OK, I feel like this is a really unpopular opinion, but it kind of annoys me when YA protagonists randomly spend a paragraph or whole page waxing poetic about bookstores or libraries or books in general.
Why does this bother me? Shouldn’t I be happy to see that the protagonist is just as obsessed with books as I am, and that she or he understands and appreciates things like physical copies of books or rooms filled from floor to ceiling with old tomes and classics? What is wrong with me?!
Well, I think there’s something wrong with these characters – they really don’t care about books. Sure, sometimes loving books will actually be a character trait, a big or little part of their personality that pops up every so often during the story. I don’t have a problem with this. My problem centers around the types of characters who will, out of the blue, declare their love of books, normally old-fashioned classics rather than the silly little things published now (oh, you mean like the book you’re in right now?).
These characters don’t seem to actually care about books. They’ll suddenly jump on the book-loving bandwagon if they happen to stumble upon a library or a bookstore, but otherwise the trait is quickly forgotten, normally in favor of a guy or some big, we-need-to-save-the-world-adventure. It’s like the author only threw it in because he or she wanted the reader to feel a greater connection with the character. The author, as an author, probably loves books as well, so there’s also a chance that they only included it in order to live through their characters. If you want your character to get all excited over a book, then you have to show that they love books in multiple places throughout the book!
Sometimes the trait does show up multiple times, but there’s still something about it that annoys me – namely, the book-loving trait will only seem to extend to Jane Austen. Maybe the Bronte sisters or some other 19th (they were from the 1800s, right? Sorry if I’m wrong) century author. Pretty much all protagonists that have reading as a trait seem to love Jane Austen. And while I know this is often true in real life, I’d like a few protagonists that actually read modern books, or maybe some who even *gasp* haven’t read Jane Austen. If you want your reader to continue reading the books you publish in the 21st century, you might want to stop bringing up Pride and Prejudice or the like – otherwise, they might just put down your book and read that instead.
So, authors, please stop using “reading” as a convenient personality trait for connecting the reader and protagonist, and please let some protagonists read books that weren’t around when their great-great-something-grandparents were around! Maybe it’s just me, but I’m really starting to get sick of it.