Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Placing Books on the Shelves

Good Wednesday,

DISCLAIMER: There may be made-up words in this post.

I spent the last two days in a car and, thus, not terribly inspired. I did read, though, (helped with a few of the hours yesterday), and that helped me get in gear for blogging. It also gave me a topic as you can see by the title.

I call things like I see them. If it has four legs and barks, it’s a dog, for example. A fantasy is a fantasy. A mystery is a mystery, and a young adult romance with a dystopian setting is not a straight-up young adult dystopia.

I’ve posted a lot about romance lately. I’m not being hard on romance. It’s a genre. I don’t read it much, but I respect it as something that (contrary to popular belief) takes work to write. It just also seems to be the most mislabeled or miscategorized genre out there.

We spend a lot of time at residency for Seton Hill discussing genre and what it means. The prevailing theory of genre categorization is to place the book in the section with which the main plot most corresponds. If the main story is about the fight between good and evil and magic is present, that’s filed as fantasy (subcategorize as needed). If the main story is solving a crime, that’s filed as mystery. If the main plot is the struggle between two individuals to make a long-term, committed relationship work, it’s filed as romance. If the main plot line is the struggle between two individuals to make a long-term, committed relationship work, it is not filed under science fiction.

There’s also the argument that genre doesn’t exist. All books fall into all (or at least two) genres, and “filing” is something created by bookstores to market books. Personally, I think there’s more to defining what a book is about then marketing. To each his own on that one.

Either way, I define what I enjoy reading by genre because it’s easier to think in terms of categories and easier to describe it to others in terms of genres. I like dystopias. I don’t really like romances. So when I pick a book that’s labeled “ya sf dystopian” and discover I’m, in fact, holding a romance novel set in a dystopian world, I get kind of annoyed. Someone mislabeled or miscategorized this book. I probably would have still read it if it were labeled romantic sf, but I would have known what I was getting into and, thus, not finished the book with smoke coming out of my ears.

In the book’s defense, the blurb read like a romance. “Impossible decision between (insert two characters’ names here).” That’s a love triangle, which, as is evident by TWILIGHT’s appearance in the ya romance category, is a romance trope. The love triangle does appear in other genres, but in those books (such as HUNGER GAMES) the love triangle is not the main plot. The love triangle was the main plot in the book I read yesterday. I just wished someone had noticed that before firmly placing it on the dystopia shelf.

Thanks for reading.

@desantismt on Twitter

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