We all know a series, an author, a movie, or a show that’s been hyped up. Everyone talks about it. It appears all over social media. All we hear is ‘OMG, it’s so good!’
When the hype reaches us before we’ve had a chance to suss it out for ourselves, it can become a little overwhelming. Is it really the best movie of the year? Am I really missing out by not having read this book?
Hype can make something lose its appeal.
When I got a job at a bookshop, I joined a part of the bookish community that I’d never seen before. Every person I worked with admitted to not reading a hyped up or popular book. Some of us haven’t read Twilight, haven’t read Throne of Glass, or haven’t read Narnia. We still recommend books to each other, but it’s less ‘you HAVE to read this’ and more ‘I really recommend this’. We are not shamed for not reading what’s popular. Our obscure, uncommon tastes are celebrated and welcomed with open arms.
That’s what I hate about the hype. The way we’re looked down on by the community because we haven’t indulged ourselves in the latest popular thing. The way we can be excluded because we haven’t joined in on the hype.
Sometimes I’m too nervous to read something that’s wildly popular. What if I don’t like it? What if I can’t understand why it’s so hyped up? Does that mean there’s something wrong with me?
It can be easier to say ‘No, I haven’t read it yet’ than ‘I read it but didn’t like it.’
So, the bookshop was a safe space for me to admit that I hadn’t read many hyped books, including anything by Sarah J. Maas. Some customers were not impressed by this. ‘Why haven’t you read her? She’s amazing!’ ‘You work in a bookshop and haven’t read Throne of Glass?’
Like most bookworms, I have a lot of books at home waiting to be read. This included the Throne of Glass series. But I didn’t want to start it. The hype really turned me off. Admittedly, I’d never even read the blurb. I knew it was a bestselling, eight-book, fantasy series, but that was it. And I’d gathered from listening to everyone carry on about it that it had fae and sex.
In fact, it seemed that SJM was just fae and sex. She’s written other things too, but this series seemed to be all anyone ever talked about when it came to her work.
During one of Melbourne’s extended lockdowns, I decided that I should read more of the books I already owned before I bought more. This turned out to be a good choice. In a time of such distance, I was able to connect with the stories and the characters. I was able to appreciate the authors and the community I joined by having read these books. And more than ever, books gave me a little bit of hope.
My hate for the hype started to lessen.
I decided to give Throne of Glass a go. I’d recently connected with a girl at work and SJM was her favourite author. When our store had to close because of the lockdown, we decided to buddy read it, where we would read the same chunk each day and discuss it. I’d hoped that reading the series alongside someone who’d already read it and loved it would help me keep an open mind.
And, amusingly, I get it. There’s a reason for the popularity of this series. Though I don’t think the hype really does the story justice. People don’t tend to gush about the messages the story has, they tend to focus on the sexy qualities when it’s so much more than that.
It’s not just fae and sex. It’s about having hope that the world can be better. About not giving up if you are knocked down. This series is an ode to surviving a difficult time. These books teach readers not to let the world beat you down. It’s about learning to trust yourself to be strong, learning not to yield when society tries to tell you who you are.
And I really needed that.
These messages are always needed, but especially now when the world is nothing like it used to be. My partner is an essential worker and so I spent almost every day of the pandemic by myself in my house. But I was not alone. Reading this series meant I got to spend my days with fierce characters who refuse to let darkness win. I spent two months buddy reading this series. Two months forming a shared love of this series with my new friend. Two months being inspired. If these characters can withstand the bleakness of their world, I had hope that I could withstand the changed world I was living in. I felt like I was reading the series at just the perfect time.
I wish I hadn’t let the hype stop me for so long. I hadn’t bothered to decide for myself whether I liked the sound of the book. I’d never even given it a shot and instead had let society make me think I would be the odd one out if I didn’t like it and therefore it wasn’t worth the risk to read it. I don’t want to do that again. I don’t want to let the worst-case scenario stop me from trying something. I don’t want to hate the hype anymore.
Reading the series allowed me to be part of something. And it gave me hope that I am capable of not giving in when the world lets us down.
Justine Stella has a Master of Arts in Writing and Literature from Deakin University. She draws on her experiences to write pieces that will hopefully help readers feel less alone.
Justine’s work has appeared in the Wild, Prelude, Epilogue, Harmony, Contact, Illusion, Ethereal, Myth, Taboo, Skeptic, Colour, Tension and Forward editions of WORDLY Magazine.
View all posts by Justine Stella