Book Nerd Problems #20: The Hype Train

Posted March 13, 2014 by Debby in Book Nerd Problems, Discussions / 20 Comments

This is a periodic discussion feature here at Snuggly Oranges about the many problems one can run into as a book nerd.

#20. The Hype Train

Here we go. I’ve been putting off writing this post since at least November. It’s been in my head for so long but I just never really knew how to express it. And after being fooled by yet another hype train… I can’t put it off any longer. So here’s the thing about hype: ………I hate it.

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The Problem with Hype

Now I’m not going to blame people for hyping up books. I realize that I myself can be part of the hype machine (more on that later). In fact, hype creation is a pretty natural thing. You like something, you want others to like it, so you tell them about it, they like it, they tell others, etc. etc. The train is rolling onward. But at some point, at least for me in the context of books, a critical mass is reached, and it gets too hard to handle.

Usually hype starts out when prominent readers in the community are in love with a book. They express their love with SHOUTY CAPS and as a logical consequence, people take notice. They read it, shout, etc. We covered that. (I do wonder, quite often, if the social desirability bias comes into play here – but heh, this is no place for academics, back to nonsense.) But when every single day I hear someone go SHOUTY CAPS over the same book? I start to back away in fear. When it becomes a herd and they start targeting the SHOUTY CAPS at me, that I MUST read this thing?

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Already in general I don’t like to be told that I MUST DO a certain thing. More likely than not (except for close friends), if you tell me in a shouty way that I must do some thing, that thing goes down the priority list by 10 spots. This is an instinctive reaction. I dunno. I like my actions to be my own, I guess.

But aside from that, the problem with hype is that when it builds to this critical mass and so many people are swearing that that book gives them ALL THE FEELS and is ROMANTIC PERFECTION and IS HEARTBREAKING OMG, I become less and less excited. You’re promising some extremely extravagant things. Going by experience… unlikely that that will be the case. It’s been really rare for me for a book to actually deliver on those promises. If a book is made to sound like it’s the best thing since sliced bread, the best book in the world, and it’s so amazing, beautiful, gripping, etc., I’m going to be heartbroken when it just… isn’t. Because, truly, not every book has the same effect on every reader. I think we’ve all been the black sheep before, and it’s not fun – especially not when people have PROMISED you you’d love it.

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The result of hype

Let’s do some examples, to show the different aspects of hype that I’m talking about. Please note that I’m not pointing fingers at people for saying or promising things because you’re free to express all your love for books. This is merely my internal instinctive reaction to hype (and I do wish I could change it, but then again I wish I could change so many things about myself *sigh*).

Last year, I read If I Stay and (reluctantly) Where She Went by Gayle Forman. And this is where the “not every book works for every reader” thing comes into play. This book got massive hype, 5 star ratings all around, and MANY reader and blogger friends LITERALLY promised me I would cry and my heart would be broken, etc. etc. It wasn’t. I didn’t. Because grief stories don’t work for me, I discovered. And here I felt really guilty about that. Friends had expressed how this was one of their favorite series and, indeed, that they cried so much because of it. I felt like an emotionless robotic jerkface.

Back in November, I halfway committed to participating in The Midnight Garden‘s readalong for The Book Thief. I simply marked the book as currently reading on Goodreads, and within minutes the reactions on GR and Twitter started flowing in. “OMG THIS BOOK IS AMAZING.” “AHHH I LOVE THIS BOOK.” “YOU’RE GOING TO CRYYYY.” “THIS IS MY ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOK.” The list goes on. Some of this happened before I actually started reading, but I shrugged it off. I went to read, got about 15 pages in, put it down, came back, saw the comment explosion and knew… I couldn’t do it. Nope.

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In January, I read The 5th Wave. I had purposefully already waited over half a year to get the hype out of my head. However, some general things are hard to truly forget: the fact that my GR friends average rating was 4.5, for one. The fact that supposedly this book would be HORRIFYING and creepy, for another. It did not go well. And if I’m honest, I might have rated that one higher than 1 orange if I didn’t feel so badly deceived.

In February, I read The Winner’s Curse. Now mind you, I still thought this book was great (4 oranges!). But with the amount that EVERYONE was gushing about this, I thought it would be absolute mindblowing perfection. This should have been the greatest thing since sliced bread. This should have been my new favorite book of all time. It….. wasn’t. And in this case it made me wonder if I would have liked it better if I hadn’t heard anything about it beforehand (I think I would have).

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And now, my most recent example. It is… These Broken Stars. And now it’s a different kind of hype, because though most people loved this book, I knew some black sheep, so I wouldn’t be alone in that case. I still thought the book was great, but my reading experience wasn’t. Why, you ask? Because I knew some heartbreakingly shocking thing would happen. It would be HEARTBREAKING. It would be SHOCKING. I wouldn’t be able to believe it. With the massive hype, I knew the exact page number it would happen, even, because EVERYONE and their mother marked that page in a status update on Goodreads. So my whole reading experience was spent guessing what it was and checking how many pages to go until that moment and… I wasn’t as absorbed by the story. And yes. I guessed it right at the beginning. (Christina will attest.) I was not shocked.

