So, I’ve seen this sort of thing around a lot in the bookish community lately and I thought it was quite an interesting topic to talk about. Although my tastes differ from week to week, these are the general things I look out for when wanting to find a new read.
- NO ROMANCE/SEX/LOVE INTERESTS
One of the main reasons I read middle grade/children’s fiction is that they very rarely contain romance. It’s more than a little disappointing when it does although not that surprising. I just don’t care about their relationship and although I do read books with romance in them (because it’s very hard to find books without it and if there’s only a little romance than fine I’ll put up with it), I generally completely avoid it. It’s just uncomfortable to read. Sex, as an asexual, is even more uncomfortable. There are plenty of asexuals who are very into sex but I’m not one of them. So, when someone says “This book contains no romance/sex”, I’m all over that.
I always say “horror” is one of my favourites when, really, I’m mostly interested in the paranormal. They terrify me to my bones (even though I’m not fully convinced ghosts exist, I’m on the fence) but I mostly find it interesting, especially when we get to know the ghost and who they were in all areas of their life and afterlife. I love how their world will intertwine with the current and how they collide, I really love looking at the different experiences from both ends. A nice example of this would be The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, although not my favourite as it’s a bit slow and doesn’t have the dark atmosphere I really like in these kinds of books but it’s definitely a book that’s going in the right direction for me (despite the romance and sex included in the book).
Of course a staple for every book I am looking for is a diverse “cast” of characters. If they’re all cis, white and straight, I’m pretty likely to give this a pass. I don’t count diverse characters with bad representation as a diverse “cast”, either. It also doesn’t count if any diverse characters are killed off or are used as building blocks to help the white, cis, abled and straight main character.
4. AUTISTIC #OWNVOICES MAIN CHARACTER
I’m currently reading The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas and it’s made me realize how much I’ve been missing out on. It’s my first experience of ever being portrayed, and portrayed well, in a book. The feeling of being represented is a feeling like no other and I often feel left out, forgotten and hurt that people like me aren’t ever in books. The only other book I’ve ever read with an autistic MC is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and I hope that I never have to see someone highly praise this one ever again. It was not a good representation probably because it wasn’t #OwnVoices.
5. MIDDLE GRADE
If a book is in the middle grade genre, I’m pretty likely to want to give it a go. It’s my favourite genre (if it even counts as a genre, it’s really more of a targeted audience). I especially enjoy middle grade books that are slightly darker in themes, such as grief and loss (like A Monsters Calls by Patrick Ness, I read this in ones sitting and cried) or even just a bit creepy like Coraline by Neil Gailman. They just touch my heart in a way other books for other targeted audiences can’t and they’re usually books I feel entirely comfortable reading due to the lack of romance and sex.
If you know me, you’ll know I absolutely adore foxes. If I didn’t think it was ethically wrong, I would 100% have one as a pet. I’ve only ever seen one fox in real life and it’s forever a treasured memory. I bought Pax full price because the cover had a fox on it and some of the book is even narrated by a fox. It’s also a simply gorgeous book cover. Foxes are the best.
7. BOOKS WITH PLENTY OF REFERENCES
Might be a bit of an odd one but if a book is marketed as something us nerdy folk will like, I am all over it. Not just books like Ready Player One but books like my current read, The State of Grace, where Doctor Who references are just scattered throughout the book. They’re nice little Easter eggs of sorts, and they make my little heart happy, I instantly get so overjoyed everytime I see something referencing something else and I end up loving that book just a little bit more.
And I mean…actually sisters (including non-binary people), not just women who raise up and love other women in the feminist movement (although I enjoy that, too). I have a sister who isn’t my twin but was born just over a year after me and we practically grew up together. We’re not the best of friends. We can certainly be nasty to each other and argue till the house falls down, but we’re pretty close and understand each other. It can make my love for these types of relationships warm my heart and it’s almost rare to see it instead of hate for each other or competition.
9. MENTAL ILLNESS REPRESENTATION
I suppose this does come under “diverse”, but I also really like books where the main focus of that book is mental illness or mental illnesses of the main characters in a realistic and well represented way (so no, not Thirteen Reasons Why, I’m sorry, I just really didn’t enjoy that book and it’s very trigger heavy). I don’t even have an example for this because, so far, I haven’t read a good representation for mental illness but since I became more active on Twitter I have found a good handful of recommendations that I’m probably going to try out when some money comes in (despite my knowledge that they probably contain romance and sex). I have severe anxiety and suspected depression as well as obviously being autistic but I am not limited to just reading about these mental illnesses.
Again, I haven’t actually read a good re-telling yet (from my memory), although I have read a few Disney books that are a “What If” kind of re-telling mostly from the perspectives of “what if the villain won” and some backstory to the characters/villains and those are really fun and child-friendly so I enjoy reading those a lot. I am trying to collect all of those books that are currently released, you’ve probably seen them in Tesco or Asda or any other supermarket. I’ve completely forgotten their titles and who they are written by but you can expect some reviews and discussions about them in the future if you’re interested. Especially if they’re a Disney re-telling. I’m really attracted to those kinds of books but don’t read them very often because, again, it’s not often I read one that’s done well.
So, that’s it for my very last-minute written post for this Wednesday! If you want to write a post like this, too, go ahead. What are the things you look for in a book? What would you recommend to me based on the information given to you here?