What Makes You DNF a Book?

This past weekend, for the first time in probably a decade, I gave up on a book. I wanted to throw it across the room and out the window, but since I was reading via the Kindle app on my phone, I held myself in. Instead, I created a new DNF (Did Not Finish) shelf for it on Goodreads, where it now quietly languishes on its own.

To say I was sorely disappointed is an understatement. It’s the third book in a series that started off with such great promise. I gave the first book 4 stars, for crying out loud! The second book wasn’t as good, but I figured it probably suffered from second book syndrome, gave it the benefit of the doubt and a 3-star rating, and eagerly anticipated the last instalment. What makes it even worse is that I sort of know the author (from our mutual Facebook writing group) and expected much better.

Strangely enough, this novel currently has an average rating of 4.59 stars on Goodreads, with  a number of gushing reviews, proclaiming it to be “love, love, love” and “everything you could want”. Apparently it has “all the feels” – and with that statement I’m guessing the reviewer wasn’t referring to the feeling that I had of wanting to rather commit ritual seppuku than read one more paragraph.

What did I hate so much about this book, you may wonder.

I recently shared this article about strong female characters on my Facebook page written by an author who is able to explain the issues I have with this book so much more eloquently than I ever could.

Everything said in this article holds true for me. A female character does not need to suffer endless physical abuse to make her stronger. Sure, if the novel’s theme is about violence and maltreatment and the journey of overcoming or rising above such circumstances, by all means go for it. And I love a girl who can grab a sword and fight right beside the boys, or hone her body into a weapon with which to overthrow the oppressors. But if the violence is gratuitous and just for the sake of showing us she’s a badass, then my teeth start grinding against each other. Throw in a supposed love interest who treats her like shit, but she can’t help falling for his tortured and misunderstood soul, even though she is already involved with another man who, surprise-surprise also doesn’t have the best track record, then I end up writing rant posts like this one.

Maybe I’ve just read one too many frustrating young adult dystopian love triangles in the last few years. And maybe I’m alone in wanting strong female characters who are actually strong because they have grit and determination and a sense of self-worth that isn’t dependent on what the moody man-boy thinks of her.  Maybe enduring torture, rape threats, and forced bonding rituals for no other reason than to make another man jealous make the average reader love a “strong” female character, but I’m holding out for something with a little more nuance and a lot more authenticity.

Maybe this book isn’t as bad as I think it is and redeems itself deeper in, but I DNF’ed it at 35%, so I guess I’ll never know.

What makes you put a book down without finishing it? Can you think of any strong female characters done right? Are there any books you hate as much as I hated this one – and why?

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