Discusson: Communication Breakdown

So I need to talk to you guys about something. Lately, I’ve been having some issues as far as genres go for the books that I’m reading. I just read a great post from The Housework Can Wait about clarifying the proper definition of each genre (and it’s great – you should go check it out!) but I’m talking about something a little different.

Lately I’ve been have problems where I pick up a book thinking in falls into one type of genre and turns out, it has a twist that crosses the line into a second genre. What’s my issue with this? I go into the book thinking it’s going to be one thing and then I almost feel betrayed when this plot twist pops up and completely changes the whole feel of the story.

WHO’S TO “BLAME”?

Okay. First things first. I in no way mean to bash these books or these authors!!! They’re actually really great works, but the genre confusion that I personally felt directly affected my comprehension and overall opinion. I would never say don’t read these and actually there were a lot of things that I did like about them, but there were just some things I did not see coming and for some reason, it left a sour taste in my mouth.

(Please note, I’m going to mention some specific books, so if you don’t want any mild spoilers (I’m only talking about genres, not plot) look away!)

So am I to blame for this confusion? Did I bring this upon myself? Well, yeah, sometimes. I’m the kind of person who hates spoilers SO MUCH that I will avoid reading a full summary on Goodreads OR on the dust jacket OR a full blog review because I have that big of an averson to spoilers. Just the tiniest thing gives away part of the plot and then the lead-up to it isn’t exciting anymore. So yes, I’m partially to blame. SOMETIMES.

Time When I Was To Blame: LEVEL 2. 
LEVEL 2 by Lenore Appelhans. I actually enjoyed the book – I did – but why did I think that this was more of a dystopian book? Well, first off – the cover. Right up until I actually received the book, I thought that girl on the cover was wielding a sword and not just slouched over. (Because how cool would that be?) I had started it by thinking of Felicia as caught in Level 2 in an almost sci-fi/dystopian way more so than, “Hey. She’s in the afterlife. Maybe that issue’s gonna come up, huh?” It never once crossed my mind that religion would be tied into this book or that we’d even be talking about a limbo between Heaven and Hell (I know. Don’t ask why that thought didn’t cross my mind). True, it still does have kind of a futuristic feel a lot of the time, actually, but there’s that … how can I put it? Sacredly paranormal aspect that somehow I just never thought of.
How Did It Affect My Opinion? I got mad at this book. It kind of took a twist I wasn’t expecting which dove more into the “sacred paranormal” (pardon my improper terminology) and I was actually frustrated with how much religion was tied into the book because well, that’s just not my thing. I went to a Catholic school for 10 years and somehow that turned me off to religion instead of strengthening my faith. Go figure. So I almost ruined parts of it for myself because that twist wasn’t blatantly obvious (to me. Somehow).

BUT other times, that second genre is not mentioned. I’ve checked. I went back and looked through the summaries and if I hadn’t read the book yet, I wouldn’t have known at all. There were the tiniest of hints that I wouldn’t have picked up on when reading just the description and boy, did that twist take my by surprise.

Time When Twists Are To Blame: DANCE OF SHADOWS (this one’s probably a mild spoiler. Maybe)
So I’ve heard quite a few mixed reviews about DANCE OF SHADOWS. Just check out the reviews on Goodreads – they’re seriously all over the place – So I wasn’t quite sure where I would fall in line with that. Usually when the reviews are all over the place, I tend to fall on the side that doesn’t like the book, but I still wanted to give it a shot. So I did. I started it and all the ballet lingo totally reminded me of Center Stage. When it started to turn darker, it reminded me of what I picture Black Swan to be like (anyone seen it? Is that accurate?) and I was like, “Wow this is interesting!” I was actually digging the beginning and I loved the mystery. Keyword: mystery. I was thinking this was about Vanessa going back to school to investigate her sister’s disappearance. BUT there’s a twist (which I will not divulge) that’s a definitely genre change-up and I was just put-off by it.
How Did It Affect My Opinion? To be fair (or maybe unfair) there were already things about the book that were kind of annoying me, so once the this plot twist came along and totally switched the genre on me, I wasn’t happy. For some people, I bet they’d be like “Whoa, that was an awesome twist in this story! I totally didn’t see that coming!” And that’s where I got upset. I totally didn’t see that coming. Because of that, it seemed like a far reach to me and made the end a little too cheesy instead of totally awesome. *shrugs* I feel that that’s the make-or-break factor of the story and the people who are coming up with great reviews liked it and the people who end up with disappointed reviews obviously didn’t. Like I said, that wasn’t the only thing that didn’t quite sit right with me, but that’s to discuss later in my review!

