A Major Unhaul

So I’ve run out of space… again… which means it’s time for another unhaul! And since this is such a major unhaul, I’ve decided to break it down into categories. (Plus since I’ve reviewed most of these, you can click on pictures for reviews…) Buckle up- we’re here for the long (un)haul! 

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Here’s a sneak preview…

Let’s start with…

Uni was a long time ago…

The Norton Anthologies– I’ve finally decided to bite the bullet and get rid of these. I didn’t want to for a while, because they were a big piece of uni life, but in all honesty, I’ve flicked through them a number of times and they’re just not useful for reading. Most of it’s out of copyright and available on Project Gutenburg- plus a lot of the stuff in here is only extracts (this only has only a couple of books of Paradise Lost for instance- what use is that? Even while I was at uni I had to get the rest of it elsewhere) And as one of my professors always said, they’re more like doorstops than books anyway.

Pretty on the Outside… Ugly on the Inside

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Okay, they’re not ugly per se but I didn’t actually like most of these, so couldn’t think of a reason (except the pretty covers) to keep them. Now I want to let them go.

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The Miniaturist– So starting off with a pretty meh read. I actually asked you guys whether to keep this when I mentioned my dilemma over how I liked the cover but not the story. The overwhelming response was to get rid of it, so now I’m finally taking your advice.

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Queen of the Tearling– Same with this one- I *did not* like this at all, but was seduced by the cover to hold onto it- but you guys said it’s gotta go, so it’s gotta go 😉 Given the hype though, I like to think someone’s gonna be chuffed with this find. That’s the dream anyway.

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Three Dark Crowns– I actually didn’t mind this one and plan to read the second one at some point… But that doesn’t mean it has to take up valuable shelf (or rather box) space, cos I’m not that keen on it.

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The Girl on the Train– You know, I think the only reason I kept this one was cos I bought it new (which is rare for me). Paying almost full price (okay it was discounted) for a book made me reluctant to give it away- but I wasn’t even keen on this and the cover’s not pretty so…. Bye!

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Caraval– Annnnd this one has the *most gorgeous* cover in the world. Plus I bought it with gift vouchers so I was almost sentimental about this one…. ALMOST! It’s just massively overhyped and in the end the cover is not a good enough reason for it to stay.

Books I Like But Won’t Reread

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These were hard to part with for an entirely different reason- namely that I actually liked these books- but since I have no intention of rereading them (and no space left to debate about it) I decided it was time to let them go and find new readers to give them some love.

the vampire lestat

The Vampire Lestat– I liked this book! But man, that cover’s ghastly. And it’s not something I feel like I’ll ever get the urge to pick up again.

the fall

The Fall– Everyone and their mother know I adore this author’s work- but this one wasn’t my favourite of his, not by a big margin. Plus for reelz I don’t even own physical copies of my all-time favourite series by Nix, so I think it makes sense for this one to budge over and make room.

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A Suitable Lie– This is probably my most highly rated book on this list. But I struggle to read stories on this topic even once- there’s no way I’m gonna be able to reread it. That said, I’m feeling quite good about giving this one up, because I like the idea of someone else getting to read this story next.

ready player one

Ready Player One– Again, I liked this book- it’s really well done. Still it took me ages to get into and it’s not something I’ll ever feel the urge to reread. I considered keeping it for my sister- but she’s told me she’s not interested.

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The Sandman– Another toughie- and probably the only one I’m still on the fence about (maybe I’ll even rescue this one from the heap…) Thing is, I rarely read graphic novels and the ones I have are rated 5*. While I’ve looked through the gorgeous illustrations a few more times, I don’t actually want to reread it, hence the reason it’s in this pile.

And the rest…

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Most of these I literally have no reason to keep.

