The Problem with Relatability and Books | Becca’s Bookish Discussion

Great! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking a book even more because it’s relatable. I understand for the need to want to read something that understands you, that makes you feel normal. However, liking a book solely because it’s relatable, this is a problem for me, and it’s not the only one pertaining to relatability and books.

This is what really gets me. I can understand liking a book more because it’s relatable, even liking solely because of that is forgivable. But there’s a line many reviewers use and it’s something I can’t stand: It wasn’t relatable enough for me.

I can understand, sometimes we want a book to makes us feel understood. But books, books. They’re meant to open our eyes to another’s perspective, they’re meant to show us different points of views, they’re meant to splurge our minds in different worlds. Why would you ever undermine that by saying books aren’t relatable enough for you? Books—movies, tv shows, any stories—have this incredible, beautiful purpose and power and it physically hurts me when people bash it with their want for relatability.

A little bit of both. They’re good in the way that they help us feed our selfish want to be understood, and for that purpose they’re great! We all need that sometimes. Unfortunately they’re of no help in expanding our view of the world, in broadening our perspective. They’re bad when relatability is the only thing a reader pays attention to. They’re very bad when a reviewer uses it to undermine books.

With this discussion, I ask you: Please, please keep an open mind as a reader and/or a reviewer. Don’t bash a book because it isn’t relatable. Let yourself see the world through another’s eyes.

25 thoughts on “The Problem with Relatability and Books | Becca’s Bookish Discussion

  1. I think it’s publisher jargon because the average person wants to feel understood by a book. The point is don’t be the average person be the educated reviewer. “This book isn’t relatable enough for me” is bringing the true value down for all books.

  2. I’ve read a few articles with book review tips, and I found that “relatable” is publisher jargon. The advice is to avoid publisher jargon, but they never explain specifically why relatable is poor word choice in a review.

  3. I do the same too. It’s probably why I kind of hate Jace from the Mortal Instruments LOL. I try to understand him but I don’t get him haha.

  4. Yeah, that’s annoying. I mean I understand when a character keeps doing stupid things again and again—I have to admit I hate that but I’m not going to completely bash a book because of it. I mean, just because a person isn’t exactly like you doesn’t make the book bad.
    Thanks for commenting 🙂

  5. I also get really annoyed when people hate a book because a character made a different decision than they would have which is weird because there are so many different ways people react to situations.

  6. Of course, I completely agree. I love to read about different people and I love reading about someone who understands me too. My problem really isn’t with books being relatable or not relatable, my problem is people abusing relatability. Because saying “this book wasn’t relatable enough for me” or “this character wasn’t relatable enough for me” is basically this book isn’t worth reading because the book wasn’t exactly like my life. Books can show you the world, relatability shows you yourself. Both are good, so it just really bugs me when someone bashes a book they didn’t relate to, ya feel?
    thanks for commenting!

  7. Okay. I do not understand the relatable and not relatable controversy at all. Like, it depends on the story. The reason I read books is to dive into a different world altogether. Like Harry Potter; I’m not an orphan living with crazy relatives being hunted down by a rogue wizard, but I love HP. And in Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, I love Cath because we’re the same in many ways. Different people are interesting to read about.

  8. Relatability isn’t a main factor for me when it comes books–at least I don’t think so consciously. I think it definitely helps if I can relate to a character in the story, but I’ve enjoyed lots of books where I didn’t love the lead or felt like I couldn’t relate to them. There are characters that I would never be friends with in real life but I can appreciate their story.

    But I love your point: a story is a chance to view something through someone else’s eyes and that is a beautiful thing 🙂

  9. Yes, thank you! Not only does every life not have to relate to yours, it shouldn’t. Diversity is what reading is all about. I’m glad, that always makes me feel better 🙂
    Thanks for commenting!

  10. Yeah, I see what you’re saying. Though somewhat, I disagree. I think disliking a character because they’re not like you is the very thing we’re trying to move past in society. And I think if seeing a perspective that you’ve never experienced isn’t believable for you, then you it means that reader is pretty close-minded. Reading is all about embracing different points of views and perspectives.
    Thanks for commenting, I always love to hear everyone’s opinion!

  11. Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with liking a relatable book, it’s just NOT liking a book because it’s not relatable really bothers. For me, I connect on an emotional level when I get attached to the characters.
    Haha, I know! Right after I finished writing and posted this I saw her post

  12. Excellent points! I also like the idea that sometimes books don’t come to you at the right time (mentioned in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry). I’ve totally found that in the past–sometimes I finish a book and I have to admit for some reason I can’t articulate it didn’t resonate with me. And then I pick it up again later and love it and have no idea how I missed its good points. I think for me a character has to feel true to themselves for me to like the story, or at least see its merit, more than I have to relate to them.

  13. This is a really good point and one I 100% agree with! A book is not always meant to be relatable, it tells a story, someone else story and everyone’s life does not have to relate to yours at all. Books are meant to show us different aspects of life we might not experience for example. I am sure I have used the line “I related so much to this book…” in my reviews but I have never negatively reviewed a book if the reliability was missing. It’s not necessary! Good post ^^

  14. I hadn’t thought about that. I know books introduce readers to new perspectives, but I forgot that relatability is used as a measure of “should you read it,” and that is not a fair measure.

    Then I think about how ‘relatable’ is used. I think ‘relatable’ should be replaced with other words when it refers more to believability or as you mentioned, connectivity to make us feel understood. Then again, other perspectives won’t necessarily feel believable if this is the first time the reader has ever encountered it. Maybe it could be mentioned as a reason for disliking a character, reasoning why that character would never be your best friend, but it should not be used to say that a book should never be read.

    Thanks for posting about this. I haven’t thought about ‘relatable’ in this way before.

  15. Very true! Books portray different characters going through a variety of situations. It’s only natural that they’ll all behave differently. The least we can do is to try and understand their perspectives in an attempt to broaden our own. Great point, Becca!

  16. Agreed! I think books that are relatable, of course, makes me feel connected on an emotional level, however it’s not a requirement for me to love a book. Plus, it’s good to see things in different perspectives! (Funny you posted this! Carolyn at A Hundred Thousand Stories just posted a discussion post related to this today. ^.^ Great minds think alike I suppose.)

  17. you make great points! I’ve seen tons of reviewers trash a book because the narrative wasn’t “relatable” enough for them. and it’s like….stop, how can you expect to deeply relate to someone in a fictional world? just enjoy it and move on

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s