Hey everyone! So, while being annoyed with a book I was reading (and looking at other books I wanted to read next), I started thinking about my pet peeves when it comes to stories–what will absolutely drive me nuts? There are kind of a lot. (As someone who reads a lot–and notices patterns–I tend to see the same things over and over and over in books.)
With this post, I’m merely talking about cliches and tropes, not the annoying person who dog-ears books or the person who destroys your books before giving them back. (Those are legit annoyances, though.)
So let’s see if any of these match yours, ok? Also, I may have roasted a few books/authors/TV shows along the way…
Top Ten Book Pet Peeves
1. Love Triangles
Let’s start with the mama (and papa and third wheel) of pet peeves: the love triangle. Admittedly, some stories can handle it quite well for one reason or another (here’s looking at you Hunger Games), but for others, all it does it add melodrama. Unnecessary melodrama. The girl agonizes over which guy is more special to her when both of them kiss her and make her light up like Christmas trees and sparklers and explosions all in one. Dear Apollo, I’m retching already. The point is, most love triangles in stories are unnecessary. If they are necessary to the story, then fine. I can buy into it for the story (most often, this is in stories involving multiple worlds, where one lover is in one world and the other in another). But in a high school? #GetOverYourself #LetHimGo
I’m cringing already. Again, some stories can do this well (Romeo and Juliet is one because characters acknowledge the absurdity of it), but many do not. Yes, I remember being a teenager and feeling like I saw a hot guy and was in love with him. But never ever was that actually love. I might have come to love the guy as I got to know him more, but that initial feeling wasn’t love. And I personally believe that perpetuating the idea that it is real to young girls is damaging. We already have so many unrealistic love goals that we don’t need to keep bringing this one up.
3. Too much needless dialogue/description
Good writers walk this fine line between providing the right amount of dialogue and description. Great writers do it so well you forget you’re reading a book because you can see everything in your head and hear the characters’ voices. Bad writers give you dialogue that sounds like it was stolen from a crappy soap opera and descriptions that either don’t tell you enough or tell you waaaay too much. We’ve all read books like this that make us cringe. Or bore us out of our minds (*cough* Victor Hugo *cough*).
Ok, bear with me. The reason I absolutely hate alien stories is because nearly every shred of scientific knowledge is checked at the door on the way in. First of all, why is every alien a carbon-based biped life form like humans? What’s to say an alien wouldn’t look like a blobfish or a Sphinx? Heck, aliens may even look like a Pegasus. We don’t know! And every time I read about aliens that look like humans, I can’t help but think how egotistical it is of us to imagine that other intelligent life forms outside of earth must look like us.
5. Too many characters
I’m finding this happening more and more, particularly within series that have an element of fantasy to them. But this isn’t exclusive to them either. When I read, I like to feel invested in the characters. As series grow and expand, I expect there to be more characters. But if your book requires a list of characters to keep everyone straight (The Diviners, And I Darken, Walk on Earth a Stranger), then you’re probably overdoing it. I start not caring after a while because I’m spending more brainpower trying to keep track of everyone and not enough about the story.
6. Series that peak too early
You know what I’m talking about. You’re psyched out of your mind about a series, totally not sure how the author is going to up their game from the previous book. You stay up all night reading…and then it kind of sucks. Maybe not a terrible book by any means, but not as great as the previous books. I’d pretty well classify the Hunger Games series as this and I’m tempted to add the Throne of Glass series as well. The last few books haven’t been as good as the early books. This is probably more heartbreaking than it is annoying. Like watching a child grow, you really want this series to do great things, but it’s maybe not finding its rhythm.
7. Plots that dddrrrrraaaaggggggggggg
Look, if the book jacket says the story has a mystery, I’m expecting a mystery. And, because of that, I’m also expecting clues along the way. If I’m not getting the mystery or the clues, then it feels like the plot isn’t going anywhere, like an episode of Seinfeld. It’s just a story about nothing. We’ve all read these stories that feel like they’re going nowhere. It’s horrible.
8. Jarring narrator jumps
When I read a book, I really like to sink into it. And that takes time. So when stories have very rapid narrator changes (usually in romance novels, where each narrator is part of the couple), it distracts me. It disrupts my flow. I can’t follow the story because I’m too busy trying to get into each character’s head space. The narrator jumps are supposed to give us more information about the story; ironically, when they happen too quickly, I feel like I know less.
9. Continuing a series that is effectively over
When authors plan books out well, they wrap up the loose ends at the end of a series. So what happens when those authors decide (for one reason or another) that the series isn’t over? They have to invent loose ends that didn’t actually exist. It makes the following books feel fake or forced. (I’m looking at you, Shatter Me.) Why mess with something that was so good and wrapped up so well? I feel like this is the Star Wars effect. “Let’s resurrect This Thing and make it trendy again! …Oops, we may have made it worse.”
10. Misrepresenting a book through the cover, book jacket, etc.
I know the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” so well I should have it tattooed on my forehead. (My students try to apply that “theme” to Every. Single. Story. Ever.) But the point of covers/marketing is to tell you about the book. If two book have the exact same title, like let’s say Beautiful Lies (I made it up, but it probably exists), you don’t know what genre it is until you see the cover. It could be a romance, a suspense thriller, a psychological thriller, a political exposé, or a memoir. You. Don’t. Know. When I look at a cover and read the book jacket, I kind of expect to get what I’m seeing. When that’s not the case, I get annoyed.