposite sexes, it will allow for a wider range of experiences to be represented in fiction & de-normalize the idea that the only relationships men and women can have must be romantic.

I can genuinely think of very few genuinely platonic relationships between male and female characters in fiction. It’s one of the reasons why the suggestion that Harry and Hermione should have got together in Harry Potter annoys me, because it’s one of very few examples in YA fiction of a girl and a boy who have a purely platonic relationship.

If you introduce a male and female character of a similar age in a YA book, it’s expected that the two will eventually get together, and because of this expectation, a lot of the time authors try to force a romantic relationship that just shouldn’t exist. So often I find in YA books that I don’t feel the chemistry between the love interests, and that they would have worked so much better as friends. I understand that it’s difficult because an expectation does exist for readers that a YA book will contain romance, but it’s so important to challenge this expectation because the more normal that platonic friendships between men  and women are in fiction, it will go a long way towards reducing the expectation for platonic friendships in real life to turn romantic as well.

I’ve been attempting to challenge this particular problem in my own work, my first novel, This Is Not A Love Story. I wanted the central relationships in my book to be friendships, and particularly show that if you have a male and a female character narrating your book, then it doesn’t have to turn into something romantic between them. Tiffany is pretty clear from the start that she doesn’t have any romantic feelings towards Cam, and though Cam initially does, it never turns into anything.

The frustrating thing, particularly about YA is that it usually starts well. There are lots of male and female characters that are friends initially, but then it’s revealed that one had feelings for each other all along. Think Katniss and Gale from The Hunger Games, that could have been a really great platonic friendship, but of course, in order to create tension, he had to have feelings for her. There’s nothing wrong with people who were originally friends falling in love, I actually really enjoy relationships that start that way, but it doesn’t have to be true for every friendship between a male and female character in fiction!

We need to tackle this whole idea that “just friends” is somehow a bad thing. That there has to be some kind of a justification for men and women to not be romantically interested in each other. It demeans friendship to put it down as something “lesser than romance” especially when friendships can be some of the most enduring relationships of our lives. This starts by showing children, and teenagers, that friendships are just as, if not more important than romantic relationships by featuring platonic relationships more heavily in the books they read.

The friend zone is a classic myth that is used by men who are rejected. It’s used by men who believe that being nice to women means that they are entitled to have sex with them. If our media, and literature, showed more platonic relationships with men and women, and didn’t perpetuate the idea that men and women can’t be friends, then perhaps myth of the “friend zone” would not exist, because the expectation wouldn’t be that the only relationship men can have with women is a sexual one.

Overall, it is SO, SO important that platonic relationships are highlighted in fiction, both between heterosexual men and women, but also between characters on the LGBTQ+ spectrum as well. We need to show the importance of friendship in fiction, to tackle this idea that romance is the only kind of relationship that really matters, and especially to tackle the idea that men are somehow entitled to romantic relationships with women. I definitely think that having more platonic relationships in literature would contribute to a more healthy understanding of platonic relationships in society as a whole.

So there we go, my two cents on the need for platonic relationships between male and female characters in books. Anyone have any favourite platonic m/f relationships? Let me know in the comments!

I will hopefully have another one of these up at the end of the month, though I haven’t decided what it will be about yet. In the meantime, my next post will be my regularly scheduled Top Ten Tuesday post, which will be up tomorrow.

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Jo Talks Books: I’m Not A Visual Reader and What That Means

Hi everyone! I’m so sorry that this post is so late, I’d intended to get it up earlier in the month but August just completely ran away from me, I’ve been working so much during August that I haven’t had as much time for blogging as I’d have liked to.

Anyway, with all that being said, I am here with an August discussion post for you guys, and this month I’m talking about something that I think I’ve mentioned in my reviews in the past but I wanted to explain a bit more about what I mean by it today.

I’m not a visual reader. I know that sounds super weird, but by that, I don’t mean that I only read books in audio form (though that is of course valid). Instead I mean, that when I’m reading, the words don’t form a picture in my head. I can’t see everything like a movie, I don’t have exact visions of what the characters and the world look like. The words are just words. I don’t know why this is, it’s just been the way that my brain has always functioned. It’s strange because I’m very much a visual learner, I’ve always learned things by reading them, but it doesn’t really translate into being able to picture stories in my head.

This is one of the main reasons I think, why lengthy descriptions and purple prose aren’t really for me. I know that a lot of people really love authors who have that kind of writing style and whilst I do appreciate the beauty of the prose, I just can’t connect to it, because I can’t really picture the descriptions in my head. When I talk about loving world building in books, it’s not because I can picture every aspect of a world, it’s more of a feeling I get of being immersed in the world. This doesn’t mean that I like books that have no description at all, I have to have some idea of what the world I’m in is supposed to be like, but books that double down on every little detail? Yeah that’s lost on me.

