Books that mess up your day

13 November 2014 12:00


It is no secret that I love to read. Unless I’m completely exhausted, I always spend at least half an hour reading before I go to sleep. This has the added benefit of helping me get tired more quickly, unless the book I’m reading is one of those books I can’t put down (about 1 in 10 books, I think), in which case it just helps me get more tired the next day (cough K.J. Colt cough). In most cases, I read books I know won’t disappoint me, whether they’re authors I already know, authors that are well-spoken of sites such as Fantasy Faction or books that were recommended by friends or coworkers.

Every now and then there are books that I simply dislike, and they’re quickly moved to my Did Not Finish pile, but there are books that are much, much worse than this. I’m talking about books that are actually pretty good reads, but they still end up completely messing up your day. Books that rub you completely the wrong way, books that you can’t stop thinking about, and not in a good way.

Two weeks ago I had such an experience. It was then that I finished reading Allegiant by Veronica Roth, which should have been a thrilling ending to an otherwise great series. Except that it wasn’t. Not only does the resolution make absolutely no sense whatsoever, we end up with a freaking dead protagonist, in a completely meaningless death. I could probably rant about this for the rest of this post, but there’s a wonderful 1-star review on Amazon that summarizes every issue I had with the book, plus a lot more.

I felt bad about this for at least a day. I was in a bad mood, and people around me noticed.

I’ve been thinking about this ever since, and I really feel my response to the book’s sucky ending was somewhat disproportionate. I kept wondering why the book had such a huge impact on me, whereas other books generally don’t. The review I mentioned above helped put some of my feelings in perspective: the huge buildup followed by the avalanche of meh, with an anti-climax of a pointless death? A character I liked died for no reason.

And that’s when I started to realize what this book had in common with other books I disliked: characters I liked were subjected to horrendous treatment for no good reason, and this isn’t the first time this bothered me.

Did I mention how hard I found it to read this book? Take a number of gentle female side characters. Add an invading army. Have invading army magically sterilize said female characters and use them as comfort women? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU BRENT WEEKS?

Sure, bad things can happen to characters, and never having harm come to your characters makes for boring reading, but you have to keep your audience in mind. I don’t read fantasy to have it mess up my day. I read it because I like experiencing worlds different from our own. I don’t expect everyone to make it, and I don’t expect those who make it to come through unscathed. But if your book messes up my day, I’d rather skip it.

Enough complaining for today. Next time I’ll probably talk about books that have the opposite effect.