Bookstr Team Talks: Why We’d DNF a Book

Today, the Bookstr team is opening up about why we choose to abandon a book. Keep reading to learn which books we just couldn’t get through!

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A woman holding an open book with a large X across it.

As readers, we never want to encounter a book we just can’t get into. Unfortunately, DNFing books is an inevitable part of being a ravenous reader. There are just so many books and so little time! So we can’t afford to waste a second on a book that isn’t doing it for us. DNFing a book can be a difficult decision to make, especially if you’re a completionist like me. The urge to push on despite our boredom is strong, but sometimes, there really is no other choice than to abandon a book.

Readers have many different criteria for DNFing books, so today, the Bookstr team is sharing our reasons! From annoying tropes to overused plot points to unsavory topics, these are the instant turn-offs that will have us DNFing a book without remorse.

If I’m Not in the Mood

I’m a total mood-based reader, so I DNF books when I’m just not feeling them. If I DNF a book, it doesn’t mean that I don’t like the story or that I won’t return to it later, just that it’s not what I’m looking for at the moment. I almost always pick up books I’ve DNF’d months or years down the line and give them another try, and typically, I end up enjoying them the second time around!

Emma cover by Jane Austen, woman in an elaborate white dress sitting in a chair.
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The most recent book I DNF’d was Emma by Jane Austen. (Sorry, Jane Austen lovers!) I actually quite enjoyed the story and Austen’s writing. However, I had started reading the book at a really busy point in my life, so I was looking for more of an easy read that I could breeze through in a day or two. Emma didn’t fit the bill at the time, so I DNF’d it, but I’m looking forward to picking it up again soon!

Lauren Nee, Editorial

If the Story and Characters Lose Me

Sometimes, stories can be slow but still keep my interest. There are those rare moments, though, when a story and its characters have totally lost me. I’m bored with the flow or situation. I’m bored with the storytelling because a narrator drags on for several pages or chapters. Or the story gets too graphic for no reason. Or the writing just doesn’t draw me in like it did in the very beginning.

Daughters of Nri cover by Reni K Amayo, two women staring straight ahead.
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One book that I have DNF’d (there’s still a chance I may go back) is Daughters of Nri by Reni K. Amayo. I saw it trending on social media, and I LOVED the cover. The blurb really spoke to me, and I knew I had to buy it! Then I got the book, and I was quite let down. The start of it really confused me, and I put the book down for the first time. The second time, I made it a few more chapters, but for some reason, the narration just confused me more, and the plot of the story and characters lost me. It’s been a couple of years since I bought it, so I may give it another try and see how it fairs. For now, this book is DNF’d. Still, there’s always a chance of me going back to it in the future. We’ll see.

Quiarah B/Vphan, Editorial

If It’s All About Romance and the Characters Turn Shallow

I’m a big romance reader, but I like it when I’m able to understand the full humanity of a character and explore the human condition in addition to their love story. A character’s constant obsession with love in typical romance novels gets repetitive and can sometimes come across as being one-dimensional. I love it when authors write their characters with loads of detail and allow them goals that aren’t solely falling in love. It adds layers to the story and allows the author to hide hidden meanings in the book, deepening the romantic connection between the characters. When a book doesn’t rely entirely on romance, there are more ways to advance the plot and produce a variety of stories.

Just My Type cover by Falon Ballard, man and woman sitting at a table together.
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I DNF’d Just My Type by Falon Ballard because I felt like the characters could have been made more whole in terms of their history and personalities. Later, I returned and finished it, and after reviewing it through the lens of someone who wants a gushy cafe romance read, it’s a great book.

Emma Jamrin, Editorial

If It Features the Miscommunication Trope or “I Don’t Deserve You”

If I’m being honest, it takes a lot for me to DNF a book, and even with these tropes, I’m still probably going to finish it. But sometimes, I need to take a few DAYS to WEEKS to get back on board if the characters are suffering from a miscommunication trope. It irritates me to no end. Just talk the damn thing out! It’s not that hard!

Last Sacrifice cover by Richelle Mead, green gradient over a young woman's face.
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Another trope that bothers me so much is when characters say, “I don’t deserve you.” It’s usually when a male lead leaves the female lead, fearing that he’s hurt her in ways that are irreparable and he doesn’t deserve to be with her. I’m currently watching My Demon, which is a K-drama, and I’m infuriated to no end. I’m refusing to watch it until all the episodes come out, so that I can know whether or not they end up together. People have no right to tell others what they don’t deserve! If you think you don’t deserve her, become the man she does deserve. Who are you to tell her what she deserves? If she wants you, that’s her choice! Don’t leave her brokenhearted and sad. I’m looking at you, Dimitri Belikov, in Last Sacrifice!

