On Subscription Book Boxes and YA pt.1

I’m subscribed to about 4 different monthly bookish boxes (and always in the process of looking for more/exchanging for new ones).

I treat them sort of like a ‘blind date with a book’ system, and a way to get to know new releases while living in a non-English speaking country. Because usually, to buy a new English book, I would have to decide that I really want it, make an informed decision carefully, read all about it on goodreads or elsewhere, and be sure it’s worth spending that money, because ordering on Amazon from Japan is not always cheap and not always quick (they have a lot of books in stock to be delivered next day, but half of the time they ship them from UK.)

Unfortunately, even though there’s a ton of subscription book boxes out there, and there are many lists that talk about them to help you choose, I very soon found out that no matter how many there are, none of them (at least as far as I could see, having  searched online a few times) really match what I’d really want from a subscription book box.

My wishes are pretty simple:

  • Worldwide shipping.
  • Bookish goods.
  • Fantasy, sci-fi (maybe historical fiction, detectives, mysteries).
  • Preferably new releases, but not critical.
  • Not YA.

I don’t really remember how did I first found out about book subscription boxes, but then very soon they flooded my instagram and I couldn’t help but want to subscribe to more and more.

The thing is, most of subscription boxes, and certainly the most ‘loud’ ones, are all about YA. And to be honest, I don’t think I would read a single YA book if not for them.

Not that I was too biased, since I never really knew about them to form an opinion other than ‘it means they are for kids’. And I hardly ever read books for kids when I was one. Save for Harry Potter, but I don’t think that really counts. That is also why I didn’t really feel too cautious about YA when I ordered my first subscription box, because I simply decided that (after seeing on instagram that a lot of seemingly adult people were enjoying them) maybe I misunderstood the categorization, and people just called all new fantasy and sci-fi books YA (sort of like people in Japan call literary fiction ‘literature’ and most of genre fiction ‘light novels’).

It wasn’t before I received my first few boxes that I felt like I seriously needed to look into something that wasn’t so focused on YA. I can’t even say what exactly it is about YA… Well, to be honest I still kind of unclear on what makes YA so YA, but the books, even where I could like the story itself, seemed… too shallow, too thinly connected… more like an overly simplified summary of a book that could happen, but didn’t because someone either rushed it out or was told to make it more simple… And at first I thought that it was just those books and those authors, but after this year it seems to be the only thing that I can attribute to YA as a unifying factor. Along with tiny chapters and the feeling that it was made to resemble a movie more than a book, and to be read in few hours–take only slightly more time than it would take to watch a movie.

I can’t say that I regret subscribing to YA boxes entirely… With my current mental and emotional state, light reads that I can be done with in few hours are sometimes actually exactly what I need. And some of the books I received were exactly that. But sometimes… There is also this another thing that bothers me about YA – it’s the ‘trendy themes’ that too many of the books I receive seem to be focused on. I have mentioned some of them in reviews I’ve written: girls kept in captivity (or under someone else’s authority in other way) and humiliated by sadistic/narcissistic people; people falling in love with their former captors or with equally narcissistic jerks; palace intrigues and spies… The overall normalization, or more likely romanticization, of humiliation and lying that are featured in 90% of YA books I received (or researched after receiving a bookish item based on).

I honestly hate it and don’t even want to think about the underlying psychology of their popularity.