How hype is changing my habits

  • I’ve disabled Goodreads from posting my status updates on my feed. I’m still updating, but to myself, mostly because of reactions like my example about The Book Thief. It’s better for me to read in isolation, in a bubble, until I’ve formed my own opinion, I’ve found. Super duper hyped books, like The Book Thief (if ever), I will be reading in absolute tip-top secret. (And do note that if you comment telling me to read it, you’re only tacking more months on until I finally pick it up.)
  • I’m becoming more objective in my reviews. I take more time nowadays to think about why a book worked for me, why it might not for others, and what kind of readers would like the book. And I try to make that clear so that even if I have sections where I shout and flail, the reader can still derive the probability that they will like it themselves.
  • I’ve found that I can best read those super hyped up books either before the hype wave or LONG after it passes. I don’t like to rain on anybody’s parade, and I also don’t like to go into a book when those promises are so fresh in my mind.
  • My ratings sometimes might try to compensate for overhyped books. Like with my example about The 5th Wave, I might feel the need to set the record straight if I’m deceived by hype like that. I mean, the hype contributed greatly to my rage. It’s hard to remain objective when the hype caused you such disappointment.
  • If you closely follow me, you may have noticed that in general, I’m less excitable, particularly when discussing books on Goodreads/Twitter. This is a combination of two factors (a) I’m trying to keep myself from getting swept up in hype, and (b) I’m trying not to be the person who makes these huge hyped up promises to others. I’m mostly sticking to my reviews for my flails and shouty caps, and outside of that I remain relatively quiet. I don’t know what to say. Some days I feel like I’ve just…….. broken my smolder. Or I’m just constantly doing the “lower your expectations” dance.
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TL;DR

This is just me. Really, just me. I’m just instinctively extremely hype-averse. And I think that I’m BY FAR the exception in the book blogging community. But yeah, these are just thoughts that are swimming in my head, and I thought I’d put it out there, so should any of you be hype-averse as well, *sings* you’ve got a friend in me.

Wondering how to get me to read a book then, if shouty caps and insistence won’t work? Gillian tweeted it best once upon a time (though I lost the tweet). I laughed then, but also acknowledged that it’s so true. She likened me to a frightened baby bird (or something), which you have to approach with caution. Tell me calmly that you think I’d like that book… and then watch from a distance. Otherwise your words may in fact have the opposite effect, and I’ll scamper off.

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20 responses to “Book Nerd Problems #20: The Hype Train

  1. Like you, I am weary of the hype. However, it’s the hype generated from my friends that I find the most grating. I avoided the Hunger Games like the plague because all my friends were gushing about it…. constantly. I just couldn’t stand it. They called me a book hipster for not being willing to try it… which made me avoid it more. Then a couple years later after I saw the movie (I know.. gasp), I decided to give teh books a chance. I read them without telling any of my friends, and I loved them! So I agree that the hype machine has negative side effects, but sometimes you might miss out on something just because you avoid the hype.
    Jordin (@ A Bottomless Book Bag) recently posted Throwback Reads: Get R DoneMy Profile

  2. Very true! Hypes make me have way too high expectations for books, and there is just no way for them to actually match my standards. I totally recognize that now that the best mind set to start a book is expecting nothing or expecting worse, so then you will be pleasantly surprised, though most of my TBRs are books with raving reviews because that’s how I heard about them. I guess there is really no way to avoid hype trains and I don’t know if I can hold on to read books after everything has passed, but I think the awareness only would help in a big way.
    Angel (Spare Reads) recently posted Review: World After (Penryn & the End of Days, #2)My Profile

  3. I don’t really mind hypes, but it’s always extra hard when you don’t enjoy a book as much as everybody else – especially if you know it’s because of your too high expectations. That’s why I always try to find reviews from both sides to keep my mind from going THIS BOOK IS GOING TO BE THE BEST. Reading before or after the hype works for me too! I don’t know what it is, but the more I see ‘this book is the best’ the more I want to stay away from it.. but when it all has passed and I don’t hear many people about it, I’m getting all excited again.
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted Review 240. Dan Wells – Ruins.My Profile

  4. I’m going to put off reading The Winner’s Curse, for this reason. I don’t think I’m as affected by hype as you are, but it definitely factors in to my expectations for a book. While I’ll never forget that everyone loved The Winner’s Curse, in a year from now I might be getting excited to start the series because everyone will be (presumably) raving about its sequel.

