TOP 10 PET PEEVES IN LITERATURE

At times, our dislike of a book or a part of a book is so profound and so incomprehensible that it's difficult to express why it is exactly that we dislike it. It goes beyond any one particular fault, or any one expectation we had which the book had failed.

But for those times when we know exactly what it is about a book that's bothering us, we turn to various literary faults and personal pet peeves. Some are rational, some less so. Some are personal to us and our reading experiences, while some are more global and widespread. (We are yet to meet a reader who consciously loves to read about Mary Sues.)

So this Monday, we are choosing the ten pet peeves which irk us the most, and which considerably lessen our enjoyment of a book which falls prey to them.






1. Unwittingly judgmental characters

Chosen by: Lexie

At times, the whole premise of a story is based around characters who are quick to judge and quick to condemn, only to discover the error of their ways (see Pride and Prejudice). These are not the stories which incite this pet peeve. These are the stories to applaud for the way they subvert this judgmental trope.

The stories which do incite this pet peeve are the kind where characters (often protagonists) unwittingly display shocking prejudice, bias and hatred/condemnation of others without ever becoming aware of it. Not only do they not change their ways before the end of the novel - this tendency is never even acknowledged. Oftentimes, it is the case of a character reflecting the author's own opinion of a certain group of people, and/or an attempt made by the author to have a character be better/superior/more morally sound than other characters in the novel by pointing out how wrong everyone else is, and how right the protagonist is by consequence.

Whatever the case, it is a pet peeve which never succeeds in producing the desired effect. And it results in some truly, truly alarming reading experiences which outrage many.

Example: "And then there is [Character], wearing her usual whorish dress so short that she doesn't need to bend over for everyone in the room to see that she doesn't wear panties. [...] [Character] is a woman, but she doesn't deserve to be treated like one and it's her own fault."



2. Book filler AKA Unnecessary drama

Chosen by: Natalie

You're reading a book and you're wondering "Where the hell is this book actually going?" because nothing is making sense. It's not even necessary to the plot, but that's because the publishers have told the author that they can drag this out for another four books. Do they have enough story to write that many books? Doesn't even matter. They'll just come up with as many dramatic events possible to put in there, which I call a book filler. The worst offender in this category which I have come across? The 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. E.L James could have told what she wanted to tell in one book, but she didn't. She took three books to get her point across. Car chases, kidnappings, helicopter crashes, stalkers, attempted murder, cheating accusations... ridiculousness ensues. And none of it was even remotely important to the story. 
As far as I'm concerned, this trend needs to stop.

Example: As already stated, 50 Shades of Grey.



3. Mary Sue protagonists

Chosen by: Lexie

As most of the pet peeves on this list, a Mary Sue feels like it should be a given. A protagonist should in theory never be a holier-than-thou goodie-two-shoes author's wish fulfillment. A character's flaws should be more severe than occasionally saying the wrong thing, and that their intrinsic dilemmas should extend beyond which of their many suitors to date/please/pacify. Mary Sues often consider themselves to be (below) average in terms of intellect, beauty, social skills, et cetera, only to have it transpire that they are in fact the world's most intelligent, beautiful, quirky, fascinating character to ever live (bonus points if there's some sort of a destined for greatness plotline supporting this assertion). While they're busy wallowing in their various existential crises over not being the most objectively alluring person in the world, suitors are lining up on their door, and One Direction are serenading them beneath their bedroom window ("Oh! You don't know you're beautiful!"), and the world is prostrating itself at their feet. But life is hard for a Mary Sue. Because while everybody thinks they're so perfect, they do occasionally trip (gasp!) - a hamartia if ever there was one.

I don't think I need to go into why this is a pet peeve, really.

Example: Dare we even say it?