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The Killing Fields– Okay, this probably belonged in the previous  category, cos it’s a good book, I just have zero intention of rereading it. Can’t say I enjoyed it though, it’s very heavy going

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The Outsiders– Ditto with “Killing Fields”- it’s a good book, the writing style just really wasn’t for me, so I won’t reread it.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian– This book was a resounding NOPE for me. I didn’t like the style, the voice or anything about it really.

dorian will self

Dorian– I found this in a selection of books I thought I’d already combed through- I’ve not got the faintest idea why I kept this all these years because it’s TERRIBLE! This is legitimately one of the most detestable books I’ve ever read- it’s smarmy, pretentious drivel that reimagines and ruins one of my favourite books Picture of Dorian Gray. I actually feel bad about putting this one back into the world, cos whoever picks this up is gonna suffer. I hope that whoever picks it up has done something really awful to deserve it, like run over a puppy or killed someone (it’s that bad)

And that’s everything? Agree or disagree? Should I save any of these from the pile? (haha I’m just looking for excuses to back out, aren’t I?) Let me know in the comments!

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Snarking on my Childhood Writing

Okay, so I’ve been talking a lot about writing recently, but I know what you’re all thinking (or all should be thinking 😉 ) What qualifies this monkey-brained buffoon to talk about writing? Well- fear not- I have the answer! Because I was just the ripe old age of eight when I wrote my first novel- and today I’m going to share that with you… It’s called THE TRAPDOOR…

the trapdoor cover

I know looks awesome. You are in for a right treat (*ahem*) giggle. (Honest disclaimer: I found this, I thought it was a riot and decided to share it with you- plus I included my modern day snark, so what’s not to like?)

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Ooh he’s an orphan- very original.

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I feel like this is very pertinent information 😉 More importantly though, I don’t think I had much fashion sense as a child cos I think this was meant to sound tramp chic.

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I feel like this is straight up plagiarising Aladdin.

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Hehe okay, definitely Aladdin plagiarism.

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I actually like this bit- I might steal this from myself later…

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My architectural sense was as advanced as my idea of what people wore, apparently.

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Ooh drama. But is the magically warming handle thing going anywhere… Spoiler alert: I’ve read the whole thing now, no it isn’t.

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I almost missed this- but was he just wandering round a castle an ENTIRE DAY? Did he even take a moment to sit down? Also, did he have anything to eat other than that apple? So many questions…

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Suddenly isn’t so sudden when you’ve been walking round a building for a day. Just sayin’.

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AHAHAHA THIS WRITING!! I HAVE NO WORDS

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Ye wot?! Plot twist!! This is so random.

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Hahahaha oh dear- I thought the last plot twist was good. Ah well at least I gave the spider decent motivation- no one likes know-it-alls.

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I love the childlike way of being dramatic- “anger he’d never felt before”- brilliant.

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Well they sound like bastards, frankly.

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I feel like the “said in disbelief” was in no way superfluous after he said “I don’t believe you” 😉

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I just love how James lists reasons. He’s being quite calm, considering he’s facing off with a giant talking spider.

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Well this is a lot of information the hero needs all in one place…

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I love how I used the “villain tells the hero all his secret plans” trope, but I was self-aware enough to realise this was a dumb thing for the baddie to do. I also like how I had the decency to point that out- even if pointing out you’re making a dumb writing cliché doesn’t make the dumb writing cliché any less dumb. Someone should have told my eight-year-old-self that- points for effort though 😉

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Also, that teensiest bit of self-awareness clearly didn’t stop me doing more of it though.

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Aww well, nothing says a happy ending like decapitating a spider. I’m so glad that all worked out.

I’m also happy to say that I didn’t stop at the writing- no, I illustrated it too! Look at these masterpieces…

Well I hope you all got a good laugh out of that! I guess the lesson here is… everyone needs to start somewhere. Even if that start is tropey and silly and frankly hilariously bad. Happy writing!

World’s Worst Writing Advice

There are a lot of people out there giving advice on how to write and that’s a great thing… BUUUUT sometimes it’s just so bad that it just makes me want to get a bit stabby with my pen on the page, scrawling something akin to “arghhhghdjsfg whyyyy”… Okay, I’m exaggerating- though it does physically pain me to see advice palmed out to the masses that is just plain WRONG. So today, I thought I’d share with you some of the *worst* writing advice I have ever seen doing the rounds and what you need to watch out for when it comes to guidance online (and elsewhere).

