Guest Post: Deal Breakers
It's that time of the month again: guest post time! This month, the topic is things that make us DNF (did not finish) a book. Similar to Bookish Pet Peeves, but a bit more specific. We can have bookish pet peeves and still read it. This is for those things that simply are a deal breaker.
Katherine's Deal Breakers
It takes a lot for me to put a book down completely and not finish it. I believe in giving every book a fair, fighting chance. But sometimes, I just have to put it down, no matter how far I'm in. Here are some of the reasons I give up on books before finishing them:
- Disturbing and graphic violence. I wouldn't consider myself a chicken, per se. I can handle some blood and gore. However, there is a fine line between OK and downright disturbing. While reading a book, I shouldn't read about violence being so disturbing it's making me want to throw up and shudder. Example: Cain's Blood. Well, the subject matter of the book itself is kind of questionable. I mean, cloning serial killers? Really? Being the child of a psychology major mother and a psychology minor father, I'm fascinated by how the human mind works. Especially mentally disturbed, twisted minds. So I'd figure I'd give this one a shot. . . .and DNFed it 14 pages. Not only did this book have graphic sexual content, the violence and gore within those 14 pages was so much and so graphic that I wonder what was going on in the author's mind for him to WRITE such things. What really did it for me, though, was when he described the use of a woman's breast as a paperweight. Thanks, but no thanks.
- Graphic sexual content. I'm not a total prude. I can handle love and sex scenes, but they need to be done tastefully. This is why I avoid BDSM/erotica novels as a whole. I mean, do we really need to read the graphic details about what goes on during that period of time? Disgusting!! Example: The Education of Sebastian. Why this book has no many 4-5 star reviews is an absolute mystery to me. The storyline is a little disturbing itself; a 17-year-old teenage boy falling in love with a 30-year-old Army wife. But then, we get to see them in their, ahem, sexual element. It's not tasteful, it's AWKWARD. Supremely, terrifyingly, disgustingly awkward. So bad it's laughable. I would pull an example, but I don't want to disgust the Readers who might be reading this. You might never look at sex the same way again, and not in a good way. Imagine The Awakening by Kate Chopin got turned into a horror movie; you'd have this book.
- Characters who are too dumb to live. There's only so much stupid I can handle in one sitting. We're human and bound to make mistakes every once in a while. The key words are: We LEARN from them. And we use our brain. And common sense. Sometimes, I wonder if some of the characters I'm reading about have any of that at all. They are so insufferably stupid that I feel like my own IQ level is dropping because of their stupidity. Example: Wild. This should have been epic; a YA Tarzan retelling? Sign me up! Unfortunately, not even a quarter of the way through, I had to put it down, due to the main female character (Dara) constantly making questionable decisions. Like the time when she and her boyfriend Josh are camping in the woods and find a big old bear rummaging through their things. And when the bear finds out they're there, he's miffed. So he starts charging and what does Cara do? She does this. . . ."Blank with shock, Dara fumbled for her camera. It was stupid; she didn't even have it with her." There's a bear. A grizzly bear. Charging at you. About to eat you and your boy toy alive. Rip you to shreds. AND YOU WANT TO TAKE A PICTURE OF IT?!
- The book offends me. This doesn't happen all too often, as I like to keep an open mind about things and other people's opinions and beliefs. But if their way of thinking or ideas are so ridiculous that they are offensive, or there's a plot line that is offensive, I have to put it down. Example: No One Else Can Have You. There's this one particular scene where the main character decides it would be oh-so-clever to pretend to be a domestic abuse victim in order to try and solve the murder of her best friend. Not only that, she involves her would-be crush to go along with her. This not only offended me, it made me angry. Books rarely, if ever, make me angry. Irritated? Yes. Angry? Never. Until this book. The fact that the author would even choose to make light of domestic violence victims and their circumstances, then claim it was the "humor" of where she comes from, is disgusting. For one, I have relatives who live in the general area where the author grew up and the book is set, and their sense of humor is not like that AT ALL. What offended more is the domestic violence aspect. I had a cousin who was in two abusive relationships from when I was 8-11. It was devastating watching her become a shadow of herself, so desperately wanting to get out of her situation but not having the strength or courage to do so. Her boyfriends treated her like crap, and it broke my heart because I wasn't able to stop them. So for the author to make light of the situation disgusted me. I will never buy or support any of the books she writes, THAT'S how bad it was.
- It's boring. Honestly, the main reason I DNF a book is because it's boring. Either the characters are boring or the plotline is boring. Life is too short to waste on boring books; my TBR shelf is half a mile long. Ain't nobody got time for boring books!!!
