The other day I realised something that most other idiots would have seen coming; teenage girls all like the same thing. Now obviously that is an outrageous generalisation, but see my case in point.
I was with a group of teenage girls in my capacity as a leader at the local scout group. We decided to play a ‘getting to know each other better’ sort of game, where each member of the group takes turns to be the question master. The question master then, surprise surprise, asks a question, something like ‘who is your favourite band?’ or ‘what is your favourite place in the world?’, everyone writes their answers down on a piece of paper anonymously and the QM must try to figure out who gave what answer based on what he knows about that person, and what he thinks he knows.
So you can see where this is going, the QM asked ‘what is your favourite book?’ we were allowed to chose two, and I was very interested, I always like to know about favourite books because it can give you insight into a person you never had, and it can be surprising. While I was rubbing my hands together with glee and thinking ‘ho ho, this will open up a discussion!’ the QM starts pulling answers out of the bowl and saying ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. He says it six times, and that’s everyone in the group apart from me and the QM (who obviously doesn’t give an answer). The Hunger Games is also mentioned about four times as the second choice. So so much for working out who’s who,the answers are all the same.
I was surprised, stupidly so, and I was-and I’m going to be very honest at risk of offending now-but I was a little unimpressed. I rather haughtily thought ‘good Lord- have an OPINION!’ There are millions of books in the world with millions of messages, worlds and heroes, so choose something of your own, something that speaks to you for your reasons, and just, I don’t know, operate as an individual.
And yet, all of this is pomposity, isn’t it? Just because an opinion chimes in with what is popular does that mean it is worth less? Anymore than if one is outrageous it is worth more, just for its rarity. Maybe it’s good if we all like the same books, maybe it unites us. Lets be fair, I’ve not actually read The Fault In Our Stars and by all accounts it’s brilliant, I have read the hunger games, and I’d personally call it good to take on holiday but little more. I wasn’t looking for anything I considered more ‘worthy’ though, just a little bit of differentiation, but if it costs nothing more to read and love the latest best seller to be in the ‘in group’ then maybe that’s a Godsend to teenagers everywhere, maybe that is part of the power of Books.
What do you think? Should we all ride the wave of popular fiction together and love it? Or should our favorite books say something more personal about us?