5 Early Signs That I’m Not Going To Like A Book

18/10/2016 Discussions, Reading 30

5 Early Signs That I'm Not Going To Like A BookWith 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?

30 Responses to “5 Early Signs That I’m Not Going To Like A Book”

  1. Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight

    Hmm, honestly I think most of these are not exactly signs I’ll hate a book. I might hate a character at first but grow to like them as I get to know them, or they might change, or I just might come to find them interesting even if I don’t like them. But writing style is the one thing that usually doesn’t change. And there are usually other just smaller, random things that get to me right away and make me dislike a book immediately.

    For example, the other day I started a high fantasy book, and there was this one character whose dialect/accent was just this weird mashup of Cockney and Scottish and who knows what else (even though no other character in that land had a dialect), and I know this because it was written out that way. And the narration style was someone keeping a journal, yet they knew the thoughts of other characters and every little detail like where someone was looking, even though the narrator wasn’t there at the time? Things like that. By 2% I already had a whole list of issues. So I don’t have specific warning signs, but if I’m already sitting there wondering, “Didn’t this person have any editors? Or beta readers? How is this a published book?” that’s my sign lol.

    • Laura

      Writing style is definitely the big one for me, because as you say it doesn’t change. You’re generally stuck struggling with it for the entire book.
      Wow, a mash up of cockney and scottish sounds pretty random! I’m actually not a fan of authors writing in dialects full stop because it’s distracting and can be hard to understand (I just read Outlander, and I kind of wished they didn’t all have very scottish accents in it!), and if none of the other characters speak like that, then it seems kind of strange! I can see why you found that off putting.
      I think a build up of small issues is as likely to put me off a book as all the bigger issues I’ve listed, and I know what you mean about sometimes finding yourself wondering how a book has even been published! 🙂

  2. Greg

    Unlikeable main characters are a warning sign for me too. Sometimes I can overcome that, or they become more likeable later, but if they don’t it can be tough. Rachel from Girl on the Train I vacillated on- sometimes she irritated me and sometimes I felt bad for her, so she was tough. 🙂

    I’m also not crazy about flowery or pretentious writing. A simple writing style is fine with me! I think the sign of a confident (and skilled) writer is when they can world build without that info dumping you refer to- when they skillfully reveal aspects of the world just through conversation or natural progression. That’s always nice and makes me want to know more.

    Character connection are pretty important. I don’t like to DNF but I do if a book isn’t working. I usually try to get as far as I can, sometimes the book improves but not always. 🙂

    • Laura

      Rachel really was a tricky character, so I know what you mean! On the whole I felt bad for her, but she was also so frustrating because she really didn’t help herself at all, and you kind of just wanted to shake her!
      I feel exactly the same about writing style – simple is best (in fact if I don’t notice the writing style at all, then I find that best because it means it’s not intrusive and you can just enjoy the story).
      I hate DNFing books too, but it’s so hard not to when you’re stuck trying to make your way through one you’re just not enjoying! I think your approach is best – if you get as far as you can then you can see that it definitely isn’t going to improve! 🙂

  3. Jolien @ The Fictional Reader

    I also need to feel a connection to the main characters (or the plot) to enjoy a book. Usually, I don’t do well with books if I don’t like the character -or if they are purposefully unlikeable, I need a reason too. And I hate being confused for too long! I don’t mind it for the first pages/chapter, but at some point you need to give me some clue. Otherwise I just feel like I’m reading for no reason!

    • Laura

      I’ve read those kind of books too where the main character is unlikable for a reason, but I’m the same as you, in that I think there needs to be a really, really good reason for it!
      And I really hate being confused for too long too! If it hasn’t all been explained within the first few chapters then the book has pretty much lost me.

  4. Cait @ Paper Fury

    I don’t ever DNF…I mean, wait. I basically DNF one book per year haha. I think I haven’t done any this year though so yayyyy for that. But I feel like I can write a better, more plausible rant if I finish. Shhh I know I’m terrible.😂 But I actually can usually tell if I’ll like a book within the first 2 or 3 chapters *nods* I try not to judge off the first few pages, but sometimes it happens. 😂 Usually it’s the writing style for me or if the character is being insufferable. Althoooough I just read the Graces which had one of the worst protagonists for like 40% of the book…and then she got awesome and I was in love with the whole story. Definitely why I don’t DNF because what if something epic like that happens?!? hehe.

    • Laura

      Wow, your DNF rate is pretty impressive! I don’t think I DNF very often, but I’d like to think I’m relatively good at picking books I won’t hate…it still happens every so often though! (thankfully, because I do like to write a ranty review every now and then too!).
      I try not to judge a book too quickly either, but it is so difficult not to, especially if your first reaction is negative 🙁
      It sound like you had quite a turnaround with the Graces! I have had that happen occasionally too, so I guess it can really pay to persevere with some books 🙂

  5. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    I try to give books a fair chance (at least 50 pages), because some of these can definitely turn around for me – but yes, all of them would make me wary. Funnily enough I mentioned Mrs Dalloway in your last discussion about why some books take so long to finish, and that’s one where I immediately hated the writing style – but I kept going and ended up loving it. It can happen!