Cayla's Deal Breakers
I'm the kind of reader who may hate the book I'm reading, but will finish it to the last page, even if I despise all the characters and am bored out of my mind (unless I'm "rescued" by the book having to go back to the library :D). Yes, I realize that's a pretty moronic policy for book-reading, but once I start a book, I feel really guilty if I don't finish it - not necessarily because I'm under any illusion that it'll magically get better; I just don't like leaving a bunch of books half-finished (okay, and because I like to have better fuel for ranting in my book reviews). Except for very rare occasions, there are really only two things that will make me put down a book.
- Overly detailed/graphic sexual content. I'm usually pretty good at screening my books, so this doesn't happen all the time. Occasionally, however, I'll be blindsided by a totally over-detailed and unnecessary sexual scene. It's happened to me with Across the Stars by Beth Revis (which was otherwise an interesting book, so I was doubly disappointed by the "mating season" which left very little to the imagination and just dragged on forever!), as well as Labyrinth by Kate Moss (this I picked up on a whim at the library and I didn't get very far at all because coming across a rather graphic scene that made me put the book down at once). As for a third example, I literally didn't get past the second page of New Dawn by Midori Snyder before coming across sexual dialogue and innuendos which, if not too graphic and frequent I can usually overlook (unless it's a terrible book and I'm searching for a reason to stop reading it :P). In this case of New Dawn, however, it opened right on the first page and, let's just say gave me a less-than-favorable impression. Having said all that, I can understand how sometimes these scenes are important and relevant to the plot. However, I still don't want to read graphic content and would much prefer a subtler technique. (For example, in The Mirk and Midnight Hour, the author implies that Sunny and Dorian are sleeping together - without stooping to writing a graphic scene. Using a more classic reference, the entire plot of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne revolves around adultery, but we never have to see the act itself to really connect with the plot).
- Language. This is the second biggie for me. Language in a book is at best uncreative and at worst downright distracting. Sadly, it's also very difficult to get away from. If it's mild, I will usually overlook it. When I come across harsher language (like G-d--mit), it depends on the book whether I'll finish. If the book is awesome I probably will, but again it depends on the situation. (This happened to me with A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee. G-d--it was said in the last thirty pages or so, so I finished it up, but I was really disappointed). It I come across the F-word, however, it's an automatic stop for me. Sadly, this rules out a lot of otherwise good contemporary books, but it's worth it to me. Having the F-word in a book really crosses a line, in my opinion, and completely ruins the story. Even if the book is awesome, I would never recommend it to anyone because of the language, and it would really be a huge mark against the book in my own opinion. I'm definitely more sensitive to language in books than most readers, but I honestly see no reason for it. Not only it language distracting and aggravating, but it adds nothing to the plot. Unfortunately, I've had to stop multiple books because of language, including Mila 2.0 by Debra Drizen, and Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen (which, while I liked the premise of the story, I wasn't really interested in finishing it, anyway).
Hazel's Deal Breakers
The Reading Hedgehog's Deal Breakers
Cutting straight to the point:
- Ridiculously Slow Starts. I usually know how I'm going to like a book after the first 50 pages, and if I'm still deciding, I'll go to 100, but if nothing has happened by then, I usually give it up, unless promised by someone I trust that it does get better. Some books are slow to start, I get this, and if I like and am invested in the characters, then I will still read through the book and I don't feel like I wasted my time. However, there are those books that simply nothing happens, and you really don't care about anything and you can't see where it's going, and for those I have no patience. That's definitely something that will turn me off a book to start with.
- Overly Explicit Sex. I'm not a huge fan of sexual content as it is, but I can usually deal with it and at least get through a book with just lowering the rating as long as it's not too explicit. However, when authors start going into the "gory details," that's it. I don't want to read that, thank you very much. If it happens behind closed doors, I can deal with it, but I really have no desire to know every little detail. On the subject of content, I have I have never stopped reading a book for foul language alone. I will rate the book lower, but that alone has never made me actually close a book.
- Super Annoying Main Characters. Now, this can kind of go two ways, and it really depends on the mood I'm in. If I'm in the kind of mood that I just can't put up with a bloody annoying female character with an attitude, then I'm not going to read the book at all. However, there are times when I just really want to rant about something, and then I will actually finish reading the book just to be able to write a review. Do I ever enjoy an annoying main character? Um. . . .no, obviously. Rarely, they might change in the course of the story, but most of the time, I really don't care enough to find out. Again, if I can't stand the character and I'm only 50 pages in, then I'm out.
