By: Celine | January 23, 2015 | (39) Comments

discussing through midnight

This meme was created for YA Midnight Reads as a discussion post of all things bookish.


Two days ago, I published my review of The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand. It’s a book about suicide, grief and healing – and it got me thinking. More specifically, all the comments on that review (all of which were awesome and I love you guys) got me thinking*. The Last Time, obviously, will be a tough book for some due to personal experiences, and for some because they can imagine the events just a little too well.

And I also find it interesting that we all react so differently to it. Some people, like myself, love tough subject books. I can’t speak for everyone, but I personally find being ripped apart by a book emotionally one of the worst and best things that could happen to me. For me, it’s all about the emotion. The more of it, the better – it’s when I connect with a book on a personal level that makes me feel so intensely I feel I could cry that new favourites are added to my shelf. I suppose I’m a masochist at heart, but I like the pain books can bring.

Others like to read them because they can connect with them. It’s happened to them, to someone close to them, and they like to see their own experiences reflected in books. I suppose it’s the feeling of knowing what you’re going through is universal, that you’re not alone, that the way you reacted to something isn’t abnormal because we all deal with it in different ways. Of course, I don’t know that for sure – thankfully, I’m not able to speak from personal experience.

There are also those, however, that have experienced it but do not want to read about it, which I can also imagine. They don’t want to relive the pain, have to think about it over and over again – I think of it as the grieving process rehashed, whatever you may be grieving for. And I can understand this perfectly – why would you want to experience something again when it brought you so much pain in the past? It just hits too close to home.

Lastly is the ‘distant’ reading experience. Building a wall between you and the book. Do you know that dream-like feeling when you can see everything happen but you’re just not connected to it? You’re merely visiting and observing before moving on, unable to touch anything? It’s that, but while reading. Which I expect is a very efficient way to enjoy a book without experiencing all the emotion (again).

What category do you fall under? Did I miss something? What’s your opinion on books with tough subject matters?

*also a small disclaimer, but I did not actually use any comments for this post. they were simply what got me thinking about everything!

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Celine is 17 years old and from the Netherlands. Quite obviously, she loves books! She has been a reader for as long as she can remember, and she believes she will be a reader forever. Celine is also obsessed with food, and loves singing along to music as loud as possible, dancing and doodling on nearly everything.

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39 Responses to Discussing Through Midnight (50): Books with Tough Topics

  1. I love books with tough topics. I could say I’m a masochist at heart as well, cause when a book hits me and makes me cry and makes me still think about it after hours I’ve finished it I’m the happiest girl alive.
    However sometimes it depends on the topics. For instance, books about cancer are not for me, I just can’t read them. Or sometimes when there’s sexual violence involved. So I guess it’s about each reader and what they can take on. Once I read a book about incest called Forbidden. It’s a taboo topic but I loved it so much and that book totally opened my mind. If you haven’t, you really should read it! 🙂
    Frannie Pan @ In Clouds of Pages recently posted…Title Reveal: Throne of Glass 4… ? *drumroll*My Profile

  2. I like books with tough subjects, because it makes me look different at the world. It puts another perspective in my head when I see the world through someone who goes through situations I’m not familiar with. I also like that heart-breaking feeling every now and then or even the happy moments when things go right (like Say what you will)
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…A court of thorns and roses movie casting.My Profile

  3. I have no problem with books with tough subject matters especially if they were written beautifully. More often than not, they’re the ones that really leave such impact on me. And I think books like these are important in showing us a different perspective about a lot of things. It’s really nice to see more YA books dealing with tough subject matters nowadays. 🙂
    Julie @ Books and Insomnia recently posted…[MINI REVIEW] Prom Nights From Hell by Meg CabotMy Profile

  4. I love emotional books. There is nothing better than being deeply touched by characters or events that take place in the books. However, I am not always in the mood for tough topics since they are emotionally exhausting. But I have to admit that emotional books are usually those which stay with me forever.
    Lucia @Reading Is My Breathing recently posted…LIFE CHANGING READS #2: How Krista & Becca Ritchie restored my faith in New Adult genreMy Profile

  5. Kyra says:

    This is an interesting post! I think I’m in the minority when I say I don’t really like books dealing with tough subjects as I’m quite a sensitive reader so it greatly upsets me reading about books with illnesses and the likes. I do, however, read books where the characters have anxiety as I have that too, so it’s nice being able to relate! Fantastic post, Celine!
    Kyra recently posted…Review – Paper or Plastic – Vivi BarnesMy Profile

