[LET’S CHAT] Are We Making The Error of Looking for the “Perfect” Diverse Book?

Ah, yes, we’ve approached another edition of “Mikaela discusses things only she has ever noticed or cared about.”  I’m sure you guys have missed that while I was away.

If you haven’t heard or you’ve been living underneath a rock when it comes to the book community, you might have missed out on the hype and controversy surrounding a book titled 27 Hours. I personally feel as if the controversy surrounding this book has never really been fully discussed. I can’t tell if it’s because it’s a diverse book, the fact that it was hyped as all hell, or the fact that – let’s be honest here – the community that hyped this book acted pretty hypocritical as things came to light. So, I thought that I would talk about it, because I feel like it really sheds light on an issue that I’ve been thinking about lately.

(Also, wow, does it feel good to be back!)
Originally, I heard about 27 Hours because it was marketed as “queer teens in space.”

The book community was extremely excited for this book considering it was supposed to be very diverse when it came to sexual orientations and the intersectionality. Not to mention that the premise sounded pretty awesome itself, and it’s not often that diversity is seen in a non-contemporary setting! The author was pretty heavily involved on Twitter with a lot of people (personal opinion, but I really hate it when authors shove themselves into the book community. The fact that she did seems to be a huge reason as to why a lot of people seemed to sweep this under the rug.), and she expressed a lot of similar opinions as those who were hyping this book up, which helped.

I was definitely one of the people excited about the book. I waited two hours in line to see her at Bookcon, genuinely enjoyed meeting her, and was super happy to get an ARC and have it personalized by her. I ended up never actually reading the book (and I won’t any longer) because I took a little reading hiatus, but I definitely did hear about the controversies surrounding it and watched everything that unfolded.

 Things really became messy after a review was posted calling out the problematic content.

A large majority of people who are very vocal when it comes to diversity and problematic content in books had five-starred the book on Goodreads and raved about it, and it was sort of painful watching people who constantly berate others for reading books with a lick of problematic content attempt to walk back their statements, if I’m being honest. Not to mention that there have been a couple of people who say that they were harassed (don’t know if there’s actual evidence or if it’s true or not, but if it happened, it’s troubling). And then the author had to write an apology, which is ironic, since she’s expressed opinions that there’s basically no excuse to read a problematic book.

In a word, this situation could be summed up as “yikes.”

Compared to the controversy concerning books such as The Continent, Carve the Mark, and The Black Witch (which all dealt with problematic content with racism), it felt clear to me that 27 Hours was given a pass. No one seemed to talk about the controversy, there wasn’t a flood of one-star reviews denouncing the book, no one was calling for people to mass-retweet reviews, and by the looks of it, the author still seems to be active among the book community once again. In my opinion, this entire situation was a complete and utter mess, and revealed a lot (for me, at least).

But, I do think this brings up an important subject matter concerning how we as a community perceive diverse books.

We tend to put diverse books on this pedestal because “DIVERSITY YEAH!!!” which isn’t necessarily bad, but it feels like stuff like this always seems to happen. One mention of a mildly problematic line in a diverse book and IT MUST BE AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS, which completely misses the point, and doesn’t help anyone. Diverse books can be problematic, as seen with 27 Hours, but it seems like when it comes to diverse books, people seem to be on the look-out for the perfect one: it represents all sexual orientations perfectly, all different races and ethnicities are portrayed, it challenges all types of bigotry, has no problematic content or phrases, and also manages to have badass writing and a fantastic plot.

The thing is, that book doesn’t exist and never will. I don’t think we’ll ever find the perfect diverse book that makes everyone feel good and represents everyone perfectly and also manages to be the best book that’s ever existed. I mean, some people even find Six of Crows to be problematic, and I haven’t seen any sort of majority outrage or decry of it. And I also think it’s sort of dumb to make diverse or #ownvoices authors carry the burden of being absolute perfection, whether it comes to their books being immaculate in their representation or it being necessary that they HAVE to write about their experiences even if they might not want to or writing an entire book without having any sort of problematic phrasing, saying, or content.

Who even knows what the entire point of this discussion was (I don’t know if you can tell, but I wrote this one without any sort of outline because I AM LAZY) and this might have ended up being kind of ramble-y, but I did want to write my thoughts out because I can.

