Top Ten Book Turn-Offs
hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
True story, I’m a bitch. Also I’m pretty sure prolonged years of studying English Literature has broken something fundamental in my brain so that I can no longer simply ‘enjoy’ a thing without feeling the deep instinctual urge to compose a three thousand word (minimum) essay on a topic of discussion relating to said thing. It’s a problem; I should probably look into therapy tbh. That’s not to say I’m hard to please exactly, but when I don’t like a thing, I really don’t like a thing. Which is why I’ve commandeered this week’s Top Ten Tuesday :’D Because I’m English and this is what we were born to do.
1. Flat female protagonists.
This basically extends to the ‘every girl’ character that is so popular in YA at the moment. You know the type – boring awkward teenage girl has boring thoughts like ‘no-one likes me because I’m boring’, ‘man I’m so unattractive look at me with my straight brown hair, large eyes and slim figure’, ‘no guy has ever noticed me except THE HOTTEST GUY IN SCHOOL’, ‘I’m so deep look at me yes very mature what is happiness I am the Peyton Sawyer of this book’, ‘I have quirks that make me interesting including, but not limited to, awkwardness, being really shy, crying, not crying because I’m dead inside due to a tragic past, I can cook/I can’t cook, I like to read HURR HURR THE READER LIKES TO READ TOO WHAT A FUCKING COINCIDENCE, I like to draw because art is deep, I write poetry because poetry is deep and so am I, I’m actually a really great writer, what is make up, what is friendship, I won’t lose my virginity to just anyone unlike those ~other girls~’
Look man, I understand that YA is about a really uncomfortable stage in a lot of people’s lives for a lot of reasons but for me at least it’s just ridiculous that so much of the literature aimed at teenage girls in particular involves this flat character. It’s damaging to read about the insecurities young girls have being solved by ~true~ love as opposed to simply growing up and becoming more confident. I don’t want girls growing up thinking that this is who they need to be in order to have an interesting life because it’s not true. There should be more female characters who are lauded for their depth and development as opposed to being a pawn in their own story.
2. The ‘Nice Guy’.
“So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.”
I am thinking that if your male character pretty much admits that he is only ever going to be as interesting as drizzle, then I as a reader cannot be bothered to find a fuck to give about said male character. w h y is this character even a thing, I just don’t understand. And then they spend the entire book incessantly whining about how the girl of their dreams just won’t notice them back even though they’re clearly nicer than those other guys god what an ungrateful bitch how dare she have a life that doesn’t involve our boring male character how could she not see that being a hurricane is a TERRIBLE THING TO BE. All girls should be drizzle so that they don’t outshine our fair weather, probably an entitled middle-class white dude, friend.
|literally me with every John Green male protagonist t b h|
Because it’s fucking lazy is why. Create a boring girl, add in a hot guy, and suddenly! Romance. Who could ever have seen that coming because it certainly wasn’t me. It is especially irritating when the concept of fate and destiny is added in, because it just wasn’t enough to have two hundred pages devoted to soulful staring into each others’ eyes; even the stars have aligned for our main couple. It’s like everyone read Romeo & Juliet but ignored the ending. I can’t.
4. Relationships with an unequal balance of power.
By this I mean relationships that involve a girl whose storyline/development has a clear goal in sight – to be good enough for her love interest. I have so much hate in my cold, dead heart for this particular relationship dynamic. The best friend who benevolently allows the supposed girl of his dreams to return to him even though he never misses an opportunity to put her down or belittle her choices (HATE), the mysterious stranger who becomes involved with the girl’s life and proceeds to criticise every aspect of it (SO MUCH HATE), the love interest who represents the return of the status quo because he is ~good~ and the girl’s choice were ~bad~ by having the girl fall for him even though it undoes all her character development up until that point (CAN’T CONTAIN MY HATE)…there are so many instances of this occurring in YA literature and I wish I could pretend like I don’t know why it happens this way.
