I’ve been reading fast and furious – not hours a day but whenever there are 15-20 minutes of spare time. My goal in 2014 was to read 24 MG titles. So far I’ve more than doubled that with the 50th about to be opened. Many of those completed have been used for review purposes, while others are enjoyed, but maybe less so. Not every book is discussed here, especially if I have more negative than positive to share. I know how much work it is to create and tell a story and me bashing a book isn’t going to help.
What are the turnoffs? What makes me get partway through a novel and decide – It’s not working? The answers are easy and as I write my own stories it has helped provide the needed focus to not make the same mistakes.
The Unlikeable Protagonist If I am going to choose to spend my time with a book, I have to connect with the main character. It doesn’t matter if they are male or female, old or young, set indoors or out. By the time I get halfway through the book there’d better be a connection. I want to stand behind the MC and twist, sigh, maybe even scream to have that individual reach their goal. Otherwise, it’s a yawn.
Lack of Humor I’m not talking about a gut splitting romp. Humor, especially when not expected, can bring charm to a serious story. When I smile or laugh, the story has me.
Plot Holes We’ve all been there. You reach the last page of a fairly good book and you wonder if someone stole the final chapter. What happened to the important plots and subplots I just spent hours learning about? I want them resolved and tidied up by the time I get to THE END.
No Conflict The MC goes to school, says hi to friends, does well on a test, attends choir practice, kisses Mom when he/she gets home, practices soccer, goes to sleep. Oversimplified for sure, but these types of stories have no stakes. I want conflict, and then I’ll join the ride, turning each page until it gets resolved.
There are a few other situations that raise a red flag, but not enough to dislike a story:
- MG voice that sounds more like high school
- Unrealistic paths to getting out of a problem
- Dialog that could be two adults talking to each other instead of two 11-year-olds
- Stories about bullies (for a while I thought this was becoming its own genre)
No, I’m not asking for much in the stories I read and write. What are your turn-offs?
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