Have you heard about the controversy regarding 27 Hours? What do you think about the situation? Do you think we get too caught up in looking for the perfect diverse book? DID YOU MISS ME WHILE I WAS GONE?


33 thoughts on “[LET’S CHAT] Are We Making The Error of Looking for the “Perfect” Diverse Book?

  1. Hey, welcome back!
    I’ll be honest 27 Hours was my most anticipated book for 2017 and I even got an arc from NG, but after hearing all the controversy I haven’t touched it. I will read it eventually because I am obligated to, but I doubt it will be a positive review.

    In terms of a “perfect” diverse read, I agree with you, it is not possible. I think there will always be controversy and hate around diversity until the world gets it’s shit together and what even counts as diverse these days? To some, diverse is literally a book about cis, straight, able-bodied white person who happens to have a black neighbour, but to some 27 Hours is diverse, even if it is obviously problematic.
    I honestly think the publishing industry is to blame. Clearly, diversity is the hip new thing and so they are trying to pump it out as fast as they can, obviously not taking the right amount of time to realise that a book is harmful to some, or they think we’ll buy it anyway, because at least it’s not about a straight white girl and the chosen one trope?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey, I missed you! ❤️

      I think it’s true, the definition of diversity is all over the place. I feel the same way about problematic, which I feel means different things for different people.

      Yeah, I mean, I understand why people get angry when someone says “diversity is a trend,” but I feel like to publishers, it is. They’re well aware when they say a book is diverse, that the marketing is pretty much done for them – everyone will flock to it and support it. 🤷🏾‍♀️ It sucks, but I feel like that’s just how it is.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I think Aimal (the blogger who pointed out the problematic points of the book) actually left the blogging world because no one was taking her opinions seriously. I think that’s seriously disheartening that people just dismissed her views on the book. Like? Imagine that. People call out problematic books on twitter etc.. AND GO VIRAL. Instantly people are hating on the book, it’s added to a secret list of problematic books tm, everyone is screaming at the author and wanting them to apologise.

    But for some people with a voice that is not as loud as others and not be listened to? That is a problem. I also think that LITERALLY EVERY BOOK IS PROBLEMATIC THESE DAYS and it KIND OF ANNOYS ME.God damn it life is problematic. Like you said with Six Of Crows, one of my favourite reads and only recently I have been shown the problematic sides to it. I mean I don’t want to undermine’s people’s experiences but when you find out every book you have ever read is problematic you are just like…wow, really? HOW DO YOU EVEN COME UP WITH SO MANY PROBLEMATIC POINTS???

    I don’t even know what I am trying to say sorry (idk if this is even related o the post)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I know! I was sad when I heard it, especially since she had that she felt hurt that it seemed like the community she was in turned her back on her.

      I feel you! I think I’ve learned that if a book has active problematic content, I understand, but words and phrases I just don’t care about. It’s perfectly fine if you do, but I don’t understand getting worked up if you read a book, and there’s some dumb throw-away line like, “Every man adored her.” There are people who will get angry about that because “OMG; Are you implying that all men are allohet and couldn’t possibly be aromantic or gay or not straight???” Like, to me, it’s clear that it’s a hyperbole because not all straight guys are attracted to every girl, but some people take it SO LITERALLY.

      Haha, it’s fine; everything about this is a mess. 😂


  3. I haven’t even heard of 27 hours never mind any of the controversy around it. I do feel though that authors, YA ones in particular, seem to be under a huge amount of pressure to make sure everyone is fairly represented and I think it’s too much to expect. Yes I like to see diversity in books but I hate the way a whole community can turn on an author if something isn’t quite right.

    I would honestly hate to be an author right now. I don’t feel like I have the knowledge or experience to represent or even try to talk about these types of issues.

    We need more own voices books me thinks to do it properly but is it not a good thing that all authors are trying to represent even if they get it a bit wrong.

