Monday, 7 September 2015

When Does Defensive Become Pushy?

We all have our favourite books and our favourite characters, those stories and the people in them that we'd go to the ends of the earth to defend. But when does defensive become pushy?

Sometimes it can be hard to sit back while another person talks about how much they dislike the stories that we adore, or how much the characters we hold dear grate on their nerves, but do we always need to jump to the defence of the stories we love?

Everyone's entitled to their own opinion - imagine how boring the book blogging world would be if everyone felt the same way about everything! - and if a fellow reader doesn't like something that we covet, often the best thing for us to do is to just accept it and move on, because ultimately it doesn't matter if another reader doesn't love the same things we love.

This isn't necessarily the case 100% of the time. Personally I think it's great to start a discussion (a friendly discussion!) with another reader if their dislike of something seems misinformed. For example, even though I no longer watch Game of Thrones I will always defend Sansa Stark when I stumble across someone who claims they don't like her because 'she's a stupid little girl and it's her fault everything goes wrong'. Ultimately if I were a twelve/thirteen/fourteen year old girl in Westeros, I'm sure I would have made exactly the same decisions that she did, and if you can watch a show like Game of Thrones that's full of rapists, murderers and bullies in every shape and form and the character you hate most is a teenage girl, you have problems my friend.

my sweet summer child
But if I saw someone say something along the lines of 'I don't like Hermione Granger because, despite being able to do magic, there are times when she's quite close-minded, such as her initial attitude towards Luna and her inability to understand that just because she wants to help the house elves that doesn't necessarily mean they want her help and she should respect that'. That's a well thought out argument, so why would I question it? If anything I love reading opinions like that because it gives me something to consider that I haven't thought of before, and that's what's so great about the book blogging community!

That's not to say that every opinion about a story or character we have needs to be backed up with evidence - the example I used is probably a rather extreme one - because ultimately you don't have to justify your opinions to anyone if you don't want to. Mira Grant's Feed is one of my favourite novels of all time, but opinion of it is very divided. I love it to pieces, but I don't feel the need to sing its praises and shove my love for it down the throat of someone who didn't like it. One of the criticisms I often see is that there's too much world-building within the narrative and it slows the story down - I think that's fair criticism! Personally I really enjoyed all that information, but I can understand why other people found it dull and felt as though they were wading through it to get to the action.

This post simply comes from a place of personal frustration. It happens to me more 'in real life' than in the book blogging world, but whenever I've mentioned my dislike for The Great Gatsby in the past, for example, it's as though every Gatsby lover within a 50 mile radius jumps out of the nearest crack in the pavement and talks at me about all the reasons why it's the most amazing, splendiforous book of all time. And I don't care.

It's the same with anything else in life. If I told someone I don't like carrot cake, I wouldn't expect them to go and buy a slice and then shove it down my throat until I loved it because that sure as hell wouldn't make me love it. You could buy me a slice of carrot cake and ask me if I wanted to try some and I might try some, but I also might not!

Is cake a bad metaphor?

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the people who say something along the lines of 'Oh it's a shame you don't like The Great Gatsby; it's one of my favourites', it's the people who look at me like I just told them I tied a piranha to my shoe and kicked Santa in the face that are the problem.

Sometimes I see people putting little disclaimers at the top of blog posts apologising in advance that they're going to be talking about how they didn't like a particular book or a particular character, and I hate that. Why do we have to apologise for the way we feel? More importantly, what could have warranted that apology other than a past experience in which a fellow reader has been very vocal about how shocked and appalled they are by our opinion?

Of course there are the cases in which another reader may be more informed than we are. For example, if I were to read a book in which a character had an abortion and, for the sake of this argument, I thought their decision had been wrong, I think it's perfectly fair for another reader who may have had an abortion to pipe up and tell me I was out of order because everyone's body is their own, and unless you are in a situation like that you can't possibly decide what's right and what's wrong.

One of the things I love most about the book blogging community is discussing the books I love (and the books I don't!) with fellow book lovers, and I whole-heartedly believe that book bloggers are some of the friendliest bloggers on the internet. We all have the right to defend the stories we love and we all have the right to talk about what we didn't like, but sometimes we also need to take a step back before we jump in with our defence and respect each other's opinions. Think how boring blogging would be if we all felt the same!

What are your thoughts on the matter?


  1. Great post Jess! I find that I sometimes get upset when I see a negative review of a book that I really love- so I tend to avoid reading reviews of my all-time favorite novels altogether! I would never insult someone because they didn't love one of my favorite novels, but it's hard for me to have a clear and critical lens to view a novel that really means a lot to me. I love that the book blogging world is full of people who love stories, and there is always someone out there who agrees and disagrees with you, and this makes for great conversations.

  2. I see your point. How we react to books is such a personal thing, and I don't really see the point of trying to convince someone that a book they hated is really wonderful and they're just wrong. People have tried this with me, and we all just end up frustrated! I do want someone to tell me if I've missed a crucial theme or element that might change my understanding of a book, but otherwise, I like what I like! I don't mind hearing why someone loved something that didn't work for me -- it's often very interesting to hear another take on it -- but don't try to convince me that I SHOULD have liked something that I didn't. And I agree, disclaimers on reviews are pretty pointless. Why hide your opinion? Great food for thought.

  3. Cake metaphors are always appropriate and yours made me smile. Imagine someone running after you with carrot cake. :D

    Umh... I always judge people based on what books they read/liked/disliked. I can't help it! It's better if I know WHY they loved/hated them though and as you said - a good argument is something you can't just dismiss. But I'd never go criticizing someone - in real life or in the blogging world - just because we disagree! I might say "I'm sorry you didn't like it" or "I thought this book had some problems, so I didn't *love* it like you did" but that's never meant (or articulated) as an attack.

    I agree, the book blogging community is wonderful and though I've HEARD that silly people exist and post weird comments, I haven't had the displeasure of suffering them on my blog yet.

  4. I literally just wrote a post on this topic as well! Mine was more framed around writing negative reviews, though. I agree that sometimes saying that you don't like or haven't read a popular series is akin to capital murder in the book blogging world. I think this leads to a lot of people to be too scared to write negative reviews of things for fear of being attacked over their opinion. I have ACTUALLY seen people talk about how they didn't like a book at all but they didn't want to say anything negative so they wrote a positive review. EVEN THOUGH THEY DIDN'T LIKE IT. Why do people feel like we all have to agree on everything? Honestly, I'm a bit tired of seeing how everyone loves the Grisha series or the Fault in Our Stars. I get it! It's amazing! Good for you guys! I said in my post that I would welcome someone to write a whole post on how they don't like Harry Potter and all it's flaws because that would be SO interesting to read! Several times on the "top 10 books I've never read" lists I've seen people say they've never read Harry Potter and really don't want to, and they get absolutely ripped apart, like they might as well delete their blog and social media, join a religious order, and rethink their life choices. It's just a book!