Confessions of a Peer-Pressured Reader

Confessions of a Peer-Pressured Reader

I’m sad to admit that for the majority of my life, I was a peer-pressured reader. Meaning, I would read (or avoid reading) certain books because of how I imagined others would view me for reading those titles. However, I’m now happy to admit that for the most part, I live a peer-pressure free life. I read what I want, when I want, and as frequently as I want.

But I thought it would be interesting to analyze some of the habits developed while under peer-pressure.

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I avoided reading YA lit because I was afraid to be seen as immature

This is probably the number-one thing I felt pressured to do: avoid reading Young Adult books. Of course, this is especially true as the years go on and I continue to age. But even when I was within the target-audience age group for YA novels, I still felt pressure not to read them.

Why? Simply put, because they were “childish”. The school I went to, the people I surrounded myself with, and the general lack of peers who also read created a somewhat snobbish environment. I was really smart. People at my school, my teachers and peers, were generally smart. Why would I read YA novels? I should be reading something more intellectual.

Reading literary classics

If I was going to read at all, it better be a classic. Bonus points if the story has political undertones, deals with issues of minorities, or somehow changed the literary world. Who cares if they were difficult to read? Who cares that I hardly ever got anything out of them? Because I had no desire to read them? And therefore closed myself off to their messages?

It didn’t matter that I wasn’t ready for those stories. If I was going to be reading at all, it should be something important. And so my reading habits changed.

Confessions of a Peer-Pressured Reader

I stopped reading altogether

If I couldn’t read the books I wanted to, and I wasn’t interested in the books that I “should” be reading, I just wasn’t going to read. This is one of the things that upset me the most. I was always an avid reader as a kid, and would have been throughout my teenage years if I hadn’t felt peer-pressure.

Even in school, I stopped reading my assigned books. It was easy to get by on resource websites like Schmoop, and I took the IB English Exam (and passed, with college credit) without having ever opened any of the books on the exam. I became the master of avoiding reading. I could write essays, pass exams, and quote from books that I had never touched.

Throughout my teenage years, I only ever owned a couple of books. I know which books I actually read during those years. I read four series for fun (the Harry Potter series, The Mortal Instruments series, the Inheritance Cycle, and the Gossip Girl series) in the span of about 6-8 years. Most of those I had already owned from my childhood, and only a handful were bought while I was a teen.

Reading in College

I began reading again when I was a freshman in college, at 19 years old. I wanted to be an English major, because I had always known that I wanted to be a writer (but I would never admit it to anyone). So I signed up for a Freshman Seminar class (small groups for more discussion) called “Romancing the Tween”. It promised to be analytical and critical of YA books. I thought that would be a good cover for signing up for the class. “We’re going to criticize YA books, not gush over them!”

To be truthful, I was excited. Books on the reading list included: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride, and Divergent by Veronica Roth. I was finally going to revisit the books that I loved so much and that I had missed so dearly.

That was probably one of the most important classes I took in college. Not only did it remind me how much I loved YA novels, but it also allowed me to look at them critically. As someone who wants to write YA novels, it was invaluable to learn how influential these books can be to young, impressionable readers. I was once again hooked. I needed more. But I had to be strategic.

I avoided reading certain genres/authors/titles/topics/covers because of ongoing stigma

Even as I was easing myself back into reading, I felt like I had to continue avoiding certain books. I was even afraid of being judged by the cashiers at bookstores. I opted for vague-looking titles/covers so that people couldn’t really tell what I was reading. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even read book synopses before purchasing them (still guilty of that!) – I just opted for the safest-looking one.

And then everything changed when I started looking into book recommendations online. I came across Sasha Alsberg’s BookTube channel, abookutopia. From there, I was introduced to the Bookstagram community, and everything else is history.

Confessions of a Peer-Pressured Reader

My life has changed since joining Bookstagram/the online bookish community

I made a blog. I created an Instagram profile specifically for bookstagram. Then I bought more books. I read them. I loved them. And I stopped caring about what other people thought. And you know what? No one has ever made a comment about it to me. No one has ever asked me why I read YA, or reprimanded me for it, or suggested that I try something else. And I wouldn’t let it bother me even if they did.

Because I found an online community of like-minded book lovers just like me. I don’t need people in my life who don’t support me and my interests – I need this bookish community. And I’m so lucky to have found it. If I hadn’t, I would have focused on my dream of being a writer and finishing my first book.

Though to be entirely truthful, I do still find that I am a peer-pressured reader.

You might also enjoy: Writing My First Novel, Part 1

 

I read books I wouldn’t otherwise pick up because a friend suggested it

Book suggestions are all over the online bookish community. That’s basically what it’s all about – people raving over books they’ve recently read and loved. Because of this, I find that I am reading more broadly than I ever have before. I have found many wonderful novels this way – and even books that I’ve hated. But the point is that I’m reading diversely now.

I read books because they are popular/trendy in the online bookish community

Same idea as reading a book because it was suggested. This can sometimes feel a little more negative, though, because people will often feel left out if they aren’t reading what everyone else is reading. This isn’t so much a peer-pressure issue as it is a social issue. No one will bully or harass you for not reading the latest release by a top author (at least I hope they wouldn’t!!), but it can be lonely when you don’t have that book to read.

