So instead, I’m going to take a week off and give you all a glimpse into how I read and just why I rate and review books the way that I do. I’m going to write about the few things that have the power to ruin a book for me if not done well, regardless of plot, hype, or swoon-worthy romance. Don't worry, I'll return to those Epidemics posts next week, I promise.
Characterization is my biggest make-it-or-break-it thing in a book. If I’m reading a novel full of one-dimensional or boring characters, I won’t like it. At all. More than anything else, it’s the characters that drive a story. Setting, backstory, even plot and conflict are all props with which to show us who the characters really are, so you could have the best story idea in the world and ruin it with flat, unrealistic characters. Every single one of my 5-star favorites is going to feature above-par characterization, with characters that grow and adapt, reacting to their environment and changing as the story progresses.
World-building is another must-have for me, most especially in a dystopia or fantasy setting. If I find too many holes in your world and its logic, I’m not going to be able to like the story, no matter how much critical acclaim it’s gotten. I think the most prominent example of this for me is Divergent. Prior to reading it, I had gotten slapped in the face with a tidal wave of love for that book, but because I could not connect with the idea of a future in which we’ve devolved as a society to such complete separation and inability to value many different important character traits equally, I was just unable to like it. But there are other examples, and poor world-building has led to me being in the minority of an awful lot of book hype. This is the reason I’m so picky when it comes to dystopian stories especially, because they rely on their world-building and back-story more than almost any other genre.
Writing quality is an obvious one that should go without saying, but based on a lot of really poorly-written novels that have gotten really good reviews and ratings, I feel the need to say it. I can’t enjoy a book with low-quality writing. I don’t need a literary masterpiece, but I need solid editing and a strong grasp on vocabulary and the English language. Too much repetition, too many grammatical errors, too many misused metaphors, they’re all going to add up to an unenjoyable reading experience. Another pet peeve of mine is lengthy descriptions that aim for a high-quality flow, but come off as pretentious and unnecessarily dense, or “purple prose” as it’s commonly called.
Obvious plot devices and clichés have the power to ruin a reading experience for me, as well. If a story feels forced or reliant on overused formulas and hooks, I’m not going to respect the integrity of the story or feel the sincerity and passion of the writing. In a world with thousands of books on every single topic imaginable, finding a way to stand out and write an original novel goes a long way toward those raving, glowing reviews. Books like Daughter Of Smoke And Bone, Warm Bodies, and Everneath are prime examples of great stories that do just that.
Obviously, there are more qualities I value highly in a book, but these are the main ones that influence my reading experience the most.
I’m an admittedly picky reader so you may not agree with all of these, but we all have those things that we just can’t overlook while reading. What are some of your must-haves or biggest pet peeves in a novel? Let me know in the comments! <3