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Friday, March 23, 2012

Discussion: When Books Become Too Popular

Lately, there have been a lot of book to movie conversions in the YA genre, and this has gotten me thinking about what happens when books become too popular. This post might come off as a bit pretentious, but I promise I don't mean to be at all. I'm just getting my thoughts out there.

So, I guess you could say that this all started with Twilight. But honestly, I really don't want to talk about Twilight, so I'll just use my Hunger Games example instead.

Okay, so the Hunger Games has gotten really popular, and it seems that if you even mention those words, people's heads will perk up and they'll say "You read the Hunger Games? Me too! I love it!" And long conversations will ensue. Now, I don't have a problem with this at all. I'm so extremely happy for Suzanne Collins, that she's been able to make something so big. She's been added to the list of Great (yes, with a capital "G") authors that have shown the world that children's and young adult fiction isn't just meaningless fluff. I respect her so immensely, and I'm also really grateful for what she's done to help the industry.

But these days, it seems like everybody is the Hunger Game's #1 fan. I read the first book literally right after it was published. I read it in December of 2008, I will never forget that, because I picked it out as one of the presents I wanted for Christmas. And now when I see people freaking out over the books, I can't help but think, "Where were you guys 4 years ago?" I know, that is so disgustingly elitist, but I don't mean it that way. I just mean, are you reading the books because of all the hype around the movie, or are you reading them because you actually just love the books? I find it so funny, and this happened with Twilight too, when people classify themselves as avid readers of the YA genre when the only books they've read were The Hunger Games trilogy. That's like saying I'm a Shakespeare aficionado but I've only read Romeo & Juliet.

And these same people look down on me when I say I haven't read Catching Fire or Mockingjay. They gasp and say what a terrible reader I am, and I how I'm really not a fan of the series. And this really just pisses me off. This, coming from people that have probably read a total of 20 books in their entire life, and half of those because they were forced to for school. And while there's nothing wrong with that, I do have a problem when these people look down their nose at me and act all superior. I've read, as of now, 351 novels. I honestly don't think those people are in a position to judge how "good of a reader" I am, or how much of a fan I am. I tried reading Catching Fire several times, but my review pile always got in the way, and I give my review pile preference over anything else.

Obviously, it's every author's goal to have their novel become That Novel which blows up the bestsellers lists and is made into movies with merchandise and all that jazz. But I really just don't like all the fair-weather fans that come with it. Is that snobby of me? I have no problem with people reading--I love it! Everyone should read! EVERYONE. But I don't understand how everyone can fangirl over one book series, and then never pick up another series. Shouldn't your love of one lead you to different paths? Open doors? Open minds? That's what reading does for me.

This was just a bit of a rant for some recent experiences I had with some people. Let me know what you think in the comments.


  1. I'm like that with a particular movie that I'm totally obsessed with. I've been a total fangirl since I was 14 (I'm going on 29 in less than 2 months) and when I see new fans come in and question MY devotion to the movie, I get all bitch, please! I was a fan before you were sperm head. And then the throw down begins of what constitutes a fan, what makes a fan big, etc. and so forth. There really is no reasoning with those people. I had a girl that I worked with that called herself a Harry Potter fan but never read the books, only watched the movies. Kind of hard to wrap my head around but whatever. A fan's a fan.

    I don't think these people can be questioned for their level of fan because not everyone is attuned to what's going on and a lot of people only pick up on the big stuff because that's what's thrown in their faces. Really the more fans the better. Plus it's a trend and people like trends. Being a fan of The Hunger Games is cool right now so yeah, there are going to be a lot of fair-weather fans around. Should it lead to more like-minded reading? In theory. But I don't think they're lesser fans for it. They're reading something and that's a plus. But there's no sense in letting their wanking get to you. It's not worth the headache of defending yourself. OMG you don't have the Edward cut-out/pillow case/sex toy? You're totally not a REAL fan. Riiiiiiiiiiight.

    Just be like those guys in that cell phone commercial, which brand I can't remember. But there's the one guy walking around asking if they've heard of this or know how to post that and the two guys are like "dude, that's so 15 seconds ago." You're those guys. Be okay with that.

  2. @Donna, LOL, I absolutely love your advice. I will now be exactly like those guys in the cell phone commercial. I know exactly what you're talking about. :)

  3. What you have to hope is that reading Hunger games BEGINS their interest in reading other stuff. I have my "if you liked Hunger Games...." list all ready for them!

  4. I totally agree. I felt the same way with Twilight. I read it when there was only it and New Moon, and I know that's not being one of the very first, but it was way before all the big hype. And working at a bookstore I got so irritated with the people who came in talking about it like they were such big fans, but it took the movie to get them interested. But like Annette says on here, I hope that starting reading any book gets they reading more.

  5. I understand where you're coming from, Ashley. I noticed Twilight on my local B&N shelf when it was just that New Moon or Eclipse (I can't remember if it was hardcover or paperback though). I felt the same way when the movie talks began and everyone read the books and split into teams. But I agree with what Donna, Annette, and Lisa said as well.

  6. Gosh..I get what you're feeling..because I'm a big fan of fantasy since I was young and to see all these ppl gushing about a book that you've read like 5 years ago is just annoying especially when those are the same ppl who made fun of your taste in books.

  7. I don't think it should matter if you were the "first" to read a book when it was published, or if you picked up the book because you saw the movie and enjoyed it. The fact that people are reading PERIOD is great! Putting a number on how many books you read shouldn't classify you either. Reading should be a personal journey. If you've only read 20 books, or have read 200 books - just enjoy it!

    There will always be those who become fans of something later down the road due to media hype. It's just the way it is. And yes, The Hunger Games will no longer be that book that sat on your shelf with love-torn edges because we read it so many times. It will now be a part of those action figures you see at the store and on the cover of Hallmark greeting cards. Be proud that you can say "I remember when The Hunger Games was just this really incredible book" & try not to be discouraged by it's new fame in new fans.

  8. I can see where you are going with this. Really, I can.

    But honestly? The fact that my IRL BFF is reading The Hunger Games and we FINALLY have a series we can bond over and chat about is awesome. So I'm really really glad that this is sparking all kinds of new fans.

    I don't see reading as a competition at all. It doesn't matter when you read the books or why you read them, just that the words are being read and enjoyed by all kinds of people who might never have glanced at YA before. And for that, I'm glad I have a new book to talk about my real life non-internet friends and coworkers with and that I'm there to say, oh you like this series then you might like this series.

    To me, popularity is not a negative thing at all.

  9. Ten years ago, it was Lord of the Rings. Now, I confess I saw the first film before I read the book - but I used to get so frustrated when I'd ask people what their favourite part was, or who their favourite character was, and they'd say "Legolas" - i.e. they fancied Orlando Bloom with a long blond wig and pointy ears.

    So I suppose I'm approaching it from both sides. It's great that the films bring newcomers to fall in love with these wonderful books (like me with LotR) and you know that some will join the fandom and obsess about it for years, and others will watch the film and think, "That was a good film." And that's great too - even if it is just for the eye candy.

    All the same, as a thing becomes more popular, I do find myself thinking wistfully of when it was "my" thing, a secret, special story only for certain people. And the thing about books is that everyone has their own ideas of how things should look, sound, feel, etc. Once the film comes out, that image displaces a lot of the pictures in people's head. You google image search the title, or character, and they all look like the person from the film. I'm savouring the last few days before I see The Hunger Games because I know that once I've seen the movie, my own version won't be quite my own any more.


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