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Hype in YA - Blessing or Curse?


With it being awhile since I've done a discussion post, coupled with the fact that I've been reading a slew of overly hyped up books that didn't quite live up to expectations, I decided that hype in YA lit was a good topic to tackle.

hype -
verb
1. to stimulate, excite, or agitate (usually followed by up ): She was hyped up at the thought of owning her own car.
2. to create interest in by flamboyant or dramatic methods; promote or publicize showily: a promoter who knows how to hype a prizefight.
3. to intensify (advertising, promotion, or publicity) by ingenious or questionable claims, methods, etc. (usually followed by up).
5. exaggerated publicity; hoopla.

So, I can't tell you how many times a book has been built up as the most ingenious thing since the invention of Kit Kats, only to be thoroughly disappointed when I finally get the chance to see what all the hoopla is about. You know what I'm talking about: When you stumble upon reviews that sing a book's praises, and after you read the book yourself, you find yourself wondering WTF are these people talking about? I'm sure this has happened to everyone at what point or another.

There's also the occasional cases when the book might not actually be bad per say. But, the positive aspects have been exaggerated to the point of irritation, leaving certain readers with that inevitable feeling of  disappointment. And though I've been in the same boat repeatedly, hype has never successfully turned me off to a book. Because I like to believe that the book is actually as great as everyone says.

However, these days I find myself growing more and more agitated with the constant hype of some of these books out there, books that happen to have gorgeous covers, great and intriguing summaries, and stellar reviews, when in actuality they contain little or nothing to back up all the acclaim. I've noticed that two things happen in instances like these: 1) At some point, I realize that I'm enjoying the story far less than I anticipated, and my discontent solidifies and clouds any potentially delightful story elements and/or 2) I begrudge the novel for sucking so much attention to itself, when there are better newcomers out there that should be commended.

Take Starcrossed or DIE FOR ME. These aren't examples of necessarily poor novels for my tastes, because in all fairness, they were actually pretty good. But, they weren't as fantastic, to me, as others have claimed them to be. With everyone raving about how spectacular these books were, that's what I was expecting. And because I started getting that sinking feeling of disappointment, I couldn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to. I almost wish that I had picked these two up after the hype died down so that I could read with a clearer, more open mind. A mindset that wasn't tainted by the aforementioned hoopla, to see if maybe it is just the hype, and therefore all in my head. Because I'm almost completely positive that there would be a considerable difference. Contrarily, I've heard close to nothing - though, perhaps that's just me - about AWAKEN, a 2011 debut, by Katie Kacvinsky, for instance, and I found it to be extraordinary. Exceptional. Outstanding. I have an all-consuming love for this novel.

Still, I'm forced to ask myself, If it had been hyped up like all the rest, would I have loved it as much? Does hype really tend to ruin a perfectly good read? 

Granted, there are those where the hype is supported by excellent content. Ones that especially come to mind include The Demon Trapper's Daughter City of Fallen Angels, Waterfall, and Anna and the French Kiss.

What it all comes down to is tastes. And "intensified promotion," aka hype, discounts the diversity of tastes within the book reading majority. With so many people raving on and on about a supposedly fantastic read, a reader can only assume that these people have cause to be that way. And shady reviews and posting for the sake of good publicity aside, maybe they do. However, what about readers like me, readers who are either overly optimistic or naturally curious, that end up being letdown? With so much evidence to support the fact that hype can be damaging, I'm compelled to view said hype as nothing more than a curse. One that is detrimental to my reading experience.

Now, just because I feel that way doesn't mean you do. When you think hype, what comes to mind? Is overzealous promotion harmful or helpful, good or bad, a blessing or a curse placed upon YA lit? Smack me, good-naturedly, with your thoughts.

4 comments:

Logan E. Turner said...

I do the same thing while reading a hyped book. At some point I realize I don't like it and it clouds my experience of the rest of the book.
But I will absolutely join your squee party re: AWAKEN. I'm posting my review on Monday and I just loved it. Such a great book!

A. Knight said...

I hate it when that happens, really I do. It totally kills the joy out of it. And it is fantastic, isn't it? I hope you enjoy my review come Monday! And I'll be looking forward to reading yours!

Small Review said...

I'm kind of the opposite. When a book is majorly hyped, it actually turns me off from reading it. I get all Eeyore about it and feel like I'll be the one person who didn't like the book. Left out of the party. Alone. *Sob* So I don't want to read the book. That happened with Anna and the French Kiss, which I still haven't read.

The worst hype for me is the hype I create myself. Like Wake Unto Me...I heard ghostly romance and I instantly super-hyped it in my head because I love ghost romances. Except...I didn't like this book.

Hype can also be annoying because it just gets boring seeing the same book reviewed fifty million times.

A. Knight said...

I know! None of that used to be a problem for me, but now it it's catching up to me. I'm getting more and more put off by the hype. *sigh* And I've noticed that when I build up expectations in my head, I get easily disappointed. But, I know what you mean.