One of these things is not like the other. Oh wait, yes it is.

25 Jun

I have lately been very discouraged at the fiction that seems to be incredibly popular, esp with women of all ages. (And by all ages, I mean inappropriately young ages… which makes me annoyed and start yelling “what are their mothers thinking letting them read this crap?!”) But already I digress… Even a cursory exploration of the “Popular” tab on Pinterest will lead you to covers for the following books/series (I’m going to say books from now on, but I know that 3 of the 4 are series, so just live with it) and multiple comments about how great, fabulous, wonderful, best book ever, changed my life, etc.  And I honestly wonder if it’s a joke, but I’m afraid it’s not. Which is what makes me really discouraged, frustrated and sad. So here they are:

1. Redeeming Love

This is a Christian romance novel. I have read, on Pinterest, that it is “second only to the Bible.” I kid you not. Second only to the Bible. OK. I read this book when I was asked by an agent to write a Christian historical romance, because I’d never read one. My college age daughter had this, given to her by a friend who said how wonderful, fabuous, amazing it was. (For the record, I’m happy to report that she thought it was terrible.) She said, “I have this book you can read, but it’s really bad…” Well heck, it’s romance, I didn’t expect, well, a book second only to the Bible, so sure, why not. I read it in a day while visiting her, and she kept seeing my expression and saying, “I told you! And you can stop reading any time, it’s just the same thing over and over.”

First, let me assure you that it is not second only to the Bible. It’s not even 2000th only to the Bible. It’s poorly written (by which I mean I felt zero emotional connection to this book except disgust until – literally – page 464 of the 465 pages), but the worst part is that it is graphically about child rape, child prostitution, and child trafficking. Oh and adult rape and adult prostitution. Now theoretically it’s the story of Hosea (from the Bible), who God told to marry a prostitute, and then keep going back to get her when she kept returning to prostitution. So I get the connection. But it’s graphically about those things, especially the child-sex part, and it is disgusting, disturbing, and wretched. And the fact that Michael Hosea (how’s that for a clever character name?) loves his former prostitute wife anyway, and the fact that he prays, does not in any way, shape or form make up for the grossness of the book. Not to mention that Michael is perfect. Absolutely perfect. And consequently not at all believable.

My daughter says that Redeeming Love proves that, these days, all you have to do to sell a book as Christian is put the word “God” or a prayer in there every couple of chapters. Because honestly, if you have any spiritual sensitivity at all, you won’t get past the first few chapters of this book before your spirit starts screaming “NO NO NO NO NO!” And then you have bad dreams. And get to work on purging it from your mind because it is doing actual harm to your spirit.

For full disclosure, I am a Christian. I watch R rated movies, drink scotch, think sex is an amazing gift from God, and live my life in freedom. So I’m in no way, shape or form a prude, a legalist, or “religious.”

2. The Hunger Games, etc.

I read these to see what all the hubub was about. I still don’t know. I read all three, and my take away was basically that it was disturbing, gross, graphic and completely lacking in likable, sypathetic characters (except 2, and they kill both of them off, so my point still stands). My teenage son didn’t want to read the books but he did want to see the movie, so I went with him (and I’m happy to report that he didn’t like it). I was horrified to find that there was much discussion online about the suitability of dropping off tweens to see this movie in groups. Um, what? Seriously? On what planet do we send an 11 year old with a group of friends to watch a bunch of people HER OWN AGE killing each other for sport? Did I miss the time warp back to ancient Rome? I had someone tell me it wasn’t violent… And I asked him what part of cyborg-ish engineered dogs eating someone alive, a teenager throwing a spear through a 12 year old’s stomach at close range, blood splashing all over the place as a dozen kids slash each other to pieces to get a backpack… which part of those (and many other equally lovely scenes) wasn’t violent? OK, fine, you want to go see it, go. If you insist on giving in to your tween’s demand to see it because “everyone else is”, then go WITH HER. Talk about it.

There is, at least, some redeeming value in these books if you can get past the gore, and that’s the anti-big government, anti-Hollywood expose. But those lessons aren’t worth the self absorbed characters, the complete lack of any spirituality at all (positive or negative), the ever increasing grossness of the ways the Capitol thinks of to kill people, and people think of to kill each other, and the sputter-to-a-stop-because-I’m-done-now ending.

3. Twilight

Badly written? Check. Absusive male? Check. Woman willing to do anything to make abusive man love her? Check.

What’s the deal with the glorification of rape these days? Since when have we decided that guys who are manipulative, creepy, stalkers are the kind we would do anything for. And since when is it ok to tell our precious daughters this? Would you actually say this to your daughter? If she came home and did a Bella, and gushed all about Edward and his creepy stalkerness, would you say, “Wow, he sounds great, and he’s rich!” I sincerely, truly, hope not. Really. Because it’s really pretty scary to think that this whole generation of young women are so in love with Edward, and think Bella is so lucky. Really.

4. 50 Shades of Grey

And this is my biggest concern. Because this crap is insanely popular, supposedly women all over the country want their husbands to be like Christian Grey, and the sex is “rejuvinating” marriages. OK, do you get that this is BDSM? And not, actually, consensual BDSM, because Ana says Christian “hits” and “beats” her, and she’s always trying to find a way to get away from him. He is a seriously, and I mean seriously, creepy stalker. For goodness sake, he buys kidnapping supplies from Ana the first time he comes to her work! He threatens to rape her in public, multiple times. He gets mad when people call her – get that, not when she calls people, but when they, outside of her control, call her. He controls her food. He keeps showing up at places he has no business knowing about, and taking control of her. The things he wants to do to her… OK, if you’re into BDSM, that’s your thing. I don’t get it, but if it’s safe and consensual, whatever. In 50 Shades of Grey, it is neither. You keep expecting him to just kill her and get it over with. He is a creepy, sick, bad, bad person. And yet, THIS is apparently the kind of relationship that millions of women around the country want with their husbands. I feel like I’ve been dropped into an alternative universe.

A couple of major issue, but more minor than the above, are that the book is really badly written and it is plagarized, for all intents and purposes. E.L. James used to post fan fiction using the name Snowqueens Icedragon. She posted the 50 Shades stuff as Twilight fan fiction, using the Twilight characters. Then she changed the names and published it as “original”. Why the heck she hasn’t been sued by Stephanie Meyer or her publisher, I have no idea. Fan fic is fine. Lots of people enjoy it, and most fan fic writers are doing it because they love the characters and know them well. But you can’t publish fan fiction as original work. It’s just not done. It’s not ethical, and theoretically it’s not legal.

So there’s my rant. But it’s not just that all of these (except The Hunger Games, I’ll give Suzanne Collins that) are badly written. That doesn’t effect me, my own ability to write or craft a tale, or to publish. But it does effect my ability to live in this society. It makes me question my fellow human beings and what in the heck is going on when these kinds of books, with these kinds of stories and these kinds of themes are the ones making millions. I am all for capitalism. Go make millions! That’s wonderful. But millions on this crap… wow. That’s really all I can say. Wow.


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