Changing Attitudes to Hype
I’ve been blogging about books since 2010, so I’ve seen a few hyped books come and go. I still remember the massive campaign for Divergent, and man I fell so hard for it. Luckily I liked the book! But living in Australia means I miss out a bit on the big hyped books at BEA, ALA and other conferences. And lately, I’ve had completely zero interest in reading some of the biggest hyped books of the last 12-18 months.
This got me wondering about hype in the book world. Generally I think it’s safe to say that a majorly hyped book will have either one of two responses: it’s the best thing since sliced bread or it’s way overhyped.
And yet, I think, as a community, we’re starting to get more savvy towards hyped books in general. We’re not falling for the mass marketing tricks. We’re hesitating before diving in. We’re reading fellow reviewers and making our own judgement based on their findings.
When I was thinking about writing this post, I had to ask for help naming some of the biggest hyped books of the last 18 months. Common responses were:
- Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman
- Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
- Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
- The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
- Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
- An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
- The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Some of these were obviously hyped more than others. I remember basically everyone but me jazzing in their pants when Illuminae was announced (Sorry, Jay, you know I adore you). I joined in for the fun of Truthwitch because it sounded badass (luckily, I did enjoy that one). I remember dismissing Red Queen until I heard about the ending and then I thought to myself, I want to give this one a shot! But that was more than six months after it had been published.
An older title I want to mention is The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. This was hyped way ahead of publication due to several high-profile bloggers receiving exclusive ARCs at one of the major book conferences. For almost a year no one even knew what the book was about. Then that beautiful cover was released and everyone jumped on the bandwagon. Meanwhile, I found my first truly disappointing hyped book. And I think that was the catalyst that got me thinking more critically about hyped books and what’s actually written in the blurbs and trying to guess ahead of time if I would enjoy the book or not.
I have about zero interest in reading most of the big hyped books nowadays. I think it comes from being burned too many times. When something is hyped so much, the first instinct is to get an ARC, or pre-order, or buy as close to release day as possible. This is before the bad reviews start coming out, so you don’t really have a frame of reference. It’s so easy to get swept up in all the hype.
Now I read the blurbs of hyped books closely and pick out keywords I think I’ll have an issue with. For example ‘slave’ in An Ember in the Ashes.
Of course I’m always disappointed to see really negative reviews of really hyped books. My own co-blogger didn’t find Truthwitch half as magical as I did. But sometimes the big hyped books are the ones with the pretty covers, the big marketing budget, the tours and signings. I’m starting to feel as if we as a community are starting to get a little more savvy towards hype. We’re waiting longer before jumping in. We’re actually deciding based on the blurb if it sounds like something we’d like to read, not just blindly grasping for it because it’s hip. We’re not so disappointed when the book doesn’t rock our world (because of course no one book will please everyone – to prove it I just went and read some 1 star review for Harry Potter and now I want to cry). We’re actually refusing to read hyped books because they don’t sound like something we’d enjoy.
Or maybe it’s just me.
What do you think? Is the YA book community getting more savvy about hype? Does everyone just read the same thing? Do you ever have zero desire to read a book everyone else is screaming about?