The Compulsive Reader: Some Thoughts on John Green and Rainbow Rowell Mash-Up Marketing

Friday, August 1, 2014

Some Thoughts on John Green and Rainbow Rowell Mash-Up Marketing

Yesterday morning, I had a slight break down. It was one of those things that just happens when I am well caffeinated before 6 AM and I am fixating on something (ahem, thesis) for so long that I need a mental break and any distraction will do, and this distraction came in the form of yet ANOTHER book whose first line of description read "for fans of The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park" and then this happened:

Because. People. Come on. Let's think about this for a moment, all right?

Besides the fact that we are all growing slightly weary of hearing everything ever compared to John Green and Rainbow Rowell, throwing those two titles together to describe a book doesn't really make a lot of sense.

My MFA training must be kicking in, because the first thing I wanted to do was yell, "PROVE IT!" And then the second thing I started to do was mentally outline an essay comparing those two books and a book that has been claimed to be a mash-up of the two. The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park are two very different books. Subject matter, style, point of view, characters, plot, time periods... they are so different. When I see "The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park," this conjures up confusing images of terminally ill teens in the 1980's, talking snappily back and forth while dealing with bullying, fear of death, and abusive parents. Oh, that's not the book you're trying to sell to us? Okay then.

I know what you're probably thinking: It's marketing, Tirzah. They are talking about the types of audiences that this book will appeal to.

Why? Both Green's and Rowell's books have teenagers? Feelings? Obstacles? Emotional resonance? Well, here's the thing--every single one of the YA books I read better have those things, too. But that doesn't mean I want to keep reading The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park over and over and over again. (This is not to say they aren't great books and I wouldn't enjoy re-reading either book, of course.)

When we talk about books and recommend them, we try to find common ground between different tastes and preferences, and this is where we get the "if you like x, then you will like y" method of thinking. The problem with that is that it's too much like a computer algorithm--complex, but ultimately devoid of human taste and emotion. Instead, let's look for the elements that make books stand out, that make them interesting, unique. Creativity is not some wild unicorn to be caught and replicated over and over and over again in different settings. It's unique interpretations of the world around us. I'd much rather hear about that than an itemized list of what parts of which popular books are like this one book that I might potentially like.

I can't really change who writes these crazy blurbs and flap copies, but I think we collectively as readers and writers can change the way that we talk about books and how we find connections between them. Let's be a little more creative and a lot more intelligent about how we communicate about and recommend books.


Sarah said...

So glad your MFA is kicking in. You rock, oh brilliant one.

Unknown said...

This is a great post. I get annoyed by the constant comparisons, too. People forget that we all read widely. Teens included.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

This is the best post ever. I've read both Eleanor and Park and The Fault in Our Stars, but ever book cannot be compared or smoosh the two together. For the rest of our lives, if there's a book where the main character has cancer, it's going to be compared to TFIOS. I kind of feel bad for the authors.
Kym @ Newbie Librarians

Sorry my hyperlink was wrong the first time.

Cassie said...

Thank you for always being so eloquently articulate and saying the things I want to say but simply sound dumb trying. I love your blog and everything you have to say.

Keep being awesome!! :)

Anonymous said...

You are so right!
I remember when Lonely Hearts Club came out (a book I actually love) and the blurb said something ridiculous like "Stephanie Mayer approved" or something inane like that and I almost didn't read the book because of it.

Books just need to be what they are without saying "Oh this is the new That Author that you liked"