Apparently, I’m a very picky reader, because since posting my list of book dealbreakers, I discovered that there are a few more common book occurrences that drive me abso-freaking-lutely bonkers.*
It’s funny, though, because I didn’t consciously realize how much any of these things bothered me until I started looking through my notes in my Kindle clippings file and noticed that I kept noting the same plot-related details over and over again in three years worth of clippings.
Animal death as a plot device.
I’m a big-time animal lover. I love my dogs like my family. So, when animal death is used as a plot device, particularly death of a beloved pet—but really any story with the animal death (or injury) as a plot device, I instantly feel manipulated and it completely pulls me out of the story. I’m at the point, where if a book intrigues me and I see that an animal plays an important role, I will Google for spoilers so I can decide if I can handle the story and the inevitable animal death (seriously, being an animal in a novel is pretty much a death sentence).
Sometimes, a book is strong enough that this plot device won’t kill the deal for me (I recently read an ARC of an upcoming contemporary YA that I loved and an animal death snuck up on me, but the rest of the story made it a very solid, recommended read regardless), but it will completely ruin a “bubble book” for me.
Disregard for how higher education works in real life.
A couple times this year I’ve come across books in which either educational barriers or opportunities played a significant role in propelling the plot forward. One example was in a popular contemporary YA novel in which a character winds up dead because of the decision he makes in order to help his sister pay for tuition at a state college. When this is revealed, I found myself brain-screaming,
Just fill out the damn FAFSA! Your sister’s an orphan! She’ll get all kinds of financial aid! It’s a state school, I know tuition’s going up, but you can figure this out! Good grief!
In a book I just finished, a character ends up murdered because she gets into an exclusive theater MFA program straight out of college with only a single play under her belt. My eyes rolled so far back in my head upon reading that, I’m lucky I didn’t do myself seriously, permanent damage.
I realize that most people probably don’t find these inaccuracies about higher education so annoying, but because my husband works at a college and I teach part-time at one, I’m more knowledgeable about the process and how things work. This is one of those things in which research, or a lack thereof, (or possibly an assumption that most readers can suspend their disbelief regarding key details) plays such an important role in a book being successful for me. Awhile back, an author tweeted several questions about various details of higher education and I wanted to give her a virtual fist-bump for caring about accuracy in this area.
Inaccurate and/or bizarre sports references.
This one gets me more than any others, most frequently identified by a note in my Kindle like,
WTF? Basketball doesn’t work that way! This isn’t Hangtime, people!
Uh, no. I’m pretty sure your character didn’t just “catch a homerun,” because then it wouldn’t be a home run, which is clearly reflected in the scoreboard mentioned in the next sentence. Perhaps you mean “hit” a home run, since said character was the freaking batter? Ahem.
Last month I read a book I still can’t muster the energy to review, because it kind of sucked in a boring, uninteresting way. One of the most annoying aspects of it was that one of the main characters is a guy who loves sports, both playing and watching. During several of the chapters from his point-of-view, he makes incorrect sports references, including one about the joy of “making a dunk shot.” This, naturally, led me to brain-scream,
There’s no such thing as a “dunk shot,” dumbass! You either dunk the ball or make a jump shot. It would be physically impossible to combine the two—trust me!
This is a particular epidemic in young adult fiction, where improbable sports scenarios play out all the time. (I’m looking at you, Catching Jordan.) But it really seems to cross all genres (hi there, literary fiction, ahem).
A friend of mine recently pointed out on Goodreads that romance has its own problems with sports in that nearly invariably if a male love interest is a professional athlete, he’s white. Professional sports is extremely diverse, and yet romance novels set in the world don’t reflect this diversity. This is disturbing to say the least, and a whole other level of inaccuracy regarding sports plotlines.
I love sports and there’s so much natural drama inherent in sports-related stories, it makes me sad that so often these storylines fall flat due to the sports themselves, as well as the athletes, are so often inaccurately represented.
Are you a crazy-picky reader like me? Do certain, random inaccuracies or plot devices immediately turn you off?
*Fun fact: in my first draft of this post, I left the “k” out of “bonkers.” Oops.
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