BUT WITH THE BAD TIMES COME THE AWESOME TIMES

Now. There are also times when the mix of genres turns out to be TOTALLY AWESOME. Three different genres? Four different genres? SURE. YES PLEASE. And other cases where there I totally misinterpreted the genre, but the book was so much better than what I thought it was supposed to be!

Time When I Mixed It Up… But It Was Even Better! HOW TO LEAD A LIFE OF CRIME
If you guys haven’t read HOW TO LEAD A LIFE OF CRIME, I highly recommend it. When I first read the summary, it said that it was a school for the criminals – A place to learn the darker sides of life and to fit in with other kids in a world where you never fit in before. For some reason, the way it was worded, I thought it was going to be a superhero-type story. Maybe it was the cover (sheesh, apparently that has a lot to do with how I perceive a book) or just the way the summary was written, but turns out there are no superheroes in this book. We unite with the broken, the corrupt, and the criminally insane and it makes for an amazing and gripping (and violent) story.
How Did It Affect My Opinion? I was actually a little relieved that it wasn’t a superhero story. I loved that all of this was happening in the here and now. Not some dystopian or future world, not where our characters have supernatural powers – This could all really happen and we would never know it. It was exciting, thrilling, and at the same time, horrifying. I absolutely loved it and loved how I felt like this could really happen (although I really, really hope it doesn’t).

The Time Where Tons of Genres Came Together To Form a SUPERBOOK: CINDER
I loved CINDER. Who would have thought? You can say cyborg Cinderella any day and I would never, ever have picked up this book. Thanks to my fellow bloggers, I did, and I’m so happy I listened to them! To me, CINDER was a crazy but perfect mix of genres. There’s the fantasy aspect from the fact that it’s based on a fairy tale, the dystopian element of New Beijing, the sci-fi aspect of cyborgs and androids (and subtle Star Wars references), AND there’s a romance. Phew. That’s a lot, but so perfectly blended that it created one giant ball of AMAZING.
How Did It Affect My Opinion? Clearly, I loved it. The different genres and different feels definitely came together so well and really enhanced the story instead of distracting from it. Now I neeeed to read SCARLET!

Okay friends, now it’s time for some feedback. Has this ever happened to you??? Am I the only person who’s suffered from the phenomenon of genre miscommunications? I can’t wait to hear what you think about my cases and what books you’ve felt this with!

14 thoughts on “Discusson: Communication Breakdown

  1. J.J. Bonds

    Great post! Cover confusion is the worst. I like to know what I’m getting into- to a certain extent so it can be a little unnerving when the story takes a completely unforeseen turn. When it goes well, I commend the author for originality. The other times? It’s just frustrating. Level 2 is a great example. I’ve seen it around (everywhere) and had the same perception you did from the cover, so although I haven’t read it, I think it would have been a bit of a surprise to me that religion was a central theme. Evidently I’m guilty of judging a book by its cover!

  2. Quinn

    Interesting post. I can’t say that I’m upset if different genres show up in a book, whether I except it or not. But I do know what you mean. I tend to rate books based on whether or not they fulfill my expectations. For example I just read The World Above by Cameron Dokey. It’s this little book that’s part of the Once Upon a Time series. And I wasn’t expecting it to be amazing because it was only 175 pages. And it delivered what I was expecting, so I couldn’t say it was a bad book or anything. But if I read a book expecting it to be amazing (this could totally be my fault here) and it disappoints, I tend to give it a lower rating. Expectations are important, and I think they definitely affect how we feel about books . . . and other things too.

    1. Brittany Post author

      Yes! Thank you for saying what I didn’t. Expectations are a big part of how I end up feeling about a book. I just build something up in my head and when it changes, I just feel a little let down. So true – It’s not like it was a bad book, but it really does affect how I feel about it because it just didn’t fulfill my expectations.
      thanks so much for commenting! I love hearing your input 🙂

  3. Candice

    I can’t so much think of a book that I went in thinking it was going to be one thing and then ended up being a totally other thing – but I know what you mean. I think these days genres are so blurred and mixed that it’s hard to specifically say “this book is this genre; that book is that genre.” But it does suck when you go into a book expecting it to be something and it’s not. However, on the flip side, you can go in expecting it to be something and it’s not, but because it’s not it’s fantastic. Like Quinn said above, I think it’s our expectations and not the blurring genres. I thought Level 2 was going to be some kind of futuristic, sci-fi book… clearly not so much!

    I’m like you though. If I haven’t read a book and really want to, I tend to stay away from reviews of it. If I just sort of want to read it, I may scan Goodreads or go to a trusted blogger, but that’s about it. Sometimes it’s exciting being taken for a twist, while other times it’s really not good. I think it has more to do with the writing rather than the twist or the content – sometimes I want a book to be something and it’s not, but the writing is so good and I’m so invested in the story that I really don’t care what it does. Great discussion; glad you brought this up!

