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Saturday Conversations 02/09/2013

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When a book goes bad…

It came to our attention that there are some issues that can make or break a book.  One such issue for us, Gikany and Una, is rape – especially the rape of the main character.

Rarely have we read a book that handles the issue of rape “well.” When thinking of this issue, an appropriate example for us is the Mercy Thompson series. This is the first series that Una has read where the main character is raped, and the description and handling of the action and fallout was appropriately done.  It did enhance the book.  It provided challenges later on – the rape for Mercy is not something she “gets over” in a few pages because her “prince charming” or HEA comes and wipes the slate clean.  It is something she works through.  It reappears throughout subsequent novels that take place over long time spans.  Although we have thankfully never experienced this violent act, we cannot fathom the healing – spiritual and emotional, especially – being resolved quickly.  To us it is something that takes time – possibly a lifetime to learn to live with and through.

This being said – we recently started a book that we DNF’d because we felt that the rape of the main character was not handled well. We describe why we feel the author used this issue poorly in our review HERE.

What about you… Are there certain topics or issues that  an author(s) has used as an element in a novel that when used well – it enhances the book while handing it poorly can wreck it horribly?

Thanks for stopping to chat!

  • This is a really good question, and to be honest, I don’t know if I have “A TOPIC” that will make or break a book. However, any violent acts, such as torture or rape, can be a turn off for me if I feel that the author is too gratuitous with the graphic details. But can be a deep, emotional addition to the story when handled with care.

    Another situation is having teens in the story. If the teen is whiny and the stereotypes of a bratty teen are used, I’m out of there. But if the teen is a smart, witty character, then I will enjoy.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • I think you detail it well in that the act, in and of itself, isn’t the biggest turn off for me. It’s the handling of it. For the one you referenced, the rape wasn’t handled appropriately and understandably, you DNF’d the novel. Various things can be a turn off when not handled well, such as stalking, violent beatings and abuse, rape and other things. It is the handling that can make or break it for me.

  • I read a lot of high fantasy & the rape scene is always prevalent. I hate it b/c it’s never handled well. I also hate stories with babies or little kids. I can think of a handful of books w/ either of those that I actually enjoyed..

  • I’ve written about rape, used it as a literary device to show the impact such violations can have upon a soul, leaving scar tissue behind that takes lifetimes to over come.

    Personally, I hated writing the subject matter. I knew it was a part of the story, that it was the trigger for the protagonist to act the way she did. Although that scene takes place half-way through my novel, it was the very last thing I wrote before I finished the book. I just didn’t want to go there, having been raped myself. I cried during that chapter, because the helplessness and fear hit way too close to home.

    For me, it’s a moral conundrum; I considered it pivotal to the plot. But as a survivor, I didn’t want to trigger readers who may have been abused themselves. Didn’t want to turn off readers. BUT I did (do) want to touch readers. I can name all the books that have ever drawn tears from me on a single hand. I remember those books and how they touched me. Evocative emotions associated with each and every one of those titles are what makes me respect the author of those works, that they can manipulate the reader from partaking in passive entertainment and evolving to full-on emotional investment.

    It’s heavy subject matter, and if not given the proper respect, imho, can be trivialized. As a reader, when coming upon scenes like that, it’s a mix of speed-reading so I don’t get triggered as much, and horrified fascination as to how the character will cope with such a blow.

    I have mixed feelings on the subject. Books echo reality, to a certain extent, no matter the genre. Life isn’t always pretty and happy. Bad things happen to people of all ages, walks and creeds. Ugly things that leave invisible bruises should be acknowledged by writers, in my opinion. Rape or death, both are prevalent in fiction. As noted by others, it’s how it’s handled which determines whether I keep reading. If the author cannot respect the enormity of personal violations, then odds are, I probably won’t like how they handler lesser issues.

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