“Top Ten Tuesday” is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is the Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Deter You From Reading A Book.
As always, these choices are listed in no particular order.
While I’ve specifically chosen ‘cancer’, in reality this could easily be expanded to encompass all debilitating and/or terminal illnesses. Perhaps it’s because I indulged in one too many of Lurlene McDaniel‘s novels growing up (Spoiler Alert: Someone always dies) but I take no pleasure in reading these types of stories and often find them maudlin and emotionally manipulative. It’s one of the easiest ways to invoke feeling in a reader, and unless handled with extreme care and sensitivity, simply seems unscrupulous and exploitive. While there are exceptions to this rule, as there are with almost any of the words and/or topics I’ve listed here, my experience with this sort of story thus far has been overwhelmingly negative. Also, if I’m being entirely honest, I read primarily for pleasure, and take none from reading about a character’s extended suffering. Having lost beloved family members to cancer myself, I have no desire to re-live that experience through a novel that will only invoke the memories of past pain.
Perhaps it’s because I don’t know whether or not I’ll ever want to have children one day, but pregnancy and child rearing in literature hold absolutely no allure for me. I think what I dislike most about stories centred around pregnancy, particularly teen pregnancy, is the predictability of it all. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve read a story in the young adult genre in which a pregnant teen spends the majority of the novel agonizing over what decisions to make in the wake of the news (as she should), only to have her miscarry by the end of the novel, conveniently solving all of her problems and essentially negating the entire point of the story we’ve followed thus far. When I experienced this most recently in Kristen-Paige Madonia’s Fingerprints of You, I knew it was the final straw. I will be swearing off all novels that involve teen pregnancy for the foreseeable future, until an author can come up with a new way to approach the subject.
Infidelity is a deal breaker for me, both in real life as well as literature. I can’t stomach novels that attempt to justify or excuse that sort of behaviour. I know that this has become something of a popular trope in the romance genre (i.e. A couple attempting to re-connect after one partner’s infidelity or a couple falling in love while still involved with other people) but it will never be something I enjoy. I immediately see red and lose all sympathy for all characters involved. I try to avoid novels that can cause rage blackouts – I think it’s a safe policy.
4) Love Triangle
While there are instances where love triangles have been used to great effect (i.e. Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly trilogy) more often than not this is the exception rather than the rule. While logically I can understand the desire to live vicariously through a protagonist who is so witty, attractive, and overwhelmingly desirable as to attract more than one mate, more often than not I end up rooting for the wrong party or find the conclusion to said love triangle unsatisfactory. I also dislike that it turns love, one of the most beautiful of human emotions, into something competitive and shallow. Often times I can’t help but feel as though the two rivals are competing for the protagonist’s affections for the thrill and satisfaction of the conquest and the heady feeling of competition as opposed to for the protagonist alone. There are also times when it’s quite clear who the protagonist is intended for and the secondary love interest is merely introduced as a means of furthering plot development or introducing new conflict. Kelley at Another Novel Read recently wrote a very thought-provoking post on this topic (“Let’s Talk About Love Interests In YA”), which I would encourage everyone to take the time to read. It certainly made me think about why love triangles so rarely work for me!
I realize that this is likely an unpopular opinion, but I’ve never been able to understand the appeal of the Zombie. While I can logically understand and appreciate the importance of George Romero’s work and his influence within the horror genre, I have always found the plodding, unintelligent monsters driven solely by their desire for brains utterly boring. Personally, I prefer a thinking-man’s monster. I would argue that a psychological study or a serial killer is far more terrifying than any supernatural creature the mind can conjure. Sometimes the most terrifying things are not those we make up, but that which has been in front of us all along. There is nothing quite so horrifying as the darkness and perversion of the human spirit, and the depths of depravity some are willing to stoop in order to satisfy their baser instincts.
6) High Fantasy
I believe I’ve touched on this a number of times before in past editions of Top Ten Tuesday, but I very rarely read high fantasy novels, either in the young adult or adult genres. Based on my experience, the genre tends to prize world building most highly of all, often to the unfortunate exclusion and the development of anything else. World building is of very little importance to me when compared to other considerations such as character or relationship development, and I absolutely abhor having to slog through chapters of the most minute details of the world in which the characters reside. Ultimately, it boils down to a fundamental lack of patience on my part. I have absolutely no interest in the minutiae of everyday life in the world which you’ve created. As long as I can understand the broad strokes, I’ll be satisfied.
7) Angels & Mermaids
I might be cheating a little by counting these two words as one choice but it’s my list and I’m feeling a little rebellious today! From Hush, Hush, Embrace, and A Beautiful Dark to Of Poseidon and Lies Beneath, I have been gravely disappointed by these two subsects within the young adult genre time and time again. It’s gotten to the point where I actively avoid novels that include these two types of supernatural creatures because apart from Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly trilogy, I have never enjoyed a novel that includes either angels or mermaids. At this point I’m simply inclined to believe that these sort of stories are not my cup of tea.
Novels that involve rape and/or sexual assault are nearly always an automatic disqualification for me. While I realize that difficult subjects like rape and sexual assault need to be examined within literature in order to allow victims a voice and to increase awareness about the prevalence of rape culture within our society, more often than not the inclusion of a rape scene in a novel simply feels gratuitous, unnecessary, and is most often used as a convenient method of eliciting the reader’s sympathies and acting as a jumping off point for a protagonist’s growth. There are any number of other ways to accomplish either of the aforementioned things. Rape seems like resorting to the lowest common denominator. While there are exceptions to this rule (i.e. Tammara Webber’s Easy), for the most part I choose not to read stories that involve violence against women. God knows we have enough of that in real life as it is.
7) Greek Mythology
This concept has been done to death! Even more frustrating, with the exception of Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed series, I’ve rarely seen it utilized to good effect. I’m now reluctant to try books centred around a re-telling or re-imaging of Greek mythology after suffering through one tortuous and superficial attempt after another, best exemplified by my experience with Aimee Carter’s The Goddess Test last year. Based on my experience with the use of this theme thus far, I find that Greek mythology does not translate well to a modern context, and more often than not ends up as a bastardized, one-dimensional, disappointing mess. In this particular case, I would love to be proven wrong, as I do think that in theory, Greek mythology could provide a very unique and interesting premise for a novel if handled correctly.
I’ll preface this final choice by saying that I respect everyone’s right to worship as they choose so long as it doesn’t negatively affect or harm anyone else. That said, I would be lying if I said that the words ‘Christian-Themed’ in a book’s synopsis didn’t act as a strong deterrent when I’m choosing what to read, particularly when it comes to the romance genre. Based on my (limited) experience, at best I find ‘Christian-Themed’ novels dreadfully dull, and at worst, sanctimonious and preachy. To be fair, this could very well be because I’m not a Christian myself and therefore feel no intimate connection with the material often being discussed. Plus, I’m not ashamed to admit that I like a little smut in my romance novels, thank you very much. Hand holding and kisses on the cheek are best left to a middle school dance.