DNF – Meg Benjamin

I have to admit—I was inspired to write this by my friend M.J. Fredrick, who blogged about it first. And I have to also admit that we were both “inspired” by the same book. I’m not going to tell you which book it was—the author is one of my favorites and her other books are wonderful. But this one was a clinker. I really tried to read it, but after the first couple of chapters, I found it heavy going. And then I found myself skimming. And then I stopped altogether. I may go back to this book someday (I bought it, after all, in hardback), but not soon.

I always feel a little guilty when I give up on a book, but I do it fairly regularly, particularly with new authors. I usually give a new author a chapter, sometimes two, to get my interest. But I admit there are some things that will automatically lose me. For example, if the characters are not only clichés, but clichés I don’t like (the big strong alpha, the prissy heroine), I may toss the book even before I finish that first chapter. If the book is a paranormal and the first chapter is chockfull of exotic creatures that the author has to explain in detail, I’ll probably give up because I’ll never be able to remember the difference between a Xanthrimpic demon and a Ziggunal sprite. If the small town is either too dull or too eccentric, I’ll give it a pass. And if the book has a whiny first-person narrator whose boyfriend has just left her after she was fired by her horrid boss while her harpy mother rants from the bathroom, I probably won’t get by the first page.

But in fact I can usually recognize some of those books from the blurb, so I don’t even take them home. The more difficult ones are the books I start but then lose interest in the deeper I venture into the plot. Because you can’t always tell from the first chapter. Sometimes you get sort of intrigued but then discover you’re losing interest quickly. Instead of looking forward to spending thirty minutes reading another chapter, you’re looking for something else to do instead. Those are the really disheartening books. Because you wanted them to succeed, you really did. Yet the deeper into the book you got, the less involved you became. Those I may skim through just to see how everything ends. But I won’t keep reading; the author lost me.

And that’s what this all boils down to—the author and I didn’t connect. I’d like to say that as an author I can learn from this. But I doubt that I can. My taste is my own. Some things I dislike, others may like a lot (Titanic, for example). Sadly, there’s no surefire way to write a book everybody will read. Believe me, if there were, Nora Roberts would already have discovered it!

So what makes you stop reading? Or do you?


5 responses to “DNF – Meg Benjamin

  1. I used to finish every book I started.

    But then I discovered my new mantra: Life is too short to read bad books. (And what might be bad for me may not be bad for someone else.) So, yeah, if I’m reluctantly picking up the book to read, then I find something else to read.

  2. Thanks for sharing you’re likes and dislikes as a reader. I think you have some very good examples and valuable info here, for any author starting out or established.


  3. I’m with Abigail, life’s too short and the TBR is too big. Recently I bought a middle grade book at the book fair that sounded FABULOUS. I cringed at the $9 price, but hey, it was helping the school. It started off great, then went on to be like every other MG book I’ve ever read 😦 DNF. Wouldn’t have been so bad except that I bought it because it was so different!

  4. I rarely DNF, although skimming is a distinct possibility and not always intentional! I tend to keep reading the train-wrecks due in large part to sheer disbelief. 😉 I think you really nailed my main reason for not finishing–a simple lack of connection. I think it’s common to try and assign blame (the author did a bad job, the reader was distracted and not paying attention) when really, as you said, it’s usually a matter of taste. No harm, no foul.

  5. Thanks, y’all. I’ve come up with one more reason for a DNF. I tried to read a book from an author I really should like, but, well, I’m just not in the mood right now. Now her fault, just karma. So I’ll probably come back, but for right now DNF.

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