Fiction is Fiction – Or Why I Believe Teens Are Smarter Than We Give Them Credit For

Posted March 20, 2016 by Lisa Mandina in discussion post / 8 Comments


So, this is my very first discussion post on my blog, joining into the 2016 Discussion Challenge hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight.  I’m going to try to explain myself clearly, as well as make it fun with pictures and/or gifs.  Today I’m going to talk about what you might call a pet peeve of mine.  Over and over I hear books criticized, or even condemned, for the topics covered, or the way the characters are portrayed.  For instance, I’ll start with talk about one of my favorite book series, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

Over and over I hear about how horrible it is that Bella depends on a boy to take care of her.  That’s one issue people have. The other is that Edward is a stalker and horrible boyfriend.  First off, let me point you back to the title of this post:  Fiction is Fiction.  It’s not real people!  Most of the time when I read, it is to lose myself in something that is not my reality.  Yes, Edward does save Bella from a lot of danger, because he loves her, and also because he is a vampire, so his supernatural power saves her from other supernatural creatures.  And, my biggest point, sorry, *SPOILER*, for anyone who hasn’t actually read the whole series, in the end, Bella ends up saving everyone!  So yeah, that isn’t an issue for me.  Maybe we could talk about him being possessive and a bad boyfriend/stalker next.  Again, I believe part of that is back to him being supernatural and obviously not sure if he should be a part of her life at first. But besides that, while yes, I do ship myself with Edward, it’s not because I would expect a real guy to do those weird things, or be okay with a real guy doing those types of things.  I know it is fiction.  In real life there is so much that I would not put up with.  If yu want to call this a damsel in distress story, I guess you could for most of it, but then also so are most fairy tales.  And yes, I know many people, feminists, etc, are against them as well. 

Now, there was a book that I read a year or so ago, that made me feel like I shouldn’t have enjoyed it and devoured it as quickly as I did, Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire.

This is a story of a definitely emotionally abusive relationship, there is no way you can say anything different about it.  And I felt bad reading and being sucked into the story because I know people who have been in those types of relationships, and it is not a good thing.   When I talked to one of my sisters about it, the sister who reads most of the same books I do and knows the person this made me think of, she is the one who brought me back to where I’m going with this post.  It is fiction.  While I might have enjoyed the steamier parts of the story, for the most part I was kept reading because I wanted to know what happened to the characters, and how they would handle it all.  

More and more I hear people saying that girls in books are bad examples for teens.  As if teens aren’t smart enough to know what is fiction, or what is bad.  Yes, I know that there are people who do take what happens in books, or whatever they read, as truth.  But I don’t believe it is something that we have to worry about all teens doing.  I was a teenager at one time.  Many years ago now, but I did not assume life should be like what I read in the book.  My biggest example is always the Flowers in the Attic series by V.C. Andrews.  

I read that series, over and over, back in those days I didn’t have piles of books to read, so my favorite books would be re-read until I did buy a new one every once in awhile.  Just because I read that series doesn’t mean I then wanted to fall in love with my brother.  Another V.C. Andrews book I read a lot, My Sweet Audrina, didn’t romanticize rape for me.  The funny thing to me was that my parents took away all of my Teen Silhouette Romance series books, but left these V.C. Andrews books.  They didn’t want me to get all the silly romantic ideas, yet these books with incest, and later Stephen King’s horror stories, were okay for me to read.  Why is it that people think someone can read the horror or science fiction stories and understand they’re not real, yet when it comes to romantic stories, readers are too stupid to not know those are fiction?  

Finally, I want to bring up the series that I am so obsessed with now that I had to get a tattoo to show my love for it, the After series, by Anna Todd.

