21 March 2009

An Unusual Response

Every book engenders a response. It may be one of intense passion (love or hate), one of disinterest or it may fall somewhere in between. Each reader is likely to experience something different; who you are and what you have experienced flavours how you respond.

What if you read a book that numerous people have expressed their love for but it leaves you feeling...not disappointed or angry but...lacking? What if the book was extremely well written, with amazing world-building and fascinating characters, but one of those characters generates feelings of...inadequacy? How do you respond - to yourself and to others - when you haven't enjoyed a book as much as someone else, especially if the reasons for that lack of enjoyment have nothing to do with the author's 'craft' but instead stem from your own insecurities and doubts?

I will freely admit to being incredibly insecure about a myriad of things - some tangible, some not. If I were a heroine in a novel I think the majority of - actually, probably all - readers would throw the book at the wall in frustration with my lack of...spine (for want of a better word). Kick-a*s heroines are my Achilles heel. I can't picture myself as them in any way shape or form because I'm diametrically opposite. I'm not sassy or confident. It's not what they do (saving the world) [because who in real life has super powers?] but their demeanour and confidence...and what they look like. Kick-a*s heroines have a mould - gorgeous, fit, with amazing hair and skin. They are what I want to be...because they're everything I'm not.

I worried incessantly about reading this book before I picked it up; I thought having a kick-a*s heroine would push my insecurity buttons. But I got caught up in the hype surrounding the book and I thought it would be fine. And in a couple of the reviews I read the heroine didn't seem so kick-a*s. My mistake, because the heroine did push my buttons, more so I think because I love this author and...her heroine is as far from me as it is possible to be. Before you ask, no, my imagination is not good enough that I can 'pretend' to be her as I read the book, and yes, I do want to read the second book in the series. And yes, I am insane to be comparing myself to a fictional character, except that I compare myself to everything and everyone. It's...ingrained.

I have read other books with kick-a*s heroines since I started reading romance novels, but over the last 6-12 months these characters have bothered me more and more. I'm trying to work out who I am, deal with the issues I carry, but...before I started down this path I could ignore my emotions. Now they, as well as all of my faults, are right in front of me...and I don't know how to cope, except by not to read books that bring all of this...whatever it is I am feeling...to the surface. I guess I could try to learn to love myself, except for the small fact that I hate pretty much everything about me (and what I don't hate I dislike), so it's a pretty big call. And no, that statement is not meant to generate compliments. I'm not looking for compliments, I'm stating a fact. (And if I'm honest I don't really know how to deal with compliments anyway.) I think twice in my life I've looked in the mirror and thought I 'passed muster', but that was a long time ago...and I was younger then. Now I feel like the faults are all I see and no matter how hard I try I can't seem to fix one of them. Just one would be nice. *SIGH* Sometimes I wonder why I read romance novels. It isn't real...that connection...it doesn't happen in real life, does it? And if it does, I don't think it will happen to me. And obviously the majority of my friends and family assume so too as they have stopped asking about dates and partners. They assume I'm going to be single for the rest of my life. And considering what any potential partner would have to deal with, I think they are probably right.

And in case you are wondering where all of this...bile..is coming from, I don't know. Maybe it's because I spend all of my time fixing and organizing the lives of various family members who can't (and I do mean can't, not won't) and yet I can't fix myself.

So, do you ever compare yourself to a character from a novel? And, if so, have you ever read a book that has made you feel in some way less or perhaps more than who and what you are? And it is worth it?


  1. ((Orannia))

    Having a parent die and then being adopted then a child of a very ugly divorce... being "unwanted" has effected who I am. I've come to realize that you have to like yourself before going forward. Having said that, I still have really deep commitment issues, the whole thought of being left behind, thus I find myself doing the leaving.

    Books and romance are an escape for me, the ideal world as it were. It's also probably why I like the paranormals best... the whole escaping into the unbelievable. And the realization not everyone can be a wonder woman. It takes all kinds to make the world go round. (otherwise think of how boring the world would be).

    My first word of advice is, love yourself despite what other think (even yourself). Think of the glass half full instead of half empty. It takes time but in the end its worth all the trouble. The second is surround yourself with happy people. And lastly, a smile goes a long way, even if you don't feel like it. The more you smile the more others smile back and the more happiness you generate and amazingly the better you feel in the long run.

  2. Oh! Forgot...

    Having said all that, just because others think a book is great doesn't mean you have to like it at all. You are an individual, uniquely YOU so don't feel like you have to be part of the crowd. Just be who you are!! You'll find you true friends, kindred spirits rather than becoming one of the herd! I like you just because you are you and not for any other reason! (and please feel free to disagree with anything I say, it make me take a look at myself as well)

  3. (((((Amyless))))) Thank you!

    I've come to realize that you have to like yourself before going forward.

    That is so true...I just wish it was easier! Breaking a lifetime's worth of conditioning is...well, I guess going to take a lifetime :) Good thing I've finally started, yes?

  4. ((((Orannia))))

    It's a cliché because it's more often true than not: starting is half the battle.

    Whatever anyone tells you about the many things about you that are good, likable, admirable, whatever, won't change how you perceive yourself.

    So we'll continue showing you--all you have to do it open the door a tiny crack. Allow that perhaps we see things you don't, since we are looking from a different angle. Allow that preset beliefs can be wrong, and can be changed.

    And remember: nothing that lasts gets done without effort. Here's to witnessing your discovering of the real you :raising glass in a toast:

  5. (((azteclady)))

    So we'll continue showing you--all you have to do it open the door a tiny crack. Allow that perhaps we see things you don't, since we are looking from a different angle. Allow that preset beliefs can be wrong, and can be changed.

