6 years of Fictionforteens.com: Musings on Consumerism and Curriculum in 2021


The moment when 13-year-old me, daydreaming whilst staring out of the car on the way home one dark night, decided that she would combine her love for opinions and writing with her bookish obsession is a moment I’ll be eternally thankful for. 6 years later, I can well and truly say that creating this website has been the catalyst for my continued love of writing and reading, a passion that I hope to take to a professional level one day. Reading and reviewing books has undoubtedly improved my writing for essays at school and university, prepared me to create another blog, opinionalwrites.wordpress.com (cheeky plug I know), and enabled me to write for my university’s student newspaper. Being an avid reader alongside a keen reviewer has given me an insight into the bookish world over time, so I thought I’d share some of my most recent thoughts with all of you, and the resolutions that these have prompted. 

I can confidently say that my library card is one of my most treasured possessions. As a young child, I was lucky to be able to visit my city’s library, and peruse a wide selection of books written about and for people my age. Later on, I went to volunteer in that library, creating some of the magic that had nurtured my love for reading and had encouraged me to delve into mysterious and magical worlds designed to enthrall younger readers. From the readers that I know, there seems to be quite a strong consensus: libraries are incredible, and the source of the majority of the books that we all read. In an era of public service cuts, I feel a duty to support and utilise my local library to access the books that I read for pleasure and review. So, when I heard about some of the discourse on Twitter about consumerism on bookstagram (the book-related side of instagram) I was immediately hooked. 

Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash

This was something that had been on my mind a while – I had set up my own instagram account, and ended up following a wide variety of fellow bloggers and some book influencers. My feed was flooded with immaculate and vibrant photos of stacks, shelves and spreads of the latest, hottest books, all adorned with bookish merchandise, figurines and beautiful flowers. I didn’t feel like I could keep up with these photos – there were only so many angles you could take a picture of a smallish bookshelf from. 

I feel lucky that I own books, and the ones I do own are cherished and appreciated; I hope to hold on to them all for a long time. Likewise, if you are willing and able to spend a lot of money on books, then good for you – they’re one of the best things to be spending your spare cash on. What I take issue with is the unspoken narrative that to be successful on these platforms, you have to be “hauling” 10+ books a month. I’d like to see more bookish people with influence to be promoting the use and establishment of libraries (particularly in lower income areas around the world) and for bookstagrammers to feel like it’s okay to only buy one book once in a while (or none at all). As the saying goes, be the change you want to see in the world. I’m going to make one of my 2021 resolutions to promote libraries through my platforms. I’ll post photos of books borrowed from my library, and research more into the issues surrounding access to libraries both in the UK and worldwide.

This year has caused the bookish community to take a long hard look at their bookshelf and reading habits, and consider whether they’re reading a wide range of books, written by authors from under-represented communities. In the wake of widespread BLM protesting, anti-racist reading lists have spread online to encourage people to learn more about a difficult but important topic. This focus on diverse and reading widely made me reflect on the books that I’d read as part of my school curriculum. I can’t think I particularly loved any of them, and I was amongst the keenest of readers in the class. For GCSE, we read Inspector Calls, Romeo and Juliet, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and a selection of poems on the topic of war and conflict. We’d previously read Jane Eyre and Kiss the Dust, the latter of which was probably the best out of them all because of the relevant themes explored. 

This made me think of the role education has on life-long reading. Angie Thomas’ words immediately comes to mind; she’s an incredible storyteller and truly inspirational. In one interview, she says that “there’s no such thing as a reluctant reader. They just haven’t found the right book.” This is spot on. It saddens me when people think that reading is boring, only because of the books they’ve read at school. Of course, it’s fine to prefer other hobbies, but I think there’s a book out there for everyone. Books set centuries ago with archaic language may be great for students in further study and students that are keen readers, but I think that YA fiction and diverse books are the way to go for students that are yet to find the read for them. Give students magical worlds, with intricate and mesmerising detail. Give students diverse characters and storylines, so everyone in the class has an opportunity to feel seen. Give students incredible plots that will have them eager to read on. So, in 2021, I’d like to recommend more books to people that are struggling to find a place to start when it comes to reading, and really utilise my blog for easy use so everyone can find exactly what they want. 

2020 has been a testing year, and I hope and plead that 2021 will be better for everyone. This was quite a lengthy post, so if you’ve read this far, thank you. To everyone who’s ever read, followed, liked my work – thank you. It really does means a lot. Happy New Year everyone, and here’s to another year of fictionforteens.com.

Take care,

Alyssa

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