I’m slowly reading Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick. I first heard of it last week after it won the Printz award, although so far I can’t tell what makes it Young Adult. It’s been an interesting experience. I hit the buy button without even reading the whole blurb, and proceeded to be thoroughly freaked out by the first few pages. The ambiance of the book is dark and filled with foreboding and dread. It’s a weird but oddly compelling and well done book, and I’m not surprised that it's getting praise and awards.
The reason why I’m telling you this is because everything about the book is surprising and makes me feel like I’m discovering something new and secret. The complete lack of expectations enriches the reading experience. It’s a feeling I haven’t had in a while, because ever since I started blogging, I’m hyper aware of new books, old books and, especially, of upcoming books.
December and January are all about the “Best of” lists, but there are also many posts highlighting anticipated and must-have future releases. If you’re easily distracted like me, then those lists feel like they are out to ensure your “To Be Read” pile never gets read. I mean, how am I supposed to read all these books I have right here when I’m so busy thinking about all the future books I want to read? And when you add social media, popular authors, and marketing to the mix, the new books become even more appealing.
But is the satisfaction we find in the public act of waiting replacing the satisfaction found in the private act of reading?
One of the most anticipated books of 2013 was Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh. Even if you don’t follow the series, I’m sure you were made aware of it by the constant hype. First, the author was secretive, going as far as to refuse to announce who the next main couple would be (although her refusal probably wasn't entirely hers). Then, the publisher made twitter parties to celebrate the releases of the cover and blurb. Characters took over twitter, and we wrote posts speculating about their identity. When people received early copies and posted spoilers, we were angry and outraged. The anticipation was so intense that we could almost feel the weight of the book in our hands. And then we got the book and to some it was everything they wanted, but to others, like me, it was anticlimactic and not up to this mythical book we had created in all those months of endless wait. Looking back at it, I realize that I enjoyed waiting for the book more than reading it, but it was an exhausting and slightly manipulative experience that I never want to repeat.
It’s funny because the reason why I created this blog was to share my experiences with others and to become an active member of the Romance community. But maybe we’re oversharing. Sometimes it feels like we’re too much into the hype game and we forget what we’re here for. I buy a lot of books, but I also review a lot of ARCs. I hate early reviews, but posting them on release day only guarantees that those who wish to read the book can do it, yet it still limits the conversation to those questions and ideas that can be discussed without having read the book first. In that regard, release-week reviews are no different than early reviews.
There’s also the question of to which degree the anticipation helps and /or hurts the books and the readers. Books can be victims of too many expectations, but is it possible that the hype can blind us to some of their faults? And is that one of the reasons why some publishers capitalize on our anticipation?
This is a continuation of the conversation we started a year ago, but I don’t feel as gracious as I did back then. Anticipation and excitement are not bad things, but there should be a balance, and perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at the reasons why we have become so invested in books that haven’t been published yet, and to examine how our shifting attention has changed the way we read and experience books.