I finished a YA novel about a month ago that I was less than thrilled about. While reading it, I chatted with a few great friends about this book and how I love, love, loved the author’s blog and purchased the book out of a sense of loyalty and excitement.
I did not, however, love, love, love the book. To the contrary, it took me well over 100 pages to even like the female MC a little bit. I never cared about her before she turned bad, then she was so bad only to suddenly turn so lovable-ish. To her male counterpart, anyway. To me, she seemed like the poster child for Manic Depression.
As a whole, I struggled to read the book, even though the writing was good and the premise was better. My stumbling point? The character execution. Even at the very end, I never really cared about the female protag and all my emotions were wrapped up in the male’s suffering and conflict.
In addition, it was written in first person present from two points of view. Every character switch took some time for me to get back in sync and heightened the disconnect.
That said, I read the book in about 24 hours. Which was certainly better than another book I tried to read last month and have yet to get past page 17.
That snooze book was a prequel to two books DD and I read in a past lifetime. When the first book of the series came out, DD and I devoured it. The second book she loved. I was luke warm about it, but still read it and enjoyed it on several levels. Yet after much begging and pleading, DD refused to read past the first chapter of book three.
It took me several years after her bad review to even give it a try. I picked it up last month for something to do while on the stairmaster. I got as far as page 17, and only because I have to read while working out and nothing else was in my reach. My beef: the third book looped back to the beginning. Long before First Book ever took place. Long, long before. Star Wars it was not.
Then there was the book right after the 17 page disaster. While I greatly enjoyed the book as a whole, I hated the ending. It was so in-your-face not-finished that I could barely gag down the last few chapters.
Intuitively I knew I was in for a non-complete ending. You know the ones that say, “Well, we got some of this wrapped up, now go back to the bookstore in six months and you can buy the rest of the story.”? Fingernails on a chalkboard annoying.
So there you have it. Three things I hate in books.
- Unsympathetic characters. Ones I never connect with and therefore don’t give a rat’s patooty what happens to them. It makes for unsatisfactory reading. I want to love the characters I’m ignoring my family for.
- Books that are tacked on. Those 17 pages felt like tedious backstory to a story I already read. Oh wait, that’s exactly what it was. You can’t hook me with a good story and then expect me to remain faithful when the last book is a moral lesson on how the first two books came about. Along similar lines are the middle books of a trilogy. For some reason, many of them feel like a rope bridge between a great start and a great finish. It’s like the trilogy should really only have two books because that’s where everything good happens, but the author/editor/marketing department wouldn’t know what to call it if they did. A literary duet, maybe? A bilogy?
- Lastly, books that are so obviously part of a trilogy or series they feel unfinished. I hate to be swindled, and I feel like this is the biggest con game around. Give me a book that is done. Make me love the characters so much I have to read more. Want to. Love to. Will be heartbroken if I can’t. Do not–I repeat–do not force me to buy the next book with a cute little ploy just to get the rest of the first story. That’s the fastest way for an author to get on my list.
That said, very few authors make my list. I like to give them each two shots. The first book I’ll buy. If it falls on my naughty list, I’ll beg, borrow or steal the second one, but not buy. If both titles leave me flat, I file the author’s name away for good. This may not be fair, but life is short and if I never added another book to my TBR list, it’s still too long for me to finish in this lifetime.
Now that you know my novel pet peeves, what are yours? Without naming names, of course. What book traits put an author on your banned list? Once there, is it possible for them to get switched to your TBR pile in the future? If so, how?
Totally agree! I can’t tell you how many books I’ve been disappointed in over the years with the flaws you described. One big fault I have is when an MC is seemingly helpless and doesn’t take initiative. Even if more conflicts arise, I expect the MC to be exactly that- the MC! Take control already, even if those actions don’t solve the problem!
Melissa–good call on the weak and whimpy MC’s. I can get enough of that in my own life. I certainly don’t need to read about it!
I think you’re overly generous to have finished it at all – and then to not warn those YA readers which book to avoid!
Well, I know enough to understand that what I love or hate may be very different than what someone else adores or despises. And I’m the last one to diss a writer by name, because I would so hate to have someone use my bad writing as an example!
That said, I love to give kudos when they are well-deserved. So get your book out there…
I agree! Characters are a big selling point for me. Certain styles turn me off, too, such as dialogue when there should be action. It’s so annoying when an action scene ends at a chapter, and you eagerly go onto the next and it’s the characters talking about what happened during or just after that action. Don’t tell me about it; show me what happened!
Oooh, I never considered that, but totally agree. I don’t like having to experience great events through mundane introspection or dialogue.
