Growing Pains: How to Tell if You’ve Outgrown a Book

Growing up is just a part of life, just like books are definitely a part of mine. I’ve grown up reading a wide variety of books, and I’ve left many behind, just from having to grow up. There was my reading level, of course. An eager academic beaver such as me is always ready to push her reading and comprehension skills higher and higher. So naturally, I don’t find my kindergarten favorite Benny’s Big Bubble quite as riveting as I used to. Other times, I mature emotionally and feel like certain elements of a series I once loved seemed flat or silly.

The whole business can be rather heart breaking, especially when you have to talk about book series. Like many kids starting to become not kids, there were times I felt I had to distance myself from things I’d liked when I was younger.

Once, post Benny’s Big Bubble era, I loved to read the historical American Girl Doll books, because I’d gotten great depression Kit Kittredge doll and book for Christmas, but I also liked my sister’s Victorian era Samantha doll and book too. I devoured all those books. I was almost in danger of running out of them when puberty hit, and stopped reading the books. They weren’t cool peaks into the past anymore, they were a ridiculous commercial ploy to get me to buy more stuff for my doll, which I was too big for anyhow.  I then set off to prove I wasn’t a simple little girl with no brain at all by falling in love with the Twilight Saga. And then, of course, being the sensible adult person that I am, I spent as much time as possible pretending I definitely never read Twilight in the first place, no, not at all.

The point is, this whole business of outgrowing books is natural, and I’ve come to be more accepting of it on the whole. I respect the American Girl Doll industry for giving me books I loved, even if it was just so I would want to buy Kit’s hobo outfit from Kit Saves the Day. I’ve even publicly admitted, on this blog, twice that I was a Twi-hard. See? I’m coming to terms with most of it. I suppose I won’t outgrow books so quickly now that I’ve made it past the rapid growth of childhood and adolescent. Still, though, I’m ready for it, and I want you to be too. Here are some things I noticed, am still noticing really, that indicate a book might not be for you anymore.

1. Basic Reading.

Probably the easiest one to identify here. When you learn more words and stuff, reading gets easier. When reading gets easier, books get easier, and some get so dull with their basic language that you just can’t handle it anymore. Yes Benny, I know your bubble is big. Is it really just big, though, Benny, or is it vast, bulbous, tumescent? You can do better than that, Benny.

You don’t even bulk up your reading skills in schools only either. Just reading often enough will help you develop to the point where you “level up” in the lit-world, so to speak.This isn’t to say you should only read the hardest books you can get through of course, just that you’ll probably be bored by simpler books, and you shouldn’t be afraid to try new things, or ashamed that you used to struggle through the basic prose of, say, Twilight.

2. The Feels.

Oh, the feels! Like I said, maturing as a reader can make emotional conflicts in some books seem flat and silly. Just what do I mean? Well, after I read the fourteenth or fifteenth young adult novel where a strong young girl had to stop the apocalypse or start the rebellion or end the dystopia, but was distracted by her love for her childhood sweetheart versus some new sexy face who urged her to accept her fate as the chosen whatever, I started to get a bit nauseous.

What used to seem like charged romance seemed quite silly to me now. It wasn’t just repetitive: it was maddening. The kids acted stupid, the dialogue seemed flat, the romance a forced subplot threatening to take over the actually interesting action. I had thought this was just a result of reading so many books of the same or similar structure. However, when I started to read adult books, which certainly still had plenty of apocalypses and dystopias, plenty of chosen ones meant to save the world, I found the conflicts, the romance seemed less hollow to me, even when there were obvious tropes like the old versus new love triangle, I still felt the stuff was better written.

3. The Fandom.

As much as I don’t like letting who reads what drive my reading choices, I do have to admit that looking at the fandom community surrounding a book helped me decide whether or not I wanted to keep reading a series.  One of the main things that drove me out of Twilight for example, was how rabid I felt the fans were getting. I won’t say I saw anyone get shanked over an Edward-Jacob issue at a movie or book release, but it came close. The more I thought about it, the more I felt annoyed at how divided and simplistic the communal view on the story had become. Either Edward was a total dreamboat and Jacob was a smelly flea bag or Jacob was a shiny hunk of burning love and Edward was a creepy old vampire that was no good for Bella. I wanted romance with more shades of gray in it. Yes, even more than fifty shades of gray. I wanted a more realistic, complex story.

Keep these three markers in mind and I hope you’ll have an easier time deciding whether you should break up with a longtime book beau or not. Remember though, Outgrowing a young adult book or kids book doesn’t mean outgrowing all of that reading level forever. Plenty of young adult books are fully realized, beautiful stories and an especially well done children’s book can still make you, or me anyhow, burst into tears.

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