I’m a picky person. I’m a picky eater (getting better, though); I’m a picky music-listener; and I’m incredibly picky about what I read. Blogging has really helped me expand my horizons, particularly through things like year-long reading challenges and getting to read ARCs. I also love getting to see reviews of books I probably would never have heard of if not for this amazing blogging community!
Though I certainly read more diversely now than I did a few years ago, there are a few things that have remained deal-breakers in my reading life. Here are some of the worst offenders, and let me know what yours are in the comments!
1. Fragments, fragments everywhere! Fragments, though not something you’d want to put in an essay, are often acceptable as a stylistic choice for creative writing. They particularly make sense in dialogue, because real-life dialogue is rarely ever grammatical the way writing is. But when there are more than two fragments in a row, or more than three or so to a page (on average), it gets a little tiresome. I’ve particularly noticed this in YA series like The Hunger Games and Divergent, but it’s also come up (and bugged me severely) in adult novels like The Silent Girls.
2. Love triangles, or really any superfluous romance in general. There’s a reason I don’t read romance novels: they’re full of clichés, they’re unrealistic at best and harmful at worst (looking at you, Fifty Shades), and frankly, they’re BORING because you know exactly how they’re going to end. (Okay, I guess there are several reasons I don’t read romance novels.) I don’t need books to have absolutely no romance whatsoever, because that’s almost impossible to find these days, but I quite appreciate when romance takes a back seat to whatever else is happening in the story.
That’s not to say that I don’t like stories about love, because I do, and I’ve read a bunch of books recently that focus on love greater than that between two people (The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Glittering World in particular come to mind). But romance is something I’m much less interested in.
3. Bad or nonexistent editing. I’m not talking about in ARCs, either; I’m talking about actual published works. A typo here or there is excusable—I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where I haven’t found a typo at some point—but willy nilly errors in tense or forgetting a verb in a sentence is totally unforgivable. I just read The Silent Girls by Eric Rickstad and while the story was okay the writing was unthinkably bad, so this particular deal-breaker is sort of close to the surface of my mind at the moment.
4. Pretension. Ugghhhh this has got to be one of the worst things to deal with as a reader: an author’s unstoppable pretension. Of course, everyone interprets writing differently, so our definitions of pretension might differ. I’m thinking along the lines of Jonathan Safran Foer, whose every word just oozes “look how smart I am!” Similarly, James Joyce and his utterly incomprehensible (except to the elite few, of course) writing make my blood boil.
Something I’ve never understood is why writers write if they don’t want people to understand what they’re saying. What was Joyce’s goal in writing Ulysses so that it was absolutely inaccessible to anyone at all except himself (and eventually Joyce scholars who studied every minute aspect of his life in order to understand it)? I can’t help but think that he must have thought so much of himself for publishing this impenetrable novel that scholars have puzzled over for decades. Either that or he’s been punking us for almost a hundred years now.
5. Character-driven stories versus plot-driven stories. Don’t get me wrong; great characters make a book. But I want a plot, too. I want exciting things to happen—the scarier the better (I’m a huge horror junkie). I think this is maybe why I didn’t like The Virgin Suicides as much as I wanted to or as much as I expected to based on what I’d heard about it; it’s mainly a character study of the five Lisbon sisters by a group of boys who lived in the same neighborhood. Things happen, but it’s not exactly exciting.
The one exception I’ve found to this rule so far is J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. There wasn’t a whole lot of plot there either, but the characters were just so incredibly drawn that, after a while, it was impossible not to be invested in their stories. (Of course, it took me about 200 pages to get invested, so I don’t blame you if you quit before that.)
6. Getting hit over the head with the author’s morals or politics or anything that I didn’t actually pick up the book for. Like I said above, I read primarily for plot; I don’t want to be proselytized to. All stories have morals, of course, and all authors have biases. But if your bias is glaringly obvious, I’m either not going to read your book or, if I do read it, I’m probably not going to review it very well.
What are your deal breakers when it comes to books?