Blog Files: Book Comparisons

Jun 10, 2011

This "Blog File" is about comparing new books to other books. I am going to warn you: this will most likely be a rant rather than a pleasant discussion...

"Fans of THE HUNGER GAMES will love this one.."
"If you love Sarah Dessen and Elizabeth Scott you'll love this..."
"Has suspense like THE TITANIC..."

I am sure most of you have seen these exact comparisons this past year. If not I am sure you have seen variations of these before.

These bother me to NO END. 
 
I think it should be illegal a rule that publishers, authors, readers, and so on should not be allowed to make comparisons.

I cannot tell you how many times I have read one of these, picked the book up, and am thoroughly disappointed. I know that if I had not read the comparison though, I would have probably enjoyed the book.

I stopped comparing books to other books a long time ago because it is, in my eyes, dumb. I know that these people have good intentions, but it needs to stop. When you say "Oh this book is like THE HUNGER GAMES", I expect something fantastic.

Sure every now and then the books turn out good, such as DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver, which is compared to "ROMEO & JULIET". But rarely does this happen, and this play has become more of a "theme/format" that other books follow rather than the actual book. (If that makes sense).

Anyways, I don't like when book summaries have these kinds of comparisons. I understand that they are meant to spark interest, but sometimes (most of the time) it doesn't turn out the way they probably expect.

3 comments:

  1. I run into this problem a lot. Not so much in reviewing (though I do have to stop myself sometimes), but when recommending books. As a librarian, I have work work backwards from what the reader enjoyed before to what they might enjoy next. So there's a whole balance thing where you can't say something is the same as something else - but also you want to convince them to read it. So yeah, I hear you.

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  2. Great post! Comparing is annoying and does set up false expectations. I have been so disappointed when I buy the book.

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  3. I am definitely of both minds when it comes to this issue. I do hate it when comparisons lead to disappointment. Not everything can be the next Hunger Games, obviously. And just because I love Sarah Dessen does not mean I'm going to like EVERY YA contemp book. It's just not possible. I don't think publishers should use the comparisons in the book's description... it just doesn't make sense to me. It should be what the book is about, not what the book is like. However I can understand why blurbs use comparisons, and I can understand why reviewers use comparisons.

    Mostly I understand the comparisons thing from a librarian POV. Taking a couple of readers advisory classes has taught me about appeal factor -- what people look for in a book. Is it a type of character, a certain pacing, maybe a particular setting? Quite often people will come into libraries (or book stores, or whatever) and say "I just read Book A. Do you have anything similar to Book A?" Comparisons help people find books they like. Of course not every book will live up to your expectations, and you might think "What? This book isn't at all like 'Divergent'!" ... but other times? You might think "Wow, this book isn't the same as 'The Hunger Games' but it certainly has the same amount of action and some amazing characters like 'THG' did."

    Comparisons work for a reason, and they're a good way for people to find new books. They're a good way for librarians and booksellers to help people get the right books into the right hands.

    (P.S. Hopefully you don't take this as an attack on your opinion, because it definitely wasn't supposed to be at all! =) Just wanted to say why I think they work.)

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