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Anything that begins “in the past people did x, now they don’t…”– okay, this isn’t something you should totally write off, because it’s good to know about differences of style and technique, however it does need to be taken with a pinch of salt. I recommend when you hear this, trying to come up with some examples of modern writers that practice the technique that supposedly no modern writers use. If you can’t think of an example, read more books!– partly because that’s the solution to all life’s problems, but also because I guarantee there are modern writers who have, say, used purple prose. Generally that’s the problem with generalisations– they don’t work all the time 😉 . Plus, the thing that’s important to note is that art is not a linear progression to what is “modern” or “good”. There is often a belief that art peaks/peaked at a certain point, yet in reality styles are always in flux and what’s in fashion is more fluid than you think.

Getting technical terms *wrong*– oh man, this is a killer for me. Honestly, if you notice someone’s using the wrong terminology, it’s probably time to switch off. Harsh, but true. For instance, I once saw someone saying “don’t start with exposition”- which is not terrible advice (even if it’s a total generalisation so not the best) then follow up with “because they did that in the past” (worst reason ever- see above) and then give the example of the first line in Pride and Prejudice. FYI that’s INCORRECT. The first line of Pride and Prejudice- “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”- is an ironic aphorism. This is an inversion of exposition, because it’s setting up an idea in the same way you might introduce advice, only to undermine your expectations. In other words, Austen started with a joke- and if you don’t get that… well then, watch some stand-up, I certainly can’t help 😉 . To equate this with the exact opposite: “a comprehensive description and explanation of an idea or theory” is completely incorrect and it’s time to find someone who knows what they’re talking about- capiche?

Giving shitty examples of bad writing– usually with “evidence” the individual has made up on the spot or from their own bad writing. It’s called straw-manning and it’s not the best way to prove a point. The main problem with this is that it’s easily undermined- especially since the other side to this issue is that the writer in question doesn’t balance out the argument with examples of the same technique done well. Edit: Heck- it’s just better to show *how* to do something than how not to do something (in art class, no teacher ever holds up a crap drawing and says “don’t do this”). I originally said all examples (good or bad) should be from a real life book- for obvious reasons it wouldn’t be a good idea to subjectively select “bad” writing from books. But if you are trying to show various techniques, books are a good place to start, which leads me onto…

“There are writers and then there are readers”– I’m not even joking, there are people who give this advice. The truth is if you’re a writer, you ought to be a reader. I have heard people say you need to put the books down at some point if you ever want to pick up a pen, because otherwise it’s too daunting and that’s good advice. However, if you don’t read at all, or read very little, how will you ever learn about what it’s like for a technique to totally work, or what’s been done before (/to death) or what people actually enjoy reading? For all the advice on the internet, there is no better writing education than cracking open an excellent book. (Hey- you know my feelings about books- what did you expect me to say about this one? No one insults books and gets away with it- least of all wannabe writers!)

And that just about wraps up my worst writing advice. Agree? Disagree? Do you have any bad writing advice to add to the pot? Let me know in the comments!

The Obligatory Piece Where I Talk About Doing Nanowrimo… But Not Really

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Okay I know we’re already a bit into November so it’s a bit late to talk about my plans for Nano, but my organisation skills are the BOMB (okay, they suck, but whatever) As you might be able to tell I’m sort of doing Nano this year… Well I’m doing what I do most years- which is to set myself an easier target and write my little heart out 😉 . This year though, I did have a bit more of an internal wrestle over whether I should try and win Nano for reelz (spoiler alert: that’s not what I decided to do 😉 ). Here’s where my thought process was at…

Reasons to do Nano:

  • What a great month to write! I mean it’s miserable out and I want to be indoors as much as possible. Plus I’m not in uni anymore so I’ve not got the excuse of deadlines as I did in previous years.
  • I’ve got a ton of writing to do– so I may as well go bananas with it. I really want to finish my damn trilogy. I first conceived of this idea *7 whole years ago*. I was writing something else at that time and had lots of mishaps in between… but now I’m finally on book 3 (yay!)
  • All of the lovely motivational people online!! There’s just so many great writing posts about during Nano that I’m being totally conformist *ahem* I’m feeling inspired.
  • It’s very satisfying to set yourself a goal and then complete it– especially when it comes to writing!