    And yes, I did miss you and your discussion posts.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Such a great post and it’s something I’m seeing a lot of lately. I read 27 Hours and didn’t have any problems with the content. But I can see how some people could. I think it’s impossible to please everyone and no two people are alike. I never want to see anyone upset by a book, but I also think that some people take it too far. I see a lot of reviews for books where a handful of people are so upset and hurt by the book, but so many others are not. It’s because not everyone reads and feels the content the same way. I asked a panel of authors about this recently and it was obviously a sore subject for them. They basically said that authors can’t be afraid of the backlash and should just do their best to research and be true. If they hurt someone, they should apologize, but at this point, it seems like this is going to keep happening with diverse books because of how different everyone is. When it comes to race issues, I see books as showing the issues we have in the world (and sometimes a warning about what can happen), but others see it as the author being racist. I think a lot is perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I hadn’t heard of 27 Hours because living under a rock is my specialty, so I’ll probably look up more about the drama after I write this. However, I am curious as to why you don’t want to read it. Obviously, no one wants to support a problematic book, but there are many ways to read it other than buying it — you got an ARC, for example, and the rest of us could borrow it from a library or maybe from a friend who didn’t think it was problematic, or who bought it before the whole controversy started.

    I really don’t like the culture of “I won’t read this book because people said it’s problematic,” because it discourages people from thinking for themselves. The culture kinda becomes “if you even READ this you’re a problem,” completely disregarding whether you read it because you wanted to see for yourself exactly how the problematic content went down, instead of solely relying on other people’s opinions.

    It’s always dangerous when people rely on other people’s opinions instead of forming their own. I’m totally behind “Don’t buy this; it’s problematic,” but in my opinion people should always read before reviewing or bashing.

    This doesn’t really apply to this post because it’s not a review, but the whole “ew don’t read that” culture has bothered me for awhile.

    That being said, I’m gonna go look up the drama on it now…thanks for the thought-provoking post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I didn’t think that was the most important part of the post, but it’s less because it’s problematic, more that I think I just ended up losing interest in it as the months went along. 🤷🏾‍♀️ It happens to me all the time!

      I understand what you’re saying though! I had a discussion last month about the idea of judging someone for what they read, and I don’t agree with reading a problematic book makes you a bad person. I think pretty much everyone has read a problematic book at one point, so it’s a statement that doesn’t make sense. I agree that people should read before making a full consensus on a book, especially since I tend to not trust one person just he has they read an early copy.


  6. Hello and welcome back, Mikaela! I have to say, I’ve really missed seeing your posts in my reader! And this is definitely a great way to come back to us! 🙂

    Honestly, I don’t think it’s fair to expect any one author to write a PERFECT book. People (no matter how many are involved on the way to a book being published) may overlook something that would be considered offensive and as long as it’s addressed properly and dealt with properly, I can accept it.

    I don’t like the hypocrisy that seems to have been a part of this release though. I don’t like people who will rip apart an author or book for being really problematic but then do the exact opposite for another problematic book because the author may be really involved with the community and her own readers. That’s not a fair way of going about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, I missed you! 😘 I wanted to come back Friday, but school kicked my ass. 😝

      Yeah, I think it’s impossible to write a diverse book that everyone loves. I’ve found so many people that find various popular diverse books problematic that I think it’s silly to try to find the perfect one.

      I don’t either, and I think that really bothers me. I think it just rubs me the wrong way since this author is really outspoken about other problematic books, and, all around, it wasn’t handled properly. 😬


  7. This is a really interesting take and I agree to a certain point.

    It was one of my most anticipated reads then I read it and… yeah, wasn’t impressed. I was one of the people who called it out because it irked me and made me extremely uncomfortable to read at times (It took me a month to get through it). But I think comparing it to The Continent and Carve the Mark isn’t fair because as much of a mess as 27 hours was it still did a few things right and some queer folks who don’t see themselves represented that much (pan and ace people for example) saw themselves in that one and i think it’s unfair to take that away from them. Although some of them sweeped all the problems under the rug and that was really disappointing to me, not gonna lie.

    There are even some POC from colonized or ex-colonized countries who weren’t hurt by it like I and other people were. And I don’t think they’re wrong either. It’s just a matter of how things are perceived. I think that’s why this book didn’t generate as much of an uproar as other problematic books. Because of the divide within POC.

