What were your favourite books growing up?
Of course, Harry Potter made it on my list. And Percy Jackson. And the Abby Hayes series. And when I was in high school, I obsessed relentlessly over the Twilight series.
But I got older. And perhaps slightly wiser.
HA! I’m just kidding.
But I realized that childhood and tweenhood years can seriously cloud your objective judgement on what’s good and not good.
As a kid, you’re just along for the adventures. I didn’t care about character development, or theme, or plot holes. What made me excited to read was how this avalanche of emotions hit me whenever I opened a book. It felt exhilarating and I loved how books had me on the edge of my seat.
But as a reviewer, I have to put on a new pair of lenses (literally, since I have to wear glasses now).
I have to objectively study books from every angle and decide on what makes it work and give some evidence to back it up. Take Twilight for example: I bought all of the books in the saga and I book-pushed it on every single person I met. But that Bella-Edward romance is not a healthy relationship. Bella is extremely dull as a character and practically does NOTHING. The plot of the first novel is nonexistent.
So why did I love it back then?
Partly because of the hype. Partly because I’d never read vampire-human forbidden love stories before. And partly because it was one of the first romance-genre YA novels I’ve ever read and I didn’t know what to expect (I was an adventure-fantasy-book junkie).
Another example would be Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick which I read in my third year of high school. I read it and I loved it when it first came out. Then the other books got released. And it slowly got more and more clear to me that this was an abusive relationship and the protagonist was infuriating. What I despised the most about the series was the use of flashbacks. I’m not against flashbacks but it was a recap of what occurred in the first book. NO. A huge X. It did nothing to progress the plot. And character development? Nora had not changed from the lovesick teenager that she was in the first novel.
And it was unsurprisingly close to the format of Twilight. Normal teenage girl falls in love with enigmatic, dangerous-but-good supernatural being. Supernatural being also has a hot bod so bonus. Although I can say the same about all of the other fantasy romance YAs out there but that’s a different topic altogether.
That’s the bad side of rereading childhood favourites. Now the good side:
I still love Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and I can appreciate the themes and simplicity of the Abby Hayes series. It’s now that I am older then I can fully analyze all of the different themes and elements of the novel. When I was younger, all I could say about who Harry Potter was that he was brave and the theme of the series was that love conquers all.
But it’s so much more than that.
The different kinds of families, the importance and strength of friendship, loneliness, how you can be brave when you’re defeating evil and when you choose to stand up for yourself. The difficulties of growing up. And how human beings are amazing because of the choices they make and how they can change for the good (and bad).
First experiences give you an overwhelmingly subjective point of view. I still stand firm that Harry Potter is the greatest fantasy series that I’ve ever read (Percy Jackson is on a slightly lower tier). But it’s not just books. You’ll probably be comparing your first kiss with all of the other kisses that you’ve had. Or the first time you ate a piece of chocolate cake and nothing will be better than that first bite even if it was maybe too sweet or too bitter or too salty.
It can go both ways. You can hug and love a book so much when you were a kid and discover that it was all for naught. Or you’re going to find yourself still loving and hugging that book and explaining to your grandkids why it’s the most fabulous piece of writing you’ve ever seen.
What do you think? Do you think that being a kid really makes books better than it seems or am I just crazy-talking? Do you still love your childhood favourites?