Alexandra Mellott, Editorial

If My Attention Isn’t Captured or There Is Romanticized Abuse

I will usually give a book a good one-fourth of the way read before I DNF it, but if it just cannot capture my attention, I’m not going to force it. Some books, while the summary sounds good, just aren’t meant for me. And that’s okay. I’ll still try out other books by that author; it might be that particular book just wasn’t hitting right, and I’ll love something else — which has totally happened!

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I will also never stick around for a book that has a love interest that abuses the other, and they stay together. Not for me. I’m here to escape reality, not watch the traumas of real life play out without a HEA and the abuser getting their ass kicked.

Kristi Eskew, Editorial

If the Female Character Starts to Fall for the Dud

Woman looking bored and disappointed on a date with a man.
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Anything in the romance genre usually loses my focus so fast, but nothing, and I repeat, NOTHING gets me more ticked off than this. Have you ever been reading a romance book and the main female character is living her best life…she’s happy, she is crushing everything in her path, and nothing can stop her! Until the author decides to have her fall for the lame dude of the story. You know who I am talking about…the annoying male character who must always bring the female character down in some way. They either do not pay enough attention to her, cheat, or they are just gosh darn useless! As soon as the female begins to fall for their crazy ex-boyfriend or their neighbor who gives them no attention, I SNAP that book closed and lock it up for good.

Erin Ewald, Editorial

If the Characters Are Inconsistent and the Tropes Are Executed Poorly

I don’t have a huge problem with any type of trope. However, if there is a book that does a trope the wrong way, then I DNF it. I hate love triangles that are never done correctly. If they are there to annoy me, then leave me! However, the Infernal Devices series and TVD (The Vampire Diaries)…have proven their stay.

Lightlark cover by Alex Aster, flowers blooming out of a heart with thorny vines growing around it.
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Another huge DNF standard I have is when the characters start making decisions that don’t make sense to their previous personality. If they make stupid decisions just for the sake of the plot and not due to their character’s motivations and desires, I get very frustrated. I dislike the plot-heavy stories and little character focus.

I will also most definitely DNF a book if you give me world-building in the first chapter…Please don’t do it. I will fall asleep…I have in the past DNF’d Lightlark. It was very plot-heavy. The progression of the book is very slow. I didn’t care about any of the characters nor the love triangle that I didn’t even know existed…And I didn’t understand the world, no matter how much she tried to explain it to me. I felt like my brain was broken. However, I did go back and force myself to reread it…and I managed to get it done.

Alena Baez, Editorial

If I Can’t Get Invested in the Main Character

I’m a stubborn reader, so it takes a lot for me to DNF a book. When I do, I give myself 50-100 pages before I put down a book. In those 50-100 pages, I need to feel invested in the main character in some way, whether I love them or hate them. If I don’t feel compelled to find out what happens to them, or the book is going so slowly that it feels like nothing is going to happen, I put the book aside.

A Very Nice Girl cover by Imogen Grimp, outline of a woman's legs.
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The last book I DNF’d was A Very Nice Girl by Imogen Crimp. I was disappointed because the summary promised a navigation of a messy, toxic relationship and a ride through the awkward, unknown territories that is being an adult in their 20s, but the book took too long to deliver on what it was selling. I also didn’t care what happened to the main character, Anna, to the point that I couldn’t even hold out to see if the book picked up its pace later on.

Abby Caswell, Editorial

If It Takes a Long Time Setting up the Story

If the writer is stuck on setting up the scene, it can be extremely ‘info-dumpy’ and honestly boring. Get into the action, people! I want to know these characters based on their mannerisms — I want to see how the world works through the eyes of these characters. I try to trooper on through, but if the story isn’t engaging and spends too much telling me backstory after backstory, it can be a bit boring.

Colorful fantasy world with towering castles and a light blue river.
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I won’t name-drop any specific books…because there have been plenty, and I don’t want to name-drop books that might skew readers’ opinions on picking them up. It tends to be in the fantasy genre that lingers on the world-building aspect.

Sierra Jackson, Editorial


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