On the other hand, sometimes hyped books are just that – hyped. They’re not always good. You will never share the exact same taste in books as every other person, and so of course there will be differences in opinions.

Confessions of a Peer-Pressured Reader

Confession: I am still a peer-pressured reader

But it’s not always negative. Joining the bookish community online has done great things for my happiness, my life goals, and my social life.

I no longer feel the pressure to avoid certain books, because I no longer feel the pressure of being judged. I no longer feel that peer-pressure.

It’s true that I am still a peer-pressured reader, though. I love to hear book recommendations, and I’m always on the lookout for the month’s hottest book releases. When people are reading a certain book/series, I want to read that book/series too so that I can be a part of the conversation. And I’m perfectly happy with that.

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Let’s talk about it:

Are you a peer-pressured reader? What are some of the reading habits that you feel yourself pressured into? If you have grown out of it, as I have, how did you do so? Leave your experiences below in the comments.

8 thoughts on “Confessions of a Peer-Pressured Reader

  1. That’s a really interesting topic. Sometimes, especially whn it come to ya book, I feel like I can be judged for reading them. Even when people don’t try to listin to why I read them, I feel like their putting me and my reading in a little angle. Also, it’s kinda bad when you try to explain why ya are more then “After” by Anna Todd, even your best friend don’t try to give ya book a try, even if they speak about important matters that I know she cares about. In this case, the situation is a bit more complicated. I live in Italy and so my best friend. Only now the publisher are starting to translate great ya authors of other countries, but they’re still just touching the surface. So, when you enter I library, under the ya target you find lame romance book with teenager or italian youtuber book – that makes no sense with the genre, since they talk about themself. And John Green. John Green everywhere.
    So, it’s difficult to speak about ya in Italy and in the end you can kinda be alone… also because italians don’t read in english or don’t even know the language.
    Anyway, I totally feel you when it comes to the classics! I hated to read them in school. I’m not a fan of them. It’s not a mistery. I understand that during the history and during their time, they affected the world, and sometimes are still doing that, but that doesn’t mean that I will see this changing inside myself. I feel that imposing a certain read just because is classic it’s a dangerous thing to do and a sometimes a boring one too.
    In the end… since I completely got off the trail of your post, I don’t really felt pressure when it comes to reading. The only one is that I might have few times and still an ocean of books waiting for me

    1. That’s a really interesting point you bring up about books in other countries and a lack of translated books. Especially when you’re someone from another country, but a part of the bookish community (where most of the books highlighted are US or UK-centered and written in English). I think translation is definitely an issue that needs to be handled more frequently. It must be hard when the representative books of your favorite genre aren’t translated well into your own language!

      Classics are so hard. Some of them I do end up enjoying, but most times the language is too far out of date for me to feel properly engaged in the text. Also, topics of interest change greatly even from year to year. History is great and all, but I wish there was more emphasis placed on reading modern-age books!

  2. I relate to this a lot!! AHHH And i’m so so glad you decided just to embrace your love of YA and reading and writing. <3 That's so awesome. And I'm the same with being peer-pressured to read the big name YA books.😂 I don't mind at all! I love being able to discuss books with people, so it’s helpful to know what’s popular at the moment. And I often end up liking them anyway haha. I did, however, really back off reading between around 13 and 16 years old. None of my friends were readers and they really did make fun of me for it (sheesh, some friends right?!? You look back and wonder what your younger self was doing!) but I ended up moving town and the library became my LIIIIIFE.😍 I’m so glad I discovered YA!! I mean, I was 16 so a bit late, haha, but YA books are the best part of life.😍

    1. Yes!! We had like the same childhood haha. I’m glad you were able to relate to this, especially the whole embracing books thing!! 🙂

  3. I totally get you. I too have gone through this and it all too changed with Bookstagram for me.😌😊
    I used to be ashamed that I like yalit and only carried classics like ‘Great Expectations’ around so that people would think…idk I am smart(?). But when I started Bookstagram I just felt this immense support, that I could actually come out of the closet. (Sounds like a coming out lol) And when I did, I found out that other classmates liked these books and this common interest just started a very precious friendship for us which still lasts.
    I am happy that you and me, we both can confidently say: “We are yalit- lovers”.❤
    And the last paragraph: You are not really a peer- pressured reader anymore. I think what you do is more informing yourself. What’s out there and which of these would you like to read more at this moment.😊
    Lots of love~💕

    1. Aw I’m so glad that you had a really positive experience too! It feels amazing to have support from your peers and the online community of bookstagram 💕

  4. I feel like I could have written most of this! Unlike you, I stopped reading in university. I definitely felt like i HAD to stop reading YA once I left high school. It didn’t help that hardly any of my friends read. In fact, it made me feel more like I shouldn’t be reading. I’ve also found that bookstagram is an amazingly supportive community and my love of reading has flourished since I discovered it! It’s nice to finally have a community of people who love and encourage reading of any genre and who support each other’s creativity!

    1. Aw it’s nice to have a kindred soul out there 💕 as much as it was hard for us to get to this point, I’m so thankful that we’ve found this amazing community online! And some people are so lucky to have encouraged their friends in real life to start reading more too, which to me is one of the best feelings!

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