- Blatant Authors. One thing that ticks me off to no end in books is when authors use it as an excuse to tote their personal opinions and thrust them upon readers. Like adding a randomly gay character who has no reason to be gay, or turning a long-time straight character gay randomly for no apparent reason. (I have several authors in mind). Other favorites are obvious environmentalists. No, I don't promote pollution, but I don't go around and shout at people. And I think books are a glorious thing for trees to become. Feminism is the one I really hate. The instant I smell a feminist book, I close it. No thank you.
- Love Triangles & Other Bloody Annoying Romantic Problems. If I know there's going to be a love triangle in a book, then 99.9% of the time, I will put a book down. I have read so few where it is actually something I care to read about. Any romance that involves a wishy-washy heroine stuck between two guys who the reader can obviously see which is the better one, then I can't stand it. If the heroine falls for a creepy dude, and can't stop talking about how hot he is and how good he smells, then 99.9% of the time, I'm not going to finish the book. If the book promises a plot line but ends up just being about the bloody romance, then that's it, I'm out.
- What The Dickens is Going On? I'll admit, some books take a while to figure out exactly what is going on. Sometimes that's a really cool thing. Sometimes it really isn't. I have picked up books before where I start reading them and 50 pages in, I still have no idea what the dickens is going on. Whether it's skipping around between characters and places too much with no explanation, or simply the plot is indefinable, I have no desire to read a book I can't even figure out. Not only does it make one feel stupid, it's a continuous aggravating and you cannot form an opinion on a book if you don't even know what the heck it's about. All of the previously mentioned issues, I might push on with just to write a review, but this one never, because how can one write a review without knowing what the story is about?
The Reading Hedgehog's Deal Breakers
I thought this would be an easy topic for me. But I just realized that it isn't, because about two years ago, I stopped DNFing books. That's right - I rarely DNF a book, even if I know it's horrid and it has a million deal breakers in it. I've never liked not finishing a book, and it's only gotten worse. So, because I only have so much time and standards to uphold, I made a rule with myself: I have the first 50 pages to DNF a book. If I reach 100 pages, I have to finish it, no matter what. Otherwise I have just spent a good amount of my time on 100 pages of a book that I'm not going to finish - and I could have been reading a different book instead! So if I encounter any deal breakers in that first 50 pages, I will DNF the book. And here are those deal breakers:
- Explicit sexual content. I am an adult and I am not squeamish. Being able to deal with sexual content has, in my humble opinion, nothing to with maturity level. I have a very sacred view on it; that it's something that should be kept in private between a husband and wife. I don't want to read, watch, or hear about it. And over half of the time, explicit sexual content isn't even between a husband and wife. Why am I explaining this? Because I want you to understand why it disgusts me. Explicitness - of any kind, really - in books is so totally unnecessary and is only put there for one reason: reaction. If the author needs to convey something of a sexual nature (and sometimes a story needs it), there are ways to do it without explicitness.
- Strong profanity. This is actually the one deal breaker I am probably most lax about, much to my chagrin. I realize that there are characters who have foul mouths, but the author seriously does not need to populate their book with such colorful words in order to convey this fact. Profanity always detracts from a book I'm reading; there's a reason I take off entire star/strawberry ratings if the strong profanity count exceeds a certain number (note: strong profanity = f-word, s-word, g--damn). Sexual scenes you can generally flip past. Profanity, not so much. The best I can do is blot the words out with a black pen (if I own the book, naturally; I don't do this to borrowed books) so I can read a "censored" version when I re-read the book. But like I said, while this is actually a deal breaker I hate more than explicit sexual content, I actually tend to ignore it more often. Unless the book exceeds 5+ f-words; but by the time that happens, I'm already halfway through the book.
- Agenda-pushing books. I realize that authors cannot totally remove their own personal opinions from their writing; it's impossible. But there is a difference between having some characters and situations reflect your personal opinions, and pumping your books full of agendas. I really hate it when authors do that. Fiction - especially Middle Grade and Young Adult - is not the place to get on your political podium and spout your opinions. If it's in keeping with a character's personality to share certain opinions, that's fine. I can go with that. But when it feels like the author is pushing something down my throat, I will DNF that book almost every time.
- Murder-worthy protagonists. I'm not just talking about annoying characters that I kind of want to strangle, or that I want to punch, or even characters whose deaths make me happy. I'm talking about the protagonists who stir up my blood so much that I have to resist throwing the book in the fire. Protagonists who cause me to set the book down and go shoot my bow for a while; until my rage has subsided. Protagonists I simply. Cannot. Stand.