Throwing Books

Awhile back, I was hiding out from the aspiring authors at a writers’ conference (social as I am, I need SOME breaks), and reading the ARC for a much hyped young adult novel that was yet to be published. It was one of those novels with a huge six-figure advance, oodles of promotion, and people lined up ready to call it the second coming of great literature.

It started off strong, and I was pretty hooked. About 100 pages in, I started to have questions. So. Many. Questions. It was a fantasy novel set in a universe entirely created by the author. A world in which nothing made any sense. The world-building was scattershot at best, but based on the beginning of the book, I was ready to stick it out. After all, everyone loved this book, so I was sure it would get better.

It didn’t. Around 200 pages in, I was so frustrated that I hurled the book across the hotel room. I’ve heard people say they threw a book across the room. I had never believed people actually did it. And I had certainly never done so myself.

What killed me was the wasted promise. It’s one thing for a book to just be terrible. But for something to start out fantastic and devolve into stupidity is infuriating. For it to happen in a book getting a ginormous push? That made me want to start throwing pies at all involved—the author, the editor, the agent. Somebody should have realized that the book was constructed on a foundation of sand. And yet. And yet.

Imagine my delight when the book came out and became a bestseller. I mean, it’s possible I’m wrong about its qualities… No, you’re right. I couldn’t be wrong. Too unlike me!

What about all of you? Have you ever gotten so mad you literally threw a book across the room? And do name names–just because I have to be discreet doesn’t mean you do!

43 Responses to Throwing Books

  1. I’m currently reading the Sword of Truth series. Overall, I like it. (I’m on book nine of twelve).

    But the series could have been a few books shorter. I keep reading because I am in love with the characters and because I want to know what happens in the end. After all, I’ve invested my time into nine books!

    Right now I feel like the story is dragging on a little, like there are issues arising that are happening just to lengthen the story. But I’ll stick with it.

    PS: I haven’t actually thrown the book across the room because it is my cousin’s. Otherwise I might have 😉

  2. Anon says:

    I’ve never literally thrown a book but I had a similar experience recently with divergent. I was just quite disappointed by how “unspecial” it was. Maybe I’d been reading too much dystopian or too much hype but it was a huge let down. And everyone else loves it. I just take it that I’m missing something.

    • Anon 2 says:

      Funny. My first thought when I read this post was Divergent, as well. I don’t get what people love about this.

      • Kaitlyne says:

        This is actually kind of disappointing because that was on my to-be-read pile. I’ll keep my expectations in check.

  3. Anon says:

    oh oh. Not to be a hater but actually I really didn’t like House of Night either in spite of how many times I’d heard how brilliant it is. It didn’t have a patch on Vampire Academy (I’m not sucking up, promise!)

    • Not “sucking up” on Vampire Academy? ::groan::

      • Jim says:

        Speaking from much personal experience, it’s often hard to discuss vampire novels without unintentionally punning. I’ve made my fair share of really appalling puns unintentionally over the years. Seriously, it bites.

        I’m sorry, I’m sorry: I had to!

  4. Tammy says:

    It’s so not nice to throw and tell, but I have to admit that I have tossed a book or two in my day. I use to try and give the author the benefit of the doubt. I would read a story all they way through even though I knew that I wasn’t going to like it. After all they did get published and their work was on the bestseller list. But I don’t have the time to waste anymore on horrible stories.

    THE HOUSE OF NIGHT SERIES by P. C. Cast is bad, really, really bad. Zoey Redbird is the ultimate Mary Sue.

    THE BLUE BLOOD SERIES by Melissa de la Cruz. Reading that first book was like reading a Vogue magazine. I hate to say it but I actually felt bad for all the trees that had to die for the POS to be made.

    I know that’s kinda harsh but the truth hurts.

  5. Christine says:

    As a rule I toss any book that drives to the end and then reveals the big secret – in book two. If I’ve loved your characters and there are new things for them to experience, by all means write a sequel. But I’m a reader, not a hostage. Don’t force me to read book two just to find out the resolution of book one.

  6. Kaitlyne says:

    While I didn’t actually throw this one across the room, I can guarantee that I wanted to. I recently read Piers Anthony’s On a Pale Horse after a couple of friends told me how much they adored it. It sounded like my kind of book and I was excited to read it.

    I started and found the beginning…questionable. The main character didn’t seem very developed and his actions were completely contradictory in the first couple of chapters. I’d been told it was humorous, and as someone who is a big fan of humor in writing, I thought surely it would get better. After all, some good friends recommended it and it has four stars on Amazon. How bad could it be?

