Thursday, March 24, 2011

Personal Expectations

I try to go into a book free of expectations. I don't just mean books that are crazy-hyped like Anna and the French Kiss was, but just books that I'm really looking forward to and thinking that I'll enjoy.

I try to get rid of that bias before going into the book. It's so easy to expect one thing from a story (romance, action, family drama, anything) and then be disappointed if you get something slightly different or if, for some reason, it just doesn't live up to the image you have in your mind.

There are certain books that, regardless of any buzz they have or haven't gotten, I just expect to like. Twenty Boy Summer springs to mind, as does Fixing Delilah (both by Sarah Ockler), Beth Revis' Across the Universe, and Ally Condie's Matched. Each of these books sounded amazing to me when I first heard about it and I had to put my personal expectations of what I thought the story would be aside in order to read and review the books.

I was able to do this with three of the four books.
The fourth one was the only one I didn't really enjoy, and I can't even honestly say that I didn't like it because the truth is that it just wasn't what I'd imagined. There was this disconnect between what I thought the book would be and what it actually was. And in that space was a chasm of disappointment that came from me, not the story.

Recently I read another book I was really looking forward to. One that I first heard of long before it was published and that, from the get-go, sounded like my type of book. I really didn't want to be disappointed. I didn't want to go into it with expectations, imagining what the story would be and not being able to enjoy what the story actually was because of those expectations. I won't tell you what the book was or what I thought of it, but I want to know if you've ever experienced this... do you feel like you have to erase your personal expectations of a novel in order to really read and enjoy it for what it is?


  1. I personally hate hype. Hunger Games was incredibly hyped to me and it didn't live up to the hype. However, was it a good book? Yes. Would I have liked it if I had just been allowed to discover it on my own? Yes. Was it the most amazing thing ever written!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No. And therein lies the hype (all those exclamation points).

  2. While I'd love to be able to go into a book with no preconceived notions about it, being a blogger and being tuned into the book world means that it's pretty much impossible unless I discover something that I haven't already read about somewhere else. This is both good and bad: I've discovered some really great books because of other people talking about them, but I've also been disappointed because they don't end up being as awesome as I've been told they are.

    You make a great point about how buzz impacts us. There's the inevitable backlash that follows anything that gets really popular or is eagerly anticipated. While I don't subscribe to hating on something just because it's popular, I have to admit that the more a book gets hyped up, the more reservations I have about liking it (which could be a form of self-preservation).

    Anna & the French Kiss is the exception to the rule, I think, where it was even better than I'd heard and hoped.

    (Sorry for the novel-length comment.)

  3. Michael
    I have mixed feelings about hype itself but for me that's different from my personal expectations. Hype generally doesn't hurt my reading as much as having my own preconceived notions about what a story will be or how much I'll enjoy it. I read both Twilight and The Hunger Games after the hype had started and it didn't bother me.

    Clementine Bojangles
    It is hard but I do a few things to "protect" myself from those preconceived notions. For example, if I already know there's a specific book I want/am planning to read, I don't read any reviews for it until I'm already reading or finished with it. That said, I'm actually 95% of the time really really good about "killing" my expectations before going into a book because I love for the story to take me by surprise.

    As for hype itself, YES, I AGREE ABOUT ANNA. I was so incredibly tired of the hype for that book and then I read it and was like OMG I CAN MARRY THE BOOK PLEASE?? It was even better than they said.

  4. I've enjoyed many over-hyped books, and others fell flat. They weren't what I expected. But I can't help but have preconceptions based on the hype. I would have to avoid blogs and Goodreads to avoid the buzz.