A few months ago, I wrote up a post about weirdly specific things I love in books. This isn’t a list of my favourite tropes — you can find that post here — but rather a list of things that I keep coming across in books, no matter the genre, that I seem to like and that make me rate a book 5 stars.
And it got me thinking: what are some things that I really don’t like, or even hate, in books that might make me rate it lower? I don’t usually like talking about books I don’t like, but for some of these “things” I will be talking about some books so you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Let me know if you also dislike these things — or if you love them!
Multigenerational / family saga books
Or as I like to call it: books about people from different decades that somehow relate to each other through the plot. That’s a mouthful, I know, but basically multigenerational books/family sagas are about a family (or group of friends) across decades (or from different decades but their stories play out concurrently) and we, the reader, watch as their family dynamics play out.
Even though I love books with multiple protagonists, I just can’t stand books that follow people across or from different timelines. I think it has something to do with the time element, but I also don’t particularly like books with family dynamics. I think that’s why I love the found family trope so much because it’s people picking their family, as opposed to biological family dramas.
Unnecessary girl hate
I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand books that feature girls hating on each other for absolutely no reason. I’m not talking about if they hate each other for a particular reason, like if they’re enemies, but usually anytime I ever come across this ‘thing’ in books the girls have no reason to dislike each other.
And what I hate most is when they simply hate each other over a guy. This has multiple issues including:
- Reinforcing the idea of “mean girl” character and “nice girl” character
- Slut shaming
- That there’s something wrong with femininity
- Internalised misogyny on the author’s part.
A book that does girl hate really well is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. In the book, Starr and her ex-friend Hailey fight over racist issues and even though Hailey is clearly in the wrong, Starr never disparages her; in fact, she even comments on how nice Hailey looks at the dance they attend, even though at this point they’ve ended their friendship. A book that does girl hate really horribly is Paper Princess by Erin Watt. In the book, Ella criticises almost every female character, including other girls at school who she doesn’t like, but mainly the woman her godfather is dating. There’s some definite internalised misogyny in this book.
If girls have a genuine reason to hate each other, then I’m all for it; but when it’s unnecessary and/or about a guy, get the hell out of here!
Alpha males that don’t understand boundaries
There’s nothing that pulls me out of a book more than an alpha-type male character who invades the female character’s boundaries and person. Unfortunately, I find this “thing” in a lot of heterosexual romance novels, which is a major red flag.
Some of the attributes of an alpha male character include:
- Stalking the woman
- Not taking no for an answer, e.g. kissing the female character even though she’s said ‘no’, or manipulating the female character into sleeping with him: ‘you know you want it’
- Possessive, controlling and jealous: these alpha characters tend to manipulate the female character into serving his own needs/wants by controlling ever aspect of her life
- Inducing Stockholm syndrome by isolating the female character from her friends and family
- Gaslighting women
- Emotionally abusive (and sometimes verbally/physically abusive)
I cannot deal with behaviour like this, it physically makes me sick. I know that a lot of people who read romance books with alpha men like this might enjoy/get off on this behaviour because it can come across as protective sometimes, but for me it’s a signifier of abuse. What worries me is that (usually straight) women reading books with characters like this might be attracted to the idea of an “alpha” man in real life.
I think this one is probably going to be my most unpopular opinion, but I really, really, really dislike retellings. I just can’t get into them. To me they come across as unoriginal (sorry!), and even if the author tries to make their book really unique, I just can’t buy into it.
I think that’s because, no matter how different the retelling is from the canon — or which genre this retelling is set in — I can always see what direction the book is going in. I have yet to read a retelling that shocks or surprises me in a good way. I think this is why I dislike fanfiction too, especially AUs!
But also … do we really need another Beauty and the Beast retelling? Really?
Characters fighting for their lives still find time to worry about romance
I absolutely love romance in books. Seriously, I find it difficult to read a book without it. But — when a character is in the middle of a war, or fighting for their lives, or just in danger in general, why oh why do authors have to focus on romance or a love triangle? For goodness sake, they’re about to be murdered!
The book that immediately comes to mind when I think of this is The Hunger Games. Katniss is literally fighting for her life — about to be murdered any second — and Susan Collins just had to keep shoving that lame love triangle in our faces. Or the romance between Peeta — dude was literally dying from a wound and we had to keep reading romantic scenes between them.
I also think of Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer when Bella is trying to get Jacob to stay and protect her — literally his job, otherwise she’d be murdered — she asks him to kiss her. Please stop forcing unnecessary romance in times of distress, literally no one cares about it!
Marriage and babies = a happy ending for a teenager?
Ok. I love a great happy ending, I really do. I especially love a ‘happily ever after’ ending. But, oh gosh, do I hate happy endings where the heterosexual couple gets married and has a baby. Because people haven’t achieved true happiness in life unless they’re married and/or a parent, right?
What makes this ‘thing’ even worse is when it’s in a YA book! Even if the character is no longer a teenager, I think it’s so strange to continually reinforce to teen readers that the only way to be happy in life is to have a romantic relationship and to have children.
I’m not saying that this is a bad decision in life, it’s not! It can be amazing! But also does every book have to have a happy ending like this? What’s wrong with a HFN?
This is the most awkward ‘thing’ I’ve ever come across in books and I just don’t understand it! Have you ever read a book where the main character has a full-on conversation with another character just through their eyebrows? And I don’t mean like a quick look that suggests what someone else is thinking, I’m talking whole fucking conversations.
The book (actually series) that immediately comes to mind for this thing is the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. Aelin and Rowan have full-on conversations with their eyebrows and it’s the most awkward thing ever!
Here’s a photo of their conversations (not my photo, I found on Google):
What an absolute joke, people cannot and do not talk like that. Lmao.
What are some things you don’t like in books? Are any of my things stuff that you actually like? Let me know!