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5 Reasons Why I Will Put Down a Book
I read a lot of books. However, for every ten or so books I read, there is at least one book that I either couldn't finish or thought was terrible. Those are, as it should be, not reviewed. The guilt of giving up on a book remains though. Would it have gotten better if I had finished it? Did I really give it a chance? As it inevitably does with book people, this topic comes up often. How long do you give a book? Do you go by page count? Would you stop reading after the first chapter? What about the first page? For me, there is no set standard for when I "give up", but there are some definable reasons.
1. Not as Advertised
Nothing is worse than picking up a book that says one thing in the blurb or jacket flap and then feeling like you were lied to. Yes, perhaps I should have read some reviews online or looked at who the publisher was, but I didn't and now I am thirty pages in and I want to stop. Case in point, a few months ago I started reading a book that proclaimed itself as young adult dystopian sci-fi. Great! Any kind of sci-fi is right up my alley...or so I thought. What this book actually was, is a diatribe against science & scientists who are portrayed as godless, feckless, power hungry barbarians. This wasn't science, this was anti-science. I have no idea what the author has against science or scientists, but if you are going to write a novel in the sci-fi genre, perhaps you shouldn't alienate the fan base. Just saying. I stopped somewhere around page fifty.
2. Slow Pacing
There is no set rule for pacing. Sometimes a book needs a hundred pages to get going, although this tends to happen more in adult books than in kids. Perhaps the author has to do a lot of crazy world building that requires fifty pages before the story starts rolling. Maybe the book is character driven rather than plot driven. Whatever the case may be, nothing will lose my interest faster than a story that meanders in the beginning. Starting a book with a long journey or promising to reveal something that doesn't happen until page 75 is a problem. It's okay to world build, in many cases completely necessary, but you better have some awesome characters to hold my interest until you finally get around to a plot.
3. Don't Care About the Character
The previous reason leads me to this one. Nothing kills a book, television show, or movie faster than when I simply dislike the characters, particularly the protagonist. Oftentimes the reason why I cannot get into a particular show, like Lost, Walking Dead or Once Upon a Time is because I just don't like anyone in the cast. For the die hard fans, I know this is hard to believe, but I am sure we can all name shows, books, and movies that we didn't like because we just couldn't connect with the main characters. For example, I am not an anthropomorphized animal person. I have always disliked books in which the main character is furry. I loathe the ones where they talk. There are rarely exceptions, but if I like the story it is despite the talking animals and I am prone to not pick up books in which there are animals with the power of speech. The insertion of talking animals in the middle of a book may cause me to put it down. I also don't like rooting for the bad guy. He/She can be mysterious, jealous, passive, frustrating, and altogether too human, but I really don't enjoy being in the head of a serial killer or a sadist. I don't like to be torn about whether or not to like a character. I want to love them. That's why I am reading. If you create a really good character I am willing to read book after book about them.
4. Slogging Through the Book
Sometimes a book is neither good nor bad. It is just taking me forever to get through. I am not excited about reading it. Nothing about the book is beckoning me to return. It comes with me to work and then I end up reading news articles on my phone rather than reading the book I brought with me. Eventually, I end up stopping or skipping. Yes, you read that right, something akin to a fast-forward button for a book. I'll skip ahead and see if anything really interesting happens and go from there. I have been known to read the end of a book just to see how it ends and then be done with it, having skipped most of the middle. I will reiterate that I never review these books because this would be entirely unfair to the author. I am reading a book now that I am 2/3 of the way through and nothing about it makes me want to keep reading, so I am at the point where I am tempted to just skip to the end and be done with it.
5. Badly Written
I know people who say that they get free e-books from Amazon or wherever and even though some of them are terribly written, they read it anyway. I cannot do this. This could be the result of having a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing as well as an MFA in Children's Writing, but I just can't read a badly written book. That's like sitting for hours while someone runs their nails on a chalkboard. I cannot read an entire novel where the author doesn't know the difference between passive and active voice, or the tense keeps shifting, or all the characters sound exactly the same, to the point where you wouldn't actually know who is speaking if there weren't dialogue tags. How some of you do it, I don't know. What I do know is this, there are so many extraordinary books out there, by authors who are both talented and have honed their craft, that anything less is a waste of my very precious time. There are so many books out there that I want to read, so many that I will never get to. Those are the ones that are worth my time.