Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Trapped by an unwelcome turn of events

I recently got trapped in an unwelcome fictional turn of events - at least this time it was in fiction, rather than real life (our family has had two major upsetting events so far this year).

 I got sucked into this great book, Some Quiet Place, a young adult paranormal debut by Kelsey Sutton (not yet released; I got a digital review copy from NetGalley). The combination of a very cool, original premise and beautiful, sensory-rich writing made me a happy reader until I got into the second half, when things turned a little too graphically violent for my taste.

Violence is common in young adult (YA), especially in the science fiction and fantasy genres I lean toward, but the descriptions are short and don't get too detailed. Since I'm prone to nightmares (I still get nightmares from those darned Alien movies, even years and years after the fact!) I really shy away from horror and graphic violence. I just don't need those images stuck in my head! And it's not just movies - the Hunger Games series, especially Mockingjay, left some images in my head I wish I could get rid of, too. I love YA books for many reasons, and one of them is that they don't shy away from troublesome topics, but they don't get graphic about them (well, except for Mockingjay. And now Some Quiet Place).

Since Some Quiet Place doesn't release until June, there's not a whole lot of reviews for it available yet. I'm awfully picky about the books I read: it's a serious investment in time, and sometimes money too if you can't wait for your library's copy, so I always read reviews carefully before I pick a book. The temptation of NetGalley and other similar places is you can get free pre-release copies for review, which is kind of exciting (getting your hands on a book before the general public, and for free) but also a little bit of a risk (few or no reviews yet for you to judge whether the book includes something you prefer to stay away from).

I suppose the title for this post was a little unfair - if you don't like what you read in a book, no one's forcing you to keep reading. But I do feel a little trapped when I'm more than half way into a good book, really enjoying myself, and then - WHAP! - too-graphic violence catches me off-guard. I'm invested in the book, at that point, you know what I mean?

Sometimes I toss around the idea of a "content rating" for books - like the rating system used for movies - but I think that would open a can of the worms with far-reaching issues. In general book reviews give you the information you need to know about whether a book's content is suited for you or not. If you are a bit of a cautious or picky reader like me, maybe preleases or new releases, as tempting as it is to get them for free, aren't the best idea. Especially since in exchange for your free copy, the publishers expect you to review the book on your blog, and I'd prefer to talk about books I can highly recommend on my blog, rather than books I have serious issues with.

So maybe I won't be requesting any more titles from NetGalley. But I have committed to doing several reviews here, and I am trying to be honest about the good qualities of these books in addition to the parts I didn't personally like.  I'll be posting my review of Some Quiet Place here on Thursday.

What do you do when you're invested in a good book, and it suddenly takes a turn that leaves you uncomfortable? It's true that books should stretch us outside our "comfort zones" (see the quote on the image) but what about some readers needing a "safety zone"?

13 comments:

  1. As an adult, I have no trouble putting down a book I'm uncomfortable with. I simply don't have time to read what I don't like or what makes me squeamish. There's too many other books I *will* enjoy. But for kids and teens, I think this is harder, especially if it's a book their friends have read or is popular with their age group. That's why as a parent, it's so important for me to keep on top of what's current so if my kids get in this situation, we can talk through it. Great post, Margo.

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  2. Elizabeth VaradanMay 7, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    I've been concerned about the extent of violence I find in YA fiction. I would be less concerned if there was more balance; i.e., light and humorous as well as dark and malevolent. I review MG and YA books and write for middle grade readers, And I find that so many YAs these days predictably involve dystopian worlds and too much gore.

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  3. Lisa Gail GreenMay 7, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    Yikes! Now you have me nervous. ;D I on the other hand am drawn to the tough stuff. I don't really know why. But everyone's tastes are different and I agree - that's why reviews are a good thing!

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  4. I've only bailed on one book. I'm always driven to push through it. I have encountered a few YA that do leave me a little jittery on the violence front. If I can justify it for the story and its message, like Hunger Games, then I'm okay. It always bothers me when it's just violence for the shock value and doesn't serve the story well.

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  5. Ugh, that's a shame. If I'm already invested, I keep going, but things tend to pull me out of the story much more easily when something like you described happens.

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  6. I'm pretty wimpy when it comes to book content. I know there's so much violence and bad stuff in the world, and I don't want to read a graphic depiction of it. This is good timing because I just watched a "Edgy YA" panel at the conference. There are YA books I had no idea about with horrid subject matter. Some things should just be adult. Email me.

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  7. Don't worry Lisa your book didn't push my "too-graphic" buttons. Yes, there was violence. Did it get too graphic? Not for me. I suppose everyone has different tolerance levels, but you can't please everyone, either.

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  8. That brings up a whole other topic: graphic AND gratuitous violence! Except for the scenes with the muttants in the Hunger Games series, I know what you mean about how the violence fit the type of story and message of the story, but those muttant scenes were too much for me (personally... monsters give me nightmares; oddly enough ghosts don't)

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  9. Describes me perfectly. If I'm invested, I keep going, but it leaves a bad taste, so to speak and tendency to skim

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  10. I love you said "we can talk through it" rather than just, for instance, saying "don't read that". Because eventually, of course, they'll find a way to read it, if you try to ban it!! Talking through it - win, win

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  11. I've been staying away from dystopian for that very reason if there are reviews that mention a lot of violence. But it can crop up in almost any genre - the book in this post was paranormal. I haven't seen anything graphic yet in contemporary, but i don't read a lot of contemp.

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  12. I don't blog on Thursdays, so please tweet your review or something. I really am interested in your thoughts. I totally agree that reading for review is a great investment of one's time. I've learned that the hard way. I've changed my policies on reading for review, become quite stringent; I had to. I think I've only request 5 or 6 books from NG, and a few of those were for blog tours I'd agreed to participate in.

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  13. Oh Margo.

    I have to agree with you, when I'm invested in a book I do finish it no matter what. But I will less likely read anything from that author again.

    The fact that you compared the second half of this book to Mockingjay gave me chills. That book haunted me for days after I was done with it.


    My safety zone as a reader is to read books from an author I like, or read books in a genre I like. Anything outside of that is me getting out of my comfort zone and sometimes the result isn't fun.

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