Friday, December 13, 2013

Discussion: Book Turn-Offs, Part 1

It's been a while since I've had a discussion going here, and this is a topic I've wanted to tackle for a while. I want to split the discussion of book turn-offs up into at least two posts, one dealing with turn-offs in the description of the book and another that is about what's on the cover. Clarification: this is more about what makes me not want to read a book in the first place, not about stuff that annoyed me while I was reading a specific book!

Today I want to talk about book descriptions / the summary on the back of the book or on Goodreads etc. The elements mentioned below represent my personal opinion and the list isn't meant to be complete or final. I'm a moody person, so they can change, but many of these really have been grating on me for a while. Also, you're very welcome to defend what's a turn-off for me but a promise of awesomeness to you, or add your own deal-breakers to the list!

Turn-off #1: it's too vague
This is a problem if the description is so general that it resembles that of a gazillion other books in the same genre. I don't want to feel as if I'm re-reading a story I already know. I get that it's to avoid spoiling the mystery but often it doesn't give me enough clues/details to become interested in the first place. Possible remedy: reviews pointing out an element in the book I was not expecting and find totally awesome. I never would have known about that without the review though, so the description is a fail.

Turn-off #2: prophecies
I think I liked those when I was in my early teens, but now I have a huge aversion to any mention of them. They are fatalistic, I find them week as a plot element/character motivation, and they are often bound-up with a love story of two people being 'destined' for one another. Sorry, but there should be more to two characters' romance than simple destiny that says they must be together because "so 't is written".
There are exceptions here, but usually I don't like these books. One reason is that they also often feature the next item on the list.

Turn-off #3: the hero(ine) is So Special
I get the need for this. I do. It's interesting to read about characters that are different, that have abilities normal people don't. Hell, I love fantasy so that's almost always a feature. But what I mean here is the way this difference is treated in the book/hinted at in the description. Some mysterious past (often there's a mystery surrounding parents/legacy and use of the orphan plot), an idea that this person is unique and destined for greatness and to save the world / her race / restore balance. What bugs me is that the specialness is often a bit unclear for large parts of the book or is not properly rooted in the personality of the character and their development during the book. I've found such 'special' characters rather bland once you take away their abilities. Or they are simply special Because Of Reasons.
I often see this 'specialness' as a criticism aimed at female characters, but I think gender doesn't matter here and I've also come across males of the same type.

Turn-off #4: instant but inexplicable connection
What I just mentioned above is also why formulations such as '(s)he feels inexplicably attracted to the new guy/girl/mysterious stranger' have begun to bug me lately. I have no problem with instant attraction, but why does it have to be inexplicable? Shouldn't there be reasons why the hero(ine) likes/is attracted to the other person? Why they have a connection? I'm still guilty of reading a bunch of such stories, but I've seen this exact wording in book descriptions so often lately that by now it just makes me roll my eyes.

Turn-off #5: (playboy) millionaires, corporate America
The averagely-well-off or poor heroine wants to get herself a millionaire, who is usually either emotionally cold or a total playboy (or both). So she has to redeem him. While he raises her up out of her averageness or insignificance. The power structure implied in such blurbs makes me feel sick. Also, the focus is very often pure romance, with lots of drama and a healthy dose of sex. Not exactly my favorite combination. But as I said, this is just me personally. I'm also not wild about the whole settings in huge corporations and they whole career/success-oriented powerplays etc.

Turn-off #6: tragic/traumatic pasts
Now it gets a bit tricky. I have no problem with books that portray a character's getting over a tragic/dark event in their past and moving on and growing as a person. But I've seen so many summaries lately, mostly of NA contemporary novels, that feature a heroine and/or hero with such a thing hinted at. Sometimes it's the vagueness of the hint that bothers me (if I had a clue what this tragic thing is about I'd be able to decide whether I find it interesting), sometimes it's very over-the-top (how do all these tragic things fit into the life of a 20-year-old?). Also, I feel like it's becoming such a 'thing' that it's often just put there as a plot/marketing device, and that the writing/character development just can't measure up.

Turn-off #7: love across the ages
Maybe this again plays into me not being such a romancy person (more about that here), but I really dislike the idea of the reincarnated love interest, who then falls for the guy (or his reincarnation) again after centuries of separation... not because of anything they still have in common but because she loved him way back when, even though she doesn't remember, and he is still mad about her, so of course she must love him back (you know, him having waited for her so long and all). Also, of course there is an evil organization/other problem that again tries to drive them apart and it's all very sad.
In short: as soon as I see a hint of this plot, I'm usually out.

In short, a book's description should make me want to do more of this:

Do you agree with any of my book turn-offs or the reasoning behind them? Do you have something to add? Do you want to jump to the defence of one of those points? Please share your opinion :)


  1. I agree with several of these. #1 is definitely a turn off. I don't mind books with similar premises, but if the back cover reminds me too much of another book I'm less likely to read it. Love across the ages is another one that I tend to steer clear of. Great post!