    Well, needless to say, the more I read, the worse it became. The characters never became anything more than two-dimensional cutouts whose actions seemed solely based around what the author thought fit the plot. The dialogue was unrealistic, the love story element equally unrealistic, and the plot became more and more contrived. I thought surely the end would be spectacular to make up for it, and just when I reached a point that sounded promising, it ended.

    I have so rarely actually hated a book, but this one left me so angry (and I never get angry) that I wanted to immediately sell it just because I was ashamed of having spent money on it. I never did see the humor in it, so maybe it was just a matter of not matching my style. If I’d found it funny I could have forgiven much more.

    I think the biggest problem, though, was that it had been so hyped. I expected so much, the concept was cool and should have been entertaining, and yet it fell so far short of those expectations. I did feel better to read the one-star reviews and find that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. I don’t know that it was a terrible book, but it definitely wasn’t my style.

  7. LupLun says:

    I hear you, Ms. Christine. Cliffhangers I’m okay with, if they’re done well. Temporary resolution with a sequel hook is fine. But if the author leaves off in the middle of the story, with no attempt at all to wrap things up, expect a wag of the finger in my review.

    I don’t think I’ve thrown a book in more than the metaphorical sense. There have been times where I’ve come close, though. The Frenzy for just being a half-baked novel that should have kicked back to the author for revision, and Never Cry Werewolf for having one of the most idiotic plot holes I’ve ever encountered. Thought experiment: There is a large piece of woodland enclosed by a fence, with a single gate going through it at some unknown point. You are at some unknown point along the outside of the fence. You need to get inside. How do you do it?

    Correct. You walk alongside the fence until you find the gate. Simple. You do not wander off into the explicitly dangerous woodlands and wind up completely and totally lost. Dealing with teen characters, we expect some degree of bad decision-making, but this is just flat-out stupid. Worst part? The author doesn’t seem to realize the simple solution either. Blargh.

    But you want something controversial, how about this: Kelley Armstrong’s Bitten, for advancing as the love interest a man who is flagrantly controlling and abusive, plus most likely mentally unstable. Check my blog if you want the full story, but I’ll just say that when your love interest ties up the heroine to have sex with her explicitly over her objections, and the book then goes on to blame all the problems in their relationship on the fact that she can’t accept how head-over-heels she is for him… expect me to be displeased.

    Lupines and Lunatics

  8. Janet Jensen says:

    A friend gave me a romance novel for my birthday. I was reading it on a plane and I wondered, “how many times has this stupid heroine burst into tears?” So I counted.It came to about 41, as I remember. I really wanted to smack her. If I could have thrown the book across the plane, I would have.

    So I’m really careful about the waterworks when I write. I use tears very sparingly.

  9. Lydia says:

    The Millennium Series; hands down. I started The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and promptly became bored out of my mind. I’ve went back to the book as the fanfare continued to arrive for the other two books in the series (bought first two, woe is me) and just cannot get past the blah factor it engenders in me; I can’t seem to connect with the characters…and there is no impetus I’ve found after going back a third time to try and understand what all the fuss is about.

    • Sara says:

      Couldn’t agree more. Have been big murder mystery reader and had the villain pegged from early on simply by deduction and the rest was as you say pretty blah. But very smart friend who normally only reads literary fiction thought the whole series was to die for. Couldn’t work out why except maybe being Swedish somehow made it somehow appealing to her? She also loves Henning Mankell, but turns her nose up at what I consider to be excellent murder mysteries that really do keep you guessing w/o daft plot twists and surprises.

  10. Melissa says:

    The Passage. Don’t kill off the people you made me love and leave me with nothing. I wanted to continue, but I could not.

    • Terri says:

      Amen! Best friend loved it, so I bought it, figuring it was a keeper. Not only was it the worst book ever, but I had to tell my friend I hated it (she still loves me). The only reason I didn’t throw it across the room was because the book was so big I was afraid I’d hurt one of the dogs.

  11. Clix says:

    The Knife of Never Letting Go … didn’t throw it, because thankfully I got it from the library. The main character is a complete heel (but apparently we’re not supposed to think so), the humans act in preposterous ways, and the ONLY interesting character is killed off in a brazenly cheap attempt at wringing something out of the reader.

    I accidentally checked out the sequel TWICE because the cover was so pretty. 😛 Fortunately I only needed a page or two to go, ‘hey, wait… this reminds me of That Awful Book.’

  12. Nattalee says:

    I threw “The Friday Night Knitting Club” by Kate Jacobs across the room.

    Just so I don’t spoil it for anyone, I’ll be vague, but there was a death that occurred virtually out of nowhere, and I felt it was completely the wrong way to go. Apparently, I felt this pretty strongly at the time, because as soon as the person died, the book made quite a flippy-flap noise as it flew about six feet into a wall.

    Everyone else I know loved the book, though.

    This is the only book I’ve hurled.

