Hi, all! It’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday, Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, this week’s theme is Unpopular Bookish Opinions, and as it turns out, I do believe I have some of those.
I decided to go more broad with this because as much as I could say that I don’t understand the appeal behind Cassandra Clare’s books or that I think Sarah J. Maas is a hack, there are a lot more interesting things in the book world to tackle.
So let’s talk some real unpopular book opinions.
1. I like love triangles—if they’re done right
I can already hear the bemoaning now, but hear me out. Love triangles can be immensely entertaining if 1) both love interests are well-written and intriguing to the reader and 2) if you find yourself as gripped in the drama of it all as the protagonist is. Unfortunately, this happens far less than it should, and it’s extremely hard for people who don’t multi-ship. I do, so I tend to have a lot more fun than others. Besides, I feel like characters should be allowed to experience multiple loves as long as it makes sense narratively because that’s true for real life.
Really, the end goal for me is to have an OT3 rather than just an OTP—or even better, let’s harem this shit. Let’s have the triangle evolve into a full-on mess. Let’s have people in the ship who can’t stand each other, but they put up with the other person for their romantic interest’s sake.
And let’s allow for stories written by POC and LGBTQ+ writers to have their love triangles, too. As a white reader, I’ve been spoiled by so many stories (and disappointed by others), and other readers deserve to experience the thrills and let-downs, too.
2. Length does not a good story make
It’s so funny because Harry Potter turned me onto long books and series, but I’ve run into some books/series lately that have proven a high page count doesn’t mean high quality. (Red Queen and SJM’s series, in case anyone was wondering.) Either it seems like the editor took a sabbatical or the author felt that they had so much to say that was pertinent, but it really… wasn’t.
The end result is usually a lot of filler, a lack of action, a less cohesive story, and scenes full of characters I don’t care anything about while I sit and wonder what I’m still doing here.
In contrast, I’ve read books that I wish were longer but realize that their succinctness has led to their high quality and wouldn’t want that to be sacrificed just to have more words. Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air trilogy and Howl’s Moving Castle instantly come to mind. In the end, I think it’s better for readers to be left wanting more but being satisfied rather than having more and being fatigued.
3. I don’t care if a character, ship, or book is “problematic”
I just don’t lol. Especially when what’s being deemed as “problematic” is actually adding depth and conflict to a character or story. Especially when the problematic ones tend to be my absolute favorites. I don’t want squeaky clean or morally “pure” media, especially when neither of those things actually exist. If it did, I would be so bored, and it’s somewhat disturbing that more and more people want to go that route.
But listen: I really don’t need anyone out there “protecting” me from what I read, and I’m definitely not going to do that for anyone else. I don’t want children, and I’m not going to coddle others like they need an adult figure in their life to “protect them.” They probably don’t, actually, and it’s insulting to assume they do.
Rather, I prefer to stay in my lane, do no harm, let people love what they love, and determine for myself if a book is offensive to me or not. For the record, I have found books that I plain hate or just don’t like, but absolutely none of those have ever been truly offensive or caused me any kind of harm. I doubt there are any out there that ever will.
4. Characters don’t need to be relatable, likable, or sympathetic to be good characters
We’ve all read those reviews that are like “I didn’t find this character relatable or likable in any way, so I just can’t identify/sympathize with them.” My question to that statement is usually always the same: “So what?”
Whoever said that readers and characters need to be on the level with each other? If I kept reading characters who have the same morals as I do, who think and act like me, who have the same life experiences, I’d lose interest in reading pretty quickly.
Instead, I want to read about characters who push the boundaries of right and wrong and then bulldoze right through it. I want to see characters who have all my worst traits and more and who do terrible things to achieve their goals. I want to see how far they’ll go. I want to be interested in them and their journey, no matter how dark. If they’re written well, then everything is on the table.
Obviously, this applies to a lot of villainous characters, but it also applies to female characters, especially. Kind and honorable women are great; mean and conniving women deserve their time and our support, too.
5. I need YA to start writing better villains
Not just YA, actually. The lack of good villains seems to be a universal problem across book genres from Sci-Fi/Fantasy to Romance. So many villains are just two-dimensional jokes or worse, they were Secretly Good All Along.
But YA is especially guilty of this. This is the genre that writes assassins and rogues who… don’t actually kill people. This is the genre that writes so-called powerful, evil royals who balk at killing people or who turn suddenly good once the truth of their oppressive regime is revealed to them. This is the genre who produces the Bad Boy love interest who’s a monster, but he never does anything monstrous and is actually so sweet when he meets his One True Love.
Are you guys asleep? I am.
To give a visual of how much better we need to be, the YA community still helms the Darkling as being one of the best straight-up villains ever produced, myself counted among that number. Shadow and Bone was released in 2012, and barely any other villainous character can touch him in quality. We need to do better, we must do better. I should have a whole horde of villains competing with the Darkling at this point.