It also means that when it comes to movie adaptations, because I don’t necessarily picture the characters or world in a certain way, I don’t get annoyed so much when they don’t match my particular vision, because I didn’t really have one. I get annoyed if they are very obviously not the way that they were described in the text, but I don’t have a specific picture that I am measuring them up to. For example, I got annoyed when Annabeth didn’t have blonde hair in the first Percy Jackson film, not because I had a specific picture in my head of her, but because that was they way she was described in the book.

This doesn’t mean that reading is any of a less enjoyable experience for me, obviously it isn’t, it just means that I enjoy different aspects of the reading experience. I really need some kind of emotional connection with what I read, whether it makes me happy, or excited, or scared or whatever, because I don’t “see” the book in my head, but I feel all of the emotions quite intensely. I don’t necessarily need to know exactly what the characters look like, but I need to be able to connect to how they are feeling or the book will not work for me. I actually really enjoy action sequences, not because I can picture every little moment in my head, but because when an author does them well, I can feel the intensity and am on the edge of my seat wondering what will happen to the characters.

It also feeds into why dialogue is one of the most important things for me in any book. Whilst I may not be able to see the words on the page in my head, when characters have conversations, I can actually hear them quite vividly. Granted, without fail, every character has an English accent, which has caused some quite amusing moments in book adaptations of films where I’ve been “but that wasn’t how they sounded in my head” to books that I knew were set in the US, because everyone has an English accent in my head, but I digress. When I’m writing, I often hear the characters speaking in my head, long before I have any idea of what they look like, or what the world is going to be like, or anything like that. As a reader, this means that I really need dialogue to feel authentic because if it doesn’t, I will hear it in my head and find it really jarring.

I think this is also why on page romances don’t work as well for me as on screen ones. When I’m watching a film, I can see the chemistry of the main characters right in front of me (or at least I should, if the actors are good!) but when I’m reading, I don’t have this. I have to feel the chemistry, and that’s a lot harder to do. Again, this comes down to dialogue for me, if from what I can hear in my head, I can feel chemistry between characters, then I can really get on board with a romance. If not then, I can’t because I don’t see it in my head.

This is actually a more common thing than you would think, it’s called Aphantasia, which is otherwise known as mind blindness. It affects one in 50 people in the population and basically means exactly what I’ve talked about experiencing in this post, you can’t visualise images in your head. It doesn’t mean that I’m any less creative than people who do visualise these things, I can still come up with ideas for stories and write them, I just don’t necessarily picture what I write in my head.

What this means for when I write is that I tend to focus less on the description of places and characters and things and more on dialogue and character relationships. I do have an idea of what I’d like characters and places in my books to look like but it’s relatively vague and honestly I’d rather let readers (if one day I hopefully get published!) fill in the blanks for themselves. It’s a lot easier for me when I’m writing, or reading about real places, especially places that I’ve been to, because I have more of a frame of reference about what those places are supposed to look like.

So there we go, that’s a little insight into one of my experiences as a reader. Is anyone else unable to picture things in their head when they’re reading? Does anyone see everything like in a film? Anyone in between? I’d love to hear from you guys about your reading experiences, so let me know in the comments!

I will be back next month with another discussion post, though I haven’t decided what it will be about yet. In the meantime, I will have a new Writing Corner post for you guys tomorrow, all about writing modern fantasy vs second world fantasy.

 

Jo Talks Books: What Makes A Five Star Read For Me?

Hi everyone! We’re back to our regularly scheduled book posts after my little detour at the end of last month talking about graduation, and this time I’m going to be talking a little about my rating system for the books I read, focusing particularly on what makes a five star read for me as I know I tend to be a bit more stingy with my five stars than other bloggers, or at least it seems that way to me sometimes, so I wanted to explain, as much as I am able, since rating books it such a subjective thing, what makes a book a five star read for me. Though honestly it’s not always the same thing, of all the books I’ve loved over the years, I can’t say that I’ve loved exactly the same things about each one of them.

The biggest thing for me with five star reads, isn’t really a tangible factor, like oh I love great worldbuilding, or great friendships, or a fast paced interesting plot. Yes, those are all things I love and will contribute to me giving a higher rating to a book, but it’s not the most important thing.