  13. My Name is Memory by Ann Brasheres is the first and only book that I have thrown across the room — and I don’t feel bad admitting it because a world of others on Goodreads mentioned the exact same thing.

    HOWEVER! I blame it entirely on the marketing department. The book is the first in a trilogy and NOWHERE on the book cover, or within the book itself, does the reader get a heads up on that. So, you reach the cliffhanger ending and woosh there goes the book across the room. The story is so interesting, the characters entertaining, the concept large…and then an ending that by no means ends. Argh!

    • Kaitlyne says:

      I read a zombie book once that ended right in the middle of a big battle. You had no idea if the characters were alive or dead, no conclusion, nothing. Luckily I knew this in advance and my friend also had the second to lend to me so I could just pick up the story where I left off, but I couldn’t imagine having read that first one without knowing that there was a sequel. I have a feeling a lot of people probably chucked that one lol.

      I did learn something from that, though: never write a cliffhanger ending!

  14. Catherine Whitney says:

    I hesitate to buck conventional wisdom on this beloved series, but The Hunger Games made me feel this way. I loved the first book, sort of liked the second, and by the third was tearing my hair out over the awful plot choices. I almost couldn’t believe that the author of The Hunger Games was the same person as the author of Mockingjay. (I didn’t, however, throw my Kindle across the room.)

    • Clix says:

      *grin* Makes me glad I haven’t yet read the third! I felt the same way about the first (loved it!) and second (meh).

    • Barb Riley says:

      Oh dear – I guess we’re all allowed to like different things, b/c I really really really liked all three Hunger Games series. But I listened in Audio, I wonder if that made a difference? I cried like a baby at the end of 3 – any book that makes me cry is probably a keeper, I don’t cry at books very often. I was emotionally invested.

  15. A Reliable Wife was so embarrassingly awkward, I read passages from it aloud to my house guests until they begged for mercy. Then, I threw it across the room.

  16. M. Caliban says:

    The Lovely Bones. Interesting idea, rocky middle, horrible ending.

    • Lydia says:

      Couldn’t agree more with The Lovely Bones; made it through that one, but dreary, mucky, and murky all the way through. A little bit of light goes a long way.

    • Paula B. says:

      Oh yes. I agree with that. I got through about one chapter of The Lovely Bones and gave up.

      But more recently, I started the first Wheel of Time book by Robert Jordan and was sooooo disappointed. First of all, who writes a chapter that comes *before* a prologue? Yup. There is one. There’s this opening chapter, *then* the prologue, and *then* Chapter 1.

      And who opens a book with a cast of thousands on sheep shearing day, with a nine-year-old girl as the protagonist? I’m sorry, but watching the annual (or whatever increment of time it was) sheep shearing operation of some unknown agrarian society through the eyes of a kid is just not interesting. Nor is it interesting to try to keep track of about thirty characters with weird names. Which is not to say that young protagonists are inherently boring, because they’re not, or that stories about farmers or hunter gatherers are boring, because they’re not either. But this one was just awful.

      Please, someone, anyone, if I’ve rushed to judgment too quickly and the book is worth sticking with, please let me know. Otherwise, I may not throw it, but it’s going to the friends of the library bookstore soonest.

  17. Oh, yes. I know the feeling. There was this one novel which will remain nameless that I couldn’t throw because it was a library book. And another by Jodi Picoult that I returned to the bookstore.

  18. Gilbert J. Avila says:

    There was a novel by Robert McCammon–the name of which escapes me–that ended up with the big reveal being that the hero and villain were twins separated at birth. I was stunned, saddened, and outraged in a space of 3 seconds. The wall still has the dent. There was a joke going around–“What’s Robert McCammon’s next novel? Stephen King’s last novel.” I’ve never read another McCammon novel.

  19. JJ says:

    The Passage. The characters I cared about never came back, at least they hadn’t a third of the way through the book. I’m donating my ARC to the library sale store. There have been a couple of books I haven’t finished and have thrown in the trash because they’re not worthy to live. Sorry, can’t recall the titles though, blocked them out. And I quit reading James Patterson a long time ago – good story ideas, rotten execution.

  20. Lisa Marie says:

    I almost feel ashamed to say this, but I could not get through Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit from the Goon Squad” for love or money. I tried mightily several times. Egan’s a good writer, there’s no doubt … but I just couldn’t connect with the characters or the plot (or rather, the lack of one). The lack of continuity made me crazy. I feel terrible for not finishing it. :(

    • Anon says:

      I agree! It’s not that I thought it was terrible or anything just that when I put it down I had no impetus to pick it up again. Couldn’t get connected to any of the characters.

  21. Two books come to mind. I know I’m dating myself, so forgive me. One when I was in college in the 1980s called A Scanner Darkly by pulp writer Phillip K. Dick. The ending irked me so much I DID throw it across the room.