    And I agree the perfect diverse book doesn’t exist. I’ve seen muslim rep that was similar to mine almost down to the t being labelled inaccurate by other muslim folks. So no one book will make everyone happy and we shouldn’t put that burden on authors, especially ownvoices authors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hm, I don’t know! Both The Black Witch and Carve the Mark also had a divide within POC – there are POC who loved and enjoyed both of those books, not to mention that both books were called out because the original reviewers took things out of context or just got information wrong. Yet, both of them have still been blacklisted by the community. And there were people that were unhappy about the ace rep in a couple of reviews I read (which I tried to find, but failed to! I might have to look on the second page, or maybe the reviews are gone?). I can’t say anything about The Continent, but I saw it’s being republished next year, so that’ll be interesting. 😅

      I agree! I don’t think we should throw away important rep for someone if it’s good for someone else, especially since being a minority isn’t a monolith experience. My experience as a black girl is probably different than someone else’s in the US.


  8. I had not heard about the 27 Hours controversy at all. The review you linked was wonderful and I’m happy I found a new blogger because her review was concise and well-thought out. Diversity is a tough thing to incorporate in novels and I sometimes think that it would be best if authors only wrote what they knew. For instance, if a middle-to-upper class white woman from a small rural town doesn’t know an asexual person then, in my opinion, I don’t believe she should be depicting an asexual person because 1) it could come off as stereotypical/offensive 2) it seems like she is only writing this type of character for diversity and to check boxes in hopes of a quicker publication. I love Sarah J. Maas’ ACOTAR series, but the “twist” about Mor in the most recent rubbed me the wrong way and I felt like it perpetuated a stereotype that shows like Jerry Springer and Maury have made large with lesbians leading on straight guys. It just put a bad taste in my mouth, but I think it’s also important to give authors the benefit of the doubt and hope that their next book(s) learn from community feedback and are able to grow as writers who are able to portray an array of different humans with positive light.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, unfortunately, Aimal quit blogging a couple of months ago, so that sucks! 😭 I think that definitely makes sense. I feel like there are just some minority groups authors are just not good at writing, and shouldn’t bother with – for instance, I don’t feel like I know that much about Islam, so if I ever wrote a book, I probably wouldn’t have the MC be a practicing Muslim. I also think that makes sense! I’ll actually have a discussion about problematic faves up this Sunday talking about that! 😄


  9. I think that the situation is messy that I don’t even know what to say. Honestly, I think is human to make mistakes even while writing. Like, thinking of handling well the issue while the author isn’t actually doing it.

    What I really don’t like is when the author goes around, forming a kind of situation/moral standard in the book community and then, when the author fails… well, I think that saying “I’m sorry” it’s just the top of the iceberg.
    Anyway, I feel the same as you. Every book with a problematic issue should be treated equally and critically, but with respect and an intersectional viewpoint, ownvoices author or not. But the situation here was downplayed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I also think it’s human to make mistakes while writing and maybe not seeing things from a different perspective! I know I do it all the time! 🤷🏾‍♀️

      Yep, I think that’s the thing that bothered me the most – that she was so against reading problematic books and supported calling them out…until it was her book.

      I agree with that as well! Either all problematic books are treated the same, or not. The community can’t pick and choose which ones they do and don’t support.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I hadn’t heard of 27 hours, but I’m weary of authors writing stupid, senseless books. Books lile The Black Witch are hurtful. And yes, you can accidentally write that in a first draft.
    But an editor, a publisher needs to step in and explain what needs to be fixed so it’s not hurting anyone when it’s published.
    I mean, my editor points out possibly bad things in my book. And I don’t want to hurt anyone, so I try to write the story differently. It’s still very much the same story, but I adjust the angle, so it’s not potentially triggering or harmful. Does that make it perfect? No, but it makes it better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This comment sort of reminds of a book called The Continent, which was a debut novel that was called out by some people late last year! It was actually supposed to be published earlier this spring, but because of so many complaints and the bad publicity it was getting, the publisher decided to postpone the release date and pretty much edit the entire thing. It had been called out for having the white savior trope and portraying indigenous people as savage, but the book is actually coming out next spring, so it’ll be interesting to see if any one actually bothers to read it after the edits.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I haven’t read all the comments, but I always struggle with the search for the ‘perfect diverse read’ because I think it’s kind of an oxymoron. Just as there’s not one book out there that everyone gives 5 stars to, everyone’s idea of the perfect diverse book is fluid. My sisters experience as a biracial woman will be different from another biracial woman’s. My cousin’s experience as a lesbian will be different from someone else’s. They may share similarities, but they’re bound to have differences too.