For me, what differentiates a four star read from a five star read is that feeling of immersion in a world. When I read a book, and forget for hours where I am or what I’m doing and I’m only focused on that world and those characters, that will instantly be a five star read for me, no matter if the writing could be better or the plot better paced. It’s why I fell in love with reading in the first place, it’s what made me want to be a writer, and it’s something that all my favourite books have in common. This is why world building is so important to me, because only when a world has been fully developed can I feel properly immersed in it.

I also obviously need to have a really strong connection with the characters in a book. I say I prefer plot driven books, and I do, I often find that character driven books somewhat lack in plot, but characters are obviously really important for me too. If I feel no connection to the characters in a book, if I don’t care about them, then that book is never going to be a five star read. Five star books for me are books where I find myself thinking about the characters long after I’ve read the last page, and am desperate to know more about them, what they are doing in the future etc. All my favourite books and series have characters that I have fallen in love with pretty much from the very start of the book.

I don’t know if this is important for everyone, but it definitely is for me, I love dialogue. Dialogue is my favourite thing to write and it’s my favourite thing to read, I think because I’m not a massively visual reader, so I don’t really picture places or people in my head, but I can hear them speak (if that makes any sense at all!) so natural dialogue is a must for me. It’s also a really good way of establishing character dynamics, if the dialogue feels natural and fits the characters then I will be much more likely to believe and enjoy their dynamics with the other characters in the story. I especially love humourous banter though I know that doesn’t necessarily fit in every book.

I also have personal preferences when it comes to writing style, I know a lot of people enjoy very descriptive, purple prose but personally, because of the type of reader I am, intensely descriptive prose is kind of lost on me, therefore those types of books tend not to be favourites for me (with some exceptions). It’s quite hard for me to describe the kind of writing style I do like, because it varies so much from book to book, and none of my favourite authors have very similar writing styles but generally the writing I like will do all of the things I’ve mentioned above, make me feel immersed in the world, connected to the characters and establish believable dynamics. That doesn’t always need to be done the same way, which is why I can’t say that there’s a specific kind of writing that I like and there are many ways for authors to convey the things that I have mentioned in this post.

Romance is also a big one for me in terms of whether I rate a book five stars, because I’m incredibly picky about the romances I like, I need the couple to feel believable and not just like the romance has been shoehorned in because it’s a YA book and therefore “must have romance”. I don’t think romance is needed in every book and a lacklustre romance is enough to ensure that I won’t rate a book 5 stars, even if it does have a strong plot. Though often I find that romance impinges on the plot, there is too much focus on that, and not on what’s happening in the book and that’s a surefire way to ensure that I won’t rate a book five stars. A convincing romance, that adds to the plot and drives the story forward however, can add to my enjoyment of book and push it further towards a five star rating, so it really depends.

Obviously being a plot driven reader, plot is really important to me, but obviously none of my favourite books have exactly the same plots, though they do share similar tropes that I love (and those tropes will also contribute to my rating a book five stars). No the most significant thing for me in terms of plot, is pacing. I need a book to capture my interest and hold it for however long the book is, which could be anything from 300-700 pages (and very rarely more than that) so pacing is vital. A poorly paced book will never get a 5 star rating from me. That doesn’t mean it has to be non stop action all the way through, it just means that I want the right balance between quieter moments and more exciting moments. I don’t want all of the action to be right at the end, and the rest of the book be slow build up because that’s very boring for me. Pacing is a really tricky thing to get right, and it’s quite subjective, so it’s difficult to explain what I mean, but all of my favourite books have kept me engaged throughout with both faster paced sequences, and slower, quieter moments.

Ultimately though, I can say that all of these things will make me more likely to give a book five stars, and they will, but it all comes back to what I said at that start: a feeling. A feeling of “Wow, I can’t get enough of this world”. A feeling of “I love these characters”. A feeling that when the book is over, I want to go back and pick up that book again. A book can be technically the best book in the world, but if I don’t get that feeling, it’s not a five star for me. Reading is such a subjective thing, and it’s hard to explain exactly what that feeling is for me, but I hope this post has given you at least a little insight into what contributes to it!

What makes a five star read for you? Any of the things I’ve mentioned here? Let me know in the comments!

I don’t think I’ll have another discussion post for you this month, since I’m super busy with work, but I will be back next month for another one, though I’m not sure what it will be about yet. In the meantime, I will have another Top Ten Tuesday for you tomorrow, so keep an eye out for that.

