Chatterbox: Negative Book Triggers

February 13, 2015 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | Books, Chatterbox, Features


After reading Anna and the French Kiss and being surprised by my knee-jerk negative reaction to it, I thought about how everyone has different triggers in books. There are some that are universal, like love triangles or insta-love romances, but others can be a bit more personal based on our thoughts, beliefs and morals which I really can’t stand.

Most of the time, if the book contains something that goes against my sense of morality, I’m probably going to hate it. Depending on how it’s written however, some authors have managed to get away with writing some of these themes and me still loving the book (like Maybe Someday), but that’s rare.

My negative book triggers are:

1. Possessive and controlling men

These love interests borderline on abusive, bullying behaviour! How is stalking, staring at me at night, dictating what I do and following me around meant to make me fall in love with them? Bad boys can still be respectful without being assholes.

These books include: Fifty Shades series, Hush, Hush, Poison Princess

2. Cheating

Cheating is not cool and any love interest or main character that does it, whether emotionally or physically is just off the charts. You do not spend time getting to know someone you are attracted when they have a girlfriend/boyfriend/partner! It’s just asking for trouble.

These books include: Anna and the French Kiss, One Tiny Lie, Since You’ve Been Gone

3. Lack of retribution 

Books where the bad guys never get punished for their crimes just leave this nasty, disturbing impression on me. I need justice dammit!

These books include: The Lovely Bones

4. Anti-feminist heroines 

Bella Swan, eat your heart out. I don’t need no whiny weak female characters who have nothing else to do but swoon at Prince Charming waiting to be saved them from their miserable lives.

These books include: Of Poseidon, Twilight, Ink

5. Kids overpowering/outsmarting adults 

I know YA is all about empowering teenagers, but come on people. A group of teenagers overthrowing an entire government without help from adults is a bit of a stretch.

These books include: Panic

6. Poor world building in a dystopian or fantasy novel 

We pick up these stories because the worlds sound fascinating, and without unique and original world building, you’re just going to sound like every other one that is out there.

These books include: Red Queen, RebootTalon, This Wicked Game

What are your negative book triggers that will guarantee you hating a book?

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.


79 responses to “Chatterbox: Negative Book Triggers

  1. Oh yes, poor world building is a big put off for me, especially in fantasy because I find it to be something vital and necessary for the story! As well as that, I hate it when the men are too controlling, or if the characters are simply rude and never get told off for it >.>
    My recent post The Glass Arrow (Review & Giveaway!)

  2. Yes, yes, yes and yes! All of this is so true and they're such turn-offs. Possessive men are probably the worst. I can't stand it when the female lead is a complete push over and can't stand up for herself. Kids outsmarting adults is just hilarious. In real life half the stuff in YA could not happen but of course you have to keep in mind it's fiction. Cheating is a no-no, if it's not acceptable in real life, why should it be acceptable in a novel!

    Some great points Jeann!
    xx Francoise
    My recent post Top Ten Tuesday

    • Hehe you are so right about a lot of it not being able to happen in real life, although sometimes I have to suspend my disbelief lol. Totally agreed with your thoughts on possessive men and cheating! Thanks lovely!

  3. Hmmm poor world building is on my list, instalove is also on my list, but I will read it, if it's well written.

    I read half a series once…the first book was so good and wonderful and I loved it. The second book was so horrifically sexist, racist and also contained surprise!paedophilia, it was my first DNF. The first two things I could have handled, the third? Nope. I was disgusted and horrified and ANGRY. That is a major trigger for me, major major trigger.

    I can joke about hating some books, (eg: Twilight, I enjoyed some aspects of it, and I don't like a lot about it, however I don't *hate* it). But this book just brought out pure hatred, I've never felt so strongly about a novel before or since :/ I actually toyed with the idea of setting it on fire, however I put it in the recycling bin instead.
    My recent post Book Review: Just Pru by Anne Pfeffer

  4. #1! At my FEMINIST GIRL'S SCHOOL people are writing stuff on the communal white boards about how romantic they think Fifty Shades is, and it's just like, NO! NO! Fifty Shades is a story about psychological abuse, not romance.
    #2 I honestly just ignore, because usually if it is the sort of relationship where the people are jerks, I don't care about their romance anyways.
    4 and 5 can be annoying, and 6 definitely drives me crazy and is sort of the reason why I don't read much dystopian anymore.
    My recent post Reading Recommendations: Lovely Couples