  4. Alice in Readerland

    I love this topic! 🙂 I hate when a book has a twist that totally places it in another genre, sometimes I blame that on what the publishing company highlights in their synopsis to grab readers. I’ve gotten annoyed at books that say they’re contemporary, but have some huge paranormal explanation for everything at the end; books that are advertised as being this whole action-adventure story and end up being focused on a slow-moving love story; or books that are slow and decide to add a major game changer in the last chapter (“you thought this was a character driven contemporary novel? Nope. We’re going to throw in time travel in the last few pages.”). Great post! 🙂

    Alice @ Alice in Readerland

  5. Christina

    Great post and discussion! I think a lot of publicists and marketers would be interested in this kind of feedback. I can’t think of any places where I felt duped by genre confusion, but I can think of lots where the blurb completely sold the story differently and failed to capture the feel or the style well, or at all.

  6. Stormy

    I had the SAME reaction to Level 2! I’m very devout to my faith so it wasn’t so much that the religion elements bothered me but they threw me off. Even though the book was about the afterlife, from the summary and reviews I read I didn’t think religion would play a large role in the story at all, so when Felicia kept thinking about her memories of youth group events and such I kept going “huh? This is weird. . . ” I enjoyed Level 2 anyway, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been so caught off-guard by the infusion of all the religious elements. Totally agree with you about Cinder as well–“Superbook” is a great name for it!

  7. EM Castellan

    Great post! I had that problem with THE PLEDGE by Kimberly Derting. It was marketed as a Dystopian and it’s… not. At least not according to my definition of dystopian…

  8. Cait

    Wowsers…awesome discussion! This is actually a topic that is high on my radar right now because I”m presenting a paper on it next week! I’ve dubbed this phenomenon the “mash-up” genre…you go in reading book for one thing and then suddenly it’s been mashed up with other elements and there is no way to correctly label the book!
    I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thin, probably the teacher in me, because I feel it is creating more readers among teens. They pick up a book that is seemingly in a genre they like, and suddenly it is full of other elements, and it turns out they like that too! So then they are off finding other books in that second genre that they love. I know that many times this past year that has also happened to me.
    But on the negative side, and I think there is one, it can also discourage readers. Mainly because I see this mash-up as suddenly taking over the world of YA. Everywhere I turn or every book I pick up is suddenly full of many different genre elements and story subplots. I feel as if the publishers are grasping these novels simply because they will sell. And then if a story takes a turn with something I don’t like, I’m disappointed and might stray from that genre forever.
    Ultimately, there are both sides to the genre miscommunication, but I do think the mash-up genre is here to stay for awhile.
    Great post!

  9. Briana @ Pages Unbound

    …Level 2 is not a sci-fi dystopian? Awkward. I admit I know nothing about the book and have never read the summary, but I certainly thought it was sci-fi from the cover, and I also thought the girl was holding a sword. I feel slightly silly now!

    I agree that being taken by surprise can lead to disappointment with a book. Usually I have more problems with inaccurate summaries, however. If the book isn’t full of action and cliff-hangers, that’s fine, but PLEASE do not imply it is! That is the only time I will really be disappointed by it!

    I have also observed “mixing genres” becoming a trend. I think it’s supposed to make a book appeal to a wider audience, but sometimes the genres aren’t mixed as well as they could be, or readers just really don’t know what to expect.

  10. Rachel

    This was the case with me and The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, and I think that contributed A LOT to why I didn’t like the book. For some reason, I was convinced it was a contemporary novel. Like, just pure contemporary. So imagine my surprised with I discovered it was definitely not that. Needless to say, I was not happy and ended up rushing through the book just so I could be done with it.

    1. Brittany Post author

      Ahhh I see. I know there’s something mysterious there but I’m trying to not know ANYTHING about it before I read it because I heard it’s really good and I don’t want to ruin it LOL. But I do know there’s “something” going on. Sorry it hurt your opinion of the book! It’s so true. When you don’t know, it really does make a big difference!

  11. Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase

    I really enjoy it when books are mixed, but yes, it can be very confusing and disappointing when you think a book is going to be about a certain thing, or of a certain genre, and then POOF! there’s a twist that makes it something completely different, or even worse, it’s just not the subject/genre you were expecting at all. I try to stay away from reading blurbs and summaries before reading books (I read the summary once, put it on my TBR list and then don’t read it again until I write the review), that way I don’t get too many ideas about what the book will entail beforehand. It saves me some of that confusion and disappointment!

    Great discussion topic! 🙂

  12. DannyBookworm

    What a fantastic and wonderful post!!!!! I totally get your frustration and it happens to me to once in a while! Oh and Lvel 2?? YES about the sword and YES about the confusion.. lol!

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