EVERYONE IS ENTITLED TO THEIR OPINION.
Let’s just get that statement out of the way.
Dear Romance Genres: Maybe it’s not you, it’s me.
We are all readers with different views, interests, needs, wants…and so on and so on. That being said, we all know what we like, and don’t like when it comes to books. But sometimes, those likes/dislikes evolve, and change without us even realizing it.
Or sometimes, we do realize it.
I wanted to talk about my personal experience with becoming a more satisfied reader.
I wish to take you on my journey of self-discovery as a reader.
THE WAY WE WERE
I’ve always had an affinity for reading, but it wasn’t til 2009 while recovering from surgery that I became utterly obsessed.
It started with The Hunger Games, Twilight, Divergent, and so on… I went from reading one book a month, to reading 3 or more a week.
I was reading across all genres of fiction, including Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult.
Soon, I was starting to notice a pattern: I loved me some romance.
Lots and lots of romance.
Each passing year I was reading between 100-200 books that fell under the romance genre. Contemporary, historical, paranormal, erotic/erotica–if there was romance, I was all up in that.
However, by late 2013, something happened.
CUE GENRE FATIGUE.
After reading over 400 romance-driven novels over the course of 3 years, I started to notice all the similar themes, characterizations, storylines, book covers, fonts, and even in some cases, titles.
I became dazed. I became confused. I became frustrated.
This led to multiple DNFs, low-star ratings, and countless hours of trying to figure out what I wanted to read to make me happy.
The Epiphany. Or as I like to call it: The Steph-iphany.
One day while complaining about my issues to book friends, I kept asking the same sorts of questions: Why are there are so many books that follow the same plot lines?, and Why are all these books all the same?, I realized something: If I always stuck with the “If you loved this book, you’ll love THIS one” mentality, I was going to constantly find myself reading the same kind of plot/book over and over.
Therefore, in some ways, I did this to myself.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that there weren’t books along the way that weren’t lacking in some way; I’m just saying that I couldn’t solely blame “New Adult” books, or “YA books” for doing what they do: meet the criteria of their genre classification.
I was one of those readers who read Fifty Shades when it was still indie, and I distinctly remember scouring Goodreads for groups that had posts about “What to read after Fifty Shades”, because I found that I loved ‘those kind of books’. But after only reading those kinds of books for months, I found that all the books were too similar.
But wasn’t that what I wanted, what I asked for?
The Wake-up Call.
Someone call Nat King Cole, cause it was time for me to straighten up and fly right.
Instead of shaming an entire genre, or a ‘type’ of author, I decided to identify specific things I loved, and that I didn’t love to read, and go from there.
This also meant I had to start buckling down and setting a criteria for all books that I would add to my TBR, therefore leading me to have a more satisfying reading experience.
If I pick up a book that has too many ‘feels’:
If I see the words ‘tragic’ or ‘trauma’ in synopsis:
If I’ve found that I don’t mesh well with a particular author’s writing style/books, and I see they have another book up on Goodreads:
Sometimes it’s okay to just agree to disagree. I learned that I was happier parting ways with some books/series/authors I couldn’t mesh with.
If I see that contemporary novel has more than 500 pages:
(Exception to the rule: if it’s an author that is tried-and-true, like Diana Gabaldon, J.R. Ward, J.K. Rowling, etc)
If I start a book, but can’t get into it after the first 15-20%:
Oh, and that book that has all that hype?
I shan’t always drink that Kool-Aid.
And that’s A-OK.
At the end of the day, why waste my time reading books that have topics/themes that I don’t like to read? Reading the same thing over and over again expecting a different result isn’t always a realistic expectation. I’ve made my peace with that.
End Result: I’ve rediscovered my love for reading.
I’ve stopped genre-blaming and generalizing, and started making changes in the way I read.
I found it unfair to hold every book, genre, author, publisher, etc accountable for my own personal qualms. Finger-pointing is exhausting, and in all honesty, counterproductive, in my opinion. Authors are going to keep writing the stories they want to write; the publishers are going keep publishing the books they want to publish. That just means I have to be more selective in what I’m going to actually devote my time to reading.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t find myself still going through ‘genre fatigue’ from time to time. Sometimes if I’m reading too much contemporary all at once, I’ll switch things up by reading a paranormal romance, or a historical romance. Or sometimes I like to use a palette cleanser: a reread. (You can never go wrong with a reread, especially via audio!)
Moral of my personal story: I’m so glad that I was able to adapt to my ever-changing reading tastes, instead of reading myself into a corner of “book rage”. This has made me a pickier reader, yes, but a happier reader all the while.
Do you have any tips on how you’ve become a more satisfied reader?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!