5. Love Triangles.
FUCKING LOVE TRIANGLES WHY DOES YA DO ME THIS WAY WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS UNENDING TORTURE
I actually think that done right, love triangles are a pretty clever way of illustrating the different paths a person’s life; subtextuallly they’re not so much about the love interest, but rather what they represent to the character caught in between, and the choice between the two ‘points’ of the triangle should reflect the development of the character facing the choice. Sometimes the character stays with the love interest introduced first, and that’s okay so long as the choice makes sense. But if art imitates life then it should stand to reason that our main character should go through a journey in the novel and mature into a different person than who they were at the beginning of the book, so that by the end the main character would make a different choice. Alas, this hardly ever happens; the love triangle is almost always boring and predictable.
I realise that part of YA literature is wish fulfilment, so that concepts like fate and destiny allow characters to meet who they’re meant to be with at a young age, but it’s still a trend I’m not comfortable with. If you teach young girls that their first boyfriend is the one they’re supposed to love the most, it just buys into a culture that forgives and forgets ugly things in favour of a happy ending.
6. Double Standards.
Amber: Oh look, a surprise appearance! Tatum left me with this one because it is something that winds me up to the max, whether it’s in real life or in fiction. I have noticed double standards in a few books. A lot of the time, it has to do with the dreaded love triangle. A character will hate their best friend, for example, for one thing, and then FALL IN LOVE WITH THE HOT GUY FOR THAT VERY SAME THING. *breathes* I’m cool, I can continue.
In addition, authors sometimes – perhaps unintentionally – have a double standard when it comes to their female protagonists and their male ones. Obviously, this is just going by the books that I have read, and I’m not reading anyone’s mind, I promise. They believe that the male should be tough and protective, always saving the heroine, and also be good looking. Flip the switch, and the female is a virgin, sensitive, unable to look after herself. If a female, whether they’re a primary or secondary character, does do any of those things that the male does, then she’s a bitch/slut/must repent/should die.
Also, this is relevant to real life situations, where people have double standards when it comes to male and female characters. I have noticed that a lot of people love those bad boys. The prime examples are Daemon Black and Damon Salvatore. People LOVE them, because they’re arrogant, sexy, tough, etc. And yet, when there’s a female character who is just like that, they despise her because she’s apparently too arrogant, too sexual, too comfortable with herself. This pisses me off, especially when the reader is a female, because they should be cheering those tough women on. *snorts* but what is equality when you can have innocent princesses.
7. First-Person Narrative.
I hate it so much and I can’t avoid it because YA loves it. I don’t like the first-person narrative because it’s so limited; you end up spending the entire novel stuck inside the head of one character and it’s tedious, especially if you don’t particularly like the character or find it hard to relate to them. It’s also difficult at times for me to settle into a novel because of the POV – third person narrative, I find, is much more engaging to read.
8. Stories that don’t meet their potential.
Siriusly. I don’t know why so many potentially great novels end up taking the safe route and settle for being merely mediocre. If you’re writing a story about revolution, go all the way! Develop your world, expand on your characters, kill some people! Don’t write a romance that could be incest but then ends up being a fake-out – explore the taboos! And related to this, it’s a pet peeve of mine that books set in a historical setting so often can be caught out with some simple research.
9. Romances Masquerading as Dystopians.
The actual worst.
There are few better ways to put me off a book than reading a set-up that seems like a dystopian but is actually about ~forbidden~ love ~conquering~ all. Dystopian literature has so much scope and over the years has produced some truly iconic stuff, so why include a generic romance that only serves to drag the story down? Like, I get the idea – that optimistic belief that love can conquer even the most hopeless situations but I’ve read very few novels which successfully convey this in the featured relationship(s).
Of course, it could just be that I’m a cynical bitch. Okay with it tbh.
10. Everyone is white and straight.
There aren’t enough POC characters in the YA genre and it makes me sad. There are so many cultures and races that could be represented but instead only a small percentage are actually given significance. Likewise with homosexuality – your teenage years are probably some of your most confused in terms of sexuality and I wish more books explored that.