  6. I do like books with tough topics and so far there’s only one I didn’t finish because it hit a bit too close to home. But yeah, I’m a masochist too and I like to torture myself with those books.
    Bieke @ Istyria book blog recently posted…ARC Review: How (not) to Fall in Love by Lisa Brown RobertsMy Profile

  7. I actually love books with tough subject matters, too, Celine. Not all the time, but sometimes, it’s just nice to read something extremely sad and have a good cry – but about something that’s not a part of my life for real. And I think that reading about really sad and tough subjects helps me be more empathetic. And even if the story is fiction, some things can happen in the real world, too, so really connecting with characters that live through trauma kind of makes me walk a mile in their shoes.
    Great post!
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews recently posted…Feature and Follow Friday #95 – Reviews in other PlacesMy Profile

  8. I think books with rough subjects are vital to literature, it’s the same when it comes to characters and POC, sometimes, people, adults and children, want to read something that shows they’re not alone, that what they’re feeling isn’t a solitude thing, that they can feel that way, or go through that, and make it out of the other side better, that there aren’t always happy endings, and I, personally, like those. I’ve read many a book on depression that hits close to home, but it gives me the encouragement and belief that good days are worth it, and I’ve read books that hit on topics close to home, like disabilities or memory issues, and it just reminds that these things happen, to other people, that I’m not alone. I can understand why some wouldn’t want to read about those things, but I think having them there, available, is important, and the more there are written about these issues, the better. Fantastic post Celine! 🙂
    Amanda @ Beautiful Bookish Butterflies recently posted…Bookish Musings – Amanda’s Winter Book Haul/GoodiesMy Profile

  9. Aisha says:

    I’m a reader who experiences way too much of the book. It’s why though subject blips are hard for me to read because it sticks with me. I read to get away from reality, ib understand the need for these books because when done right they can share with the world an experience that not everyone will have, but it will allow them all to be empathize. I love emotional books but I need happy endings because real life doesn’t have enough esp in my job.
    Aisha recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday: (January 2015) 3: The Mime Order by Samantha ShannonMy Profile

  10. Nara says:

    I definitely really like books that can make you REALLY feel what the characters are going through. Empathy, not sympathy, you know? I agree- I like to look for the books that can make me cry. In fact, a big reason I add a book to my TBR may be because it made someone else cry! #masochistreadersunite haha

    I feel like recently there have been a lot more books centred on suicide and grief being released. I quite like this trend, actually. It’s interesting seeing how authors deal with these issues so differently.
    Nara recently posted…Review: Love and Other Theories by Alexis BassMy Profile

  11. I’m not a fan of reading books with tough sociological topics. I tend to say away from them, because they’re just not my idea of a relaxing read. Once in a while, though, when I find enough courage, I find myself drawn into them. I am a sensitive person by nature, so when I read something emotionally scarring, I feel what they feel magnified by ten.
    Joy // Joyousreads recently posted…[484]: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony MarraMy Profile

  12. Cynthia says:

    I like reading books about tough topics. It’s weird, but I feel the emotion is cathartic for me. Sometimes you just need a good cry. Weird, I know. But I guess I just love books that make me feel really strongly.
    Cynthia recently posted…Book Beginnings Friday!My Profile

  13. Books with tough subjects are typically not for me Celine! Right now it’s because any book dealing with death or grief hits too close to home, but even prior to my loss I tended to steer clear. For me, reading is an escape from reality, and tough subject books dealing with social issues, while I think vitally important to have out there, are just too heavy for me. I don’t mind dark or gritty, but I ultimately need my books to end well:)
    Jenny @ Supernatural Snark recently posted…The Big Love Letter Event 2015My Profile

  14. Tanja says:

    Great topic girl! I’m like you here. I love books with tough topic, but it’s not because I experiences those things or I think about them on daily basis, it’s just that for some reason they make me feel. I feel those characters and I want them to survive and fight. And I’m glad when they do. But I do understand people who don’t like those things, so yeah. We’re all different. Great discussion, girl 🙂
    Tanja recently posted…Breaking the Rules by Katie McGarryMy Profile

  15. Eileen says:

    I don’t normally pick up books with tough topics although I have read a fair bit. TFiOS was the big one and it really got my emotions going. While I don’t think I can personally relate to most of them, I think getting to understand them is the important part for me. The emotions will just flow. I hope that makes sense 🙂
    Eileen recently posted…Feature & Follow #28: Where Else Do You Share Your Reviews?My Profile

  16. I definitely fall into that last category. There’s just something about tough books that really upsets me. I’m a very emotional reader, so I kinda feel like I HAVE to build up this wall otherwise I’m going to be upset for days.
    Great post, Celine!
    Nick @ Nick’s Book Blog recently posted…Review : One of the Guys by Lisa AldinMy Profile

