Hype is a common concept to hear in relation to books coming soon. In fact, you can make the same argument I’m making today with movies and video games. For me, “hype” is eerily similar to advertising a product. It is how a company gets us, the reader, excited about a new book. They create hype around a product. In the case of books, it may be by releasing the cover picture, or synopsis, or even an announcement of the next book by our favorite author. The authors go on tour to promote their book, and bookstores offer the book to be pre-ordered.
I constantly hear other bloggers talking about the latest hyped books (most of which I’ve never heard of because I honestly don’t bother keeping up with new books). But so often, when a book comes out, I hear how expectations were distant from reality. Yes, many people may love the book, but when it comes to hype, it’s impossible to make everyone happy.
So today I want to discuss something I’ve been thinking about for a while: what price does the average reader pay for hype?
Reality is Always Worse
Hype is all about the emotion. That giddy feeling when you hear your favorite author is coming out with a new book or when you read a great novel and look greedily to find when the sequel is coming out. It is entirely based on the pathos of a person’s character. There may be some logic involved (if you liked the previous book why wouldn’t you like the second one), but for the most part our excitement is based completely on emotion.
However, as any reader can tell you, emotions can be dangerous. Just as authors get our favorite characters into twisted tales of betrayal and revenge through emotions, the publishing companies get us so excited that reality can never match all the variables we concoct in our head.
Let’s take Game of Thrones, for example. Now that the final season is over (with a lot of negative reviews), so many readers have one question in mind: how will the books end? Will they end the same as the TV series? I don’t avidly watch the show, but I do keep up on the basics of the plot and characters, watching frequent analyses of the episodes. I can make the argument I was a relatively unbiased viewer, but I watched for years as avid fans made predictions (most of which were disproved by the end). And I couldn’t help but think that nothing the filmmakers could have done would make everyone happy because for years hype kept rising and it is perhaps that hype that made many people upset about the final season.
The same thing happened with Harry Potter when the books finally came to an end. A lot of people were extremely displeased with some of the choices in the final book, like the epilogue at the end. I had a mostly favorable view of this series, but I can see a lot of reasonable points critics said. But it stands to reason that the ending wouldn’t be as controversial if the readers hadn’t been building up in their minds exactly how they wanted the series to end.
This is my point, that reality can never be as good as what the fans cook up in their heads because each person wants different things. Some fans might have wanted Hermione and Harry to end up together, and some fans didn’t want Snape to die. Some fans wanted an open-ended ending, so the epilogue was horrible to them. What I’m saying is that hype only creates discontent for a reader.
I myself struggle with hype as well. I have had books by my favorite author that I really didn’t like, but I looked forward to because I had loved their other books.
Let the Story Speak For Itself
A good book is a good book, whether it’s hyped or not. Just because ten people you know hype a book does not mean you’ll like it.
What I’m saying is that you should go into any book with as open a mind as possible. Of course bias in unavoidable, but we can still try to understand a story for what it is instead of what we want it to be.
Let’s take a look at two books I read, one of which I let the story speak for itself and the other I went into with high expectations: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black and Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young. Looking back, both are extremely similar books. Both YA fantasy, following a young female protagonist thrust in a strange, dangerous world, and they were both published in 2018. So why did I give the former two stars and the latter five stars? Why did I enjoy one for the most part and highly disliked the other. If you’re curious to read my full reviews of both books, here’s links for The Cruel Prince and Sky in the Deep.
Well, my simplest answer is my expectations. The Cruel Prince was such a hyped book in 2018, and I hadn’t read a single bad review for it. I love stories about fairy kingdoms, so I was hooked. But, because my expectations were higher because of hype, I was so disappointed when there were many things I disliked about the book. With Sky in the Deep, my experiences were exactly the opposite. I went into the book with very little knowledge. I read the premise, it looked interesting, and I decided to read it. Thus, my expectations were relatively low. And I really enjoyed the book.
I cannot help but wonder if I had read The Cruel Prince without knowing any of the hype for it, if I would have enjoyed it more. Similarly, if there had been more hype about Sky in the Deep and my expectations had been higher, would I have liked it less?
Do expectations and hype become detrimental to a reader? Yes, the companies get you to buy their book or watch their show, but are you as happy then if you had gone into the story without having any preconceived notions of its quality?
What is your view on this topic? Do you see that hype is dangerous, or do you see benefits for it? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,