You know the number one cited reason for buying an e-reader? ‘No-one can see what I’m reading.’
Yep, it’s true, thanks to e-books, you can now read whatever z-list celebrity biography or trashy romance novel you want, free from sniggering and judgement on public transport.
What is it with feeling guilty? Why do we need to define books as ‘guilty pleasures’ when really, if you’re truly enjoying it, you shouldn’t feel guilty at all? If you enjoy eating Marmite, and the people around you do not, (because they’re sane) do you define that piece of toast with the spread of your choice as a ‘guilty pleasure’? No, you assume they have terrible tastebuds, and enjoy your food.
We all take part in this world of literary snobbery, whether it’s hiding our paperback by breaking the spine (you people SUCK, seriously, why do you do that?) to bend the cover over, or by judging others when they tell you they’ve just finished the latest Twilight.
I’m a big fan of ‘it’s what you are like, not what you like’ as a concept. But I’m probably still going to make a subconscious judgement if you’ve read (and enjoyed) Twilight. Why? Why on earth do I care if you want to read teen vamp literature written by a Mormon? Surely I should just be a good human being and be pleased that you found joy in the written word, that you found a means of escape from your dreary normal life, into a paranormal adventure.
But clearly, I’m not a good human being. Because I DO judge you. Just as you judge me. Which is why I only read Kafka on the tube.
Is it maybe that we’re looking to connect with others? Would a Twilight fan see you reading on the bus and think ‘you know, we’re connected, we are intertwined by our ability to get sucked into this world, and I consider you a friend, dear stranger’? (Well, no, because in their head they’re probably trying to figure out which ‘Team’ you’re on, and which is the best way to stab you if you say ‘Jacob’, but still). We see people with Harry Potter tattoos and we know they understand us.
There is something definitive about series, particularly children/teen book series that binds people together. Perhaps it’s that teenagers are prone to melodrama, and so the books seem more important, or maybe it’s because these series ultimately get turned into films and have a wider reach, again, making them seem more important. Either way, I’m going to make a bold statement: I think everybody should read teen fiction.
I think the themes that relate to teenagers can be understood by us all: fitting in, being outcast, wanting to be special, wanting to be loved and understood. And I think that teen fiction can be truly excellent, whether it’s standard or supernatural. The tone of writing makes it easy reading, but the subject matter makes us connect. Or it should, if you were ever a teenager. Maybe you were the high school quarter back cliche and you sailed through school without a second thought: Good for you, you’re boring and I’m sure your advanced years will only continue to be so.
Why did I write this? Because I was explaining to a friend about how much I was enjoying the second book in The Hunger Games series, and looking forward to the film. And I was embarrassed by this. Now, I get embarrassed by pretty much everything, from my ability to accidentally insult people then awkwardly backtrack, to my inability to talk to pretty men. But I am never embarrassed by what I read, because if I enjoy it, then to me, it has served its purpose.
So feeling guilty about reading something that was well written, excellently conceived and has left me wanting more made me feel…well, guilty for bowing to social convention, I guess.
So, let us rise up against a tide of injustice, and for now and forever let us say: ‘I shall not be ashamed!’*
I hope you’re enjoying whatever you’re reading right now, and if you haven’t already, check out The Hunger Games. It’s more than just your average teen fiction, it’s a comment on society! Honestly, even The Guardian says so!
*This does not apply to Twilight fans. You should be ashamed. Unless you’re reading it ironically, in which case, you’re supercool, obvs.