Teens respond to our literary anxieties

As part of this month’s meeting with the Readings Teen Advisory Board we chatted about ‘literary anxieties’ and how to deal with them. Here’s what they said.

I have this book I really, truly, utterly love, but I’m embarrassed to tell people because a lot of others look down on it… What should I do?

‘Go online and find that one niche page on Reddit/Tumblr where all of the people in the same boat as you go.’ – Thea

‘If you really love the book, try not to let other’s unfavourable opinions ruin what you think of it! It’s up to you whether you want to tell others who look down on your book or quietly enjoy the book – but don’t let other’s perceptions alter what you love!’ – Carolyn

‘Only tell people who you trust not to make fun of you.’ – Sasha

‘Tell them.’ – Siena

‘You should never feel ashamed of a book you love, your friends respect your opinions, and who cares about other people.’ – Ananyaa

‘If you have your reasons to love it then people can’t really begrudge you that.’ – Amy

‘Just go for it, who cares? It’ll build your confidence.’ – Claire

‘Tell those people you love the book because of how it makes you feel – that way you’re not coming across as defensive, but as honest and sincere. Sometimes people hate a book just because everyone else hates it, don’t give them the opportunity to make you feel inferior for being unconventional.’ – Chenuli

Is it okay to start reading a series at book number two… or three… or four?

‘No, no, no, NO, a big no. You will miss out on important plot details and character arcs.’ – Claire

‘It depends on the series, but usually don’t. There are series for a reason, if you don’t read it in order you ruin the book.’ – Ananyaa

‘No, nope, nup, na-uh, nein.’ – Amy

‘Of course! If it’s a really bad series, save yourself the agony of a love triangle and go straight to the sequel to find out who the protagonist ends up with. Honestly, reading from different parts of a series is the best book-hack ever invented.’ – Chenuli

‘It’s perfectly fine if you want to, but personally it’s extremely confusing when you start in the middle of a series – and when you finally starts the grasp the characters – the book is almost over.’ – Carolyn

‘Depends on the series I think!’ – Thea

‘It’s a free country, but god no.’ – Sasha

‘No. Why would you do that?’ – Siena

Is it okay to stop reading a book before the end?

‘Of course! Don’t waste time reading a book you don’t like.’ – Sasha

‘Yes! Reading should be purely for enjoyment. Don’t force yourself through a book you don’t like.’ – Riley

‘The ending of a book is sometimes the worst part, but it’s the always the part everyone likes to talk about. Just knowing it grants you entry to an exclusive “end readers” club. Even if you’ve scarred yourself reading the first chapter, skip to the end just so you won’t ever have to wonder what happened.’ – Chenuli

‘If it’s bad and you don’t enjoy it.’ – Siena

‘Always. But maybe give it some time to grow on you and warm up.’ – Thea

‘Yes, I am a firm believer in DNF-ing novels because it gives you space and time to read.’ – Claire

‘Sometimes books are so underwhelming that you can’t bring yourself to finish – don’t feel obligated to finish it. Other times a book is so good that it gets too much – in that case perhaps give yourself time to digest and come back later to finish.’ – Carolyn

‘Definitely. I leave a lot of books halfway through because I’m bored.’ – Ananyaa

‘Yes, if you don’t like it, don’t bother.’ – Amy

I often get really into a book and story, but then get frustrated by the bad decisions characters make. Can you relate? Or am I being overly harsh?

‘Yes, yes, yes. Sometimes fictional BFFs do questionable things. Maybe it’s because they don’t know they’re in a romance novel, so they fall in love with the first person they see..? I don’t think you’re being overly harsh.’ – Chenuli

‘I can relate. I enjoy having my ideas challenged by what I read, and having my expectations subverted. But if a character is unbearable it can be difficult to engage with the book.’ – Riley

‘I can so relate. I think sometimes we get into the book because the characters make stupid mistakes.’ – Ananyaa

‘Yes, and no you are not being overly harsh.’ – Claire

‘Just try to remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes, characters included.’ – Sasha

‘Yeah that’s fair.’ – Amy

‘No, absolutely I can relate! You can be so absorbed in the books and want to binge read to the end in one go – but then be infuriated by the decisions of the characters and just want to chuck the book across the room – yes, I totally get it! – Carolyn

An author of one of my favourite books has just said some upsetting things that I don’t agree with. Is it okay if I still like the book, or should I put it away for good?

