Bookweek 2018 Day 3: Stuff I HATED as a Kid

When I was a kid, there were certain tropes that appeared over and over again in my literature. Here is a list of some of the ones I detested.

1. When the book made statements about the way that “grown-ups” are silly.

Example: “Grown-up people find it very difficult to believe really wonderful things, unless they have what they call proof.” (From Five Children and It by E. Nesbit)

I guess this is intended to make children feel like the author is on their side or something, but I found it terribly annoying and condescending. Like, duh. Obviously you, the writer, are a grown-up, so why are you putting grown-ups down?

2. When, in the midst of some particularly interesting happening or another, a character would blurt out, “this is just like a book!”

Again, duh. I always felt like the author was insulting my intelligence. Of course it’s just like a book, because it is a book.

Both of the two annoying phrases mentioned above appeared with astonishing frequency in older books, but I don’t see them much nowadays. Maybe it was just a weird fad for a while, and then all the kids who had to grow up reading those phrases became writers and editors and quickly abolished the practice?

3. When a character tried to give themselves a make-over, or change themselves in some way, but by the end of the book they decided to just “be themselves” and go back to being the way they were.

I found this SO frustrating. Why weren’t these characters ever allowed to become beautiful and interesting and cool at the end?

And not gonna lie, of all the messages that the media hammered into me, I found “be yourself” to be the stupidest one. It was everywhere, and it made no sense. Like, how could you NOT be yourself? And how on earth could getting a make-over and wearing cuter clothes mean you’re suddenly not yourself? And if you have a chance to change yourself to make yourself awesomer, how could that possibly be a bad thing?

I get the concept now, and I do think a lot of young people struggle with just being their authentic selves, even if I didn’t, but I still think the concept is WAY overdone.

(Wow, maybe I shouldn’t have put the “as a kid” qualifier in the title. Even now as I write this, I want to put every other word in ALL CAPS to EXPLAIN the INTENSITY of my emotion about it, haha.)

4. People getting a chance for a grand spectacular life change and then not taking it.

Maybe this only happened in Caddie Woodlawn. Caddie and her family got a chance to be like, fancy rich people in England or something, right at the end of the book. And they decided to keep on being pioneers instead.

WHAT?!?

As far as I know, I am the only one that was upset by that ending. I just really thought it would be cool to be a fancy person in England, I guess.

5. Wishes that go wrong

In most books that involve wishes, the wishes don’t turn out very well. Like King Midas, wishing for everything he touched to turn to gold, and then accidentally turning his daughter to gold.

A version of this shows up in most children’s books where wishes come true. It frustrated me to no end. Couldn’t the wish just be amazing and fun for once?

In fact, these last three things I’ve mentioned have had a similar theme. It was almost as if the books I read were telling me, “be content with the normal and ordinary. The spectacular isn’t that great.”

But if I wanted normal and ordinary, I wouldn’t be reading a book, now would I?

And, finally, I got super creeped out and annoyed every time I encountered…

6. Younger girls who marry way older guys

This is something that came up when I wrote about the shady stuff in old books. A few people mentioned the way that Dean Priest had pursued Emily in L.M. Montgomery’s Emily series.

Oooooooh, suddenly I remembered how angry that pairing had made me, even though it all (thankfully) came to nothing, and Emily ended up where she belonged, with Teddy. I still remember being sick, on the couch, reading a paperback version of Emily’s Quest, and just, oh, the horrible misery of that book as it took her forever to get un-engaged to Dean, and even longer to finally, FINALLY end up with Teddy.

I hated the older-guy younger-girl thing every time I encountered it. Robin McKinley was particularly bad at this. And back to L.M. Montgomery, I remember starting to read A Tangled Web, because Mom loved it and really wanted me to read it, and starting to feel uneasy about Gay’s relationships.

“She’s not gonna end up with Roger, is she?” I asked Mom.

“Um, well, he’s really nice!” said Mom.

I hastily closed the book and refused to finish it.

I’m not exactly sure why this bothered me so badly. I think the older-guy younger-girl thing felt super manipulative to me. And also, I couldn’t imagine being attracted to someone who was that much older than me.

So, there’s my list. What did you hate reading about when you were a kid?

6 responses to “Bookweek 2018 Day 3: Stuff I HATED as a Kid

  1. #5 is why I have never quite been able to get on board with the ending of Little Women. I appreciate it now more than I did, but I still find it kind of creepy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Older man/younger girl….I’m pretty sure this is the way it is and has been in most cultures throughout history. It takes a man a while to get established in life, so he has something to offer a wife…so he’s 30 or older by the time he has a good business, established farm, has built a house, etc. And he would pick a younger woman so she could bear him children. Women, as you know, only have about a 20-year span to bear children, whereas men can do it as long as they can, um, do it. furthermore, throughout history, a living wage could not be earned by a woman, therefore, her only real choice was to marry someone who could support her. I think the concepts of “marrying for love” and of marrying someone your own age, are very modern. You have to also consider that culturally, long ago, things did not change very quickly, so once you get prior to about 1800, someone “older” probably had the same morals and valuies as a younger person. This last century has been a century of VAST change. Anyone who steps out for a few years (i.e. goes to prison or some third world-country) comes back to a very different world than he left. EVen when my grandma went to Peru in the 60s, fashion changed so much between the time she left and the time she came back that she had to ask Mom to send her patterns and pictures of what people were wearing so she could update her wardrobe didn’t “stand out” when she returned…and she was only gone four years at a time.

    I think the wishes that go wrong are actually good things. I mean. We want to play God. We want to wave a magic wand and make this or that different, but we AREN’T God and we don’t see all the consequences to our wishes. Sort of like wishing for a heart transplant…someone has to die (at least for now) if someone else is to get a new heart….or praying for your team to win, means that the other team must lose….The REALITY is we are not islands, EVERY little thing we do has some consequence on someone else, somewhere, whether we get that or not. Part of the problem with our “younger” generation is that they DIDN’T read those books and so they have this inane concept that “What I do is my own business.”–whether that be who they have sex with or whether they use drugs or a million other things. I hope I have hammered it into my kids’ brains that what they do affects others…ALWAYS.

    Maybe these things bother you because they are so “obvious” and you had the benefit of growing up in a culture that was pretty stable and with parents that gave you a firm grasp of reality. Believe it or not, you are the exception these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Regarding CAddie Woodlawn…I would have totally picked pioneer over crowded, stuffy rich England. The slower pace to life, the lack of “classes” in the new world. I can’t imagine anyone picking city and stuffy and rules and classes over fresh air, freedom, and friendship….

    Grown=ups are silly. Many grown-ups ARE very serious and have lost that sense of “magic” that kids still have. I think about Heidi and the seriousness of the tutor and how stifled Heidi felt…. There IS a very big difference in attitude between a parent focused on work and reality and a schedule and a child who has no sense of time, responsibility or urgency. I don’t think the author is so much belittling the adult as trying to get the child to understand that the adult lives in a different world.

    Like

  4. I was always bothered – still am – by books that try to cash in on others’ popularity. One of my absolute favorite sets of books was the Oz series, which originally consisted of fourteen books by L. Frank Baum. But multiple authors tried to add to the canon, and that just felt so WRONG to me, not to mention they didn’t read the same way. Make up your own magical land! Or the sequel to Gone With the Wind that probably made Margaret Mitchell roll over in her grave. And so on.

    Liked by 1 person

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