With some books, it’s love at first page: the very first sentence has your pulse racing, and you find yourself on a rollercoaster ride of emotion from start to finish. Others are like an old, faithful friend and make you feel all warm and nostalgic inside, whilst others are like that fun acquaintance you like hanging out with when you’re in just the right mood.
And others…well, there’s books out there that you start and just immediately think, ‘me and you really aren’t going to get on!’ I like to think I’m pretty fair with books and give them all a good shot, and there are certainly books I’ve read where I’ve not been blown away at the beginning but have absolutely loved them by the end. But there’s also some I’ve started, hated and continued to hate until the very last page (I do try not to DNF anything!), so I thought I’d share a post all about the early warning signs I have that a book isn’t going to be for me.
What are yours?
- I immediately hate the main character.
I don’t necessarily think you have to like the main character of a novel to enjoy it (take The Girl on the Train for example – I may not have liked Rachel much as a character, but I loved the book as a whole!), but I think the book has to work much harder to get me on side if I don’t. And personally I think if my outright dislike of the main character is immediate in the first few pages, then there’s probably no saving the book for me, because I’m just not invested in their story.
- I immediately hate the writing style.
There has been the odd book I’ve started and just immediately thought, ‘Nope, this is not for me!’, and that generally comes down to writing style. If I immediately hate the writing style then I know it’s going to be a tough slog getting through the book, which has already set me up to resent it.
I spoke a little about my difficulties with some writing styles in my post about why some books takes so long to read, but I think the main writing styles that I just can’t deal with are the overly flowery and pretentious ones, and the ones that patronise the reader (the main offender there being the odd YA book I’ve read).
- I’m bored already.
A slow start doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll hate a book (in fact, one of the best books I’ve read this year was an incredibly slow starter!), but there is definitely a danger that I’ll get bored pretty quickly and decide the book isn’t for me. If I’m a few chapters in and no major events have taken place, then the later chapters of the book are going to have to be absolutely amazing to make up for it!
Another way a book can bore me easily is info dumping. If a book just spends the first few chapters describing and explaining the entire world of the story or the characters’ back stories in excruciating detail then I’ll soon grow bored, however imaginative the world is. I like to be slowly drip-fed all that information whilst stuff is actually happening!
- I have no idea what’s going on.
Whilst starting ‘in media res’ is often a good opening hook, I personally think there’s a line that should be drawn between dropping the reader into a fast and exciting scene, and just plain confusing them. I have read the odd book where pretty much from the first word stuff has been happening, but thanks to the ridiculous pacing, or the particular point at which the book has started, I have no idea what any of it is!
Even if the book later slows down and goes back to explain the earlier scene, it’s often too late if I’m already confused, and it feels too much like hard work trying to catch up!
- I feel no connection to the book or characters.
To truly enjoy a book I have to feel that I’m immersed in it, and have a connection with the characters and plot, but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. With some books I can tell within a few pages that I’m not going to love it, because I just have no feelings at all about it either way. And if you don’t particularly care what happens in a book, why would you bother to read it?
So what are the early warning signs that you’re not going to like a book, and how do you deal with it? Do you carry on regardless, or do you DNF it?