This week, I finished Courtney Summer’s new book, All the Rage, on Friday. It was to the last 15% of the Kindle book, so I found any excuse to finish it by the end of the day: Lunch, breaks, more breaks, anything. I used it all to polish off the last of the book.
I was in tears by the end of the day, for reasons. The book was killer. I walked out of work with red, splotchy eyes and a runny nose.
The person I carpool with, someone I adore very much and love (I mean, she is family!), looked at me and knew I’d been crying. I told her I had a headache from trying to not cry (or, cry harder), and then launched into the book, the subject of the book (rape) and how it impacts our society. She looked me right in the face and asked me, “Why do you read those books? Do you think it makes you a better reader?”
This took me by complete surprise, and I was left a bit speechless. She honestly did not mean for it to come out as an insult or an accusation. She wanted to know why even bother reading a book that causes you pain or grief. Why bother with the gritty, darker fiction when it is escapism? If a book is going to make you cry, and rage against society, then why open it? Why even try?
I’ve turned this topic over in my head and looked at every angle of the reasons. Sure, I don’t have to defend my reading choice, but I also want to present the reasons for reading the less sugary, feel good books to someone who honestly does not understand the attraction to the grittier side of YA.
Sure, there are various reasons…
…such as: you’re tired of the rainbows and sunshine, it is a topic that is interesting, you love the author, you love the setting, you like the names, the cover was awesome, and so on. If I had to stand by one of my reasons, shuffle through all of the bullet points and hold one up proudly, it is this: Victims rarely get a voice in real life.
They’re fighting back through fiction. Topics that are too delicate or uncomfortable for public discussion become censored because “polite society” doesn’t want to acknowledge that we have some serious issues. In return, blame becomes the burden of the target, the person who lost the most in the situation, the victim of the crime and the persecution. Their stories are fascinating and make for some wonderful stories. However, it isn’t entertainment I am after. It is social justice. It is making a stand for their silenced voices.
I do it for the people who are facing down the world, the people that are fighting for fairness and balance. I do it because it is RIGHT.
Do you read books that have some tough topics? Are the books still enjoyable? What is your response to the question posed by someone on the outside of the reading world?