Let’s talk about book baggage (figurative not literal)

I’ve been thinking about books I didn’t enjoy. In particular two books I read last winter come to mind. (And I’m going to have spoilers below so if you see the book title and know you want to read it just skip the next paragraph.)

One book I know I didn’t enjoy because of personal hangups. Golden by Jessi Kirby is about a lot of things but the thing that felt most weighty to me was the fact that the main character was applying for a huge full-ride scholarship to a very expensive college. And she proceeded to sabotage herself at every turn up to and including the moment when she walks out of the big scholarship speech competition. At which point I was done with the book. I have no patience for certain things in books (one is reckless driving) and I was furious watching the heroine throw away this opportunity. Now, other people loved this book. And that’s fine. But as someone who struggled and worked really hard to get scholarships for college and grad school, I just couldn’t identify with the main character here at all.

The other book was Wither by Lauren DeStefano. I actually really enjoyed this book. But I read a good chunk of it while my mother was having her brain surgery for twelve hours last year. I finished the book after the surgery while I was commuting to and from the hospital and work. But every time I think about it now I get a horrible feeling which I recently realized stems from bad associations that have nothing to do with the book. I liked the book as much as I could in those circumstances. And I like the author. But I’ve been hesitant to continue the series because I don’t really want to go to that emotional place again.

Which brings me to the crux of this discussion post (which I’m calling Let’s Talk): How do you separate your own personal baggage from a book? Or is it something that does have to be separated? Do you think these kind of hang ups have to be disclosed or is the subjective nature of book recommending and reviewing implied?

Let’s talk about it in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Let’s talk about book baggage (figurative not literal)

  1. I know exactly what you mean when you say book baggage. There are several books that I really don’t like because of the time in my life when I read them or because of personal issues with them. One book comes to mind and that book I wrote a review for it, but what I did was tell the audience why I personally would give it such a low rating, but that it honestly deserves this rating because it was a good book. I always try to be as honest as I can in my reviews, but for the most part I don’t write reviews for books that I have attached baggage to. It’s a chore to write those reviews so I just don’t.

    1. That’s a good point too. It’s one thing to know why a book didn’t work but another to have to sift through it all AGAIN to write a review.

  2. I completely understand what you’re talking about! I struggle with books sometimes due to this as well. Ender’s Game, for example. It’s one of my favorite books, and I’ve read it several times over, but it was a book my dad and I shared together. After he left, I haven’t been able to pick it up or really even watch the movie. And I actually had a similar experience as Wither for you, with Let’s Get Lost – I worked so hard in college, and it was appalling to see a character have complete disregard for the opportunities he had.

    I always disclose my issues in my reviews, since I’m pretty straightforward in them anyway. It just makes it easier for me to say, in all its cheesiness, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

  3. I’m so glad I’m not the only one with issues about people throwing away college opportunities! It’s definitely important (but hard) to say when a book isn’t for you but might work for others.

    I often review everything I read (even if it doesn’t work for me) so I can work out what went wrong. But it’s hard.

  4. Nothing turns me off of a book faster than pointless drinking followed by dangerous behavior followed by… nothing, no consequences beyond maybe a hangover. I wonder if sometimes authors think that this is a quick-n-easy way to make teen characters somehow relatable or fun, but based on my own experiences it has exactly the opposite effect.

    I like it when I read reviews where the reviewer writes about personal reasons for not liking a book as opposed to typical plot/character/style &c stuff. It’s helpful and engaging and honest.

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