Let’s talk about “Cancel Culture.” Let’s talk about it in relation to my reading habits, not society as a whole because that would be several dissertations and a docuseries. Cancel Culture is a parting of the ways or a dismissal of a person, place, or idea because he or she or they or it have done something or said something that you find problematic. Although, sometimes it’s really about control. In terms of the books I read, it’s about wanting what I want and accepting nothing less. At least, that’s how it works for me as a reader. It’s a fault. A failing. A shortcoming. An act of entitlement. I don’t excuse it, but so be it.
This post was entirely inspired by my cancelling The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton. I literally cancelled it as one of my 2019 book club selections because I can’t control author choice and story direction. This is the crux of my ongoing one-sided fight with J.K. Rowling. Rowling doesn’t care that I think Harry is a horrible character, that she lacked the hutzpah to kill the characters that needed to be killed, that the Dumbledore reveal was too cheap to dignify, and that great characters deserve better than falling behind a curtain. I doubt Dhonielle Clayton will care about my indignation, which in this case is a silent tantrum. I’m okay with that. I won’t read The Everlasting Rose unless my book club forces me to, but I will buy it for the shelves of my classroom library because my indignation should not control the reading lives of my students, and many of them loved The Belles. Would you like to know why I have cancelled the book?
The cancelling started with the Amazon description for The Everlasting Rose, book two in The Belles series. The description reads as follows:
In this sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller, Camille, her sister Edel, and her guard and new love Remy must race against time to find Princess Charlotte. Sophia's Imperial forces will stop at nothing to keep the rebels from returning Charlotte to the castle and her rightful place as queen. With the help of an underground resistance movement called The Iron Ladies-a society that rejects beauty treatments entirely-and the backing of alternative newspaper The Spider's Web, Camille uses her powers, her connections and her cunning to outwit her greatest nemesis, Sophia, and restore peace to Orleans (Amazon).
Did I fully review The Belles? I don’t think I did, so let me take the time to say a few brief somethings about it.
Remy is boring.
Remy is a cold and cloudy winter day where you just stay sprawled across the bed hovering between sleep and wakefulness because breathing is all you have left to give.
Remy is staring at a plain white wall then waking up with drool smeared across your face because the blandness of the wall rendered you unconscious.
Remy is boring.
I love Auguste. I realize that he’s problematic, but so is Camille. Also, I believe his feelings. I believe his sadness. I think I can smell his fear. I also have a bad boy problem.
Simply put, I’m not here for a Camille and Remy love story. I never will be. I would have been here for “Who runs the world? Girls!” I would have been here for Camille is traumatized by the horrible and inexcusable things she’s done and book two is about Edel. I would have been here for Remy is a friend and fellow soldier in the war against the evil empire. I would have been here for Remy decides to return home and become a circus clown. I was down for just about anything, but the one thing I’m not down for is the one thing the description assures me will happen. I was prepared for this. I smelled is coming early in the first book, but my friend used her calming word technique to make me tolerant. Never again. Probably again, but that isn’t dramatic.
I learned long go that reading a book where an author shoves together the romantic pairing that bores or infuriates me is detrimental to my overall reading pleasure. The Belles series won’t be the first one I cancel over my disagreeing with author choice, and it won’t be the last. I stopped reading one of my favorite mystery series because of the romantic pairing. I won't name the series, but there might be clues in this post. That move was so controversial the author hosted a live Q&A about it. Her ultimate answer, “I didn’t decide. The characters decided, and I listen to my characters.” She couldn’t even own her choice. She blamed it on the characters. I hate that excuse. Own what you do, whether is be an artistic choice or an indignant one—own it always.
It took the author about 10 books to make a course correction, but I'm not a go back kind of girl. Authors make choices. Readers make choices. The world still spins.