Reasons not to do Nano:

  • Buuut I edit a lot as I go (I know *shock horror*- don’t worry, I edit after as well) so 50000 words is not really doable if I’m gonna end up writing a lot of it twice.
  • I’m fairly consistent with my writing, fortunately, BUT I’ve never written more than c20000 words in a month– more than that just doesn’t seem terribly doable to me.
  • Plus I *never* use word count goals– they just don’t work for me- I tend to count chapters instead
  • It can be completely draining to write this series– honestly, my characters do shitty things and living with the consequences of their actions can be pretty exhausting (yes, I talk about them like they’re real- I’m totally sane 😉 )
  • Doing a more casual version of Nano has worked for me in the past– last year for instance I decided to edit an old novel AND I DID IT! (which brings me back to how satisfying it is to complete a goal)

So I’m compromising!

My goal is to write to chapter 28- which considering I was already at chapter 9 before the month should be both doable and a challenge (also since this is the beginning of the book, I’ve a few nice, short set up chapters that I can whizz through- don’t think I didn’t know what I was doing when I set myself this target 😉 ) Currently, I’m on 16 and to be honest right now even this target might be a little out of reach- we’ll see how this goes!

Anyhoo- are any of you participating in Nano? Do you write in general? Let me know in the comments!

My House

In the spirit of this spooktacular season, I’ve decided to do something daring today by sharing a short story I wrote recently- enjoy!

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They were in my house. Setting the floorboards creaking, going where they pleased. I could hear them, carelessly clattering about down there, redirecting the furniture, chattering about this or that. The sound penetrated the cosseted safety of my abode; their presence plucked on my nerves and sent them a-tingling.

It wasn’t right. The place was historic- Georgian I recalled- possibly listed. They should have known better- still that didn’t seem to stop folk moving whatever wasn’t nailed down. That didn’t stop them desecrating the decades-old dust with their footprints.

I could hear them laughing now. Marvelling at some feature or another, their delight gliding round the ballroom like a child at play. Oh I was well and truly woken from my slumber. Nothing could keep me abed.

Had they no respect? I wondered, taking two steps at a time, thundering on the stairs loud enough to wake the dead. Soon I was upon them.

They didn’t see me at first- they never do. But they heard the door slam and startled like little birds. I almost wanted to reassure them- almost. Instead I looked them up and down- trying to calculate their worth from their peculiarly tight clothes and sharp angled haircuts- assessing their tells with my weary gaze. I crooked my neck, trying to get a better view, my eyes half failing me: a man and a woman. One of them holding a bright rectangle of light in their hand like a torch. That was a new one, I mused. Beyond that they were murky smudges.

“Who are you?”

The male was the one to speak. His voice was shaky, a rust to the command, clearly from disuse.

I sighed. I could have asked them the same question. Indeed there was a time when I might have. Was it a realtor or a blustery wind that had brought them to my door? Did they think they were going to stay? There was a time when I thought I cared for such details- but that time was gone.

“Who are you?” the brave soul repeated.

That was a good question. I pondered how I might answer. I wondered how I appeared to them, in the white nightgown I never changed out of- not since that night…

A rush of feelings came over me, as it always did when I thought about it. Red hot and white cold all at once. Like being dunked in ice cold water and held under three seconds too long, as your legs kicked and lungs burned for breath. Like seeing someone you trust, naked with someone else. Like getting a glimpse of the traitorous blade that would end your life just before it did and knowing, knowing you could have prevented all this.

I funnelled that rage into my scream:

“What-are-you-doing-in-my-house-!”

It wasn’t a question and they knew it. Trembling before me like leaves in autumn, clinging to the tree of life, right before winter ripped them off and cast them to decay. They knew there was no escaping the storm I summoned. They had unwittingly stepped into the tornado’s path and heavens knew there was no place to shelter. I shook the very foundations of the house. The bright object fell from the man’s grasp, and smashed to the ground. We all fell into darkness. All that could be heard was a scream muffled through sweaty hands.