  17. I’m a mix I think, some books can really affect me. Other times, I feel like a robot because I don’t really feel as sad as I should. I just finished All The Bright Places and… didn’t really feel anything.
    Nereyda @Mostly YA Book Obsessed recently posted…Review: Gravel Ghost by Charyse Allen!My Profile

  18. Hilary says:

    I pick up these emotional books because I just like being hit by the feels. And I like torturing myself by depleting myself of water from my tears
    Hilary recently posted…Beautiful People: Author EditionMy Profile

  19. Lily says:

    I love reading books about tough subjects. That being said I have to read them when I’m in the right head space of they just don’t work for me. I like reading all kinds of books and I love books that are realistic and true depictions of life so reading about tough subjects are my favourite.
    Lily recently posted…Whatever Life Throws At You: ReviewMy Profile

  20. JennRenee says:

    I love the books that tear me apart emotionally. I love that I can connect and feel what was felt in the book. Its good to know how things would feel if you have never gone through it. I think it can help prepare me for those who need helping getting through a similar situation or maybe it just deepens my understanding. I do like hope at the end though and I do have to space these books out. I am very empathetic and too many in a row puts me in a deep gloom.
    JennRenee recently posted…Reader SurveyMy Profile

  21. I like some books dealing with tough subjects because those are the books that really make readers feel, but I like to balance out these books with fun, light-hearted books as well. Like you said, it can sometimes be difficult to read such books if the tough topic is close to your heart, so it’s always good to sit back and enjoy a happier book in between the sad ones.
    Ana @ Butterflies of the Imagination recently posted…Read.Blog.Discuss: Reading as a Reviewer vs. as a ReaderMy Profile

  22. I am a reader who usually steers clear of them. I like to read for enjoyemnt and entertainment and even though I know these books can be beautiful and touching, I hate the roller coaster ride and how depressing they can be. I would much rather laugh.
    Heidi@Rainy Day Ramblings recently posted…Friday Forecast January 25th-31stMy Profile

  23. Giselle says:

    I’m just like you! I love reading books that really bring out my emotions and the darker, the better. I also love horror and stuff so I seem to just like dark books in general >..<
    Giselle recently posted…Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara RaaschMy Profile

  24. I’m half and half to be honest. x) I like tough subject books because I think LIFE is full of tough subject. Books about pure fluffiness never ever sit well with me. At the same time, I have trouble reading about depression and suicide. It just really hits home for me and makes me upset. SO. It’s a balance. I read the books about suicide and other really toughies, but I balance it with epic action-adventure. I DEFINITELY want authors to keep writing books like these though. *nods*
    Cait @ Paper Fury recently posted…W.I.C.K.E.D Is GoodMy Profile

  25. I absolutely adore tough subject books. There’s something about reading about these characters going through these horrible situations that really opens up my eyes and makes me see how good I really have it, you know? And if I’ve experienced the particular situation being described in the book, that’s even better for me as a reader because I can really connect to the character more.

    Thanks for sharing Celine and, as always, fabulous review! <3

  26. Well, contemporary is my favourite genre so it’s kind of inevitable that I come across a lot of tough subjects. And I think it’s important. I guess sometimes you feel the most connection to a book sometimes when it hits close to home.
    Emily @ The Loony Teen Writer recently posted…Paris Photos and Other AnnouncementsMy Profile

  27. Interesting discussion Mel, I think for me it depends on what topic it is and how it is approached by the author – whether it’s something that I felt uncomfortable with, or whether I could connect with the character’s decisions. It’s always strange though, because if it’s a situation I’ve never been in, I can’t really emphasise anyway? Anyway, great discussion!
    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence recently posted…Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick Review: Snowy problematic thrillerMy Profile

  28. Maddy E says:

    I am of the opinion that tough books are very necessary, but it’s up to the reader whether of not they want to read it. I’m never going to force someone to read a book that will make them relive a horrible event in their life. However, it bothers me when people won’t read a book solely because it “sounds depressing.” Now, you can read whatever you want, but that book that sounds depressing is based on real life.
    Maddy E recently posted…Discussion Post: What Should Teens be “Allowed” to ReadMy Profile

  29. I have a love/hate relationship with books that have tough subjects. I’m lucky and I haven’t had to go through the bulk of the kind of tragic and hard experiences that the main characters in these kinds of books have. I have read SOME with rough topics, but I’m an emotional mess when it comes to anything with a remotely sad theme. I’m a huge crier. I know that crying through a book is sometimes a good thing, but I tend to steer away from these kinds of books unless I’ve heard amazing things. That’s just me, though. I know I’m missing out on some incredible books, though.
    Emily @ Books & Cleverness recently posted…Novella Review: Cursed Beauty by Dorian TsukiokaMy Profile

  30. I don’t mind if a book has tough subject matter, though I will probably avoid books that have experiences that hit too close to home. I like to read books to gain different perspectives… not merely re-experience my own.