    Sometimes I think that there will always be people who will find fault in the diversity in a book, because that #ownvoices author’s life experiences are different from their own.

    I hope what I’m saying makes sense. It’s kind of hard to clarify.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Whoa, wonderful post! I haven’t heard of this book but it does sound rather problematic. I think the thing about hyping up books is that when there’s a problem with them people who supported the book are less likely to want to call it out as they don’t want to be called a hypocrite or have anyone suggest that they don’t support diversity (which is, of course, the reason they supported the book in the first place).

    I think the “perfect diverse book” just doesn’t exist. Why? Because while some people may think “Book A” is that book, others may hate “Book A” and think that “Book B” is that book. The thing is, for each and every person, their opinions on a book will be different and that doesn’t make anyone’s opinion any less valid. But it does mean that character reps can be good for one person, and terrible for the other.

    If we all just stop saying to all the authors “NO YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG” and start seeing that they are writing books in which there are character reps which do represent part of the population. Yes, there are some purely problematic books, but I’d like to think that it’s in the minority.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I think it mainly stems from hypocrisy. When your entire time on the internet is spent talking badly about other people because they read a couple of problematic books, it can be embarrassing when a book you widely support gets declared problematic!

      Yep, such a great take! I don’t think anyone’s opinion to a book is “less valid” which is probably why I get annoyed when people have just written off a book as problematic because of one person’s review!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. i’m SO HAPPY you’re back!!!! I was looking through my emails after a Christmas party weekend and I saw The Well-Thumbed Reader and I lost my cool. I MISSED YOUR POSTS!!!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This is such a GOOD subject, and I thank you for having the guts to talk about it. I definitely think there’s a huuuuuge pressure right now on authors to get it absolutely right, and I just don’t think that’s fair. Authors are not gods or all-knowing, and I think they’re trying their best as much as the rest of us. That doesn’t mean they get a free pass for problematic material, but I think we need to remember they’re human when criticizing them, and that maybe they didn’t set out to intentionally write harmful material. Not only that, everyone has different experiences. I keep seeing over and over again, people who write #OwnVoices material (myself included), become very nervous because what if they’re experiences DON’T MATCH someone elses? As if that suddenly makes their experience less valid?? It’s a tough position and time in the book community, that’s for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I agree! People expect way too much from authors, sometimes, and I just don’t think authors should do something they don’t want to. I mean, unpopular opinion: but if an author chooses to never write diverse characters, I really don’t care. There are tons more authors and books I can choose from, and it’s just dumb to force an author to do something, then complain when that author does it and it’s not done well. Maybe because you forced them to do it???

      Yeah, I definitely hate it! It’s gotten to a point where people are saying that a book is problematic because it doesn’t match up with their experience, which isn’t the point of every book.


  15. I feel like this is a huge case of biting off the hand that feeds you. There’s a need and want for more diverse books, but if the diversity is done ‘wrong’ and one person notices it, suddenly mob mentality kicks in and there are several people attacking the book. And in many many cases, the author. But if an author shies away from writing diversity, then they must be closed minded and everyone should boycott them.

    You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Gosh I TOTALLY agree with you here. I haven’t heard of the book or the controversy till now, but yeah, it definitely sounds like the whole situation can be described as yikes. I do think that there’s no such thing as a perfect book in any way- so this covers diversity as well- there’s no way a character or story can entirely represent *every* individual experience, so I think people have to be a bit open minded when they read representation in books (that’s just my opinion) I personally don’t think that people should turn on an author for trying to write something and getting it wrong- especially as some people in the comments have hinted at this can be subjective. And I think someone else has said literally everything is considered problematic by someone, which is unfortunately also true. But the thing I always find in these situations is when a book gets labelled problematic, there’s always people to add fuel to the fire (either they’ve read a negative review and won’t read it now/they have read it and now changed their mind)- personally I think it often makes things worse that people will pile on board, rather than leaving some space, reconsidering things on their own terms, or just reading the book and making up their own mind. Sorry for rambling- this is such an excellent, thought provoking post!

    Liked by 1 person

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