Jo Talks: Thoughts on Graduating

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Hi everyone! So as you might have noticed from the omission of the “Books” from the title of this post, and the picture above, I am not actually talking about books today! I have a good reason for that though, as my graduation was on Tuesday! I’m not going to be doing a recap of the day or anything like that, because graduation ceremonies aren’t exactly the most interesting thing to read about, instead I’m just going to be talking about some of my thoughts on graduating, and sharing some pictures.

My relationship with the idea of graduating has changed a lot throughout Uni. When you start, graduating seems like this far off thing, that you kind of vaguely know will happen at some point in the future, but in the immediacy of starting Uni, settling in and attempting to make new friends, the idea of what happens when Uni is over is pretty far back in your mind.

I also, though I haven’t talked about it in any great depth here, had a pretty difficult time when I started off at Uni. I was hundreds of miles away from home, and even though I was in a city that was very familiar to me, given that I’d been coming to Stirling since I was a child (my grandparents lived here), getting used to being on my own for the first time was no easy task. So I was feeling quite homesick for the first few months of Uni, and I found it very difficult to make friends, as I always have done. For the first semester, though I’d joined clubs that I enjoyed, I was really quite lonely. The classes were all introductory modules that I wasn’t feeling that engaged with and I wrote off a lot of my loneliness as “Oh I’m introverted, I like to be alone” which probably wasn’t the best idea. I also didn’t really get on with most of my flatmates, and that definitely didn’t help matters. At that point, graduating didn’t only seem like a far off future, it felt like something that might never happen because I honestly couldn’t picture making it to the end of first year.

Thankfully, things picked up in my second semester of first year: I joined Creative Writing and met Nicola and Rebecca, who became my friends and flatmates for the rest of Uni, which meant I got out of my horrible first year flat more often, and rather than watching Netflix in my dark room, alone, I had people to do that with.

Once I’d got through first year, Uni actually passed far more quickly than I ever expected it to. It’s really hard to believe that it was four years ago that I started Uni, because it doesn’t feel at all that way. In the moment, I remember thinking that I had so much time, seeing people I knew from Equestrian and Trampolining graduating and thinking that it would be ages before that would be. It only really hit me in third year that it wasn’t really all that long before the person graduating would be me. It’s quite strange, because you go from wishing graduation would come sooner, in first and second year, to not quite wanting to admit that it’s all almost over. I certainly had a lot of that in the months leading up to graduation, as excited as I was to finally get a degree, it’s hard to say goodbye to something that has basically been my life for the last four years.

When I first started Uni, I fully intended to use this blog to talk about it, I thought I’d have a whole section of posts dedicated to talking about my Uni life, I really wanted my blog to share my journey through Uni. It didn’t end up working out that way, for various reasons, but even though I haven’t talked massively about my Uni experience on here, my blog has still be a massive part of that experience. I was so worried when I started, that my blog was just going to fade away whilst I was in Uni, when in actuality, it has grown more than I ever could have imagined. My blog turned five this year, and four of those five years have been spent at Uni, so even if I haven’t talked about the experience much, it has been inextricably bound to my blog’s identity for the last four years. Of all the things that graduation marks for me, it’s also kind of the end of an era for me. Ever since I started, my identity as a blogger has been tied up in my status as a student, I was a sixth form student when I started and a Uni student for the last four years, so it’s going to be quite interesting for me to see how BookLoversBlog changes now that I am no longer a student and it’s hopefully going to be quite exciting as well.

In my first year, I honestly couldn’t have imagined being sad at the thought of the end of Uni. But here I am now, and though my overwhelming feeling at the moment is joy and pride, there are definitely things that I am going to miss about Uni. I’m obviously going to miss living with my friends and seeing them every day, though I am sure we will still remain friends for years to come, I know it’s not going to be the same as the last three and half years. I’m going to miss the clubs that I was a part of, that were such a massive part of my Uni experience and I’m going to miss living in Stirling, a city that I have come to appreciate so much more over the last four years than I think I ever did when I came here visiting my grandparents as a kid.

I don’t want to end on a sad note though, as graduation itself wasn’t a sad day. It was actually a really joyous day. I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished over the last four years, especially of my final project which I honestly think is some of the best writing that I’ve ever done and I’ve come out with a degree that I know I really earned and I can look back on the stresses of third and fourth year as completely worth it. As much as I am sad about leaving behind certain aspects of Uni, I have to say that I am definitely glad to be officially done with education!

As for looking forward, whilst I don’t know what life has in store for me in terms of my future career, I do know what my next adventure is going to be: South Africa in January. I’ve been wanting to do this trip since before I even started Uni, and I am so ridiculously excited to spend three months out there, developing my Journalism skills even more, alongside professional journalists. Graduation marks the end of an amazing chapter in my life, but it was also a reminder that though Uni might have ended for me, I have so much still to look forward to and I honestly can’t wait to get out and explore everything that life outside of Uni has to offer.