    That said, however, I’m not the biggest fan of straight-up contemporary, which seems to be where most of those tough subjects end up.
    La Coccinelle @ The Ladybug Reads… recently posted…New to the TBR Pile (15)My Profile

  31. Lola says:

    I am the type of person who avoid the hard topics, not all of them, but suicide is one of those topics I dont’t deal well with. When I see a blurb hint at the topic, I know I will never read it. Recently I found out the turtore is another one of those tough topics I don’t like to read it about.
    Death’s are a difficult topic as well, but I can deal with those most of the time, I don’t like it, but I understand it’s a natural part of life and those can make me feel and hurt, but it’s manageable. I don’t midn feeling things when I am reading, but those topics just don’t sit well with me and I don’t like reading about them, because they make me feel bad. So I rather avoid them. There is a fine line between reading a book that deal with dark topics, but I can deal with them and going too far into the uncomfortable territory. I have a hard time understanding why people love to write or read about those topics.
    Lola recently posted…Lola’s Kitchen: Risotto RecipeMy Profile

  32. Valerie says:

    Honestly, I’m not a fan of reading a book about tough subjects, just because it gives me secondhand stress, and plus I feel really bad for the characters. And then I cry, and then I feel, and it’s just blah. But I’m still reading them anyways, haha
    Valerie recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #19My Profile

  33. It depends for me. Sometimes I like books that deal with sad, depressing, or tough subjects. When it consumes the book, the darkness of it all weighs me down and I end up not liking it. I read for the escape it gives me from reality, for the enjoyment. I don’t see much enjoyment in some of these tough subject books!! Sometimes I do fall in love with books that have tough subjects. It really depends on the portrayal and execution. Nice post!

  34. Pingback: Weekly Recap| Jan 18-24, 2015 | Oh, the Books!

  35. Amber Elise says:

    I try to read tough subject books because I think that it’s important that they continue getting made, but I have my limits. I tend to avoid attempted suicide and cutting novels because for some reason, they make me REALLY uncomfortable. My imagination always gets the better of me and I just take things to a whole new level.

    Great topic! 🙂
    Amber Elise recently posted…Weekly Wrap Up: January 18-24, 2015My Profile

  36. Great post! I think when I read books about tough subjects, I usually read it more for the emotion as well. It’s so hard for a book to get emotional over a book, so sometimes I tend to seek books that I know will be emotionally draining out. Though sometimes, these books just get too dark for me, and then I have to step back from them. I was reading a book that dealt with very severe bullying about a month ago, and it just made me feel so…dreary. I didn’t want to read it anymore. So it kind of depends on the book for me, I guess. 🙂
    Gabs @ My Full Bookshelf recently posted…Review: Fairy Tale Reform School: Flunked by Jen CalonitaMy Profile

  37. I’m somehow who feels the full impact of these books because they remind me of my friends and the simple magnitude of people who hate themselves. And I cry every single time I think about it. It’s not that I love being reminded of pain and feeling pain, I think it’s just the connection. When the book has the power to make me feel such strong emotions and to make me feel like my friends aren’t alone, it’s amazing. Terribly sad but so extremely amazing.

    I hate that some people have to read books like All the Bright Places where the main characters are suicidal and feel a connection to them. It’s amazing that they no longer feel alone but I hate that it means they get used to the darkness. They might start to think it’s safe when it’s not you know? No one ever regrets finding the light. Those who have it never regret staying away from the darkness.
    Laura Plus Books recently posted…Top 10: Books I’d Love to Read with OthersMy Profile

  38. Lyn Kaye says:

    I avoided contemporaries for the longest time because I hated to read about tough subjects. However, since I grew as a reader and a person, I now go out of my way to find books with material that isn’t all sunshines and roses. I think it is nice to slip into the shoes of someone else and experience the tragedy or events without having to live with it. For a while, when I am reading, I get to see what it is like, what happens, and how it affects others. The good part is, I can step back into the real world, but something still stays with me. Thanks to contemporary novels, I am actually a much more compassionate person.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Book Review: The Fiery HeartMy Profile

  39. Abdul says:

    I love these books! As a non-Armenian speaking paernt these books have not only been engaging and entertaining for my children, but educational for us as well. My kids get a kick out of listening to their mom speak Armenian words and look forward to reading as many books as we can in one night! Thanks for bridging the gap!

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