    Recently, Nelson Demille’s Nightfall. I read it on the recommendation of my mom’s husband who likes that genre. The ending was so deus ex machina that it ticked me off. Then in the writer’s notes, he said his son came up with the ending. What?!!!

  22. Sheila says:

    This just happened to me, too. Everyone raving about a book, so I bought it for my iPad. The author should have read the famous Evil Overlord List, because she used the biggest cliches – the old James Bond one – Bad guy has the hero trapped, decides to kill her with an elaborate device, and then leaves, not knowing if it worked or not. It was at that point that I had to throw something, but it wasn’t going to be my iPad. (Sorry, Book Thief, I really liked you, but you were all I had handy).

  23. I’ve had years of practice throwing books, so now my aim is a thing of beauty. I know exactly how much damage I’m going to inflict with an offended hurl or the more mild toss to the floor. The books I really love are the ones that always look worse anyway, what with the spines falling apart from rereading. The first book I remember throwing was actually awesome – Katherine Paterson’s BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA. When Leslie died I lost it, so mad I couldn’t finish it for a couple of days. But it was so good I knew I’d hate myself if I didn’t get the closure. Now I seem to throw a book more these days because of the let-downs. There are some astonishing premises out there, such imagination…why do so few have the ability to dazzle beyond an idea? And if one more book gets compared to THE HUNGER GAMES…*feral growl*

  24. It’s been a while since I’ve thrown a book across the room, though I vividly recall doing it before. I recently chucked an audio book CD across my car interior, though…does that count? I got Patricia Cornwell’s Predator to keep me entertained on my commute, but after nearly the entire first CD of a large, brusque biker dude being voiced by a female in “huskyvoice” I couldn’t take it any more.

    CD’s fly better’n books do, anyways.

  25. From the number of comments this post generated, the topic has certainly touched some nerves!

    I’ve come close to throwing a book: a memoir that was a blatant stoking of the author’s ego. I know memoirs are by nature self-centered but this one just went way beyond. The author came across as a nasty person, from the way she spilled secrets and knowledge about people close to her, who trust(ed) her, with the end result of those people coming off as either stupid or unsophisticated or in general subpar to her. It was just so unpleasant to spend time with a person like that but at the time I finished every book I started. I am much wiser now. :) I was tempted many times to hurl it at the wall. But it was still a book and I just couldn’t bring myself to throw it.

    As for books that start off strong and then just fizzles: I’ve read a few of them, the most recent one being The Passage. I devoured the first third in no time, and then it was just painful to read on. I guess I still haven’t really learned the fine art of abandoning a book because I read it till the end.

  26. When I think of all the times I’ve told my children not to be careless with their books, I have to be at least a little ashamed that I’ve thrown one full force against the wall before. Only once, and it was at the end of a long love/hate relationship with a fantasy series. I didn’t just force myself to read one book, but ten! It offended me deeply. I’m itching to go buy a copy now just so I can hurl it at something.

  27. Jim says:

    So glad people seemed to have fun with this post. As Nattalee mentioned, there’s just something so darned satisfying about that “flippy-flap” sound as a book hurls across a room. Something an iPad or Kindle can’t recreate!

  28. Barb Riley says:

    The first and only book I’ve EVER returned to a store because I refused to give that author a penny of my money was FALLEN by Lauren Kate. The cover was gorgeous, it was on a cardboard display at the bookstore, the reviews were fab-o, it looked to be a good YA…. and it was complete and total crap in a hardback cover. The characters were flat, the plot was boring. I read a bit every night and would complain, to which hubby would say… why are you still reading? I hoped it would get better!!! Alas, it did not. So, I returned it to the store! (After I smoothed down the wrinkle where I threw it.) I’m such a rebel.

    The other YA book I considered throwing across the room was Cassandre Claire. When I googled her, the information I found put me off even more. Google rumor has it she dropped quite a bit of her Harry Potter fanfic into her stories, merely changing names and adding in some Buffy plots. Flying motorcycles, anyone? But, she’s got a movie in the works, so recycling and ripping off must work!! Maybe she got better after the first book – I dunno, I gave up!

  29. Abbe says:

    I’ve never thrown a book but oh I’ve wanted to! Recently it was Shiver, the werewolf one. If cold weather turns him into a wolf and he doesn’t want to be a wolf, why is he still living in Minnesota? Why wasn’t he on the first bus to Phoenix? If someone in the story had suggested it and someone else said, “We tried that but it didn’t work because X,” I would have been fine, but nobody did. I stopped reading halfway through because I got tired of yelling the solution at the characters. Who knows, maybe they figured it out later, but by then it was too late.

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