  5. Faye M.

    Many of these are the stuff that piss me off so much, too! If a book has cheating, then I'm sorry, it won't receive any more than 4 stars for me. I just can't tolerate that shit. Weak and doormat heroines are not the kind I love reading, either. and YES to shaky world-building! Especially if it's sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal-ish etc. I mean character development is everything, but I need the world to make sense, too. Otherwise, it can be one of the many reasons I may feel later detached.
    My recent post Review + PH Giveaway: Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes

    • Yeah, books that have these things will make me rate them poorly I think. Doormat heroines is the perfect way to describe it lol

  6. Being only a fiction reader, there's not much that would make me automatically refuse or hate any book, apart from wanker authors. Then it's game on. I have a few peeves, cheating, wanker characters, controlling men, piss weak heroines and the vain aspect, horrible book covers. I can't even pick up an ugly looking book. I refuse. I don't want to be reminded of the cover, so I stick to buying those ones on Kindle instead.

    I think Panic is one of the most ridiculous books I've ever read. I hated it. HATED IT. Not even worthy of being used as kindling to be honest. I'm still in awe that you even finished it. I felt like throwing it under a truck.
    My recent post Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

  7. Oh gosh, I don't really think I have any. I can deal with pretty much any type of subject and/or story-line. (I like books that push my morals and challenge me). Sure, I have annoyances, but as to negative triggers, I don't really have any. I do NOT like possessive and controlling guys or anti-feminist heroines.

    There is one topic, though, that I will never be able to read about in books. And that is incest. I just. I can't. I've heard about some amazing books that deal with that subject, but they will never be for me. I steer clear. Also, depending on my mood and how I'm feeling, books that deal with grief and tragedy sometimes make me hesitant to read them because I KNOW they'll hit me harder.

    Wonderful discussion, Jeann! 🙂
    My recent post Be My Valentine

    • *shudders* I've never read a book about incest and gosh, it sounds so disturbing. I've heard good things about Forbidden too, but I just can't bring myself to read it. That's part of the reason why I haven't continued with the city of Bones series. But I know they aren't really brother and sister

  8. So spot on! These are definitely some of my negative book triggers too.

    ESPECIALLY #3. I really hate it when someone does something really bad but it never really gets addressed or there aren't any consequences. For me, there's this book that started out really cute but the protagonist did something I just couldn't abide by.

    And then NO ONE in the book seems to think there's anything wrong with it. :C Ughhhhh!
    My recent post Valentine’s Day with Ana & Dee: Book boyfriends, a giveaway, and dates!

    • Oh gosh, it makes me so annoyed when no one thinks there's anything wrong with it or even worse, when they think it's cute and just brush it off!

  9. I'm so with you. I remember reading Anna for the first time years ago, when I was an itty bitty impressionable gal. I liked it then because, well, there wasn't much going for YA back then LOL But I reread it last year, when I had established myself a bit more–I knew where I lay on certain issues, I was assertive now, you now? And it did not work for me at all. I was shocked. Because I thought, how can this be? I used to love this! But it wasn't what I expected at all. I couldn't stand the cheating. Not at all.

    Anti-feminist books always leave a bad taste in my mouth. I guess I'm so much more passionate now, you know?

    In terms of retribution, you know that I don't really need it. And I'm alright with morally questionable books, just because I believe in art for the sak of art. But I can totally see when you're coming from. Past me would of said nada to books that didn't sit with my moral code.

    Brilliant post Jeann!

    • AH yes, Bec above just described how age is a big factor in the enjoyment of a book or not. Like I thought Twilight was okay back in the day, but these days we just can't stand it lol! Thank you Jess!

  10. Bec

    I can't think of many things that make me hate a book. Apparently I can tolerate a lot of things. It really depends on my mood and how good the writing/story is. Many of the things you listed will annoy me, especially main characters who constantly talk about how beautiful and amazing their love interest is. Also sappiness. And maybe characters making idiotic decisions that obviously aren't going to end well.

    I can't think of many things that make me hate a book. Apparently I can tolerate a lot of things. It really depends on my mood and how good the writing/story is. Many of the things you listed will annoy me, especially main characters who constantly talk about how beautiful and amazing their love interest is. Also sappiness. And maybe characters making idiotic decisions that obviously aren't going to end well.

    I'm sitting here laughing because the whole stalker boys thing. I read Hush Hush when I was 13 or so and LOVED it. Though if I went back and read it now I'd probably have similar thoughts (considering how I reacted to Holder when I started Hopeless). My reading tastes have changed so much over the years (because I've been introduced to superior books haha)
    My recent post Reading Recommendations: Lovely Couples

    • YESSS I totally know what you mean about Age being a big factor in thinking books and behaviour are okay. Now that we've got a bit of life experience, we know that Patch's behaviour was not okay.

