Ten Reading Wishes for the New Year
At the beginning of 2013 I wrote a post about hopes for the new year, and I thought I'd continue that pseudo-tradition for 2014. Looking at last year's wishes, a number of them still stand, particularly the need to end the denigration of books read by women as "mommy porn" and the like; my weariness over the dramarama train in the book world still stands; and I'm still fed up with the digital versus physical reading debate, which seems to have no end in sight and is utterly unproductive.
In the next couple weeks I'm going to talk about some deliberate changes I'm hoping to make to my reading (and writing about reading) habits in the new year and we're pulling together our 2013 List of Awesome at the moment. And, we already have a super-fantastic guest scheduled for a podcast later this month, so things are happening around these parts.
#1 More fiction that isn't quite women's fiction, isn't quite chick-lit, like Liza Palmer, Sarra Manning and Mhairi McFarlane.
One of the reasons I read a lot of young adult fiction is because it's easier to find contemporary fiction that's my taste--I quite enjoy voicey novels with heart and humor and YA has an abundance of this type of book. It's harder with adult fiction, likely because genres are parsed in an often-bizarre way.
Maybe that wish should have been, "Adult fiction genres need to make more sense."
#2 If "new adult" is going to be a thing, I'd love to see it progress and grow.
We devoted a couple of podcasts and several blog posts to the subject of the genre/category/whatever of "new adult," and I'm still not sure what it means and where it's headed and if it's got the legs to gain traction with a broad audience (it still seems very driven by online communities, its self-publishing roots and digital readers--which are an important force, but also aren't representative of readers everywhere).
But, despite its popularity, the type of story being told in new adult remains fairly static and solidly entrenched in highly dramatic contemporary romance, which is great for people who enjoy that. However, if there were more books featuring this time of life like Lauren Graham's Someday, Someday Maybe, I'd be beyond thrilled. (The fact that Graham's book wasn't marketed as new adult is fairly revelatory in terms of where the label's at and how it's potentially confusing to an audience of mainstream readers.)
#3 Less stress, more fun.
This one is for all you bloggers out there who I keep reading are burned out and overwhelmed. Moreover, a number of blogs I enjoyed shut down completely, citing the pressure involved in writing about books. This sucks, straight up.
I have some guesses as to where the pressure folks feel come from, and I know a lot of it has to do with access to review copies and such, as there's a perception that quantity (of content, of pageviews, etcetera) is king, and I sure hope that folks figure out a way to be able to contribute their voices and preserving the fun and enthusiasm that goes with talking about the things they love.
I will say for the record that I effectively took the bulk of December off from blogging because I got the Head Cold from Hell and my pageviews et al were impacted exactly not at all, not that it would be the end of the world if they were--I know my readers are awesome and understand that people get sick and/or busy--so if you need a damn break, take a damn break.
#5 More genre-pushing/bending/destruction.
Looking through the books which stood out for me in the last few years, most of my favorites pushed the envelope of their respective genres. Whether we're talking about Molly O'Keefe's brilliant contemporary romances which subvert all the tropes, the space adventure-meets survival tale-meets paranormalish situation of These Broken Stars or the contemporary but with zombies of Courtney Summers' fantastic This is Not a Test, I love it when stories push beyond boundaries. I want to find more of that.
I think this stuff is out there, but it's hard to fin.
#6 More capers, heists and spies.
I can't be the only person who wants to read an Alias-style series or an Ocean's 11-type heist story but with a kickass female lead, right?
#7 Less judgement of readers and reading.
Y'all, I'm going to be brutally honest: This year really made me withdraw from the online book community in a big way, and caused me to write and not publish a whole lot of blog posts on potentially sticky subjects because I simply didn't want to deal with the blowback. I agonized over writing critically about both Uses for Boys and The Infinite Moment of Us because of the discourse online about people who found those novels problematic despite the authors' intent. Laura and I even recorded a podcast about this subject which I've never posted because of the potential reaction. Sigh...
But beyond that, it stinks to see readers mocked for discovering a genre or category by reading the big books or for influential folks to insinuate that some readers have a right to discuss certain topics, while others need to STFU. We saw this last year in the ugly turn of a discussion on Tumblr of whom is allowed to talk about diversity. And it happened again when authors conflated readers who were unhappy with the conclusion of the Divergent series with a handful of people who engaged in antisocial behavior.
Similarly, reader shaming because of dissatisfaction with endings, or unmet expectations does exactly nothing productive, and breeds hurt and resentment.
Do we need deeper analysis of what we read and how we respond to material? Most certainly. But that should not come at the cost of alienating, diminishing, shaming and excluding people. I simply cannot believe civility and openness are mutually exclusive with nuanced, vibrant discussion.
Dialogue is great, marginalizing those who don't share your views or taste sucks.
#8 The death of the term "mommy porn."
This will be on my wish list forever and always until it goes away. Related to #7, above, but worth of it's own line item, there's not a more offensive term that's come into the discussion of reading and publishing trends.
#9 More voice--or first person even--romance.
I quite enjoyed both of Mary Ann Rivers' first-person novellas, The Story Guy and Snowfall, as well her upcoming third-person alternating point-of-view novel Live. All three, regardless of point-of-view, are what I think of as "voicey" (not a real word), in that the characters' voices come through extremely clearly. Even a tropey (not a real word) novel like Blue-Eyed Devil was far more enjoyable for me than I would have expected because the narrative voice was so strong (it's first person).
In the romance genre (YA romance being an enormous exception), most of the points-of-view are third-person, and limited third-person seems to be the norm. These voice-heavy stories really work for me on a number of levels, but largely because I feel like the character shines beyond the plot.
I realize I'm in the minority here, but a girl can dream, right?
#10 An end to the print versus digital debate.
Oops, this already reared it's head this year.
Because, y'all, I've got better things to do with myself than worry if people are reading ebooks, hardbacks, paperbacks or a book chiseled into a damn rock.
It's all good, you know?