My graduation ceremony was the perfect ending to an eventful and ultimately incredibly enjoyable time in my life, but it was also a great beginning to whatever comes next for me and I’m so excited to see what that is!

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Me and Dad before Graduation

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Me and Mum, pre-Graduation

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Officially a graduate!

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All of us together at the Graduation Reception!

If you’ll allow me one more gushy moment before I sign off, I want to thank all of you guys for your support over the last four years. Running a blog whilst being a full time student hasn’t always been easy, and you’ve all been so wonderful and supportive of me so I just wanted to thank you for that, and for all your congratulations on my post yesterday. I hope you’ll all stick with me as we enter this new, graduate Jo phase of the blog!

I’ll be back next month for more regularly scheduled book talk, though I don’t know what that will be. In the meantime, I’ll have a review of my latest read Bedlam up soon, though I am (famous last words) going to attempt to take the rest of the week off from blogging, so that shouldn’t be until next week!

 

 

Jo Talks Books: Does Authors’ Online Behaviour Affect The Books You Choose To Pick Up?

Hi everyone! I had originally intended to use my June discussion post to talk about my University graduation, which is happening in a week and a half from now, but since I usually try to do two discussion posts a month over the summer anyway, I wanted to make sure that you definitely got some bookish content from me as well this month! Plus, there’s been a lot of talk on Twitter about this recently and it’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot, so I wanted to share my thoughts on it.

Before I joined Twitter/started blogging, I had very limited access to authors. I only really started going to book events in 2014 and before about 2015/2016, I didn’t really follow all that many authors online. All this is to say, that for a long time, I had no idea what authors were saying or doing online, it wasn’t on my radar, so it wouldn’t affect the books I chose to read.

That naturally changed as I became more involved in the online book world over the past few years, I started following more authors and getting more involved in the YA community and of course, with that, comes more awareness of authors who exhibit problematic views online or act in ways that are inappropriate or even aggressive towards bloggers.

I know the mantra is “separate the art from the artist” but it’s not something I’ve ever really held to. I think art is intrinsically linked to the person who creates it, it’s an outward expression of their inner thoughts and feelings and experiences. If you as a creator hold bigoted views about a particular group in society, then those views will likely be reflected in your work and even if they’re not, most people. myself included, don’t want to support people who hold those views.

I, like all other readers, have a massive TBR pile, larger than I will probably be able to finish in my lifetime. One of the easiest ways to cut down on books on my TBR is weeding out authors who have expressed hateful views online, because that is not the kind of author that I want to be supporting. I can also easily weed out authors who have bullied or harassed bloggers because again, that’s not behaviour that I want to support.

Last February, it came out that several high profile authors had been accused of sexually assaulting and harrassing women, a few of whose books I had read in the past and whilst I can’t change that I did read and enjoy their books, I can make sure that I don’t support their work in future because those are not the kinds of actions that I, as a reader, want to support even if I did at one point like their work.

This year in particular seems to have been filled with drama already, from the whole YA author incest row a couple of weeks ago, to Nicholas Sparks showing his racist and homophobic colours, to Kathleen Hale getting a book published about being a stalker, it seems that every day brings new incidents of authors behaving improperly online. Twitter has done great things with bringing us closer to authors we love, and more easily able to interact with them but with the good, comes the bad, authors are now more easily able to share views that they previously may not have, including those that express hatred towards marginalised groups.

I feel like a lot of the issues with authors’ online behaviour comes from the fact that conversations that should take place in private, happen on a public forum. This is particularly true of the whole incest debate, it started because authors were talking about shipping Jon and Sansa from Game of Thrones and then kind of spiralled out of control. I don’t think any of the authors involved intended to condone real life incest (or at least I hope they didn’t) but conversations on Twitter can be very easy to misconstrue and the fact that so many of the authors backlashed when they were criticised about it, didn’t do anything to improve the situation. Author social media is so often a combined public and private presence and I think it can be difficult to straddle that line sometimes which often leads to authors’ expressing things on their public social that should really be kept private.

I’m talking about all this however, from a standpoint of someone who is involved in the book community online, for the general reading populace, because not every reader is on Twitter, bad behaviour from authors is probably not on their radar at all, unless you are a fan of a specific author and their online bad behaviour is reported in a news outlet, you aren’t going to know so it won’t impact your reading choices in the same way as if you are highly involved in the online community.