    • Laura

      50 pages is probably a good indication of whether or not you’re going to like the book, but I agree it can definitely pay to persevere! I had the same experience with Mrs Dalloway, and if I had given up initially I feel like I would have really missed out 🙂

  6. Lia Levina

    Mainly, what makes me going to dislike a book is the plot or the characters. Like you said, when in the first few pages I have no connection with the characters or the exposition doesn’t interest me that much, I know I’m not going to thoroughly enjoy the story. But then I always try to finish every book I read, just because I feel like I don’t do it justice if I don’t LOL. I think I rarely end up liking it, though.

    • Laura

      I’m the same in that I try and persevere anyway, but often it never really improves. I think it’s worth trying not to DNF though for those rare books that do have a complete turnaround! 🙂

  7. Jenna- JK I'm Exploring

    One of the thing that makes me hate a book is unrealistic dialogue. Also I’m reading a book right now that describes a lot of things as being phallic. I’m like ummm stop please.
    I agree with the jumping in so much. Sometimes I’ll stop and one of my friends will read it and will tell me it slows down after the prologue. Sometimes I’ll pick it back up.

    • Laura

      I know what you mean! Unrealistic dialogue is really jarring, and you just can’t get into the story if it seems really clunky 🙁
      And wow, that whole describing everything as phallic sounds pretty cringey…I hate so much when books do things like that when there is just no reason for it at all. It just makes me feel uncomfortable in that case!
      I really don’t like that too when a book has a really fast paced, action-filled prologue and then just slows down. You know in that case that the author just put that in to hook you in, and then the rest of the book just doesn’t live up to it.

      • Jenna- JK I'm Exploring

        There was no reason for it! But I have to say I did not expect the ending 🙂
        When the book jumps into action I always end up just really confused and I know it’s so much easier to write but it’s not as easy to read. I’ve read a couple books where the prologue is a part of the action scene later in the book and then it goes back starting from chapter one to explain it and that’s just not my thing.

        • Laura

          I’m not really a fan of that either where a book starts out with an action scene that then turns out to be from later in the book. There doesn’t seem to be much point in putting the scene in twice!

  8. Jenna @ Falling letters

    I think boredom is the most common indicator for me. I don’t have a lot of patience for books that don’t get off to a good start. Unless I have a really good reason to be interested in pushing through a dull beginning, I’ll usually give up pretty quickly. ‘No idea what’s going on’ can also tie into this. I can’t keep myself interested if I don’t have any idea about what’s happening.

    • Laura

      Boredom is one of the biggest indicators I’m not going to like a book too. That generally means I’m going to be in for a really long struggle where I want to hurry up and finish the book so I can read something else, but I just can’t be bothered to actually pick it up and read. Giving up is probably the best thing to do with books like those! 🙁

  9. Simone

    I have the same signs as you have and I immediately see the red lights and a warning sign. Also, I know I won’t like a book when I’m skipping pages or descriptions because I don’t care. In that case I know that it’s not working for me. I tend to DNF books if it’s really bad and it’s killing me from the inside, but most of the time I will try to finish it. 🙂

    • Laura

      I try and always finish books too, but I think there comes a point where there’s just no point carrying on. If I’m skipping a lot that’s definitely a bad sign for me too, because I’m obviously not interested in the book, and clearly just want to finish as fast as possible!

  10. Tessa

    I cannot finish a book if I immediately hate the main character. I will try to read a little bit farther, but if I still cannot stand the protagonist, then I have to give up. Recently, I have been more forgiving of myself for DNFing books. Not all books are going to be great, and I really do not want to spend my time on a book that will only end up being one or two stars for me. Most of the time, I can stick it through a boring beginning, but faster beginnings are trickier. I like to have an idea of what is going on right at the start of the book. Some authors are really good at giving the audience just the right amount of information, while others forgo the whole explanation part and skip to the action. While action is not a bad thing and it will get my attention, it cannot keep my attention without some info first.

    • Laura

      It is so tough to get into a book if you immediately hate the main character, so I can totally understand why you would DNF. There’s no point wasting time reading books about characters you just can’t stand!
      I like to know what’s going on right from the start too, so I don’t like those really fast paced, confusing openings. There are definitely authors out there though who know where to draw the line, and are really good at sharing just the right amount of information for me to understand what’s going on, but also be intrigued.

  11. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    Oh my goodness, this is SO true! I literally have had this happen with a VERY recent book. I just don’t think it’s for me. It isn’t the writing, it isn’t the characters… I think it is just no connection to the book itself. I feel SO bad because it is a review book that I really thought I’d like but… I feel like it is better for me to cut my losses than give it a negative review? Because I really think that sometime, it is a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”. And that is what is happening for me. I am SO bad at DNFing though! Like unless the writing is SUCH a mess and I am SO confused… I hate to DNF. Though, it probably IS better that I do! Love this post, I totally agree with you!

    • Laura

      That has happened to me too, where I have just felt no connection to the book itself, and I just can’t pinpoint why I just can’t get into it. I definitely agree though that if it’s a review book it’s probably better to cut your losses than waste your time struggling through it, only to have to give it a negative review. I love that whole ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ idea as well, because I have definitely felt that with some books: it should be something I love, but something just isn’t clicking!
      I hate to DNF so much too, and I don’t do it often. Sometimes I wish I was better at it though, just so I don’t waste so much time reading books that I know from the beginning I’m not really going to like.

    • Laura

      I think both reasons are good reasons to DNF! Mostly for me it’s if I really dislike something I’m reading as I don’t DNF often, but I think that I should DNF more books where I just don’t care what happens because there’s really no point continuing on just for the sake of it.

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