Book talk: 5 Things I’d like to see more (or less) of in the literature industry this year and beyond (plus an international giveaway)

UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. Thank you so much to all of you who entered. I enjoyed reading your responses and found myself nodding along to all the points made (I'll be responding over the weekend to everyone's posts)! Congratulations goes to Bo Hi who has won books of her choice from the Book Depo!

I'll be having more giveaways coming your way soon, so look out for that!

So to kick off my blog for 2015, I thought I’d start off with a post about  the things I’d like to see more of in books this year  (along with a much-promised international giveaway). 

As a reader, my taste in books is constantly evolving. The way I read, how I interpret it and the aspects I look for in novels changes regularly. The more aware of societal issues I become, the more it drives me to seek out books that don’t adhere to the traditional tropes we’ve all become so accustomed to.

And the more I adapt, accept and embrace these changes, the more I realise that there is still a lot of headway to be made in the literature industry in terms of offering more than the standard fare (I hugely applaud the publishers who are taking more risks these days and hope that the others will follow suit eventually). 

Don’t get me wrong.

I adore a lot of what’s out on offer at the moment (even some of the clichéd works out there), but there seems to be this precedent that the existing models are satisfactory enough and that we shouldn’t mess with commercial commodities that work.

Frankly, this is not on.

I’m a big believer in change – and for me, it’s really heart-breaking to see some wonderful, off-beat reads being ignored because these works aren’t being as widely promoted.

And often, it’s these books that should be given a chance because they’re breaking barriers in terms of gender and racial diversity, openly tackling topics that are often considered taboo and subverting roles that have been defined by society’s terms.

In light of this, I’ve decided to share a list of things I’d love to see more publishers and readers take more (or less) of a chance on in the bookish trade.

1. More gender and racial diversity please.

Gender and race are not binary concepts. The sooner we can accept this, the better.  We need to have people of colour in books (and not delegated to playing the role of the side-kick/best friend please) and we need to give a voice to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender community (if there’s anyone I missed out, please let me know). 

Some authors refuse to write beyond anything they know (and some readers refuse to read anything that makes them uncomfortable), hence the fact that we often see the beautiful, white and skinny girl always falling for the hot, white male with a bad boy attitude (and that’s just one example).

Again, I’m not against this at all. I just want to see a book world in which the dominant race isn’t white, and one in which all the characters transcend the heteronormative standards everyone expects them to adhere to.

Most of all, I’d love to see publishers taking more chances on reads like these.

2. LGBQT characters that aren’t token characters or stereotyped

This is another one of my bug bears and brings to mind a book I read not too long ago in which the gay character was represented in an incredibly clichéd manner. In this book (I’ll rather not mention any names), the guy was portrayed as a highly and insultingly effeminate boy whose interests were relegated to: clothes, shopping, cross-dressing and being the therapist to his female best friend.

Do you see the problem here? 

I have no problem with the gay community who adore fashion, etc ; my problem is with the notion that gay people should be defined by this – which is what the author essentially did in this book.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender characters are humans, not caricatures.

Their likes, dislikes, beliefs and personalities are more than the sum of society’s assumptions about them. To portray them in a way that stereotypes them is incredibly dehumanising and I’m really tired of this.

Frankly, I know a lot of gay people and wouldn’t you know, some of them are mad about sports, not fashion.  What I’m saying here is that we shouldn’t make assumptions about what the LGBQT community are like – especially if your interactions with them have been very minimal.

Please stop treating them as if they all fit into a singular personality group.

3. More standalone YA novels

I love series, I really do, but it would be really nice to have books that don’t force us to wait years for the second, third or fourth instalment of the series.

It does get a little tiresome and sometimes it feels as if it’s just being dragged out for as long as possible, simply because it’s become an established franchise.

Books that work well as standalones in a series, however, are definitely more than welcome.

4. More female empowering one another stories, less cruel girl clichés please

I don’t know about you, but I’m really tired of the bitchy and mean girl trope. I’m fed up with this idea of girls always having to compete over each other over a boy and no other reason than that. Isn’t it time for us to focus more on stories that solidifies and focuses on strong female friendships?

I find it very insulting that this girl-vs-girl-over-a-boy fight implies that this is what we’re all about. As if we exist for the sake of guys and as if it’s a competition to see who can claw whose eyes out over the hottest boy in existence.

Not only that, but it’s incredibly offensive to guys too –  this trope treats them as if they’re some kind of breeding stock prize to be won.  And frankly, I don’t view guys or girls this way, so why should this trope be used in this way?

I get that bullying is a tactic that is used, but that’s completely different to the mean girl/guy who is awful for the sake of being awful.

If you want to employ the use of a nasty character, why not give him/her a bit of a backstory; tell us what makes the character behave the way he/she does and whether he/she doesn’t want to be mean but can’t help it because of his/her past.  That’s a story that would be worth reading. 

Anything except the “leave-my-guy-alone-or-die” fight.

 5. Kill the love triangle. Please.

Seriously, there is no rule that says a story isn’t a story unless there’s a love triangle involved, so why, oh why, is every second book out there filled with one?

To be fair, I’m all for a well-written or creatively done one, but those are so rare to find, that my general frustration with love triangles actually outweighs my desire to seek out a beautifully drawn out tango for three.

Anyway, that’s just some of the things I’d like to see more of this year. This was originally going to be a ten things post, but my fingers ran away with me and this post ended up being so much longer than I thought it would be!

This is where you come in –

I’m giving one lucky international reader a chance to win 2 books of his/her choice. All you need to do is leave a comment and tell me what you’d like to see more or less of in the literature industry.

I’ll compile your responses and feature it in a follow up discussion post.

Giveaway is open internationally (please do make sure the Book Depository ships to your country before you enter) and runs until Sunday, 11 January.