4. Overused words/plots

Chosen by: Natalie

This mostly goes to New Adult books and Young Adult. The one word I see as being overused the most severely is 'broken' (in a figurative, metaphorical context). And whenever I see that word, I shudder. I have to put the book down and sigh because it's ridiculously overused! This then usually leads to an overused plot where 'the broken virgin girl who spends her time reading meets a handsome manwhore jock'. A straightforward example of how cliches breed larger cliches. I have to admit, whenever I pick up a new book, I always hope this one stands out from the rest, in that it's low on cliches and high on originality. Sometimes they do stand out, but most of the time, they really, really don't.
And with Young Adult dystopia, for example, very often the plot revolves around a 'random poor girl who ends up being the only one who can stop the controlling government from taking over'. We've also read this before many times. And said protagonist is nearly always seventeen.

Example: New Adult: Pretty much all of them
Young Adult: Dystopia



5. Infinity series

Chosen by: Lexie

In today's era of duologies, trilogies, tetralogies, sagas, chronicles, cycles and other bookish shapes, this pet peeve feels a bit like treason when stated outright. But stick with us. This blog is primarily centered around Middle Grade, Young Adult and New Adult literature, where series are increasingly prevalent. As such, some of our favorite books in the world constitute (parts of) various book series, and we love and cherish them in their totality. It's not series in and of themselves that constitute this pet peeve. It's several other things:

a) Duologies/trilogies that could easily have been condensed to one book;
b) Series which end, but then get "rebooted" and have more sequels added after this natural ending;
c) Series that just won't end.

In the event of (a), it's usually the pacing that suffers the most. They feature clusters of chapters which don't seem to add anything to the overall story, or any individual character development. They drag out, they end as they began, and we are left wondering why a good editor didn't insist on condensing the series into a solid, properly-paced single volume.
In the event of (b), adding further conflict after a story which was entirely resolved (and character arcs which came to their natural ending) usually ends up decreasing our enjoyment of the whole series in retrospect. Whatever kind of ending the series had previously had, it was an ending. It brought the story and its components to a conclusion, we'd reconciled it all in our hears, and now we are lead to believe that in this author's mind, endings aren't necessarily endings at all. If they start to fear venturing into a new territory now that a series is over, if they fear their success with a new book won't be the same as with the old one, they'll just come back to it and stay in this nice comfort zone forever... much to the dismay of their readers.
And finally, in the event of (c)... well, this one is pretty self-explanatory. After awhile, both the author and the series have run out of steam. The plot has been finished and then forcibly restarted five times over, the characters have been so altered that they're unrecognizable from the first books, and readers frequently pick up those first few books and sigh nostalgically: "It was so good back then. I forgot how much sense it made."

Example: (a) The Selection, (b) The Selection, The Shadowhunter Chronicles, (c) The Shadowhunter Chronicles. But that's just me.




6. Cover changes/Stickers

Chosen by: Natalie

You're invested in an awesome series, you have the whole collection that's out so far on your bookshelf, and they're looking proud and beautiful. Then the publishers decide to change the covers. Mid-series. Why they ever think this is a good idea is anybody's guess. People who are loyal fans want the complete set that matches. See, I have this issue with a few of my favourite series, and because they're my favourite, I will go and buy the books again for a matching set. Yes, I'm one of those people. I wish I wasn't. But I am.
And it's not just that. You go and buy the new covers and there's something in the way. A big, huge sticker stuck right on the front cover. You have to carefully peel that off so as to not damage the book, but carefully or not, there is always that sticky residue left.


Example: The UK covers for the Unearthly series are no longer matching. I have to order the US books when I already have Unearthly UK edition. 



7. Villains ex machina

Chosen by: Lexie

This pet peeve often falls under the wider, umbrella pet peeve we call "Unnecessary drama," and which was Natalie's #3 pick on this list. But this pet peeve is a bit more specific than that one. Here we are referring to those secondary characters who serve no other purpose than to stall/slow/disrupt the plot. Their primary motivation being "I must cause chaos, because... reason," they are illogical, irritating and feel like cheap tools rather than actual three-dimensional characters. These are the mean blonde ex-girlfriends (who characters from Pet Peeve #1 frequently refer to as whores, bimbos or sluts) who will just pop up halfway into a book and try to break the couple up (because reason!). These are the villains in paranormal novels who will also just pop up halfway into a book and announce that they are on the dark side, usually with a personal hatred of the protagonist (because reason!) and wreak havoc without ever explaining their motivation for doing so. Motives are, in fact, usually absent or poorly explained. Absent also is a wider character arc, a multi-faceted backstory, credible interests apart from causing drama, interpersonal dynamics with other people, and any nuanced, measured behavior that can't be subtitled as MWAHAHAHAHA in our heads.

