Do Not Resuscitate

It’s midnight. The story is starting to feel stale, the characters flat, and the world dull. The book is going to flatline. Code blue. You break out the paddles and desperately try to jolt some life back into it, dammit, but there’s no pulse, no hope. Time of death: 12:01.

Alright, maybe I’ve been watching too much Grey’s Anatomy lately (sorry not sorry) but I think every reader can relate to this. There are some books that start off great, but lose you as time goes on. Others never quite draw you in, and some books are just too awful to keep reading at all.

I’m incredibly stubborn, and it applies to books too. Maybe because I’m a writer myself, and I just hate to give up on someone’s story. Maybe I refuse to give up just for curiosity’s sake, or because each book finished feels like a small accomplishment.

But sometimes, no matter how many times I try to shock it back to life, there’s no hope. I just can’t make myself like this book enough to finish it.

In the book world, this is known as DNF, or Do Not Finish. But in my head, I think of it as DNR, or Do Not Resuscitate, because Grey’s Anatomy and it sounds so much cooler 🙂

It’s rare that I DNR a book because A: I’m stubborn and B: it makes me feel bad (guilty, sad, some combination of the two) but there are three major things that make me put a book down.

First would be voice. If I don’t like the voice of the writing, or the main character, so much so that it interferes with the story, I’ll stop reading. Second would be characters. If there’s no one I like enough to become invested in, I can’t really care about the story, no matter how cool. Last is one I find particularly in YA: same old, same old. By this I mean “____ was just a normal teen until ___” or some canned romance about shy awkward girl meeting mysterious bad boy and being incapacitated by his attractiveness. Or any cheesy, unrealistic romance in general (there’s a lot of those) or any weak female protagonist (especially when she’s weak because of a guy or love).

I’m struggling with this right now. I’m reading a book (won’t name any names) that has a pretty great story and world, but the romance is just such a heavy part of it, and it’s really just another bad teen romance where hey, we should be thinking about saving the world and everything, but we can’t because ooh, you’re so pretty so let’s just makeout some more and hope the world saves itself (gag)

So, what do you think? Are you a firm believer in reading a book to the bitter end, no matter how bad–or do you have a DNR pile as long as your TBR? Have you DNR’ed a book recently, and what made you stop reading?

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37 thoughts on “Do Not Resuscitate

  1. I’m like you, I hate not finishing books. There are few books I have not finished once I started reading. Little Women was the first book ever that I stopped reading, I hated it, and it didn’t end the way I had thought it should. Lately I only got about 80 pages into A Winter’s Tale and called it quits because nothing had happened, it was awful – the writer is one of those that just like to use big words and elaborate descriptions, which I know there is a niche for that, but it’s not me. Regretfully the others that I haven’t finished lately were Madeline Albright’s bio – too political, not enough history for me; and I haven’t finished B. J. Novak’s short stories yet.

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    • I definitely understand that! Maybe I should have added that to the list, but I don’t think I ever pick up a book that’s all big words and long descriptions in the first place. Honestly, that’s a lot of why I read YA because I think a lot of adult books are more guilty of that. I can appreciate it sometimes but I just don’t have the patience for a whole book of it! Thanks for commenting 🙂

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      • I certainly understand, I read as a reprieve from my job and daily stresses, I don’t want to read something that is going to sap what little brain power is left at the end of the day!

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  2. Victoria – I try so hard to finish buy sometimes I break down and skim. I struggle with language. Constant, unnecessary adverbs bring me to me knees. Strong language is so very important.

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  3. I DNR books on whims sometimes, others I’ll stick it out. Most of the time, however, when I stick it out, I just end up hating the book for wasting my time and wishing I’d DNR’d it instead.

    It doesn’t take much for me to make that call, either. My TBR list is so long – and I’m such an involved (read: slow) reader – that I really just shrug and move on to the next one in hopes of getting a better story.

    Dealbreakers: voice, yes; also, though: bad or no editing; the storylines you named above; vapid or bad or no characterization; authors using characters as puppets to soapbox their beliefs; a lack of imagination; certain words; anything, really.

    I’m picky and critical. :]

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    • Haha! You’re much more ruthless than I am, though I wish I could do it more often. I just feel so guilty for not finishing a book (no clue why) so it’s rare that I do. Maybe it’s the same reason I can’t not finish a TV show, even if it’s terrible, because I just have to finish it. I absolutely agree though, and wish I could be more picky and critical, or at least less stubborn so I could give up on ones I know I don’t like 🙂

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  4. Looooads of DNRs lately (or DFKs: Delete From Kindles), on account of really conscientiously trying to read some other indie authors.
    I am a huge fan of the DIY style of publishing (I’m planning to take a hybrid approach) but I think it’s really a shame that so many authors are kinda leaping into it without getting some serious re-writes done first (not edits, editing is easy. I’m talking full-on, rip-it-apart-and-do-it-better, WWPD [WhatWouldPixarDo] re-writes). I’m going to keep at it though, because the few books that worked for me have rocked my world in a big way.
    Haven’t had many trad-published DNRs. It usually takes a lot for me to pick up a new author in a book store.
    Long story short: – I reckon there’s no shame in failing to finish. You gave the book a chance by picking it up, and the author blew it.

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    • Haha, I like that! Though I tend to DNR on Kindle less, since I usually download the sample first and it’s enough to tell whether I like it. Sometimes, though the sample is deceptively good and I end up hating it haha. I absolutely agree though. I think that’s why I’ve gotten turned off of a lot of Kindle/indies, because I ended up reading a lot that really hadn’t gone through as much of the process as they should have before putting it out there. It feels disappointing because they have so much potential, if they’d just spent some more time or gotten more input or evaluation. Physical books also cost a lot more so a lot more goes into the decision to buy and to quit reading. There’s no shame, but I still feel guilty. Maybe the blew it, but I still feel bad. Oh, well 🙂

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      • Exactly! It’s the potential that makes it so hard. You can see what the book could, should have been… Aww haha your heart is too big 🙂
        DNR all the way. Wheeee!

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  5. I definitely think we don’t give up because as writers, we understand how much work goes into a manuscript and we keep wanting the story to redeem itself (: We think, “Oh gosh, so much time and energy and editing was put into this it has to get better!” And sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. I always read books till the end (unless it’s Fifty Shades of Grey – stopped after five pages and I’m not afraid to admit it), even when I know I won’t suddenly start loving the story 3/4 of the way through. It definitely goes back to that “I understand you put SO MUCH work into this, fellow author” feeling I get while reading.

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    • Yes! Maybe it’s because I can sympathize too much. I’m also too forgiving, I think. 🙂 Haha, oh I don’t blame you for that at all. But that is one of my problems, too, is there have been some stories that took me at least halfway to really get invested and start to like. So that’s another reason, I keep holding out hope that it will get better, even if the meantime I can’t stand it. Haha! Thanks for commenting 🙂

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  6. Right now I’m reading a book I really should give up on. The thing is the book had so much potential and was a GREAT idea. Now I’m pretty much hate-reading it. I tell myself it’s constructive because I’m mentally red penning it and it’s good practice for editing my own work. I’m not sure it’s the perfect solution…buuuuut it’s working for now!

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    • I hate that! It’s even worse when you love the concept, and it has potential, but they just ruined it. Haha, hate-reading. I like that 🙂 Hey! It could definitely be constructive, if you’re learning all the things you don’t like. Then apply that to your own work. When it’s our own, we have blinders on, but if you notice it reading other books, you can apply it to your own 🙂 Haha, thanks for commenting!

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  7. The watchers – dean Koonz – I was with the guy who lost his wife but found solace with the aid of an escaped intelligent lab dog all the way , until love interest ,mousy Dora , who falls in love with said guy (yawn) began teaching said mutt with signs. Not to mention the hit man – sent to destroy mutt and all evidence is suddenly revealed to be a secret serial killer just waiting for the chance to kill an unborn child …wtf ….DNR /\_/\_/\___________.

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  8. No matter how hard I try, if something shows up in the novel that turns me off of it (whether it’s the characters voice, or something like you said, lovey-dovey romance overshadowing the plot) I can’t finish it. I’ve tried. Several times. I just can’t. My brain won’t let me. My DNR list isn’t as long as I expected, but that’s probably because I’ve started to read the beginning of every novel before I buy them, as a precaution…

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    • I can totally understand! I wish I could, I’m really just too stubborn. But I’ve also started reading more of them before I buy, or downloading the Kindle sample before I buy the real book, since I can read more of it that way. I think that has helped my DNR list quite a lot.

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  9. I love Faulkner, but I gave up on his novel, The Sound and the Fury. It’s written in stream of consciousness and he alternates from past to present without telling you. I couldn’t even read that book with Cliff Notes XD I like abstract but it was too much. Funny how that is one of the books he is most famous for. That’s been the only book I gave up on. What happens more often is that I start a book, get distracted, and then don’t come back to it.

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  10. Yes. I’ve tried to stick some out to the bitter end, but it’s so hard. Usually, I’ll skip ahead, skim, anything to get the general idea of what the book is about. Usually, if I can’t get into a book by the 40% mark, it goes on the DNR pile. For me, if the voice of the character isn’t strong enough and doesn’t engage me, I’ll struggle. I had that issue with the last book I read, and I’m starting to have it now with my current read. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Sometimes books just don’t appeal to us. I’d rather focus on what I like rather than spending more time on something I think is a struggle.

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  11. Not finishing a book is something I’ve done only once in my life and after that I think I didn’t pick up another book for a while because I was scared I’d do it again… I think I just lost interest in it, though I’m not sure why. The plot might have dragged a little or the characters might have fallen flat or the setting just wasn’t doing it for me. Voice is hardly ever something that makes me stop reading because I enjoy reading different narration styles, so I like even the weirdest of voices. Great post, but I’ll have to continue being stubborn and finishing all of my books 😛

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    • I also definitely appreciate different voices and narration, but if it’s something I find annoying or unrealistic, or boring, those are definite turn-offs for me. Haha, I’m by no means saying you should give up on books. Good for you for finishing 🙂

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  12. I’ll read a book to the bitter end because my curiosity takes over. But, if it doesn’t get any better, I pull my hair out while doing so.

    Keep smiling,
    Yawatta

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  13. Usually to the detriment of my sanity, I will stick with a book through thick and thin (especially if I bought it, because let’s face it, I don’t want it to have been a total financial loss!) no matter how terrible. I read this Godawful book a few months ago by a really popular author, and struggled (and skipped a few pages…) through it, then got to the end and felt as though a literal weight had been lifted from my soul, haha. That was pretty bad!

    I think DNR is a much better term than DNF, just FYI 😉 Let’s get that trending, Victoria!

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  14. I read most to the end, but a little speed reading does sneak in on the really dreadful ones. The next two books on my TBR list are huge so they better be good. On a side note a little CPR does wonders on characters that have flatlined. 🙂

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    • I’m a big culprit of speed-reading. I can’t help it, when I’m starting to lose a book. I think that’s my CPR, actually. Trying to get through to a part that I can like again. But it doesn’t always work! Sometimes though, I can get past the part and find something to draw me in again, and the paddles shock it back to life 🙂

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  15. It’s rare that I don’t finish a book, but in general I feel like life is too short to read really egregious writing. I am more likely to abandon a book that leaves me confused or indifferent, than I am to abandon one that makes me passionately angry.

    That said, I can count on two hands the number of books I have DNF’d over the last twenty years. That’s pretty decent odds. And I can count on one hand the books I have hated, but finished purely so I could write a scathing review. 😀

    Reading good books is important, as a writer. But so is reading bad books. Bad books teach you what *not* to do, and throw the good ones into sharper relief.

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    • I think you have a really good point there! I am definitely more likely to put down a book that is confusing or boring, or just doesn’t make me care, than a book I hate. An example would be Froi of the Exiles. I had a really love/hate relationship with it. One second I loved it, the next I hated it, but the whole time it still made me feel something, and something strong. That’s why I read it through to the end, though it was somewhat painful getting there. Haha! There’s another good motivation to finish 😉 Yes! What a great point, too. We always need perspective, and to keep learning, both good and bad. 🙂

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  16. I always finish all the books I read. Most of the time. Sometimes, if it’s truly awful, I’ll stop. Just curious, what book are you talking about? I’m dying to know… I’ll DNR a book if it’s something truly, truly awful. I honestly can’t remember the last thing I DNR’ed.

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