For the first time in almost two months, I finally finished reading a book. It was Listen To Your Heart by Kasie West, and as for what I thought of it, let’s just say…it’s the reason why I’m writing this post.
There’s really not much to say about it story-wise. It’s a YA rom-com where two people get together at the end after some mildly inconveniencing obstacles that could easily be solved with two seconds of communication. Oh, and the main character likes the lake, and there’s a school podcast which is interesting until about halfway through, when it just becomes a question of “will the generic boy love interest who’s obviously calling in ever reveal himself?”, by which point you can see directly in a straight line where the story is headed. Simply-put, the book is basic. More specifically, the book is basic and shallow, the two worst combinations a book could be, besides pretentious and full of itself.
But, as the post’s title suggests, basic doesn’t necessarily mean shallow. And it’s not like I was expecting this book to be even half as deep as the lake pictured on the cover either. The most basic of stories can hide the most rich and complex themes and ideas, and be even more satisfying than an elaborate one made to challenge your mind with graduate-level philosophical questions. This premise was especially reinforced to me at the beginning of the month, when I binged all three and a half seasons of Netflix’s most adorable new sitcom about surviving cancer through the power of friendship, Alexa And Katie.
Yes, I am unironically in love with this show, just as I am with it’s distant sitcom cousin, No Good Nick. Both shows take basic story premises, and use them to make the absolute best quality television possible. They tell well-written, relateable stories, such as navigating your first day of high school or helping someone win a student election, in the most entertaining way that makes you root for its characters to succeed. They’re made for kids and families, but it never feels like they’re dumbing down plots just so younger audiences can understand them. The writers of these shows trust that anyone, from any age or background, can enjoy what they’ve written, a fact I’ve pointed out previously on this blog when talking about what makes a YA book/author truly great in my eyes.
There’s nothing wrong with writing only to please your target audience(which for Kasie West I assume are preteen girls). But it just disappoints me when I see elements that could make for a very interesting and fun story(a podcast run by teens, the lake vs. city rivalry) and have them turn out to be blander than boiled, unseasoned chicken. Even though I’m using this story as the basis for my post, I can honestly say I don’t hate it. It’s just unfortunate that the book wasn’t better, which I also can’t really blame the author for. That’s obviously the type of books she knows how to write best considering she pumps them out yearly. And I most certainly can’t blame the fans of these books. If it lines up with their tastes, and they enjoy reading them, who am I to criticize from my barely structural ivory tower? The only thing I can do is recommend stuff that I think is worth people’s time according to my own narrow tastes. (This is a really not so subtle way of me saying to check out the shows I mentioned).
If there was a point to be made here, it’s that a story being so called “basic”, should in no way turn you away from it immediately. The best forms of media, in my opinion, are ones where a lot can be gained or learned from a little. And maybe people get a lot more out of Kasie West books than I do, but the only thing I’m getting out of it is a number on my Goodreads page.