Example: James from Twilight



8. Unfinished endings

Chosen by: Natalie

Sometimes, you are about to finish this series which you've been reading for a while. It's going great, so many awesome things are happening and then... it just stops. Wait, where's the rest of my book? I paid good money for this and the author can't be bothered to finish it? Why?! We paid for a story, we want to know what happens. And we naturally expect for the author to wrap the story up rather than ourselves. I've read books like this and I've also heard of others like this, but the main one I've heard complained about for this one is the ending of the Delirium series. I mean, some people invest a lot of time and money into a book series, grow to love the characters, and the story is incredibly gripping, and then nothing. Indecisiveness in its true form. The general consensus being: either finish the series or don't even bother starting it. If it's one of those endings where the author can't quite decide how to finish, well, my advice is to just finish it. It is as simple as that. Okay, how about we have rocks falling and everyone dies? Or that the protagonist ends up having a sex change and marrying their mortal enemy? Perfect.
No, give us a proper ending.

Example: Requiem 



9. The change

Chosen by: Lexie

The concept of the change has been given a second wind recently predominantly by Contemporary Romance. It is rooted in the message a person should put up with being mistreated, abused, or in unhealthy relationships, because eventually the abused will change the abuser and redeem them through love and/or sex. Naturally, this is an effort which never works in real life (originally, this sentence said almost never, but the almost has been deliberately removed; the belief in the almost is precisely what fuels books with this message), and usually results in psychological and physical injury, lasting trauma, death, prison or therapy for one or both people in this type of a relationship. (We are not, in fact, kidding at all.) But in literature, it's a concept so popular, it seems downright plausible. Perpetuating these dynamics and portraying them as desirable, romantic and acceptable is an issue which goes way beyond a literary pet peeve, of course. But nowhere have I come across it more than in literature in the past several years. Like my #1 pick, it is not something that is ever addressed as negative, or where a character eventually realizes that it is not okay to be abused. Rather, they take great pride and joy in having changed the abuser and in having been so pitiful that eventually the abuser got to feel sorry for them, or love them (usually followed by "in their own way"). Pay close attention to the example below. It's a quote from a traditionally published romance series hailed as romantic and unforgettable.


Example: "I don't want to appear alarmed by his sudden threats, because I know that he means them in a loving way."



10. Reader shaming

Chosen by: Natalie

This is a pet peeve borne from personal experience which resurfaces every time I dislike an author who everybody else loves. I often feel like I am put to shame because I don't like them, and am made to feel bad for not being a part of such a massive fandom. The reaction is always the same: well, excuuuuuuuse me that I dislike their writing style! I don't think it's fair that I'm made into some kind of a villain because I don't adhere to the 'current trend'. I have usually read at least three of this author's books. I have given them a chance, and I still don't get the hype. In situations like those, getting slagged off isn't really fair. We can't all like the same thing. If we do, would there even be variety? It would be just the same thing over and over again. I know many people who dislike the Harry Potter series, and because I love it, it doesn't mean my friends have to love it, too. If they don't, that's okay. We all have different tastes, and I never judge people on the books they enjoy, as long as they're reading. When I say I don't like this author, I don't stop other people from reading it, it's just not for me.

Example: My dislike of John Green's books. Yeah, sorry but not sorry. Just not my thing.






This was as much a list of things we find to be problematic while reading to a list of things we try our very best to avoid when writing (during, say, NaNoWriMo). So, it is a list with a dual purpose. As such, we hope it meets your expectations. If not, well, feel free to list the pet peeves which we've roused for you in the comments below, or find us on social media to commiserate, complain or conspire. We're feeling like doing co-anything today.

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TOP 10 PET PEEVES IN LITERATURE
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