This assumption from authors though can be quite dangerous. In the whole incest drama, a large part of the justifications from authors when it was brought up that being seen to endorse incest was rather irresponsible when your readership is teens, was that most teens aren’t on Twitter anyway and that everyone who was outraged was 30+ year olds, which was not only blatantly untrue, but also ignoring that their intended readership is online and that they can see what you’re posting, including when you pretty much erase them in order to justify your point. I think when authors assume that their target audience cannot see what they’re saying, they think that they’re justified to say things that they otherwise would never say on a public forum. Teens are discerning enough to tell when you’re talking down to them, or completely erasing them from the conversation and that sort of behaviour is likely to alienate you from your target audience.

What I’m saying, in an incredibly long winded way, is that yes, the online behaviour of authors does affect what I choose to read. I don’t know how other people feel about it, but for me, how an author interacts with their fans online, what they choose to share and promote, what they chose to talk about, is a reflection of who they are as a person, rightly or wrongly and when I see authors promoting hateful views, or disregarding their audience, or expressing support for problematic things online, I am unlikely to want to support that author when there are so many others who use their platform to lift other people up, to share advice and support and are kind and generous in their fan interactions.

So there we go, that’s my incredibly rambling thoughts on authors and their online behaviour. What do you think? Does the way authors act online affect your reading choices? Why/why not? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back at the end of the month with a graduation post for you guys, so stay tuned for many pictures of me all dolled up and lots of rambling thoughts on how I feel about the end of my time at Uni! In the meantime, the next you hear from me will probably be my regularly scheduled Top Ten Tuesday post.

Jo Talks Books: Why Is It So Much Easier To Find TV Shows about New Adults than Books?

Hi everyone! I know, two discussion posts in one month, it’s a miracle. I’m back from Uni now and have a lot more time on my hands, so I’m hoping I might be able to keep up two discussion posts a month till the end of the year, please don’t hold me to that though! This year on Book Twitter there has been a lot of chat about New Adult books and the lack thereof having a knock-on effect on YA books as YA books are being aged up in order to appeal to all of the 20+ adults who read a lot of YA and don’t really have a space of their own. Well during this discourse, someone brought up the excellent point that there are many TV shows that appeal to this demographic of 20-30 year old adults but this doesn’t seem to translate into books and I wanted to explore that a little more in my post today.

University and your early adult years are filled with change and transition and experiences can differ wildly from person to person. You have University, starting your first job, some of us have our own places, some of us are still living with our parents, some people are even getting married and having kids, even within my friend group, all of us are doing very different things. All this means that there is a lot to be mined from this period in your life, much like teenagers, adults in their 20’s and even 30’s are still growing and changing and figuring stuff out, only now we have to factor in all the adult responsibilities that we never had to deal with before. It’s a confusing and tricky time to navigate, so naturally we look to media to help guide us through.

TV has been showing the ups and downs of being in your twenties for years, from older shows like Friends and How I Met Your Mother to newer shows like The Bold Type, there is a myriad of TV showing the ups and downs of being in your twenties & early thirties, from career issues, to dating to friendships and navigating Uni life. These shows are also becoming more and more diverse, it’s not all just white twenty somethings sitting around drinking coffee anymore, though obviously there is still a lot more for TV to do in that area. But anyway, chances are that if you are looking for a TV show that reflects your life as a twenty something, you’ll probably be able to find it.

Books, however are a whole different story. If you are a teenager, there are books across a wide range of genres featuring characters of your age. That’s not to say that YA fiction represents all teenage experiences equally, there is still a lot of work to do there, but you can find books covering a myriad of different teenage experiences in pretty much any genre you like.

New Adult however, tends to be limited to mostly romances, particularly erotic ones, and though I think that is changing, there’s still not the same breadth and depth of titles available in this age range that there is in YA. It’s not really it’s own age category anyway, so the books that could be classified as this, are normally shelved in Adult, which makes them harder to find unless you specifically know what you’re looking for.

So why the stark difference between TV & books when it comes to media focused on twenty somethings? I think one of the major ones is that adults are considered the prime audience when it comes to TV, I know that in the US, the 18-49 demographic is considered the most important, so it makes sense that you can find a lot of US shows about 20 somethings as they fall into that category and you want to make shows that appeal to them. The UK is slightly different, the TV demographic tends to skew older and there’s more focus on “family shows” than ones that appeal specifically to the 20-30 demographic.