  11. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    Really honestly thought I had commented on this one… maybe my comment got deleted, I don't know. Point is, one of my biggest negative triggers is rape. I can't stand it when it's mentioned (usually in NA books) and then brushed off as if nothing. Rape is not a joking matter, and I hate when it's treated as if nothing.
    My recent post Books to Read to Forget You’re Single on Valentine’s Day

    • Hmmm I'll double check Marianne to see if your comment appeared! THAT IS SO TRUE, luckily I don't read that many NA books to see that trend, but that is terrible.

  12. bettylouise31

    A,very post. My triggers are too many bedroom scenes, too much violence and suspense, poor plot and wrong category.

  13. readerswonderland

    Great post, Jeann! I've wondered this a lot too, everyone dislikes different things at different levels. Like I'm a little more tolerant to #5 and #2 (in a literary sense) but #6 and #3 KILL me. Especially in movies when the bad guy doesn't get his I'm like asdfghjkl!
    My recent post Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

    • Thanks Alise, gosh those movies leave me really pissed off and disappointed/upset lol! Bad guys need to be punished dammit

    • I totally agree Kimba! Some of those cheating grey areas still make me a bit wary, a more like handle with care sort of thing.

  14. One of my biggest turn-offs in books is mature romance, especially because I'm still in high school. That also encompasses #1 & 2, and it's even worse when the book seems to glamorize or be okay with these things when they are clearly NOT OKAY. I hate that sometimes I come upon books with mature content when I don't expect it, which is why I am so careful with choosing my books.
    My recent post Book Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

    • I think that's fantastic Ana, it would definitely be a shock to the system if you weren't expecting it! And NO we do not want to glamorise those things, it's so horrible and teaches people that it's okay. It's NOT.

  15. inlibrisveritas

    Great post! . On Dublin Street by Samantha Young had one of those 'I'm so alpha I have to pee on everything I want' kind of guys and I even threw the book on the floor a few times. I let some things slide because I'm use to them but I do count it off of the star rating.

    Super Alpha Males with possession issues
    No world-building in fantasy & sci-fi novels
    A lack of realistic consistency in world-building ex: they keep introducing races of aliens but never mention them again.
    Poor writing – I can forgive poor editing (sometimes) but if you're writing makes me want to pull out a red pen and rewrite portions you're not getting higher than a 2.5
    My recent post Review: Three Simple Rules by Nikki Sloane (18 +)

    • Ugggh I had On the Dublin street on my TBr but after that description I'm taking it off. Sounds like my reading experience for Hush, Hush lol. Poor writing is definitely frustrating, as is the world building consistency.

  16. Cheating would be first on my list. I think I can even stand love triangles, even though they are some form of cheating, but direct cheating is a no-no in my book. That and possessive man. I actually agree with you on all of these. Great post, Jeann 🙂
    My recent post The Vanishing Game by Kate Kae Myers

  17. booksbonesbuffy

    These are all great negative triggers, i pretty much agree with all of them. One that I'd like to add, at least for me, is cruelty to animals. I just lose it when I read books that have that as part of the story. Great topic, Jeann!

  18. Jules

    I agree with the controling boys and naive girls. I hate it when that happens, and sadly it always seem to happen lately, especially in YA. The best example of it is Beautiful Disaster. Ugh.

    My negative book triggers? hmm, I think that would be long overly detailed paragraphs that I don't even understand. i hate it when books are like that, I don't hate descriptions, but too much is too bad, especially when it doesn't even make sense. :/
    My recent post Book Review: The Vanishing Girl by Laura Thalassa

    • It happens in so much YA and NA, I just can't stand it! Oh yes, I know. Those paragraphs and info dumping I tend to tune out on.

  19. What a great list! I definitely don't like possessive/controlling men, anti-feminist heroines, and poor world building. I'm also glad to find another person who isn't over the moon about Anna and the French Kiss. I didn't really like it, but so many people seem to love it!

  20. I think your points are pretty spot on. I hated the cheating aspect in Anna and the French Kiss, but I think that's the only book I actually liked that had the cheating in it. It was just.. really cute. I didn't want to like it, but I couldn't help myself. I was far less impressed by Lola, which also had the cheating.

    Controlling guys? Control your way in a general away-from-me direction, thank you. They are always douchebags and I don't care about the fact that they're hot – you're a jerk. Just no.