    Thank you, and I honestly mean that. Those are very wise words and I will try to remember them as I know I've been preset to the nth degree to believe certain things about myself. And if I want to take control of my life (and to maybe, if I'm very lucky find and let someone in to share it) I need to relearn who I am.

  6. Well, often I read a book that everyone is squeeing over and I just don't get it. The writing isn't bad, nothing is really wrong with the book per se, but it lacks some intrinsic magic to kindle that awe-and-love response in me.

    Generally that doesn't spring from issues my self-esteem, but I'm sorry to hear that's the case for you. ((orannia)) I used to have self-esteem issues, but I have overcome them by focusing on the things I'm good at and forgiving myself my faults. No one is perfect, however nice they look.

    Maybe you need to remember this poster (not work safe): http://www.demotivateus.com/posters/hot-reality-girl-soccer-demotivational-poster.jpg

  7. *hugs* kechara. You and I have already talked about this post quite a bit before it went up, and about the book/s that prompted it.

    I won't repeat here what I've already said offline, other than to say it's a long journey from here to there, and not an easy one... but you're starting to travel it, and that's a pretty amazing thing.



  8. Thank you kechara. Being able to talk things through with you - it means more to me than I can express :)

    Thank you Ann! I just love the poster :) Building up one's self-esteem from next to nothing isn't an easy journey, and it gives me faith to know that others have walked a similar path :) And I'm going to keep walking that path, even if it sometimes feels like two steps forward and one step back :) And all the best with the release of Blue Diablo!

  9. Orannia - I think this is a fascinating and very self-reflective post. I have slightly looser criteria for heroines than you. I don't have to identify with her, I have to like her. If I like her, and want what's best for her, then I can lose myself in the story. Perfect case in point for me: Sherry Thomas's Private Arrangements. I hated the heroine -- hated her throughout the book. And so, I honestly got to the end and thought, "I honestly don't give a crap about either of these characters." I thought that the writing was outstanding, but I just couldn't identify with what I perceived to be the heroine's selfishness nor her inability to have, you know, an actual conversation with the hero to fix things. It just didn't work for me. Believe me, I know I'm in the minority, but the point is, if I don't like the two protagonists, I won't like the book.

    But I think it's really interesting that for you, you need to actually identify with the heroine. And I think it's very brave of you to put this out there, and more to be self-aware enough to know this about yourself.


  10. Hi Orannia,

    This is a very interesting blog post and one that has got me thinking.

    One, I too can never place myself into the heroine's shoes and "be" her in the novel. I view it more as me as an outsider looking in.

    Two, yes, Kick a*s heroine's have amplified my own weaknesses as a person. I'm a very non-confrontational introvert who has a pretty non-existant social life outside my husband and family. But honestly, I don't have time to cultivate real life friendships. Okay, that's a lie, its not that I can't but more that I won't. I find it easier to be friends anonymously through blogland. Which leads me to

    Three, kick a*s heroine's always have that one really good friend which again is something I don't have cause of my own lacking, but it's also something I would enjoy.

    I suppose that what I'm trying to show is that romance novel heroines embody traits that I myself would love to have but I've also accepted the fact that it's just NOT me. I have my husband and family that loves me so it's all good.

    I read romance for the escapism. For a chance to see the world through someone elses eyes with added bonus of some hot alpha male lovin'.

    Fantastic post. Don't know if I really "said" anything but hey, I learned something new even about myself. :)

    :) VampFanGirl

  11. (((Kati))) Thank you. I wrote this post up and dithered for absolutely ages about posting it. But in the end I felt that one of the objective of the blog is to learn to express myself and to learn about me so I threw caution to the wind and posted it :) And I completely see where you are coming from about liking a heroine. If you don't like someone then why would you want to spend time with them if you don't have too? Hmmm....I have Private Arrangements on my TBR list... I might have to read some more reviews..

    (((VampFanGirl))) Thank you so much for stopping by! And thank you for your comment - it was very insightful! I think that is what I have yet to learn - to accept myself as I am.

  12. Hi Orianna,

    You are not alone as a dissenting voice among readers. I have often found myself on the opposite side of disccusions for several books. I actually like it sometimes to be the voice of dissention..hehehe.
    I think a lot of stories and heroines can trigger me. Sometimes it feels good to cry or get angry or laugh. It is kind of like literary therapy. Cheaper than a therapist!
    Thanks for writing a great blog and posing questions that really make me think.

  13. Hey orannia,
    I applaud you for writing this post. It is very honest and I know you put a lot of thought into it.

    Your thoughts on being able to relate to and enjoy a heroine (or not) in a novel being based on your own life experiences are probably true for a lot of readers. While I think I am a reader more along the lines of what Kati said about being able to lose herself in a story just by liking the heroine, I definitely enjoy books with heroines I can identify with even more. Characters like Mercy Thompson, Sirantha Jax, Eve Dallas come to mind. Yes, they are beautiful, strong, capable women who do very heroic things. But they are also flawed... with emotional scars that really never go away and sometimes, if not often, play a huge role in their every day thoughts and actions. They are vulnerable, at times insecure, but they are survivors. And they deserve love and happiness and contentment. Just like you do.

    I think you received some really great advice and support in the comments above. I just want to echo what Aymless said and encourage you to first and foremost love yourself... flaws and all. It's not always easy, especially when we have insecurities, but it is really important.


  14. I saw this on a woman's t-shirt at the gym last week and loved it so much I actually asked her where she got it. Unfortunately, it was a gift so she didn't know. Just my luck! It's just a few simple words, but together are very meaningful.

    Open Mind
    Strong Body
    Beautiful Soul