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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What makes you put a book down?

Over on Nathan Bransford's blog, he's got a poll asking what type of reader you are - the kind to power through what you feel is a bad book or the kind to toss it as soon as you know you don't like it.

It got me thinking - what makes me put a book down?  Since I've generally always powered through even when I was less than thrilled, I never considered myself much of a stopper.  I'll usually put a book down for a while and pick them back up when I've run out of better options on my shelf.  But I have stopped.  And I found that in the last year, I stopped more books than I ever have before.  I stopped three books last year knowing I will never pick them back up.  Which is kind of unheard of for me.  My history has really been to only give up on maybe 1 book every few years.

So why did I put these three down with no desire to pick them back up?

Book 1:
I'm not a fan of first person.  I'm especially not a fan of first person/third person changes.  Even moreso, please don't go from first person present to third person past when switching to different POV characters.  It really bugs me and throws me out of the story.  But even then, I'll usually power on and see if the story will redeem the dislikes - there are plenty of first person stories that I adore even if it's not my favorite POV.

But then there were just things about the story I couldn't accept.  I can easily accept changes in mythology and someone putting a new twist into an old story.  But too much of a twist that just isn't easy for me to picture or get beyond the status quo of what it should be?  Not so much.   If I could handle sparkling vampres, I should've been able to handle this change but I couldn't.  It totally turned me off and coupled with the POV issues for me, it was a total goner.  If I'm too busy complaining about the mechanics, I can't look beyond them and follow where the writer wanted me to go.

Book 2:
It was YA that really should've been more middle grade.  It was simply too young for me and didn't have a good enough sense of wonder and enchantment.  It wasn't like Harry Potter where you could be whisked away without really thinking about the age of the characters.  When the mentality of the characters are that of a 7 year old when they are 16 or 17 and it's not balanced with something redeeming and more mature, its a no-go.  There really needed to be more character development.  I like a good plot but if it's attached to one dimensional characters, it turns a good plot into a bad series of convenient happenings with no depth.  Which may be fine for the actual genre and not really any reflection on whether or not the book was good given the intended audience - I may just be too old for it, after all.  I don't really know what publishers look for in YA and MG as far as maturity of the writing vs. audience expectations.

Book 3:
Oh my God.  There are certain things that the rest of the world might not feel the same way as I do and this might be one of them because when I say bad writing, I don't mean bad grammar or shallow story or flat characters.  I'm sure that less people will agree with me on this one but I can't help it.  It really affects how I view a story.  Here it is:  titles (personal titles, not book titles - things like Major or Captain) that are just dumb.  Whenever I see dumb titles I'm reminded of a movie to which I can't remember the title but here's what I do remember:  the MC was called GS-5 So-and-So.  Now, to most people, this might not matter one iota.  To me, it grated on my nerves absolutely every time it was said because I'm an Army brat and a GS-5 is never called that.  A GS-anything is never called that.  They are called Mr./Mrs./Ms. So-and-So.  It's a pay grade, not a title.  Not to mention that fact that the person you call in as some specialist to Vietnam to handle sensitive stuff, which I no longer remember (that should tell you how much I hate this type of thing - I remember exactly why I hated it but can't remember squat about the story) is not going to be a GS-5.  A GS-5, Step 1 makes about $27.5k today, but much less back when this movie came out.   It's not the paygrade of a badass, even for government standards.  And more importantly, it simply doesn't flow off the tongue.  So when I hear a title, even one that is fictional, it better flow.  This one did not.  It took the mythology the book was based on and turned types and jobs of the different players within the mythology into titles.  And it truly ruined the entire book for me since it was all over the first few chapters.  I put it down in disgust, that's how strongly I feel about crappy titles of people.

What about you?  What kinds of things made you put a book down forever?  We all know the basics.  Bad writing or bad story but what specifically turned you off?


  1. I'm surprised you dont like first person. I hate third person! LOL. But great post. I'm a new follower.

  2. It's definitely not my favorite. I do still read books in first person but they have to hook me quick or I lose interest.