Monday, June 05, 2006

Don't trust a first person narrator

So I had been waiting for this. A review or comment about Boys that Bite where the user said I unfairly stereotyped or bashed goths, etc. I knew it was coming, and finally I got an Amazon review where it basically said I had no idea what a goth was or how they acted.

First up, I want to point out that I was probably a goth girl before the reviewer (assuming she's a teen) was born. LOL! I know exactly what goths are like, how they act, what's important to them, etc. Believe me, I know (unlike the reviewer claimed) that there's more to being "goth" than dressing in black and watching Donnie Darko, lol.

That said, the book is NOT IN MY VOICE. It's written in the first person voice of Sunny, the other twin. Sunny is not goth. She's mainstream, kind of preppy, and into things like the prom. So when I describe goths in the book, I did it from HER perspective. In her view, bassed on her personal experiences with her sister she believes goths are only interested in dressing in black and hanging out in cemetaries. When I switch to Rayne's point of view in Stake That!, the sequel, you get the opposite. A goth girl who makes fun of jocks, preps and cheerleaders. Is that because I don't know what a real jock/prep/cheerleader is like? No. It's cause is Rayne talking.

Which leads me to my point. When you're reading first person, do you inherently trust the narrator's voice? Do you equate that voice with that of the author and the author's knowledge and experiences? If you do, then you're not (in my opinion) enjoying the story to the fullest. The point is that because we are in a specific person's head, we're getting her colored view of life. She thinks a certain way, makes judgments, compares people and incidents based on her own experiences. Nabokov was a master at this in books like Pale Fire or Lolita. Some of the enjoyment comes when the author realizes that you can't necessarily trust the narrator and his/her judgement calls.

Also, interestingly enough, the reviewer herself was unknowingly stereotyping goths by her post. She says that a true goth wouldn't say certain words or act a certain way. Um, are all goths equal? Do they all have the same speech patterns? Would a high school goth from San Diego act/dress/speak like one from New Hampshire? I would be willing to bet a lot that while there are some similarities in the sub-culture, there are just as many varities. She says Rayne would not be a goth, but a poser. Is that not a judgement in and of itself?

I don't mind people pointing things out about my books or having opinions on the characters and this reviewer was very respectful in her argument and gave good examples to back up her claims. But I also feel I have the right to make a rebuttal. Unfortunately you can't really do that on Amazon so I've got to do it here. Thanks for indulging me. I swear I'll go back to shoes and wine and Vegas topics tomorrow.

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