I have a confession. I’m not proud of it (but I’m not ashamed either.) I’m not flaunting it. It’s just part of who I am. I’m going to take a deep breath and type it very quickly, the textual equivalent of ripping off a band-aid.
I probably hate your favorite book. Don’t worry, and please don’t take it personally. There are many, many reasons for me to hate your favorite book. And I’m prepared to list and discuss them all. Or at least the most important. BUT don’t worry. At the end of this post, I’m prepared to give you a list of books to try and also hate.
So now, without further ado, these are actual reasons I have hated somebody’s favorite book.
1. The story just pissed me off
Ex: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
I have been sitting on this hatred for this book for literally a year. Seriously. Facebook memories informed me recently that I read this book a year ago. And I hated it the entire time. But I was listening to one of my favorite bookish podcasts, “What Should I Read Next” and a woman whose opinion I really respected said this was one of her favorite books. Something about it made me want to get it, even though the angel Anne Bogel mentioned it was not her favorite Meg Wolitzer. I even wasted an Audible credit on this garbage. Here’s the deal, though. I’m still triggered over this book. I still hate it. I still think about how none of the characters learned their lessons. I’m still angry about how this story played out. I still think about Jules and her cohorts and it pisses me off all over again. That’s the sign of a well-written book. The characters were real. They were awful. They all needed spankings and time outs (I’m a good southern boy who still believes in the power of a good swat). But they stuck with me.
2. The characters were unbelievable
Ex: I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin
Full disclosure: I got this book earlier this year through NetGalley before its release. I was not paid for my review or my reading. All I got was a free book to give my opinion on. And I’m still not sure what my opinion is. What I know is that the characters were larger than life and I hated that.
So, if you’re not familiar with the book, it’s an epistle. It’s told through emails and text messages. There are links to web articles. It’s very “You’ve Got Mail” inspired, but with this edgy teen-drama twist where one of the characters is exploring her sexuality and the other is suffering from mental health issues. And here’s where my issues develop. First off, these are issues that need to be discussed. I believe that sexuality is something that people need to be more open about. I teach teenagers. I know teens suffer from the inability to connect to anybody or talk to anybody about the questions they have about sexuality. Having a book that openly discusses that is awesome. And mental health is definitely something that needs to be talked about. I believe wholeheartedly in attacking these topics up front. BUT for most of the book, it seemed that these things–the mental health and the sexuality–are what defined the characters. And that was the biggest shortcoming of this book for me. People are more complex than that. Characters have to be defined by more than their mental health status, their sexuality, their gender, their race, or any one characteristic. They’re complex and need to be treated that way.
3. The narrative style of a book is insufferable
ex: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
I’m not going into this. My keyboard will literally break.
4. You only read this to be an “intellectual.”
ex: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Seriously, who reads this with the intent of cozying up by a fire and enjoying your free afternoon? You wanna know the answer? Nobody. Nobody does that. The person who reads this book and claims it as their favorite is just trying to prove that they are an intellectual and smarter and better than everybody around them. And you know what, they’re not. They’re not smarter or better. They may be intelligent. They may be successful. But they’re not better than me. Or you. Or anybody. And they’re definitely no friends of mine.
5. It’s the wrong time for me
ex: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Okay, so this book is my worst kind of favorite book to hate. Because I really, really loved it when I finally got into it. The thing is, though, sometimes books have to come to you at the right time. I tried three times to read All the Bright Places before it finally stuck. I gave up three times. It was that fourth time that was the charm. And the only reason I stuck it out was because the angel Anne Bogel suggested it so fervently on an episode of “What Should I Read Next?” If she had not, I would have peaced out after the first failed attempt. So no, I do not hate this book. But I did thrice before I loved it. Maybe it was just Stockholm Syndrome?
6. The content was too triggering and should have been reconsidered
ex: 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Teenage suicide as a means of revenge should not be a plot device for a book. Teenage suicide as a means of revenge should not be a plot device for a book. Teenage suicide as a means of revenge should not be a plot device for a book.
Once more for the people in the back: Teenage suicide as a means of revenge should not be a plot device for a book.
There. I’ve said my peace.
Now, here’s a list of my favorite books I read in the past year. Maybe you can find something to hate as well:
January: Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
February: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
March: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
April: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
May: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
June: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
July: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
August: Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Artella
September: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grisson
October: Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel
November: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
December: The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
The Plucky Reader