Right now I’m reading CREWEL by Gennifer Albin and aside from the fact that I’m rather over dystopian/post-apocalyptic worlds in which women are subjugated (really damn tired of it because it’s not unique and it’s not even of shock value anymore because it’s been happening to women, in reality, since the dawn of time, please give me something new), which is mutually exclusive to CREWEL itself, a rather Cinderella-esque story is emerging. Bland girl from the poorer section of the given world has a SPECIAL GIFT that allows her into a world of luxury. Of course she’s hesitant and resistant but FINERY and MAKE-UP and PRETTY DRESSES WHO WOULDN’T WANT TO LIVE IN THIS WORLD. And my first reaction is how the hell can people, namely women/girls, get so sucked into this cookie-cutter-like story (comment is mutually exclusive to CREWEL, I’m just speaking about the basic trope) that spits out the same situation over and over again.
But before I even got to the end of that thought it just CLICKED. It’s a fantasy, isn’t it? Whether by societal design, something ingrained, or whether a girl genuinely reaches for something like this to happen, it’s posited as the ultimate fantasy. Get swept up from your ho-hum life after finding out you really are special, and get to live like a special person and the WORLD recognizes your specialness. There will be DRAMA and something will keep you from living to your full potential but you’ll eventually get that dashing boy you like and more than likely save the world because why not?
It’s so incredibly fantasy and I don’t mean that in the genre sense. This type of trope just really plays into the dreams of girls. And I always wonder how someone can get so sucked up into this type of story because it’s the same damn thing over and over and over again, just dressed up in a different piece of high fashion. Because it’s a common fantasy But it was never my fantasy.
I mean who doesn’t have some kind of dream about being FOUND in some way and no one really wants to struggle their entire life but this type of story never really resonated with me, not in this paint-by-numbers formula. I was never gaga for Disney princesses, I was never super into romance stories, I was never into the superficial transformative aspect of make-up (not the way it’s used here), I was never super into what would be called “girly things” like dresses and fashion and the notion of balls or anything like that. Not growing up and really not now (although I’ve welcomed a little more romance into my reading but it needs to come with something supernatural or fantastical and usually sexified, so no YA romance, gross). So whenever I read these stories, it’s not the story that stands out to me but the tree trunk of the trope that lives in every story just like this one and it just kind of has me rolling my eyes.
This isn’t to ignore that the same tree trunk story exists in books with male protagonists. But because these stories with females as the main character focus so steadfastly on “girly” things it just becomes more off-putting because that was never part of who I was and it was never something that spoke to me.
In regard to CREWEL I don’t feel one way or another about it yet. It’s still too early to tell. I’m not hating it but it’s certainly not blowing my hair back. It’s just rather . . . standard. In that same vein I was very much roped into the blurb it offered. Or maybe I injected my own meaning into it. This felt like a retelling of the Fates and it still kind of is. But it’s giving me a boarding school story, which I’m definitely not a fan of. Girls go through training. They COMPETE against each other. And the protagonist is, of course, special as she’s kept in the best room which she doesn’t have to share and comes in swirling with rumors. I expected better than what I’ve gotten and what I’ve gotten is standard.
But standard works, doesn’t it? Looking back at the popular books I don’t like (and have even tried), all tell the same basic story, just wearing different dresses. Since I don’t latch on to this particular pattern, unless it’s wrapped in incredible WORDS or does something incredible and kick ass with it, it’s not going to get past my barrier.
This also means that my books, at least those that fall into the YA category, and more specifically fantasy, might not ever catch. At least not hugely. Because I don’t write to an audience. Some people would call that detrimental. You need to write what the reader wants. But if what the reader wants isn’t something I actually enjoy reading that will definitely show in my writing. If I were to write this kind of story I believe it would come out contrived and just plain bad. Because it’s not what I want to read. So I write what I want to read. Since I know I’m not living on a deserted island of reading taste I know surely someone will also like what I do.
While I just couldn’t get into those THRONE OF GLASS books I did love the Grisha Trilogy. I rather despised those WITHER books but I ate up the Iron Fey series. Personally I think the writing capabilities of those works by authors I do like are far greater than those of the two series I don’t like that certainly could boil down to preference. But from what I’ve seen and read THRONE OF GLASS and WITHER really hammer in to this specific story arc and it really hits a nerve with a majority of girls. I’m an oddball. I’m okay with that. But I also have to accept the fact that if I don’t want to play the Cinderella game then I better amp up my own writing capabilities or write a damn good story that resonates with the masses in a different way.
I’m still working on that. All of it.