    Also, thank you for including Panic. Those were some dumb policemen!
    My recent post What I Like to Read on Blogs

    • It was cute, but I really wasn't impressed by Etienne's behaviour during the whole thing, especially how he treated his own girlfriend. I totally agree with the controlling guys, no thanks to those! HAHA PANIC IS TERRIBLE

  21. cristinasbookreviews

    Fantastic post my friend. I'm not sure that I have too many triggers. Although I hate sappy one-liners and insta-love like a lot. Like I can't even stand it, that will kill any story for me. As far as cheating…I can go either way on that one and a weak heroine will make me throw my kindle out the window almost immediately. *gag* As always….brilliant post! 🙂
    My recent post Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy, #1) by Pierce Brown

    • Thanks Cristina, those sappy lines are definitely a turn off, especially when I find myself rolling my eyes instead of going "awww."

  22. cristinasbookreviews

    Fantastic post my friend. I'm not sure that I have too many triggers. Although I hate sappy one-liners and insta-love like a lot. Like I can't even stand it, that will kill any story for me. As far as cheating…I can go either way on that one and a weak heroine will make me throw my kindle out the window almost immediately. *gag* As always….brilliant post! 🙂

  23. kezia1098

    COMPLETELY AGREE WITH NUMBER ONE. I don't get WHY so many women are in love with Fifty Shades and Christian Grey. I mean, I know that people have different taste but I still can't understand why they would fangirl over abusive guys like him.

    Omg yes, I also didn't like the cheating aspect of Anna and the French Kiss! I enjoyed the friendship between Anna and Etienne but it's true that what he did isn't very tolerable.

    My recent post A Day of Chocolate and Sugar

    • I don't get it either, it just really turns me off the whole thing especially since those relationships are abusive and unhealthy. It's terrible.

  24. I agree with all of yours, Jeann. And I also agree with some of the books you mentioned with your trigger…
    I also sometimes get really upset if the parents in a YA are conveniently 'away' for most of the important parts of the story… That's a second thing that made me really mad about Hush, Hush…
    I have another one, too: if the MCs somehow can time travel (or have lived several lives they remember) and have met every single important historical figure there is… come on, please give me a break!!
    Great post, Jeann 🙂 I hope you've had a fantastic Friday, and that your weekend will be awesome.
    My recent post Feature and Follow Friday #98 – Twitter FF

    • There are so many books where the parents are away, leaving the teenagers or kids to fend for themselves! It's pretty unrealistic to be honest. LOL about the time travel, it reminds me of the Discovery of Witches hahaha. Thank you Lexxie, I hope you have a great week too and thanks for your comment!

  25. Kim

    I agree with all of those negative triggers. UGH. Do not want.

    I think a negative book trigger for me is an overly negative, whiny main character. Even if the character's life has been awful, that doesn't mean I want to spend 3/4 of the book listening to the character whine about their circumstances instead of going out there and doing something about it. A lack of initiative to change one's situation just aggravates me.
    My recent post Really Really Short Reviews: I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

  26. jessicarainbowinspiration

    I have similar triggers as you. I would generally not think well of a book if it has no. 1 to 5. If a book has poor world building, I'll just not read it again. I also dislike insta-love.

    But for me to hate a book… I think if a book does not pull me in right from the start, I won't finish even finish it. So I rarely finish a book and hate it coz I would have stopped long ago.
    My recent post 14 Days of Love: Day 12 – 10 Romantic Movies for Valentine’s Day

    • Ah, that's a good point. If I DNF a book it gets an automatic 1 star, even if I didn't finish it. BUt if it frustrated me so much that I never finished it, it doesn't deserve more than 1 star you know?

      • jessicarainbowinspiration

        Yea, I get what you mean! If it's not good enough for finishing, why should it even get a star? And for the author, I guess it wouldn't be fair to read a review of a book that is not finished? Unless the DNF review is more of a…why this book does not work for me and hence I can't finish it? But for the reader, it's draining to finish a book that one dislikes from the onset. It's like a chicken and egg question. For me, I prefer to make myself happy 'coz my time is limited and precious. So I wouldn't even rate a book I did not finish. Best Regards,Jessica HoBlogger of Jessica's Rainbow InspirationTweeting @jessicainspire

  27. Liz

    Oh I found myself nodding along with this post!
    Something that is starting to get to me is seeing the story switching back and forth between "points of view" especially the his/hers ones. I must be too old for these or something.
    I will try to explain: a usually female author writing"both" characters' stories for usually female readers, usually ends up writing the male voice *even more fakely* than it comes across when written just from the female pov. So instead of falling in love with the boy for his mysterious charm, I end up rolling my eyes at him and scoffing at the girl – because I got _too_much_information_ about his so-called thoughts. I have yet to find a great story written from both sides!

