I admit I rarely DNF books. I have about 30 books on my DNF list on Goodreads, which covers at least the last 10 years. Usually I think it won’t take me too long to finish a book, so I might as well just go for it. But when I do DNF a book, here are some of the reasons why.
The Voice/Prose Is Terrible
I seem alone on this issue, but sometimes the voice or writing of a book is so bad that I simply can’t stand reading. I don’t care how good the plot is or how interesting the characters are. If the writing is really choppy or awkward or otherwise painful to read, it’s a strong incentive for me to stop reading the book. (Though of course there are many I have finished reading that have awful writing, as well.)
The Book Is Boring
This is the most common reason I would stop reading a book. If the story and characters aren’t interesting, then the book needs to be majorly redeeming in some other way to keep me reading, like raising thoughtful questions or providing nuanced observations or society or something. Barring that . . . I am going to put the book down and move on.
The Book Thinks It’s Clever — But It’s Not
This is a major pet peeve of mine. If a protagonist is supposed to be brilliant/clever, or the book itself is positing that it’s clever in some way, then it had better be clever. It makes no sense to me when characters do things that are portrayed as genius or groundbreaking that are not at all, like when I read a book where the protagonist decided she was going to “disguise” herself by wearing colored contacts. Surely no one would recognize her if her eyes were a different color! It’s worse when the narrative voice and other characters praise this nonsense. I don’t need characters to be smart, but I don’t want to be told they’re smart when they’re not.
The Book Is Overly Preachy/Didactic
Making sure books, especially children’s and young adult books, send the “right” messages is very in right now, so obviously I don’t stop reading any book that has a moral message, but there’s a line where the messages are so repeatedly thrown in the reader’s face that I lose my interest in the story. I don’t need to narrator to point out on 20 occasions that a rich kid is privileged and should help the poorer kids; once or twice would be enough, if the author really thinks this needs to be stated explicitly instead of implied through the story itself.