I know that the relationship in this book is a horrible, terrible, emotionally abusive one.  And the things that happen to Tessa, that the guy Hardin even is a part of at the beginning, yes, not something I should even think is a good thing.  But I couldn’t help it.  I fell in love with the characters, both of them flawed, not just Hardin.  And over and over they fought through this, and there were so many times as I read that I knew I would have been done, things that Tessa let go that there is no way I would have. But that is why it is fiction.  You can read about a relationship like this, and you can have the characters work and maybe improve themselves like we wish would happen in real life, and it’s a nice story.  One you can fall in love with, but not have to try out for yourself.  There is talk of how this book glorifies rape in the reviews I’ve seen online, and it is not true. There is no rape in the books.  There are bad things that happen, but never are they romanticized or glorified.  Yes I’m an adult now, but even if I was a teen reading these, which I don’t really feel they are teen books, I wouldn’t have felt this is how a relationship should be.

Now give me your thoughts.  Surely I’m not the only person smart enough to know fiction is fiction, right?  I have dealt with teenagers on a daily basis for almost 20 years now, working in education as a teacher for 17 years, and a librarian now for 3 more.  The teenagers I know, for the most part, are smarter than many people give them credit.  A story is a story. They learn in their English classes about symbolism, which helps them to know that fiction isn’t a true thing, that what happens in the book isn’t what they should expect as real life.  You might say that maybe since I’ve never been in any situations like this I don’t have the right to chime in on this.  But you’d be wrong.  I had very bad experiences in college, ones that even to this day, it is hard not to say that it was my own fault that it happened.  But not one of them do I blame on some book I read making me think it was okay.

Wow, this got a little bit deep and depressing I think.  I guess I just feel strongly about this topic.  Please comment below and tell me your feelings on this topic.  Do you totally disagree with me?  Do you somewhat see what I’m trying to say?  I want everyone to have their own opinion and be able to express it in my comments below, no name calling just because we disagree, let’s talk about it, what do you say?

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8 responses to “Fiction is Fiction – Or Why I Believe Teens Are Smarter Than We Give Them Credit For

  1. Fiction is fiction, but I believe the problem is that there SO many stories out there with characters and themes and relationships that are not healthy. And while teens can read these every once in a while and still know that it is fake, having that be most or all they read is not healthy. I'm 21 now, so still pretty close to my teen years, and there were many books I had to set aside at that age because I was not ok with how characters behaved or the things the story portrayed as normal and alright.

    • I like that you said you would set the books aside, that is my point about how teens are smart enough to know, even putting aside what they know isn't something they are ready to or want to read. I will disagree with you a bit on the first point though, I don't feel like there are that many out there with the relationships that are not healthy. Or that if that is all you read it is bad. As I pointed out, I read the Flowers in the Attic series and all the other VC Andrews series that were out when I was a teen, or else it was Stephen King books, but none of that did I think was real and how life should be.

      Great opinion! Thanks for sharing with me! I love discussing this stuff, and it is nice to get the viewpoint of someone who was a teen a lot more recently than myself!

  2. Those situations you describe don't bother me so badly. What does bother me is the extent we have to go to sometimes to believe something (in the fictional world) that is virtually impossible. 🙂
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal – Impartial, Straightforward Fiction Book Reviews

  3. It's funny because I think I both agree and disagree with you on this. I definitely agree that fiction is fiction and people (including kids) can tell the difference – just because a book portrays a negative relationship doesn't mean everyone who reads it wants to jump into that sort of relationship. I often find myself reading a book and enjoying it, but realizing that if these were real people, I would not be behind the relationship at all.
    At the same time, I do think that the books we read and the TV we watch, etc. do have an impact on the way we think about the real world. And I can see that when girls repeatedly read book after book about the "bad boy with a heart of gold" they might get the impression that they really can and should get into a relationship with someone who's just "misunderstood" because they can change them – or their bad behavior isn't who they are at heart. (Even worse to me are those bad boys who don't seem to even have the heart of gold – why are we rooting for these boys?) So, I guess I'm kind of torn on the subject. I can see it from both sides!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    • I think you put some of my thoughts here too. While I agree that it can be a bad thing, I just still feel like it isn't most people who will become messed up in their thinking because of it. I think the majority can see past it. But I'm sure there are still some it will affect. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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