I've been posting book reviews for years, but I decided a long time ago that I'd never write a review for a book I didn't finish. That said, there's been plenty of books that I didn't finish. So, in this post I wanted to write about why I put those books down. Below are five reasons readers put books down with examples of books that I didn't finish for those reasons.
1. Your reader doesn't relate to your characters. Your main character isn't going to be like every one of your readers, but there should be something about them they can relate to or root for. When reading Falling Under by Gwen Hayes I found I just didn't connect with the characters. Theia is British, and moved to California with her very overprotective father. I liked her personality but I just didn't have much in common with her, and there wasn't anything about her that made me want to root for her. Her best friend was her polar opposite, loud, reckless, and the man from her dreams felt a little too proper compared to the first glance we get of him in one of Theia's dreams. Despite feeling like Gwen had an interesting concept for the book it just wasn't something I could relate to.
Another example is Poison Princess by Kresley Cole. I normally am a huge fan of paranormal as well as dystopian stories, but this book immediately sucks you into this extremely dark post-apocalyptic future. After reading the first few chapters I found myself unable to keep reading. The main character Evie seemed well written, and this book certainly had a very unique style, but it was being told through the POV of a character named Arthur. Arthur was beyond creepy and I didn't like being in his head.
2. Your book reads like a first draft. Don't publish your book until it's really ready. Make sure you've taken the time to develop your characters, their relationship and tie up any plot holes. After that, edit, edit, edit. A great story will have a hard time keeping readers until the end if it's riddled with grammatical or spelling mistakes. A lack of editing is distracting, it's like watching a movie on your laptop with a poor wifi signal and every few minutes it cuts out to buffer. Make sure your novel's ideas are fully fleshed out and that you've gone through it with a fine tooth comb. After that hire an editor and a proofreader to do the same. When I read Miss Underworld by Racquel Kechagias I had a hard time getting sucked in to the story because it felt unfinished. The interesting combination of vampires and Greek mythology fell flat because I felt like I was reading an early draft of a novel that had yet to completely come together instead of a finished project. To be fair, I did finish this book (unlike the others on this list) but I didn't leave a review for the above reasons. This novel may have been updated since I read it years ago.
3. Your book opens with a scene that your reader has seen before. It's impossible to avoid all cliches. Everything has been done before, but if you can't show your reader something new in your opening chapters they'll wonder why they should continue. When I picked up Dark Lover by JR Ward I was really feeling like reading a vampire novel, but Dark Lover just wasn't what I was looking for. Ward seemed to be trying to create his own world, but there were just too many things about this book that had been done before. Ex: Main character, vampire, long black hair with a widow's peak. Ex: Main character, female, nearly gets raped in an alley. Ex: Vampire names like "Thorment" and "Wrath". I suppose for me the 'vampire' world of it was a little cheesy.
4. You don't have a good enough hook. You need to catch your reader's attention asap. Fill the beginning of your book with boring backstory or take too long to jump into the action and you risk losing your readers. When I started reading Existence by Abbi Glines I had high hopes that I would love this book. It sounded like it was right up my alley and had great reviews, but it just didn't pull me in. There wasn't anything in particular that bothered me, but also nothing that really hooked me either. After the first chapter or so I put it down and simply never picked it back up. It started out with a typical high school scene and a girl with an ability, but nothing stood out to me as different. Also, I hated the name "Dank," maybe a small thing, but it was a big turnoff. Your readers need to know from the beginning what makes your book worth reading.
5. Your story takes a left hand turn after a few chapters. Readers go into a story with certain expectations based on your blurb and the first few chapters. Twists and turns are great, but change directions too radically and your readers will feel tricked. This is what happened when I started reading Seers of Light by Jennifer DeLucy. I loved the first chapter or so of this book. it had me hooked. It seemed different and, it was scary. I could tell that it was going to be a little darker of a read and that had me interested as well. But, what started out as a story that possibly revolved around ghosts or maybe demons and an eerie, mysterious forest radically shifted gears and went in a totally different direction. Suddenly, there were blue veined vampires and a handsome British character that was dragging my main character away from this wonderful world Jennifer had created. Maybe it would have been a good read had I had a better idea of what it was about, but after having my hopes for what this book would be shatter I had to put it down.
It's important to keep in mind that what "makes a book good" will be different from one reader to the next. The books I listed above may not have been my cup of tea, but they could be someone else's favorites. That said, I think these suggestions to create relate-able characters, open with an exciting hook and set up your reader's expectations can help writer's keep their reader's reading.
Why did you stop reading the last book you put down?