So I need authors to step up their game, and for readers to let them do it.
6. Less spin-offs and retellings, more original works
I definitely feel like a hypocrite for saying this because I love spin-offs if my constant buying of Holly Black and Leigh Bardugo is any indication, and I love story retellings. I’m even writing my own Hades/Persephone retelling as I type this, and I will just about pick up any retellings I see on the shelf, especially if they involve Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, Anastasia, you name it.
But that’s part of the problem. I feel like the market right now is oversaturated with these stories, and there’s less emphasis being placed on originality. Part of it is the fault of marketing. Everything’s all “this is a blend of Mulan and Game of Thrones” if a story dares to have a girl dress up like a boy and a hint of political fantasy in its pages. Others are legitimately like “this is Cinderella but with robots!” or something.
I don’t think retellings will ever go out of fashion, but part of me hopes that spin-offs at least will. The amount of novellas and spin-offs I’m seeing authors do with their own series is… exhausting. And such a money grab.
I’m just ready to feel like original works are taking up more space than they have been.
7. Craving more solid standalones rather than series
I never thought I’d be at this point actually, but I’m seriously wishing for more standalone books rather than trilogies and series. I’d take more duologies, too, but standalones are much more desired right now, especially since I’ve seen how well they can be done thanks to Spinning Silver, If We Were Villains, and others like them.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m finally having buying fatigue for books, or if I just want to catch up on my TBR pile and reading more standalones is the easiest way to do that. Either way, you better believe I’ll be paying more attention to them in the future and giving new trilogies and up a bit more hesitation before I pick them up.
8. More aliens/monsters/robots that aren’t sexy-humans-in-disguise, please
Maybe it’s a sign of my age, but I literally just picked up a book that advertised gargoyles in it, and the only striking thing about them was that they could turn gray and sprout wings while remaining supermodel hot. I think I catapulted backwards in time because I rolled my eyes that hard.
C’mon, where’s my swamp things, my eldritch monsters, my cosmic horrors? Where’s my barely human-passing creature that sheds its human skin whenever it can and its love interest is still there, swooning? Where’s the not-even-trying-to-be-human aliens? Where’s the grotesque, the macabre?
My fellow monster-fuckers and I want to know. Is it because they’re too hard to describe? C’mon now… There is an audience out here for this content, I promise you. Look at Venom.
9. I still want vampires to be a thing
I know everyone got burned out with vampire books thanks to Twilight, Vampire Academy, True Blood, and things of that nature. However, that’s precisely why I want the trend to resurge—only this time, make it dark, make it goth, and make it extra. In other words, make it good.
The success of Castlevania proves that we still crave these dark, damned beings who barely care about humanity, if they care at all. We still want to try and find a way to break free of their superior power while also getting seduced by them. We want their vanity, their beauty, but we also want their ferocity and their cruel vengeance.
And I won’t lie. Vampires top all other shifters for me—absolutely no other can compare—and I’m still waiting on my actually good “humans as food” story involving a dark, desperate, and obsessive human/vampire* romance that could only end in self-hatred and sadness, okay? I live for this drama.
*On that note, enough with the turning the human character into a vampire/angel/fae/elf/immortal/whatever else in the first book. If you do that, congrats, you just killed what made the mortal/immortal ship interesting to begin with. That shit comes at the end of the series, not the beginning.
10. Maintain “Death of the Author” whenever possible
I actually hate how much this feels like an unpopular opinion now, but whatever. It’s where we’re at now, I guess.
Death of the Author is something I’ve maintained throughout most aspects of my life, especially as creator social media presence has grown. If someone is so appalling that I can’t stomach them at all, then obviously I won’t subject myself to their work, but neither will I stop others from experiencing it. I believe above all else that the work is always strong enough to speak for itself. Either it holds value for me or it does not. Period. In this age of call-outs and Twitter rants, that’s an important distinction to me.
Because the truth is, none of us really know any of these authors we want to jump and defend or go on a witchhunt against. We know only as much as what they’ve deemed to tell us, and who says what’s true and what’s not? How do we actually know what anyone’s background is and how “certified” that makes them to write a certain story?
This isn’t my way of saying white authors should be allowed to write African American slave narratives, not in the slightest. But there is something silly about how people have harped on Leigh Bardugo and Amélie Wen Zhao for “writing Russian culture incorrectly” when their works have actually been pure fantasy and not featured actual Russia, its people, or any kind of alternative Russian history. “Based on” does not mean “exactly as.”
And I wish before we get so ready to drag the author through the streets for some assumed slight we read on the internet that we actually take the time to research, read their work first, and see for ourselves what it accomplishes and how it fails. Offer criticism, see if it’s taken, and if it is, great, and if it isn’t, then don’t read their work, don’t recommend it to others, and don’t look back.
It’s that simple to me.
And that’s all she wrote! What are some of your unpopular bookish opinions? Are some of mine maybe not as unpopular as I think? Let me know!