'It depends on you and what you feel comfortable with. You’re entitled to enjoy something you’ve always loved and disconnect it from the author – after a while the story becomes yours as much as the author’s.’ – Amy

‘I really believe it’s up to you. For me, I continue to adore their books but try to avoid buying more that will go back to the author.’ – Thea

‘It’s a personal decision with many factors. Weigh up how important the book is to you, and the harm caused by the author.’ – Riley

‘Honestly, as much as you love the book, perhaps it would be best not to actively support them – I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to stand by whilst the author continues making problematic statements – but you can still like the book by them.’ – Carolyn

‘We all do unethical things all day long, of course it’s still okay to like it, as long as you acknowledge what the author has done.’ – Sasha

‘Depend what it is. Does it affect the book in a huge way? Is the author ignorant or hateful?’ – Siena

‘Maybe reread the book and see if it has bad morals. A book reflects on the authors, so I think if the book is nice, like it, but don’t support the author.’ – Ananyaa

‘Unless the book in question is an autobiography, I think you can enjoy a book and not appreciate the author. The fact that there are often many blog posts and fan-fic written about beloved stories also helps to make it feel like the original book no longer belong to authors but to readers. You can interpret their words however you wish – after all, its true meaning will always exist in your imagination.’ – Chenuli

‘Yes, it is. Try not to support the author financially.’ – Claire

My friend lent me their favourite book and I hate every single word in it – how do I tell them? (Should I tell them?)

‘Be gentle, don’t be mean and have your reasons at the ready, but maybe only tell them if they ask.’ – Amy

‘Yes you should. Lay it on gently and listen to their arguments as well.’ – Claire

‘Don’t tell!’ – Thea

‘If my best friend told me she absolutely hated Harry Potter I’d wonder how we became friends in the first place. So maybe tell them it was a decent book but you couldn’t relate to the characters or themes. If you need to go into detail, soften the blow and start with what you hated the least – how about the ending was the best part?’ – Chenuli

‘Don’t put them down for what they enjoy. You could start a discussion of what you did and didn’t like.’ – Riley

‘If they don’t respect you enough to accept your opinion, that’s their problem, not yours.’ – Sasha

‘I think you should. Friends respect each other.’ – Ananyaa

‘Honesty is the best policy. If you and your friends are close you could tell them your honest thoughts whilst making sure not to hurt their feelings – so, bottom line, find the balance between truthful and being careful. It’s okay to hate a book someone likes – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. ’ – Carolyn

‘Yes, if it’s a problematic book.’ – Siena

I’ve been in a reading rut for months now. Send help!

‘Read something completely self indulgent! Don’t put pressure on yourself to get through a book that feels like a chore.’ – Riley

‘Start with fanfic or reread something you love. Abandon the idea of what you “should” be reading.’ – Thea

‘Try reading (listening) to an audiobook. Reread your favourites.’ – Claire

‘I always read something like a romance. Short stories are also really fun.’ – Siena

‘You could always go to a library or bookstore for an afternoon and get inspiration – or maybe one day your need to read will just come to you – best of luck.’ – Carolyn

‘Depends on genre. Romance: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Fantasy: Aurora Rising. Historical: The Lace Weaver . Classics: Anne of Green Gables or Little Women.’ – Ananyaa

‘Reread your favourite books to get back into it.’ – Amy

‘Try fan fiction! Also watch booktube to get into the reading mood.’ – Sasha

‘The best thing about finishing a book is talking about it. I strongly suggest joining a book club. It’s so much fun – come in to any of our TAB meetings to see how wild the discussions get. Talking about books is a fantastic way to get passionate about reading and excited for more.’ – Chenuli

This Is 18

This Is 18

Jessica Bennett, New York Times

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