I heard that all too human sound and would have stopped- had it not been so long since I had made that sound myself. But my hatred had a will of its own. It tore the remaining paintings from the wall, it shook the chandeliers one screw looser, it flung the broken mirrors in the air. Shattered glass collided with flesh and my thoughts turned to redecorating as a crimson stain splattered onto the wall.

Damnation, I cursed, my calm returning as I witnessed the carnage around me. I would have to wait for the bodies to turn a little before attempting to move them- hopefully no one would come looking for them a while yet… It would so destroy my rather tranquil mood if they brought people sniffing out their rotting corpses- theirs or the others. Let’s hope no one took a peek down the dumbwaiter.

But I supposed this would be a problem for another day. I span on my heels and went back to bed.

*****

Somewhere in the distance the clock chimed again. No, not a clock chiming- a bell. Someone was ringing the bell. I tensed, drawing my linen closer, not knowing their next move, too scared to trail my bare feet out the sheets- until I knew for sure. Until the dull thud of that tricky front door opening gave them away. They were in my house…

Okay so short stories are not my usual forte- but I hope that was at least a little entertaining!

I am a MONSTER- some (really specific) bookish confessions

This is one of my favourite times of year. So to celebrate, I’ve dug deep and found some awfully specific, monstrous confessions. Let’s jump right in:

  1. writing in books exhibit aI’ve mentioned before, but I don’t take good care of my books– I write in them, I dogear the pages, I don’t (always) care if the spines are creased- still the vast majority are second hand, so #noguilt

 

  1. Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_CoverI had a lot of firsts with Harry Potter, some of which may not be so popular… As some of you may know Harry Potter was the first “big” book I read, introducing me to the wonderful world of books when I was seven… but that’s not where the story ended and that’s not the only impact it had on my reading journey. You see, I’m actually sentimental about Harry Potter for a reason that might be sacrilegious to some: it’s also the first book I critiqued (#sorrynotsorry). Annnd even this little fact is enough to get me in trouble, so I’ll leave that there (can you tell I’m a little afraid? 😉 )

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  1. wideacreI stopped reading historical fiction for two years at one point. And since this is a confessions piece, I’m gonna be brutally honest: it was cos I was so scarred by Phillipa Gregory (and irritated by the historical inaccuracy in her books). I know that’s harsh, but it was especially harsh on me, cos I love a good piece of historical fiction. Of course, I stupidly picked up another Gregory book not so long ago… I never learn! Gah!

 

  1. murder-on-the-orient-express-agatha-christieI’ve never read an Agatha Christie book and I don’t plan to– it’s a niggling thing that I probably should, but at the same time I have no desire to pick one up no matter how many times I see it in the library.

 

 

  1. twilightI’m to blame for spreading Twilight round my year like a plague. This was unintentional- but I can never avoid the fact it was *my* copies of Twilight that did the rounds in my school. Oops.

 

 

  1. 'Me_Before_You'I don’t always cry at sad books– I was dried eyed over The Fault in Our Stars  and even in the notoriously devastating Me Before You– which I sobbed over- I cried at the *wrong* part. Highlight for spoiler: not the part when he dies, but when she’s raped earlier in the book.

 

 

  1. whoopsI answered a question on an exam once for a book I hadn’t read… because, you know, I hadn’t revised properly. And do you know what? I actually did just fine in that exam. Maybe the other sections pulled up the grade- but I distinctly remember that exam getting progressively more awful. (Of course I bluffed in class too, but I feel like this is slightly worse)

 

  1. grimmsI have *a lot* of different Fairy Tale anthologies– for instance I have 4 of Grimms alone… Normally I’m pretty good with book doubles- since I got my Shakespeare compendium, I’ve gotten rid of all other copies except a nice one of Richard II. BUT when it comes to Fairy Tales, there’s no limit to the number of copies I have/want. I mean there’s totally reasons for this: some of them are collectibles, others have different essays at the back, and I feel like with translations you need several versions to see which one you like (at least that’s my opinion- when I did Classics at uni, I generally felt it helped to have a minimum of three translations in front of you- especially if you were doing a close reading) So yeah… totally justifiable… (help me out here, I’m floundering a little 😉 )

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  1. eekI cannot always read books that hit too close to home– yeah I know we should read outside our comfort zone, but if a book is actually on a subject I know a lot about, I will (somewhat subconsciously) avoid it.