    • Ah yes, not everyone likes the switching point of views and an example of where I found it annoying was in Allegiant. I just didn't like Four anymore, so you described what I felt about his perspective perfectly!

  28. karawrites15

    I have to say that number one on my list has to be poor worldbuilding. Especially when it comes to a fantasy and a dystopian novel–where, really, the world should be properly fleshed out so the reader can fully understand what is going on. So that is definitely one of my irks when it comes to books, followed quickly by instalove!
    My recent post Book Review: Defy by Sara B. Larson

    • Yesss I can totally relate to your reviews that talk about poor world building! I can't rate a book highly, even if it does everything well if it just doesn't focus on the world building especially in fantasy/dystopians.

  29. thebigfatf

    Yup, my negative triggers are pretty much the same as yours but I loved Anna and the French Kiss. I think it was because I love it when a genuinely, good friendship becomes something more. This was a really insightful post. Wow, its so true that there are just things that just automatically put us off. Mine is pretty much stupid, weak heroines and love interests. And shallow love interest. They make me pull my hair out!
    My recent post EARLY REVIEW: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

    • Thanks Faith, there seem to be a lot of similar triggers for us, that would automatically turn us off a book. A few people have mentioned the shallow love interest lol.

    • I KNOW RIGHT? Empowering is different to being blatantly wrong about it. Controlling relationships are freaky, and I hate how it's being shown as sexy, like Fifty Shades of Gray.

  30. infinityreads

    I love how you're so sassy and honest about all of these. The cheating in Anna and the French Kiss irritated me as well but reading the companion novels just made the series grow on me. Oh and don't even get me started on Bella Swan…..

  31. Numbers 2 and 6 are also my negative book triggers! I absolutely agree with what you said and with your examples (cheating was exactly what made me not enjoy One Tiny Lie and weak world-building was one of main reasons why Red Queen did not work for me at all).

    Also my other trigger is stupid annoying love triangle where heroine "loves" both guys and strings both of them along. I cannot stay that. (Stone Cold Touch).

    Great post, btw 🙂
    My recent post Two Quick "YA ROMANCE" Reviews

    • Wow, it seems like we had similar thoughts on One Tiny Lie and Red Queen! Yeah, that stringing along love triangle is annoying, especially when set in a paranormal/dystopian setting. Like don't they have other things to worry about?

  32. Eugenia

    Fascinating post as always Jeann! I totally agree with the possessive male character trope – in real life that really isn't attractive, so why would it be in a book? I guess each to their own in any case, but it can definitely be a turn-off for me as a reader now. The whiny female definitely gets irritating as well – I encountered that in the Fallen series and though I didn't mind at first (I was younger when I read those), it got to a point where it started to get on my nerves. I suppose everyone's different at the end of the day, but this post proves that there are some things which I'm sure a lot of bookworms could agree just don't work for us.
    My recent post Review: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars #1)

    • Oh gosh I really hate those possessive alpha males, they are so horrible. Fallen is a perfect example of when I found the main character frustrating. But I'm interested in seeing the differences in everyone's opinion when it comes to book triggers!

  33. Jaz

    Oh Jeann this is a fantastic post. I totally understand where you're coming from with Anna. The cheating thing was my biggest problem with the book too! That's why I loved Maybe, Someday – because it talked about the repercussions of that so well.
    The stalking thing creeps me out too – I HATED Hush, Hush because Patch creeped the hell out of me. I couldn't understand why people loved him, he was like a psychopath.
    I don't like whiny females much either but I could stand Of Poseidon (I let that one slide) but yes INK, Katie was soooo annoying.
    I think world-building is the most important for a fantasy/dystopian, especially fantasy. For some reason, the system in Red Queen worked enough for me to ignore the lack of world-building because it was gritty enough!

    My triggers:
    Insta-love – no matter how good a book is, insta-love guarantees a rating of no higher than 2.5 (3 if everything else is amazing).
    Poor world-building.
    Lack of character growth. A protagonist can be terrible/whiny in the beginning but as long as they grow, I'm fine with it.
    Poor writing. Cannot deal with simplistic writing styles.

    • Thanks Jaz, you described the reason why I liked Maybe Someday so much, because I guess in Anna there was the intention to cheat, whereas in Maybe Someday their focus was on creating music. Whiny females + stalking possessive boyfriends are the worst, I can't stand any book with this type of pairing. Surprisingly insta-love isn't an automatic hate for me, provided everything else in the book is done well. Poor writing is spot on too.