Monday, 30 July 2012

Contemporary Summer: What Contemporary Means to Me


I am slightly wary about posting this. I have a feeling it won't make much sense to anyone other than me :P. But I took the time to write it, so here it is. Hope you enjoy it :).
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What Contemporary Means to Me

When I was younger, I have to admit that I didn’t read contemp much. I was whisked away by the magic of Harry Potter and fascinated by the worlds in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I had read and enjoyed other contemps before (I grew up reading Jacqueline Wilson), but I never really appreciated them and their characters the way I did with Harry and Lyra. But one day my mum picked me up from school and handed me the first book in Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series. She spotted it in a book shop and bought it for me because it was on sale (only 99p, if you can believe). I had read a few Cabot books before, so decided to give the book a go (I figured it couldn’t be too bad, the film was all right after all). And just like that, I was hooked. I got the rest of the series for Christmas and finished them in less than a week. I remember waiting ages for the release of book nine, and after that the tenth, and final, book. I decided to read more of Meg Cabot’s books (and I own practically her entire YA collection, minus a few) and then I branched out, exploring other contemp authors – Louise Rennison, Amber Deckers, Robin Benway and a few more. But still I didn’t love contemp. After all, what did being a regular teen with regular problems compare to being the Boy Who Lived? What did trivial relationship issues matter when Will and Lyra, who were in love, were forced to part forever in order to save the world? I had fallen into the trap of believing that real life problems were nothing in comparison to the strife that these fantastical characters suffered. 

It got me down for a while. Reading so much fantasy and paranormal and books about saving the world made me feel like my own life was unimportant. I would never save the world, I would never rescue anyone, I would never be special or have powers or be anything other than ordinary. It was unfair, I thought. Unfair that these characters in books would lead so much more interesting lives than I could ever imagine. But I was addicted. These books made me excited and thrilled and I never wanted to stop reading them. Harry Potter, as those who know me will understand, is a big part of my life, has shaped who I am and will always, always, always be my favourite series. So I kept reading these books, ignoring my feelings. As I got older, like many teens, I sometimes had low self-esteem and confidence issues, and reading was always my stand-by, my greatest form of escapism. I continued to read these books which made me feel amazing and yet sad at the same time.

Being such a book lover, I stumbled across the world of blogging and decided to take a chance and start my own blog. It would be great to discuss books with other people, to see how they felt after finishing them and theorise about what would happen next! And book blogging is the reason contemp has become more important to me than it ever was. As I was introduced to more through blogging, and probably as a side effect of getting older, I realised that contemp books were just as amazing and meaningful as fantasy and paranormal. They were not, perhaps, about saving the world. I didn’t get the same thrill of adventure. Instead, I got comfort and guidance and humour and tears and fun. They helped me with my confidence and self-esteem because I realised that I wasn’t alone, that other people felt the same way I did a lot of the time, had gone through the same things I had. Contemp books made me laugh (sometimes out loud), they made me cry and made me realise there are much worse things in the world than being a slightly odd, sometimes quirky, rather sarcastic but otherwise perfectly ordinary Muggle human being. Contemps made me feel all warm and fluffy inside, or made me contemplate serious issues and view things in a new perspective. They even made me feel better about reading fantasy and other genres. Though I still envied the adventures the characters went on, I understood that life could be an adventure of its own. Talking to a new person or starting a relationship or making someone laugh or expressing your opinion or helping someone feel better – though these things may not seem as fun or as dangerous as capturing the Golden Snitch, they were good things in their own right. They could make you happy. And there is a lot to be said about sitting around, thinking about stuff. Contemplating the universe takes a lot out of you, but it also weirdly fulfilling. I wouldn’t be saving the world any time soon, I knew, but I learnt I was no less important than anyone else.

So that is my story, and why I appreciate contemp so much. I will confess that even now, I still prefer fantasy and dystopian. There is something about fighting against the odds and prospering in the face of adversity that fascinates me and always will. I always appreciate people who try hard even when it seems like there’s nothing left worth trying for. But contemp has made me see that it is okay not to be that kind of person. Everyone is different, and that is fine. I would probably die in the first ten pages of a dystopian novel. I am not the person I would enjoy reading about in that type of book. But you know what? I reckon I could star in a contemp. Maybe as that sarcastic best friend who stands by the protagonist. And it might not be leading a war to victory, but it’s enough.
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How do you feel about contemp? Do you agree with me, disagree, think I'm loonier than Luna Lovegood? Let me know in the comments!

Visit Cait's blog for her top ten fave contemps since she started blogging.

3 comments:

  1. You've written some great things here. I agree...contemps can make you laugh out loud and make you feel less alone. I know quite a few people who hate contemp because they want to know why'd they read about a normal person's life when they want to escape. But you're still escaping to a life that's different than your own, perhaps even a life you can relate to in some way. I've always stuck with contemporary and just recently gotten into fantasy and dystopian, so my story's a little different than yours, but I do enjoy that supernatural or crazy break every now and again. However, I could never say enough good things about contemporary stories and their authors and the satisfied feeling I get after reading them.
    -Jenna @ Fans of Fiction

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  2. Great post!

    I still go through phases where I sit back and think maybe Contemps aren't as important or special as other genres. But then I get to one of those really thought provoking, touching reads, and I know it's not true.

    I'm a proud Contemp lover. :)

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  3. Beautiful! I always am drawn to "fantasy" books because I long for adventure too but I'm learning that I like contemporary better. There's just something about surviving real life that appeals to me.

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