For books however, there is a huge push to get children into reading, so there’s always a big range of children’s books, and a big push to keep children reading, hence the large number of YA books. When it comes to 20 somethings though, well there’s already an adult category, so what’s the point of dividing that even more, surely we can find something for ourselves there?  Well yes, but the adult fiction section is huge, it can be hard to find books that specifically feature characters of our age in there and also there really aren’t that many? The large majority of adult books seem to feature characters that already have their lives together, who are in the 30s, 40s or even 50s, who are married with several kids that are teenagers themselves and who are settled in their careers. That’s not exactly relatable to the 21 and 22 year olds just coming out of Uni!

I think because the few actually labelled NA books that are out there can be quite difficult to find, also doesn’t help matters when it comes to publishers putting out more of them, because they feel like the ones that are there don’t gain enough traction to be worth it, when actually there are people who really want these books, they’re just not given a big enough push, so we can’t find them!

Also adult buyers make up a large proportion of the sales of young adult books. Now that’s not to say that they couldn’t be buying for a teenager in their lives, but the fact is that a lot of adults read YA books. It doesn’t really make sense for publishers to invest in a totally new category of fiction, that didn’t really take off the first time they tried it, when the audience of that books happily buy books in an already established category, that does very well.

With TV, you don’t really get the same deal of categorisation that you do with books. There are shows that are very obviously for kids, and shows that are very obviously for adults because of their content, but everything in between? It’s not so rigidly categorised, there’s far more fluidity and I feel like a lot less snobbishness if you’re an adult watching a “teen” show. I understand why books are categorised the way they are, it’s much harder to tell content than it is with TV shows, but I feel like the benefit of TV is that there is something for everyone, you don’t miss a large chunk of your audience, whereas because there is no specific category for 20-30 year olds, that experience tends to get missed in books.

TV seems to have realised that there is a market for 20-30 year olds, whereas books despite the evidence that 20-30 year olds do buy books, and that we make up the large majority of book bloggers, haven’t been able to find a way to make books for that age group profitable and so instead age them down to a genre that they know is profitable i.e. YA. But this causes a whole another set of issues, because YA books then end up being aged away from their target audience to accommodate the growing group of adults who love these kinds of stories but can’t find ones featuring characters of their age.

I don’t really know what the answer is to getting books to embrace the stories of people in their 20’s and early 30’s in the same way that TV has, but I do know that the appetite for these kinds of stories are definitely strong, and that with the right marketing and a more concerted effort to sell these books as they actually are, rather than aging them down to YA, or hiding them among the rest of the adult fiction, then they could do really, really well, just like TV shows focusing on that demographic have done.

So there we go, that’s my two cents on the whole thing, what about you? Do you feel like there’s a lot more TV focusing on 20-30 year olds than there are books? Why do you think TV does better in that area? What are your favourite books in that age range? Let me know in the comments!

I will be back with another Jo Talks post in June, not entirely sure what it will be about yet, but I guess you’ll see when it goes up! In the meantime, tomorrow is Tuesday, so I’ll be back with another Top Ten Tuesday for you all then.

 

Jo Talks Books: Do You Always Have To Read The Book Before Watching The Movie?

Hi everyone! Please don’t shudder away or starting throwing things at me through your laptop after reading the title of this post, I swear it’s not as controversial as it might seem. You might have seen my Top Ten Tuesday post this week about Films that I’ve watched without having read the book and I’d actually planned on doing this post first because it’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently and I thought it might make quite an interesting discussion since it’s something that the book community seems to have quite strong feelings about.

I understand the standpoint of “you should read the book before watching the film” for film adaptations of books. The book is usually better, and reading it before seeing the film gives you an understanding of the world & characters before going in, plus you can complain about all the things that the film got wrong.

But, and hear me out here: I don’t actually think it’s a requirement to go into a book to film adaptation having read the book. I’ve done both, I’ve watched films when I’ve already read the book & I’ve watched films and read the book after (I’ve also watched films with no intention of ever reading the book). I get why some book lovers insist that reading the book first is what you should do, consuming the story in the format it was originally conceived, but I think there are certain advantages (and disadvantages also) to doing it the other way around.

For one thing, one of the most common complaints of book lovers is that the film isn’t as good as the book. If you haven’t already read the book first, then you are going into it with fresh eyes, you’re less likely to be disappointed and you’ll probably enjoy it more because you won’t spend the entire film looking for your favourite scenes from the books which aren’t there. It’s the same reason why as a history student I tend to enjoy historical films more when I’m not as familiar with the time period, because I’m not constantly looking for inaccuracies!