    1. Yup, resemblance to other books is sometimes kind of unavoidable but it really shouldn't be *too* similar. Sometimes though, I really just wish the person who wrote the description would provide some more details to make the book stand out!

  2. I agree with you, sweety, but not with the last one. I'm a total sucker for love across the ages, although I have to say I understand you'd find it annoying with this "there has to be something wanting them apart" just to get the drama in, and "she just has to fall for him because he waited so long" is a bit itchy, too. However, since I haven't actually read much in that field yet, I think I can still get over most of this. And, considering I'm trying to write somehting along those lines myself right now, finding it to be a turn off would not be very constructive... ;)
    My biggest of all description turn-offs is the markting-mentioning of other, similar things. Meaning lines like "This is perfect for fans of XY and XX" or "In this story, TT meets RR" ---- woah, the hatred! It gets my blood boiling every time, because you can bet 9/10 times, after reading you will find out that it was a total exaggeration and just because the plot is similar (because the books belong into the same genre, for crying out loud), they have to praise it like it already one an award. Makes me want to strangle someone. It's the cheapest trick in the book, and it's so horrifying that there are so many people falling for it.
    I mean, yeah, sometimes I still pick up such a book because the little rest of the description was still enough to get me interested, but I still hate ppl doing this. The whole concept irks me to no end. Even "she's the bestselling author of A Precious Book" that so has nothing to do with it. Bestseller should be re-definied anyway, it's still a number stuck to a time where books were a real, real luxury item...
    Anyhoot, right now I can't think of anything else that's really turning me off... Nice discussion, I'm looking forward to the next part. =)

    1. I actually hesitated with the love across the ages thing because there it really really depends on how it's done! What usually bothers me is the way power is distributed in the relationship, with the guy knowing/remembering everything and the girl being clueless, kept away from information, but soooo in love. If done well though, it can have epic potential!
      Ugh I also hate it when it says stuff like "fans of Twilight/the Hunger Games will love it!" when the book has shit-all to do with that >_< I usually just ignore those stickers on the cover / big line above the description though. Sometimes I don't even notice until after because weirdly, I tend to ignore bold/big script or even titles/subtitles in general (also in newspapers etc).
      The whole bestseller thing... *shrug*. I don't really care ususally, there's plenty of stuff on bestseller lists that I don't care for. It's not guarantee that every subsequent book will be awesome. But yeah, it can be irritating when that's so emphasized on a cover.
      Thanks, and I look forward to writing it! It'll be about cover turn-offs.

  3. I roll my eyes too when it says so-and-so has an instant connection/attraction. ANNOYING!! And it's like well we know who she's going to end up with now don't we?? Yeah NA is definitely good for that. I just went on a rant about NA on my blog this week, so it's fresh on my brain. I like Contemporary, but I don't think I'm a very romance-y person because destined love, love across the ages, and love that is too needy all makes me nauseated.

    I can't wait to see what your other turn-offs are. (one of mine any more is definitely "bad boys"... it's been way too overdone for me).

    Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Book Blog

    1. I don't really care about the knowing who ends up with whom, to be honest. I'd rather have that than a love triangle. I do like some NA, but there's definitely plenty of stories out there whose descriptions make me roll my eyes. I also think there should be more non-contemporary NA, because I really like the idea of NA as a category (rather than a genre).
      Oh the bad boys. I like them... if they really are bad boys. Because I think there's a definition problem with lots of dudes being labeled bad boys that I don't think fit the bill. And it is overdone, especially if it's the 'bad boy has to be reformed by good/shy girl' storyline. Eh. I don't want my bad boys reformed... I'd read about goody-goodys if I did. I can see another post coming...
      Thanks for commenting :)

  4. Mmmm ok, first thank YOU for the Damon gif ;-)

    Yeah I agree with you on vagueness because it ends up making a book sound like a million others. I do kind of still like prophecies when they go the Harry Potter way...although even that ends up feeling to similar to Potter itself but I'm with you on those prophecies of love though. Bleh! Definitely the instant-connection love story bit - I am SO sick of those plot devices >:( Oh and I would never pick up a book about millionaire playboys/corporate America. The special heroine thing, I can still go for too, but it needs to be done right! Wonderful discussion post doll, I always enjoy your discussion posts ♥

    1. Hehe, I post Damon gifs any chance I get :P

      Prophecies can be cool... but it's so easy for them to be contrived and 'been there seen that' so I tend to avoid them now.
      I don't mind instant attraction as long as it's more than a plot device and there is some sort of reason for it. But by now merely reading those words in the description... tires me. Glad to find another person who doesn't need playboy millionaires on their shelves! Those seem to be everywhere!! Maybe because of 50 Shades?
      I'm glad you enjoy them hun, it really means something :)

  5. Ugh, I've gotten to the point where I don't even read most descriptions anymore if I already know what the book is about. The major exception is when looking through unreleased books to decide what to request, haha. I completely agree with you on so many of these! I try to keep an eye out for phrases that signal the romance will be too much for me. What I love to see is a hint at a really cool magic system :D