I refuse to write reviews that are snarky or won't benefit the author's career. I am well aware there is a person behind every single word in that book. They've faced enough negativity (as we all have) and I'm not willing to add to that.
But sometimes I can’t help but DNF (Did Not Finish) a book. Those make me sad. I try to give the benefit of the doubt that the author produced their best effort, but it just didn’t work for me. But sometimes that’s hard too!
I have two levels of DNF.
Level one is what I'll address today—reasons why I put the book down and know that I won't ever go back to it.
Level two is what my friends and I call "Rage Reading." I hate the book. Hate the characters. Hope that everyone dies in the end, but I can't stop reading. I have to know what happens. Sometimes it's out of morbid curiosity. Sometimes it's that the plot is intriguing but poorly executed. I discussed it in my What I've Learned in a Year of Book Blogging post. I’ll have a full blog post about it soon.
What to watch for
Let's start with my most recent DNF. Like I said, I won't name the book here, but I will tell you that it is written by an author I adore and recommend all the time. It is part of a series that I've been committed to, and I was all smiley the day I got approved for the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy).
It's not me, it's you.
Books compete with everything else in my life. I have a husband, two teenagers, two dogs, an obnoxious bird, friends to see, a house to keep clean, my own writing to work on, and client writing to edit. Reading time gets pushed to the bottom of the list, and I am—by all definitions—a "reader."
I am smack in the middle of the adult market's target audience. Reading is part of my business. So I make time for it, especially when I am excited about a book. I was excited about this book. A day of reading it was my reward for finishing some particularly annoying tasks.
I got my kindle and snuggled in for a full day of hanging out with these characters that I like and this imaginary place that I've become so fond of.
10% in I found myself setting the book aside to pop onto Facebook. Pretty much the kiss of death. I read a little more, and then got up to dishes. DISHES! Read a little more. Then texted my friend, "I can't settle into this book. I'm not sure why."
At 23% I gave up for the day, mad and disappointed. I took care of some of my to-do list that I had been perfectly willing to put aside for the entire day. I checked out social media, spent some time on Pinterest. All the while pouting because I really wanted to enjoy this book.
I gave it another try over the next couple of days. At just over 30% I threw in the towel. I sent the publisher a note that I would not be reviewing it and moved on.
Three reasons why I walked away:
1. I wanted to slap the characters. Not because they were doing stupid things, but because 90% of the 30% I read was them stewing in their own thoughts. I get it. People dwell. But good grief! Three lines of dialogue. Nine paragraphs of ruminating on the same thing he/she ruminated about two pages ago. Two more lines of dialogue (by this point, I'd forget what they were talking about to begin with.) Seven more paragraphs of introspection. Stop thinking and do something.
2. It was missing the humor and authenticity of the other books in the series. Authors make readers a promise. When we pick up a book by an author we are familiar with, even though the story will be different, we have an idea what to expect. This author has never failed to make me laugh. The characters are normally so real that I feel like I'm leaving a dear friend's house when I finish the book. The DNF was very rushed. I could sense it in the writing. There wasn't room for the witty banter I adore. The characters were too busy wandering around in their own heads.
3. The plot wasn't moving at all. As I mentioned above, sometimes I get in Rage Reading mode and will keep going even if #1 and #2 are a problem. I want to know what happens. The plot has hooked me. For the DNF, not so much. There was a twist but the reaction to that twist was so not how it would be handled in real life that I actually rolled my eyes. This is a big thing for me. I grew up in house were rolling your eyes was a mortal sin. I risked the wrath of my mother's spirit. That's how much it annoyed me.
Sometimes it is me.
After I put the DNF aside, I tried two other books that I might still read. These were victims of me already being in the wrong state of mind to enjoy them. That happens. Sometimes it really is me. I could tell you several books with a bazillion five-star reviews that I despised and would never recommend.
Sometimes it's my personal experience. I spent eighteen years teaching high school and I live with two teenage girls. If I'm reading your YA, you better get it right. There was a HUGELY popular book last year that I could not get into because the entire plot hinged on a teacher doing something that everyone accepted but would be illegal in my state and, most likely, would never happen in a classroom.
Sometimes the book just isn't my thing. The story could be great. The characters could be fine and, for whatever reason, I'm just not that interested. Sometimes the other things competing for my attention win.
Last, and this is the part I hate the most, as a writer myself, sometimes I can see too much behind the curtain. I can't enjoy the book as a pure reader would because the research is showing or the editor part of me keeps nagging that the story would be so much better if the author had only...
Sigh. So that's where we're at.
Do you ever have these issues finishing a book?
Are you one of those people who HAVE to finish no matter how much you dislike it? If you are, I set you free from that obligation. Life is too short. There are too many stories to read. Let it go.