I had thought to wait until the end of the year to talk about the books I’d given up on, but I’ve already reached eight DNFs. That’s a lot. So, I figured I’d do a mid-year edition and then another one (maybe, we’ll see how the rest of the year goes) in December. I’ve DNF-ed for many varying reasons, not all of them because the book was bad (although some definitely were). Truly, I don’t like having to DNF books. But sometimes… it’s just good self-care. If a book isn’t doing it for you, it is perfectly acceptable to quit. And so, here are the eight books that have disappointed me or offended my senses so far this year.
- The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
I’m not going to lie. This one kind of bummed me out to DNF. It has such a pretty cover. But, alas, the content was utter garbage. The characters were annoying, the ships were gross, and the world-building was god-awful. A lot have drawn a comparison to Gossip Girl, but I’m sure that’s offensive to Gossip Girl (I must confess, I’ve never seen or read it). I’ve never cared about socialite drama, but I thought this book was going to deal with some serious issues. At least, that’s what the summary promised. But instead I got vapid bullshit and incestuous love. And don’t mistake my calling them vapid for girl hate. These characters just genuinely had no personality. I barely made it through chapter five before I wished I was the one who’d jumped off the thousand-floor tower.
- Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes
I was never a big fan of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or any of its many adaptations and retellings. But I adored Heartless, Marissa Meyer’s prequel retelling of the eponymous Queen of Hearts. It was one of my top five books of 2016. So I was eager to see someone else’s interpretation of the someday-villain. And Jesus Elizabeth Christ! I couldn’t even get close to witnessing the birth of a villain. It was So. Bad. The tension was so forced and warred with my suspension of disbelief. I was torn between laughing and cringing. I don’t think I even finished chapter two. I have second-hand embarrassment from that book just existing. I’d rather have my head cut off than to ever try to read this or anything by Ms. Oakes ever again.
- The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid
This book sounded like it was going to be a cool story about a morally gray antihero. Instead I got… whatever that was? Honestly, Nemesis was hardly morally gray or intimidating. And Sidonia, the girl she was “born to protect” was unbearable. Besides that, the world-building was mediocre and the clearly budding relationship had zero chemistry. Why is it so hard to find a good YA space opera? Why do they all fail me? First Iluminae— pause to let hate-rage pass— and now this. And that cover was so cool too. But, alas, the only diabolical thing about this book was how it caused me to waste my time by giving me false hope.
- Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
I wasn’t blown away by Niven’s first book, All the Bright Places, and didn’t realize how problematic it was until long after I read it. But this book sounded promising. There was fat representation and a light shown on a rare disorder that causes the sufferer to never remember faces. And for about the first half, it really lived up to that promise. Libby was a wonderful character and Jack was starting to grow on me. And then, out of nowhere, it turned to complete and utter shit. And I can pinpoint the exact moment that it did: when Jack said of Libby, “She’s graceful for a fat girl.” For a fat girl. He just had to qualify that. I only made it a little farther and skimmed over the rest, but it continued on its downhill spiral. Highlights include: Jack breaking up with Libby because she’d “have to stay her current size so [he’d] remember [her]”; Jack almost kidnapping a child after mistaking them for his brother because, for some unknown reason, he never told his family about his condition; Libby forgiving Jack because he told everyone about his condition at a party and that somehow means he’s “changed.” Things at the beginning started to fall apart too. Jack’s reasoning for not helping Libby falls completely apart. And why the hell would Libby’s dad allow her to skip school and go to some unknown location with a friend he has never met? Sounds fishy to me. I can’t fathom why this book is called Holding Up the Universe when it can’t even hold up its own plot.
- And I Darken by Kiersten White
Strictly speaking, there was nothing wrong with this. I just had it on pause for so long that I lost interest. And truthfully, it hadn’t held my attention that well beforehand. It followed the long and never-ending story of Lada and Radu’s childhood, which would be fine if they were interesting characters. I kind of liked Radu, but I couldn’t stand Lada. I will say, I don’t think this book is Islamophobic like some people claim. Lada definitely is, but almost every other character shows how beautiful the religion is. Radu even converts early in the book. And I wouldn’t say there’s queerbaiting either. It’s more like the two gay characters are into people who are not into them. Overall, I’d say the writing was very good. This book was ultimately just not for me. It darkened and dimmed my hopes of an exciting read.
- Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly
I like Beauty & the Beast and Belle is my favorite Disney princess. Since this book was authorized by Disney, I thought it would be cool new canon and offer more insight into Belle’s character and her relationship with the Beast. I got about two chapters in before I realized this book had a very real potential to ruin the characters I love. There was something that was off about all the characters and the more you considered the premise (Belle almost choosing to leave after literally being pulled into a book), it didn’t fit with the movie canon. Also, there was this weird thing where this whole plot was contrived by personified versions of Life and Death who had a bet going on over Belle and the Beast. Plus, the writing felt very young-YA (like ages twelve to fourteen). There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it’s just too far below my reading level for me to get engrossed. Unfortunately, I just could not get lost in this book.
- The Valiant by Lesley Livingston
I really wanted to like this book. It’s about a female gladiator who is also a princess. Plus, she’s held captive by the Roman Empire, stuck fighting for the enemy. All this was right up my alley. Unfortunately, it did not in any way live up to this promise. All of the characters were incredibly flat, including our protagonist Fallon. In fact, there is literally nothing to Fallon other than the fact that she’s a good fighter. Newsflash: not what we meant when we said we wanted strong female characters. Not only that, but there was not one, but two cases of instalove. There is also tons of completely unnecessary girl hate and, for some reason, it’s only ever aimed at Fallon. I assume this is supposed to make us feel sympathy for her, but creating a well-rounded character would have done this far more effectively. There is a female friendship, but it doesn’t leave an impact because all three of them have zero personality. All the plot twists were incredibly predictable. To make matters worse, I got halfway into the book and still didn’t to see any gladiator stuff. I understand letting the story breathe, but this book is barely over three hundred pages. It either needed to be longer or get to the good stuff faster. The writing is also mediocre, clearly aimed for the younger end of the YA community. However, given how bad everything else about it is, I wouldn’t recommend it to them. This book was a valiant flop.
- Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith by Shaun Hume
Back when I first started this blog, this author contacted me and offered a free copy of his book in exchange for an honest review. I looked up the book and saw it was about a magic school. Growing up in the Harry Potter generation, I am predisposed to loving the magic school trope. So I agreed. When I finally started to read it, I made it only through the first two chapters. I am, in many ways, baffled by what I read. First of all, I can’t determine the target audience. The protagonist and his friends are eleven, which would suggest middle grade, but the verbiage and word choice seemed more like the upper end of YA. There were entire paragraphs dedicated to how someone looked, in painful detail. It felt so unnatural that way. The family dynamics of the Doe family (the parents actually, for real named John and Jane) seemed like a caricature of the Dursleys. And those metaphors. This book had some of the strangest metaphors I have ever read. Most of them made less sense than Sarah J. Maas’ sex scenes. (Not to mention the fact that was filled with grammar errors.) I wanted so badly to like this book or at least be able to fully comply with the terms, but I honestly can’t do it. The only Ewan I need in my life is Ewan McGregor.
All right, so those are the eight books I have had to DNF so far this year. Some of them I was really sad to dislike. Others I’d very much like to forget. I can only hope the rest of the year goes better, but we’ll see.
So Strangers, what books have you DNF-ed this year? Let me know in the comments!
Catch you later!