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 :)