Get it out there and let us experience it.
My strongest negative reaction to a book was a vampire novel – part of a series – in which a watcher-type character tells the vampire he watches not to turn him, even though he’s dying. Don’t turn me or I’ll never forgive you, blah, blah. The vampire turns him and the character is Oh, so grateful. I threw the book against the wall. I haven’t returned to that author since. That wasn’t the first time she’d disappointed me, but it was the last.
LOL. I can picture that frustration. While I’ve never actually chucked a book, I’ve been sorely tempted.
Love this line–“That wasn’t the first time she’d disappointed me, but it was the last.” What a great way to prioritize.
For me the most important part of any book is the main character. I have to like them and care about what happens to them. If they’re not likeable I just can’t finish it.
My need for engaging characters has grown. I used to be able to read a great plot, but not anymore. My palate and my time has changed.
At the top of my list is boring. Second is pretending to be literary, so I can’t understand what the author is talking about. Third is unbelievable (character and plot).
I love books with a passion, and I read all genres including YA. In the old days, when I thought I had all the time in the world, I always finished a book I started. Older and wiser now, I give a book anywhere from five to fifty pages to get my attention (or turn me off).
Patricia, I was much like you and used to read every book, no matter if they didn’t engage me completely. Now, my time is so much shorter that I simply can’t justify spending valuable time with a book in which I don’t click with.
Great sentence : )
Anyway, I get the literary thing too. Sometimes I can’t follow along with what the writing is trying so hard to say. These for surely get set aside.
If it’s a series I give the author a few chances, what can I say I’m always the optimist. I read the first three books of one series hoping each time the storytelling and plot would get better, there was so much potential it just had to, but after book three I finally gave up. I never finished the series and can’t imagine I really missed out on much. The story turned out to be shallow at best. Of course, I’m terrified that with as much work as I’m putting into my novel that I’m commiting some these same sins without realizing it, lol.
Oh, I’m sure we all commit the issues we despise. That’s what revision is about. However, the more aware we are of what we like and don’t like, the better off we are in recognizing those things in our own writing.
I find this very interesting. The MC in my soon-to-be-submitted manuscript is not always likeable. That is, there are lots of reasons to like him, but there are many things that make him infuriating. We’ll see if that annoys or infuriates an agent.
I don’t actually mind naughty or frustrating MCs. What I dislike is when I can’t connect with them because they seem so false. In my example, the MC had no rhyme or reason for her rapid mood swings. She just was. I can actually appreciate an MC with issues–like not always being likeable–and would rather read that than a shallow, pointless character.
Thanks for the input!
I gotta tell you, I sure sympathize. In fact, I won’t make myself finish books anymore. I give a novel about fifty pages before I give up on it. There are just too many fabulous books in the world to waste my time on something less than stellar.
Also, I’ve learned a lesson. Since I’ve started writing, I no longer post negative reviews (unless I use an anonymous book, as you did.) Now that I see the other side of the story, I don’t have the heart or stomach to publicly bash someone else’s work.
In fact, before I starting writing, I wrote a very strong negative review about a mega, mega bestselling review. I didn’t attack the author or the writing in general, but I was merciless with my critique of the story. Two years later, it still gets comments and pops up at the top of the review list. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about deleting it.
That poor author. Despicable me.
I’m sure it’s okay. You didn’t do it to be malicious, and if not you, then somebody else. The author hasn’t stalked you yet–that you know of–and has probably filed your review away to ponder at times.
In any case, I forgive you and know you wouldn’t hurt anyone on purpose.
Although there are exceptions, reading books that are in first person generally gets on my nerves by about the fourth chapter. One fixed point of view can be pretty claustrophobic, and unless I’m in love with the character, I prefer the more global view of 3PO.
I’m not sure that an unsympathetic first person voice would ever make me put a book down, but it definitely would make me think twice about reading another 1P book by the same author.
Interesting perpsective, Layinda. I often write in first person and it doesn’t usually bother me when other writers do the same. I think the trouble with this book was like you said, an unsympathetic first person. It nearly drove me nuts and made it very difficult to connect with her since I didn’t actually want to spend time in her brain!
LOL. We all have such different tastes which is great. It makes the biz go round.
It’s tough to slug through books where you don’t like the MC. I’ve had to do that and I agree with you, it’s not pretty. I agree with your peeves. I don’t like feeling as though I was just manipulated into buying sequels either. 😦
That’s one of my worstest dislikes ever when reading. I’ve gotten to the point where I refuse to read any subsequent books just on the premise that I hate buying an incomplete product. It’s like buying a pair of pants with only one leg in them. : )