Also, there are actually a lot more films based on books that you would think, and it’s not always obvious. For instance, Shrek was originally a book! I doubt many people went out and picked up the graphic novel by William Stieg before they went to see that film though. Mean Girls, was originally based on a self-help book, Queen Bees and Wannabes, Pitch Perfect was also based on a non-fiction book, Pitch Perfect: The Quest For Collegiate Acapella Glory. Legally Blonde was based on a novel of the same name by Amanda Brown. The Parent Trap was based on a German children’s book called Lisa & Lottie. The point is, there are millions of books out there, many of which are made into films and it’s not going to be possible to always read the book before you see the film. I can think of many films I’ve watched without actually knowing they were based on books before hand (the above being just a few examples) and I enjoyed them, so “read the book before the film” doesn’t always have to be a hard and fast rule.

For me as well, I have very different tastes in books and films. Things that I might like in a book, I might not necessarily want in a film, or vice versa. This particularly goes for romance, I love romantic comedies, but am not a big fan of romance novels, so I’ve watched a lot of films and TV shows that were based on books which I would never have read. Outlander, for instance, as I talked about in my Top Ten Tuesday post, I love as a show, but would hate as a book because I would hate that much romance in a book. The Devil Wears Prada is one of my favourite films, would I ever have picked up the book? Nope. If I hadn’t watched those things without having read the book first, I probably would never have seen them because I would know that the books weren’t for me.

I also think that it can be a good idea to watch the TV show/film first if you aren’t entirely sure about the book and want to make up your mind whether you’d like it or not. I watched The Hate U Give film when I couldn’t get into the book, because I really wanted to experience the story and see what everyone was talking about, and I enjoyed it, so will now probably want to try the book again. I wasn’t sure whether the Game of Thrones books were for me, but my friends love the show, so I tried it, loved it and now I might try the books (on audio, there is no way I’m going for books that long in physical format). Films can be a great way of testing the water for books you’re not necessarily sure about, it’s not as big of a time commitment, so if it sucks then you’ve only wasted an hour or two of your time as opposed to a day or two (or much longer if you’re a slow reader like me).

Some films you’re probably actually going better in blind, especially if they have major twists because if you know what’s going to happen then the twists don’t land as well. If you’re watching a film based on a murder mystery and you already know who the murderer is, will the film be as much fun as if you spent the entire thing working out who the killer was? Personally, I don’t think so. A good example for me of something like this was when I went to see Gone Girl, it was a great film and stuck really closely to the book, but because I’d already read the book, I wasn’t as surprised as I would have been by some of the plot developments because I knew what was going to happen.

I also feel like if you can’t understand the film without having read the book, then the film is doing something wrong. Obviously when you release a film based on a book, if it’s a popular book, you have to expect that a lot of the audience is going to be fans of the book. However, one of the best things about books being made into films is that it allows them to reach an audience of people who might not necessarily be the most avid readers, and who might then decide that they want to try the book. If the film is totally confusing and only really comprehensible for people who have read the book, then you’ll alienate some of your audience. I’ll admit that I personally, whilst I usually have the intention of reading the book later, tend not to read the book if I’ve seen the film first but that’s more a reflection on the state of my TBR pile than anything else.

It also comes down to your preferred medium for consuming art. Some people like films or TV shows better than books. Does it mean that you love the story any less if you consume it in a medium different to the one it was originally? I don’t think so, I think you can still love something even if you’ve only seen the film or TV series, and it doesn’t make you any less of a fan than those who read the book first.

There are also logistical reasons for watching a film first, if you want to see a film in the cinema, it tends to have a much shorter shelf life than a book, they’re only in cinemas for a short amount of time (a few weeks, several months if they’re really popular) and if you’re desperate to avoid spoilers, it might be better to just go see the film first, since people tend to talk more about film spoilers than book spoilers on social media (assuming that you are not big into Book Twitter). You might not want to wait till you get to the book on your massive TBR before getting to see the film, or like me, you might be a slow reader and not able to get through the book before the film comes out.

So there we go, those are some of my thoughts on the whole book or film first debate, ultimately it all comes down to what you prefer and I don’t think that one way is better than the other, I think you can have an enjoyable experience whether you read the book or watch the film first.

How about you? Have you ever watched the film/TV show of a book before reading it? Have you ever watched a film with no intention of reading the book? Have you ever watched a film not knowing it was based on a book? Let me know in the comments!

I will probably have another Jo Talks post for you guys up before the end of the month, but I’m not quite sure what that will be yet, I have a few ideas kicking around and we’ll see which one I end up going with. In the meantime, I’ve been tagged in a Spring book tag and it looked like fun so I’ll probably put that up either tomorrow or Monday.