Tuesday 12 June 2018

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Discussion: Bookish Pet Peeves

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I've been a reader for around two decades now, and over that time, I have discovered certain things about books that annoy me. They don't necessarily ruin the overall reading experience, but there are definitely certain things that bother and frustrate me. So today, I thought I'd share with you some of my bookish pet peeves.


I'm fortunate enough that I live in the UK, and with YA, bar the odd book here and there, most books come out in paperback. However, I'm unfortunate enough to live in the UK, and the US is always publishing such incredible books, that aren't always published in the UK - and they are always published in hardback first. Now, I can absolutely agree that hardbacks are very pretty and look so gorgeous on a shelf. As an object, hardback books are just wonderful to look at. A bookshelf full of hardbacks is, in itself, I think, something pleasing to look at. However, as a reader, there a number of things about hardbacks that make me grumble.

They're heavy! They are. When reading a hardback, I either end up with aching arms for holding it up to read, or an aching neck, for looking too far down to read because I'm not holding it up. Not only are hardbacks being heavy a problem when reading, but god, they really weigh down a bag. I always take a book to work, but my work bag will include my purse, my lunch, a litre bottle of water, my umbrella... and with a hardback, too, mate, travelling to and from work isn't fun. And I can't tell you how many times I have sprained my wrist from holding a hardback. Granted, it was originally injured through trying to get three Harry Potter illustrated editions into a bag, which are bigger and heavier than a normal hardback, and three at a time is quite a bit of weight, but since then, hardbacks have been known to very easily sprain my wrist again.

I've never ended up with aching arms or neck with a paperback (well, I have, but that was due to the hours spent reading, not because of the weight of the book). I have never sprained my wrist with a paperback. A paperback never weighs my work bag down.

Hardbacks are also really bloody expensive. Really. Now, I tend to be fairly careful with money, and I don't like spending more money than I have to. So thank god for staff discount, because I swear I simply wouldn't buy hardbacks without it. And even then, I'm still unhappy about the price. I don't want to spend almost £10 on a book. I don't. And when several really awesome books are published around the same time, and you want them all, the money really adds up. Hardbacks really break my bank account.

I know what you're thinking. "If you don't want a hardback, just wait until the book is published in paperback." More often than not, that's a whole year later. A year. You want me to wait an extra year on top, when I've already been dying for this book since it was first announced? You want me to wait a year when other people are reading and raving about it, and I need to know why it's so good? And also, the cover changes for the paperback most of the time, and most of the time, the hardback cover is better! So I have to wait and get a not so pretty cover? Unfair.

I can't wait an extra year! I wish paperbacks were published at the same time as the hardbacks, so that we had a choice. Sure, it's done this way so that publishers make the most profit, but I would always choose the paperback over the hardback if I was given the choice.

Oddly Placed Quotes/Blurbs

To be honest, I'm not that bothered about blurbs from other authors or quotes from reviews (unless they're mine, of course!). They don't really make any difference on whether or not I will buy a book. I have found paying attention to the blurbs to be a little disappointing; I remember reading a book one of my favourite authors blurbed and loved, and really not liking it myself. So, for me personally, I'd be quite happy if there were no blurbs/quotes on the cover  at all. But they don't really bother me either, I just ignore them. Or I do until they are strategically placed so I can't ignore them, and then ruin the cover for me. Case in point:

A Blade so Black by L. L. McKinney Theatrical by Maggie Harcourt

In both cases, there is no ignoring those quotes. I absolutely hate the placement of the quote for A Blade so Black by L. L. McKinney. That is such a gorgeous illustration, and they slap a quote right over it. You can't enjoy that image without seeing the quote. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the illustration, and, therefore, also the quote, and I hate it! It really ruins the cover for me. It's so beautiful, and there's a bloody quote over it! Why?! Why?!

And don't get me started on the quote for Theatrical by Maggie Harcourt. They've made the quote a part of the cover design. They have designed an element of the cover to specifically highlight the quote. Your eye is immediately drawn to that big heart... and it's a quote! No! No, no, no!

If you have to use blurbs/quotes at all, put unobtrusive blurbs/quotes in small font at the top or bottom of the cover. Don't ruin a beautiful cover design with them!

Stickers - Real or Printed

Speaking of ruining covers. I don't mind actual stickers on covers that much, as long as they peel off ok and don't leave sticky residue behind. But do not, for the love of all things bookish, put a sticker on a cover that has the texture of paper. You know the ones that I'm talking about; they're not smooth covers, but feel like paper or kitchen roll tube, slightly rough a dry. Like the cover for Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone. (These covers are a pet peeve of mine themselves, because put a touching them makes my skin crawl. Just like cardboard. *shudders*) Put a sticker on a cover like that, and you have to leave it there, because trying to peel it off will always take some of the cover away with the sticker. The surface of the cover tears and comes away with the sticker, and that is a book ruined. Physically damaged! Do. Not. Do. It.