 

  1. City_of_Bones (1)I deliberately spoiled myself for the Mortal Instruments. I’m not even sorry I did this one, cos to be honest I *cannot* read books about incest. And obviously I did not think Clare was really gonna go in that direction, but I still had to find out for sure so I could be safe. The bad part about this was that once I checked it wasn’t actually the case, I still continued reading spoilers, cos I got a little hooked- so yeahhh, I spoiled a huge amount of that series for myself. Whoopsy daisy.

Okay, so now’s the time you can publically condemn/commend me! Were any of these particularly shocking? (so much so you can no longer look at my monkey face) Do you relate? Or do you have any oddly specific bookish confessions of your own? Let me know in the comments!

In Defence of Bad Parents in Books

No I don’t literally mean I’m defending bad parents in books (nothing makes me *rage* more than bad parents irl, so rest assured this is not a pro-abusive parents post, obviously). HOWEVER, more and more, I’m seeing people complain that there are not enough decent parent figures in books. And this is a fair criticism, because you know, not every parent has to be a totally useless douchbag. Yet there is something that can be said for lousy parents in books and there are plenty of reasons why this is a useful trope. So I’m gonna break it down today and talk about why sometimes it’s good to have bad parents in books:

stormbreakerIt can be plot expedient– I heard an author saying when I was younger that they always got the parents out of the way at the beginning so that children could have adventures- which I was a-okay with, cos I’m in favour of adventures. So yes, it may be ridiculous that somehow Alex Rider has managed to lose 3 parent figures, but at least that meant he was free to save the world (yes, said author was Anthony Horowitz).

Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_CoverThey provide a good foil for the hero– Let’s face it, we all love to hate villains. And what is more usefully positioned as a villain than a parent? They literally have access to where the hero sleeps, eats and can even control where they go to school. Think of all the added tension this provides! I mean, it was hard enough for Harry that he had to save the world from Voldemort, but every book had to deal with the Dursleys as well… Yikes- I’d pick Voldy any day 😉……………………………

City_of_Bones (1)It’s unsettling– of course “home” or “family” is *supposed* to be the safest thing in the world, yet revealing that the villain is none other than your father of all people can make the hero question everything. Are they still a good person? Were any of their positive memories real? Think of the trauma it created in Mortal Instruments when we find out that Valentine might have fathered not one, but two of our heroes (excusing the silly love triangle it created of course)

game of thrones book“Oh sympathy where have you gone…”– (three cheers if you know that song 😉 ) okay seriously though, where would be without the amount of sympathy that crappy parents instantly creates for the main character. Who can pretend like their sympathy for Samwell Tarley didn’t surge when we realised how bad his home life was in Game of Thrones. Realistically speaking, it’s easier for us as readers to sympathise with characters who have real problems, as opposed to the whiny self-obsessed heroine whose main concern is chipping a nail or who will take them to prom.

tuliptouchIt’s a fact of life– sure we’d like to believe every childhood is sunshine and kittens and rainbows, yet sadly too many children grow up in homes where abuse is the norm. Rather than normalising or encouraging these behaviours, having bad parents in books actually can provide comfort for children going through traumatic childhoods. It creates a sense that “you are not alone”. If we pretend like this is not a thing, we actually *do* risk normalising these behaviours, and ignoring the problem. As hard as sad as it is to acknowledge, books like Tulip Touch are true to some people’s experiences. So let’s not write children from abusive homes out of books, cos they do exist.

matildaIt can teach us all to be more empathetic– let’s face it, I will always champion books which can make us more empathetic to other people’s experiences. So even if a child has no point of reference for what it might be like to grow up in a negative home environment, books can be the gateway to understand different and difficult life experiences. Whether this is in realistic books, or stories like Matilda, we can identify the character traits and come to understand reality just that little bit more.

So do you agree or disagree? Do you think bad parents have a place in books? Let me know in the comments!