Red flag reading
Emma Duffy | Sunday, October 30, 2022
Social media is full of comments on what books are acceptable to read. There are warnings plastered all across online platforms declaring that it is a red flag if someone likes “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger or “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn, maybe even “The Stranger” by Albert Camus. At the same time, romance novels such as the ones by Colleen Hoover can not be recommended enough. I must confess, I would much rather engage in the “red flag reading” than force myself to read a sappy love story.
I am aware romance is by far the most popular reading genre, however, I could never find myself enjoying it. To me, these romance novels are boring and unrealistic. Of course, I am sure there are some realistic love stories in literature, but it would still not be my preferred pick. Most of these novels have characters that are stuck in a trope to appease a certain kind of reader. They are predictable and sometimes even nauseating. For a vast majority of these novels, the reader is only left to wonder whether or not the couple will end up together and in most cases I simply do not care enough. This question alone is not enough to keep me entertained.
This does not mean I am against all romance within literature. Clearly, my claim excludes the subplot of love stories within the “Percy Jackson” series, the “Hunger Games” series and “The Book Thief.” When it comes to the main characters involved in these romantic subplots, I do not mind the scenes in which they enter. Most of them are wholesome and interesting enough that it is worth the read.
To clarify my point, not all romance in literature is bad. Despite the fact that two of my examples have to do with Greek Mythology and a dystopian universe, I feel as though these are more realistic. Romance should be a subplot of all life and that should be reflected in literature. I do not think that love should be the sole center of anyone’s life, which means I do not want to read a story where that seems to be the case.
The reason I prefer books that are considered to be “red flags” is because they often include more complexity. The characters are not people who someone can easily adore and I think that brings some realism to literature. In life, personalities may not be as exaggerated as in these characters, however, they will have their own hidden secrets that you will not know until you foster a relationship. This idea of an imperfect character is interesting to me, it is fully up to the reader to decide what is forgivable or not. It is intriguing to see what other flaws readers will be able to look past, assuming there is no excuse for racism, sexism, abuse or anything within that sort of ideology. It is clear that many characters within this genre should not be idolized, making it a “red flag” when they are, however, they can be used to think critically about psychology and point of view.
The plots are also able to fall further away from set tropes. There can still be some sort of a category such as “Good for Her” novels, but it is not as predictable as when one hears of an enemies-to-lovers story. In my own personal reading, these novels have had more twists and turns to keep me more engaged than I have been when trying to read romance novels.
All of that being said, people should read what they want! If romance is what makes you happy, then I am happy as well and I would love to hear recommendations for romance novels that do not fall into the same categories I said I dislike. This reflection is just based on the books I have read so far in my life. I highly suggest pushing away the perceived notion and giving “red flag reading” a try.
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The views expressed in this Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.