Sunday, March 24, 2013

When Books Get All The Hype

One of the joyous things about Twitter is book recommendations. When a book takes off on Twitter it's like everyone's talking about it and you absolutely must go out and read it.

Two recent books that come to mind are CODE NAME VERITY and ELEANOR AND PARK. I've read both (well I'm a few chapters shy of The End for the latter but should be done at time of posting) and all I can say is, meh. (I have amended my thoughts on this below since I finished Eleanor and Park - but figured the post was still good enough for conversation ;0))

Not really meh. They are both wonderful books in their own right. But neither is making me breathless. So it has me wondering, where does the hype come from?

I have a theory. These books hit the marketplace when people are needing different. And both are different.

CODE NAME VERITY is a very well-researched historical, about a female pilot and a female spy in World War II. It's written in dual POV and there is no romance. All quite different from the usual 1st person present lusty teen hotness we see in YA. Is it a good book? Yes. It's very good. I had author envy as I'm not a researcher and could never write historical fiction. (famous last words, right?)

Did this book live up to the emotional hype for me? No. And I was disappointed. I love a good tear jerker. But unlike Patrick Ness in the Knife of Never Letting Go who made me BAWL or Nina LaCour who had me chugging down tears in Hold Still, I shed not one drop.

ELEANOR AND PARK is another beautifully written gem. Rainbow Rowell is a subtle, delicious writer who with perfect timing creates a perfectly nuanced relationship. But this book is also different. It's dual POV, 3rd person, and set in the 1980's. Because this was my time period, the book in ways feels like an adult has written it for adults of that time period. As I read about Eleanor's physical self-loathing, I think about myself at that age. I looked great in a bikini but thought I was obese. Do I care about these characters? Absolutely. Like I said, it's a gorgeous book. But here's the thing. I've been able to put it down every single night after a chapter or two. I'm not with these characters. I'm not intensely emotionally invested. Did I think I was going to be based on the hype? Yes. (Edited to add: I finished Eleanor and Park, I was wrong. I DO THINK IT WAS WORTH THE HYPE - it's just what I expected was different than what I got. Definitely a hug the book sort of a book!)

So, in conclusion, does the hype kill the book? I don't know. The hype drove me to buy the books. It set up expectations. If I'd discovered each of these on my own would I feel different about them? Who knows. They're both five star books based on the writing - but emotionally? Definitely not for CNV. I'll let you know when I come to the end on EP.


What do you think about how hype affects your reading habits?

9 comments:

  1. For me, reading books that have gotten a lot of hype is like finally snagging a date with that cute guy/girl you've been crushing on all year in English class. What if the *idea* of them is better than the real thing?

    I do have higher expectations going in and there have been a handful of times I haven't just felt "meh," I've actually been bent out of shape by a book I couldn't stand that everyone else seemed to love.

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    1. I think those expectations are key to our reactions! You get so built up and then...

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  2. I've heard quite a bit about both books, but haven't managed to get to either. (Someday soon it will be summer break!) I really hate it when books don't live up to the hype everyone's given them though. I feel kind of let down. Same goes for movies--all the great things people have said about them, and then, meh. Not so fun. But, the hype definitely gets me to read things, or go to the show, so it completely influences me. Sometimes for the better--I've discovered some real gems that way--but more often not :)

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    1. True - it does lead to discovery. Like now I'm reading Night Circus, which for me, TOTALLY lives up to the hype.

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  3. I could not get into ELEANOR AND PARK. I read the first chapter and didn't love it. I got to see Rainbow Rowell speak at Teen Author Festival in NYC this week and she is HYSTERICAL. Do I want to read her book now (or try again)? Maybe. But I've also accepted there are times when I LOVE the author themselves or the person depending on the thing...but not the book or product itself.

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    1. I ended up liking a lot about the book - I really like how well-drawn the family dynamics are - and in the end, I really did love it. But in ways it seemed more adult than YA to me.

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  4. I recently began a book that I'd heard great things about...but didn't finish it because it didn't catch my interest enough to keep chugging. Books are such personal things that I think it's hard to live up to the hype if one's been overly hyped.

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    1. It takes a whole lot to make me stop a book - though I'm getting better about it, what with all the great ones out there to read.

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  5. If the book is good enough, I can forget there ever was hype. But I do tend to pick up books with more tweetage and blogage going about than not... I think hype never hurts.

    P.S. I've been out of the loop so long! Lovely site and I LOVE the Valentines group! Good for you, Jro!

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Hey, do you ever wonder why they call it 'your two cents?'