But printed stickers... man, why can't it just be unobtrusive text, again? I don't care if there is a movie  or TV adaptation being made, or if the book has won awards, or whatever. Don't ruin the cover design by printing a sticker onto the cover! Look at these:

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli As I Descended by Robin Talley

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Aristotle and the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sรกenze really takes the biscuit, but all of them! Stop with the printed on stickers or awards badges or whatever you want to call them! They ruin the look of the book, are really distracting, and I just do not like them! I'm sure there is a better away of saying a book has won awards. Like with a quite. Why not just say so? "Winner of the such and such award 20-whatever" written at the top or bottom of the book, like quotes (speaking of, Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn also has a weirdly placed quote. Get rid of it!). I'm not the only one to have problems with stickers, I know Cait of Paper Fury has mentioned it a fair few times on her blog, this post features one such time. Listen to us, please! Get rid of the stickers!

Diverse Books That Aren't Diverse - or Marginalised Characters Relegated to Secondary Characters

So this is kind of a two-for-one pet peeves. It annoys me when people put books on diverse lists, or suggest "diverse" books when looking for recommendations, and it turns out the marginalised character they're thinking of when calling the book diverse is a secondary character. If the book is not told from the perspective of that character, and that main character, from whose perspective the book is being told from, is not marginalised, it's not a diverse book.

I think this is partly my fault, in that when I use the words "main character", I mean the character from whose perspective the story is being told from. Which obviously isn't exactly correct, because of course Ron and Hermione are main characters in the Harry Potter books, but it's not their perspective. So when I'm asking for recs in future, I should make it clear I'm looking for POV characters. But when they're on lists, that's not down to me not being clear. I don't think we can call a book diverse if the marginalised character isn't telling their story.

Which leads me to my second pet peeve about this; authors making marginalised characters the non-POV main character, like the love interest, or even actual secondary characters. I know this is something that divides people, and so I can understand why. Some people say stay in your lane, so if you're not marginalised in any way, you may not want to write a POV character who is marginalised, but still want the cast of characters of your book to be diverse. But it does sometimes feel to me that marginalised characters are relegated to non-POV main characters or secondary characters, kind of left on the sidelines. And that bugs me.

I have an example that's not a great example, because the POV character is marginalised, but I do think it could have been dual POV book.

The Art of Feeling by Laura Tims

It's The Art of Feeling by Laura Tims. The main character, Sam, has been in a car accident, and now she is disabled, experiences chronic pain, and has depression and anxiety. The guy she meets, Eliot, however, has cognitive insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis (CIPA), which basically means he can't feel pain, nor does his body adapt to changes in temperature (he doesn't sweat when he's hot). Sam's POV is great, and it's a brilliant book, but it would have been so awesome if the book was told from Eliot's perspective as well, because he's such a fascinating and complex character. He has this air of strength, that he doesn't care about anyone's opinions, but he also has this emotional vulnerability, which stems from the way his family has treated him because of his CIPA, and it would have been so great to get into his head.

How to Keep On Rolling After a Fall by Karole Cozzo

Another example - one I have not yet read - is How to Keep On Rolling After a Fall by Karole Cozzo, about a girl, Nikki, whose life is turned upside down when she's blamed for cyber-bullying, though it might not be quite that simple. She expelled from school, her friends don't want to know, and her parents can't deal with her. Then she meets Pax, a wheelchair rugby player who kind of knows what it's like when a mistake changes your life, and refuses to judge her on her past. I am sure Nikki's story is one worth telling, and it actually sounds really intriguing, but I don't really like how Pax, the disabled character, isn't telling his own story. And from the Goodreads description, I'm smelling inspiration porn here, too, which is, in itself, troubling. But I've not read it, so I can't be sure of that.

But do you see what I mean? I want marginalised characters to have their own stories, not a bit part in someone else's.

So those are some of my bookish pet peeves! What are yours? Let me know!

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  1. UGH AT STICKERS. I'm still fuming over my copy of Leah on the Offbeat...why did they have to go ruin it like that. Who huuuurt publishers that they must hurt us back. ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ

    And I totally am torn about your last one there with the diversity! Like I 100% get what you mean, and as a writer, it's a constant worry for me knowing which way to go. Like the "stay in your lane" thing is REALLY big, especially on twitter, and I see people getting so angry (which I find super scary) about authors writing marginalised characters when they themselves aren't marginalised. So like I respect that?? But it's also not fair to see diversity always relegated to the sidelines. So I don't ever want to judge an author's decision on this because there's VERY strong and important feelings for both ways. (And I can't blame an author for wanting to be respectful?) But it's a hard one...๐Ÿ˜”๐Ÿ˜”

  2. Great list!!! and OMG the Stickers - I loathe them so much!

  3. That Aristotle cover is just the epitome of sticker torturousness! WHY?!?!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction