The thing that comes with being a huge book nerd is that you're passionate. Positively and negatively. I could rave about The Book Thief for hours, but on the flip side of that I have a lot of emotions about the books I don't like. So why not rant about it here?
1. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Ugh. This book. When my high school English teacher presented this book to the class, she opened by telling us it was a 'best-selling novel'. Well, I consider this best-selling novel the worst I've ever read. No character within the pages is likeable in the slightest, which is a recurring theme in this list.
Please, people, name your characters. Especially your protagonist. This is not a y/n situation. Some would argue that the point of not naming the protagonist was that she has no identity other than being Mrs. De Winter. I read somewhere that Daphne du Maurier just couldn't think of a name. This book was published in the 1930s so I should cut it some slack. But sixteen year old me hated this book.
My main gripe with this book was that I found the main (nameless) character incredibly dull and weak. She's a total pushover, completely riddled with self-doubts in a totally non-sympathetic way. Which is ironic to me given that this was on the booklist at an all-girls school with a tradition of sitting the grade elevens down before formal season and lecturing them about not valuing their appearance over their grades. Then there's Maxim. He's the worst, the absolute worst. What a dick. You can argue the relationship is a product of its era, however it's toxicity is so very palpable throughout the novel that all I wanted and all that would have redeemed the protagonist in my eyes was for her to kill Maxim and run off into the sunset. Had Maxim and the protagonist been likeable or had a healthy relationship that the reader could root for again the destructive power of the dead Rebecca, this novel could have been alright. As it was, I didn't care in the slightest about any of the characters and thought they were all terrible. Actually, that's a lie. I cared about them in the sense that I wanted them all to be miserable because I was miserable reading this book.
2. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
As a general rule, I can't stand stream-of-consciousness writing. I feel like bad grammar and sentence structure completely distract me from the plot.
I read this book for a uni class I took a few years ago, Youth and Children's Writing (it doesn't exist anymore, a symptom of my uni and their apparent desire to make everyone graduate with outdated degrees but that's a rant for another day...). The course was fantastic, however I really had the urge to hurl this book out a window silver-linings-playbook-style. That's mostly because of the style of writing. I've never liked stream-of-consciousness writing but it's even worse when the characters consciousness is a mess and they're so intensely unlikeable. This book has been praised for its portrayal of Daisy as a girl living with mental illness and for its depiction of love in times of survival. I, however, think Daisy's character only fuels the stigma around mental illness as she's portrayed as almost 'quirky' for it. Also, she's just a terrible person who blatantly says that she doesn't care about the people dying because they were probably boring accountants anyway. Yes, that's the kind of attitude we want to impart in the children. And the kissing your cousins thing. Books about survival have existed to spark discussion about the lengths humans will go to since we first put pen to paper. But this book is set in modern-day England, where it's not even legal let alone socially acceptable or understandable to have romantic relationships with your cousins. Also, there were plenty of other survivors left, let's be real. Their relationship began before their situation turned sour. It wasn't about survival, not even a little. Ugh, god I forgot how gross this book made me feel. I'm gonna go shower for twelve years.
Oh, and I forgot to mention. There's telepathy. Just thrown in there for a little something-something extra. It's a big nope from me.
3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I know, it's a classic. A ridiculous amount of people call it their favourite book. But I just don't like F. Scott Fitzgerald's writing. He was trying way too hard to make people think he was smart.
Yeah, yeah, the movie was alright. Pretty to look at. It can be argued its purpose is to give the reader a window into the era and the excess and whatnot. But I still hate all the characters and I'm still mad about it. What's with old books having such unlikeable characters? I loved the name Daisy before this book, this book ruined that for me.
4. The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Ugh. I picked this up after reading The Great Gatsby because I hoped that maybe one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s other works might live up to the hype. As it turned out, this book sucked too. They literally sail off into the sunset after being arseholes the entire book, in which nothing other than them being pretentious, entitled arseholes happens. Yes, it can be argued again that it’s a nice insight into that class in that era, but it’s also the product of a self-satisfied man trying to prove his intelligence. Apparently it’s based on F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda? They sound lovely.
5. Girl Online by Zoe Sugg
Ghost writer. Is that enough said? If it isn't, I also found this book to be a bit infantile. The plot screamed fanfiction and the writing just wasn't that good. It's frustrating that she got a publishing deal pretty much solely because of her online following and not for her talent. The entire era of youtubers getting book deals made me want to scream. The characters in this book aren’t entirely unlikeable but the plot isn’t believable in the slightest and after reading the book I was left with a feeling that I can only describe as ‘meh’.
6. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Don't kill your protagonist off. Just don't do it. Yes, it's shocking and the internet will talk about it for months, but doing things purely for shock value is just lazy. I loved the first book in this series and was so completely let down by this book. What's with YA series ending terribly?
Tris' death achieved nothing and other plot choices could have solved the situation more effectively without being an unrealistically happy ending. The first two books were likeable enough, and I cheered this series on for finally having a female protagonist who had a relatable level of anger over the injustices she suffered. However, this book comes across as thrown together in an attempt to earn money and attention for the radical choice of ending. The world-building explanations fall flat and arguably this book only serves to bring the world she built crashing down.
7. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
It's not even the plot material that I truly hate about this book. Though, just to be clear, the plot's gross. But honestly I just really hated the actual writing of this book. I don't need to read a hundred pages of you describing the mountains. I don't care.
8. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
I should first say that this is one of the oldest books in existence, so you have to cut it some slack. That being said, I still didn't like it. I'm just glad we've come along way in terms of writing since the 18th century.
I went through a phase of trying to read all the classics. I had to make myself sit down for an hour per day to read my self-assigned quarter of this book so I could get through it. It wasn’t an enjoyable read, but I felt like I needed to finish the book in order to be able to justify my dislike. The plot is interesting enough, which is why it’s so dumbfounding that the book is so bland. Fifty pages are spent on years of action before Defoe spends near two hundred pages talking about how Robinson brought what he could from the shipwreck onto the island. Then he finds God, and it’s how that’s written rather than the actual religious aspect of it that makes it so hard to read. I’ll admit I resorted to skimming over those pages because it was just such a struggle to read, with the writing almost nonsensical. Then there’s Robinson Crusoe himself, who so obviously suffers from a superiority complex. He talks about how he’s the ‘king’ of the island and calls his shack his ‘castle’. The main character was unlikeable and the writing mediocre at best.
9. Foe by J. M. Coetzee
Is this book the first even fanfiction? It was published in 1986, so who knows. This book is all over the place, and completely plagiarised the work of Daniel Defoe.
10. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
I used to really passionately dislike this book. Part of me wants to reread it to see how I feel about it now. I quite like John Green, but this book just rubbed me the wrong way as a teenager.
My big gripe with this book was Gus. I didn't understand how such a terrible character like Gus could be so loved by so many. He's the worst. How can so many people defend a character who neglected to tell his sick girlfriend that he had 'lit up like a Christmas tree' when scanned for cancerous tumours? Not only that, but he then proceeded to sleep with her, presumably so he could get laid before he died. What a stand-up guy.
11. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
I read this book in high-school for English class and all I remember of it was utter dislike, that I wanted him to shut up about the science and that I wished we’d been given 1984.
P.S. Honourable mention to The Cursed Child because it’s not really a book but it’s the worst. We all know why.