Top Ten Book Turn-offs

“Top Ten Tuesday” – the weekly bookish list event curated by the Broke and Bookish blog – has as its theme this week “Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly NOT Want To Read A Book“.

In approximate order from least the greatest:

Things I’m Indifferent To (At Best)

These I can more or less tolerate in a book, but they certainly aren’t a hook for me in picking it up.

  1. Romance

    Image from Amazon

    This romance works for me because it’s not too sugary…just a little. Also, it’s in a medium where I’m prepared for it.

I do read romance – or books that contain romance – but it’s not what is called a “turn on” for me. I also get extra annoyed by the clichés of romance: especially the attitude that romance is the be-all and end-all of life, relationships where it’s unclear what drew them to each other at all, and mooning. I have very little patience for mooning – it’s too close to angst.

I also don’t appreciate excessive physical descriptions of the love interest. I get physical attraction – I do – but there’s so much more to founding a lasting relationship, and to focus on the physical (his hands! his muscular hands, ending in muscular fingers!) get really old really fast.

2. Part of a series

If you love a book, there’s nothing better than knowing you can get the same experience again with another book in the series. But too often, the over-arching plot of a “series” means you must read all the books, in the right order, to get the full experience – and that’s a little much commitment for me. Especially if I’ve never read the author before, I don’t have a foundation of trust to let me know the writer won’t unjustly try to hook me into getting the rest of the series.

Image credit: InfinityPublishing

Things I’m Irritated By

My review will lose stars over these issues.

3. Whiny Protag/Grumpy Mentor

I’ve seen this mostly in so-called “portal fantasy” where the main character is moved from our world to a fantasy world. They’re disoriented, scared, threatened – and they react by being clueless, naggy, and and self-absorbed.

Hand in hand with this trope goes the “grumpy mentor”, who – instead of realizing the protagonist has just been ripped away from everything he knows and dropped in a universe with different rules – is condescending, impatient, patronizing, and occasionally insulting.

I’d be much more interested in exploring the respective fantasy worlds if I didn’t have to do it with these two geniuses.

4. Oh-so-special Protag

We might call this “Harry Potter syndrome” though it’s by no means confined to that milieu: the super-average child in the super-average school is super-average except that he’s the son of the Ancient Alien Overlord of Goodness and has secret powers no one knows about, and, oh, if only everyone knew how awesome he was, all his classmates would like him better the dirty snobs, and my home life is only hard because I’m not understood and –

Image credit: RottenTomatoes.com

*gag*

A movie that really takes this trope and dumps it roughly on its head is Megamind, where the protagonist is a blue, mis-proportioned alien who decides that, because none of his classmates are nice to him and he’s always in trouble, he is destined to be a super-villain — his role in the universe is to be the hated outsider!

Closely related to this cliché is:

5. Clueless Protag

I don’t mean the protagonist who’s clueless about the world, as I discussed above. I mean the protagonist who doesn’t know they’re a protagonist, so can’t figure out why bad things are happening around her, why boys fall in love with her, why she doesn’t have a normal life and can’t make friends, whine, whine, angst –

*gah!*

Being a self-obsessed introvert myself, let me give you a bit of advice: focusing on yourself is a good way to be unhappy, while shifting focus outward for the good of others is a better way to lose your self-consciousness.

I realize totally well-adjusted characters are boring, but the story would be so much more interesting and engaging if the protagonist did some protaging, rather than mooning about her life and watching things happen around her.

Which leads to:

6. Stupid Characters

Specifically, characters who should be able to figure out the bad things that are going on – and who the villain really is – but because that would resolve the plot much too quickly they forge on without taking time for explanations.

Things That Break the Deal

7. Lagging Plot

This is not so much “I won’t pick up the book” as more of a “I won’t finish the book.”

There aren’t many books I haven’t finished, but if I’m not engaged in the plot – or if nothing is happening that I care about – it’ll be put down, and never picked up again.

8. Witchcraft

If the main characters are occult-ish or magic-using (especially in a supposedly real-life setting) I’ll know the author does not share my worldview, and so there’s no need to waste my time not enjoying their book.

Same goes, I suppose, for any other subject where the author clearly doesn’t share my philosophy and/or is going to attack mine. If I’m reading for fun, it should be fun. Reading for education and mental challenge is a little different.

9. Horror

I’ve been trying to find horror that I can like (don’t ask me why, because I don’t know) but Being Scared is not an emotion I cherish. I have too much of it in my real life – I don’t need to seek it out in fiction.

Add to this the prominent overtones of occult is many horror books, and it’s just not something that can tempt me.

10. Sex

If the people on the cover aren’t fully dressed, I pretty much won’t bother. And even for a book in another genre (like thriller), if there’s too much inappropriateness (or mooning – see above) I’ll drop the book. I don’t need that in my life, thank you.

What about you? What elements in a book will make you wrinkle your nose and just keep walking?


Kimia Wood has been writing stories since she was little, and watching her dad play computer games for even longer. She now lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by writing a “cheerful” post-apocalyptic series White Mesa Chronicles.

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