    I’m also glad I wasn’t around for the hype for These Broken Stars. It was one of the first books I read after my blogging/reading slump felt over, and I loved it. I can imagine being equally distracted if I had been anticipating this major thing happening; I would have been looking for clues or making guesses. Going in blind was one of the best things I could do; I had no expectations and I think it read better for it.
    Kelly recently posted Book Review: The Golden LilyMy Profile

  5. Joanna W.

    I hate book hype too. When a book is so hyped, it makes me feel like I should read it immediately. And for me, more than not, those books don’t meet their stellar reviews. In actuality, the best books I’ve read have been ones I’ve came across on my own. They tend to be ones that have been out for years and don’t get reviewed for that reason. I’ve noticed in YA, books that aren’t either current or been out within the last 5 years get basically forgotten. An example of one of my self discovered books that I really loved was The Kiesh’ra series (first book, Hawksong) by Amelia Atwater Rhodes, published in 2003. It’s a hidden gem that I wished would get some buzz.

  6. Oh, gosh! That gif at the end of the bunny is SO adorable! <3

    But on a more serious side, I agree with you completely. Honestly, it's hard for me to join the hype train after it has become a thing. For example, I loved Divergent. Probably because when I read that book, I had no idea that there was this thing called Goodreads. I had no idea. Some lady at Barnes & Noble said, "Did you like The Hunger Games? Then you'll probably like Divergent!" and I said, "Sure, whatever." I never really experienced the hype monster with that series until Allegiant, and I'm convinced the hype over that book is what swayed me to give it such a high rating (5 stars and regretting it every day). Thinking back, I think it really only deserved 2 or 2.5 (sorry if you loved it).

    But a good example would be The Book Thief, like you mentioned. So many people loved it. The kids at my school who read it loved it. So I borrowed it from one of those kids, and it took me three weeks (or more? I can't remember) to finish it. I just couldn't. And I was spoiled for the ending, so that didn't help. I understand that it was a character development book and all, but you are literally the first person that I've met/read about that hasn't loved that book.

    The same thing with The 5th Wave. I gave it 3-4 stars (I don't remember), but that's only because I liked the idea and the action. I hated Cassie. And her relationship with Evan. And Ben was annoying. I just couldn't with that book. (Yet I'll probably still read the next book.)

    ANOTHER EXAMPLE. I'M SORRY THIS COMMENT IS SONG. The Iron King. Oh, god. If you loved that book, I'm really sorry about what I'm going to say. I like the book and keep reading only because of Kagawa's addictive writing/world. Otherwise I'd ditch that series. Ash and Meghan. I want to slaughter myself. Those two are just…uggggh.

    Anyywayyy.

    Great posts! You have some wonderful points!

    Tori @ YA Book Queens

  7. I’ve definitely had this problem with all books, and not just the hyped up ones. Since I would read so many reviews of the books I want to read, when I finally read them, I end up not forming my own opinions. Now it’s been much better. I don’t let the rating or reviews on Goodreads bias me, or I just don’t read them, and I’ve been able to write better reviews overall.

    I also didn’t like These Broken Stars as much either, but I did love the Book Thief.
    Valerie @ Innocent Smiley Reviews recently posted Updates!My Profile

  8. I love getting excited with friends over books and going into ALL CAPS MODE.

    But I get it. Absolutely. There have been a number of instances where I’ve read a book that multiple people have loved and I’m just like…whaaaa.

    Your comment about reading These Broken Stars is a great one. I hate it when I find out in advance that a book has a BIG TWIST or that something MASSIVE happens at the half way point. I become hyper aware while reading and I almost always figure it out before the event. Without being warned beforehand I might actually have been shocked by the twist…and a good moment of shock always helps when I look back on the book!
    Natalie Crown recently posted The Wolf’s Cry Book Tour – Days 5 & 6My Profile

  9. Book hype is so horrible. Book hype is so different than movie hype or TV hype. I can usually reign myself in on movies or TV, but book hype makes me very nervous. The 5th Wave broke me of that feel-good high of book hype. Now I try to bunker down and avoid it. I have The Winner’s Curse, and I might wait a little while before I read it.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted Book Review: Tin Star by Cecil CastellucciMy Profile

  10. We pretty much approach the hype train the same way! In general, I tend to avoid reading books when they’re being hyped up way too much, often reading them months (or even a year or two) later so that all the impressions I had of it are now at a minimal level. It’s hard for me to read hyped up books immediately, because I find myself so afraid that I won’t love or like a book that someone else did. But my method normally works for me, leaving me free to evaluate my own individual reaction to the novel.
    Alexa S. recently posted The Legacies & Secret Histories – Pittacus Lore (Novella Reviews)My Profile

  11. Totally understand where you’re coming from with book hype. When the prominent readers love, love, LOVE a book you feel like you’re compelled to as well. Like take TFiOS for me, whilst I LOVED that book, I feel like I would have become a lot more emotionally attached to the character if I’d been allowed to form my own opinions rather than being told “You’re going to love this book”, “You’re going to sob your heart out” or “This book will break you”.
    Alice recently posted Book Haul (#1)My Profile

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