top 5 wednesday: Bookish Things I’m a Grinch About

Top Five Wednesday was created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Check out the goodreads group to learn more.

December 6th – Bookish Things You’re a Grinch About: Since being a grinch is a funny thing, try not to make this serious topics that make you angry (like lack of diversity or abusive relationships in fiction, etc) as this is supposed to be more of a petty bookish things you hate. This can be stuff about covers, dumb tropes, etc. Have fun with it.

Ok, I’ve gotta admit it, I love this topic.  I am nothing if not petty.

1. Quirky names in contemporary fiction.  Like when your character’s called Tulip or Beansprout or some nonsense it’s just like… what’s wrong with Sarah???  What annoys me about this that a lot of the time I feel like quirky names are used for the sole purpose of trying to make a book stand out (both in YA and adult contemporary fiction… obviously names in SFF adhere to different rules).  But if your book doesn’t have anything going for it other than your main character being named Cinnamon Stick for no discernible reason, maybe reevaluate your storytelling priorities.

2. The ‘you two are SO CLEARLY IN LOVE why aren’t you together??’ trope.  I recently ranted about this on twitter, so apologies if you follow me on there, but basically what I’m talking about: when two characters have a ~will they/won’t they~ relationship and some unbiased third party has to comment on their off the charts chemistry.  My problem is when this trope is used in lieu of actual chemistry between the characters, it’s just lazy writing, like in the most recent series of Game of Thrones when Tyrion had to comment on the supposedly insane chemistry between Jon and Dany on like twelve different occasions.  Maybe instead of telling your readers or viewers that your characters have chemistry, show it.  (Since I just used an example in tv, one literary offender I can think of is The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.  I loved that book, but I was quickly losing my patience with how often the American character kept commenting on how Sean and Puck were clearly in love with each other.)

3. Twists that exist only for shock value.  What’s so tricky about writing in the mystery/thriller genre is that you want your twists and reveals to shock the reader, but sometimes writers prioritize that over their twists actually making sense in the context of the narrative that they’ve created.  An example offender: Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen.  Chances are you’re not going to guess that twist, but only because it was so out of left field.  I’ll take predictable reveals over shock value reveals any day, but the ideal is obviously finding a way to balance these two – by shocking your reader, but having them say ‘of course, why didn’t I think of that???’  No one does this better than Agatha Christie – I think a lot of contemporary thriller writers should turn to her example.

4. Mysteries/thrillers with ‘Girl’ in the title.  (First I just want to acknowledge that I realize authors – especially debut authors – do not always have the final say in their book’s title.  I realize this is largely a marketing trend.  That does not make it any less irritating.)  Okay, so, my annoyance with this trend is twofold: (1) How the fuck are we supposed to keep all these ‘Girl’ books straight – Gone Girl, Pretty Girls, The Good Girl, Cemetery Girl, Final Girls, The Girl BeforeAll the Missing Girls – what even are all of these??????  (2) It’s a trend that infantalizes women, which is especially disturbing when you consider that so many of these books are about rape and murder.  Let’s take one of the more popular examples – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  The Swedish title, Män som hatar kvinnor, translates to ‘Men Who Hate Women,’ which really gets to the heart of what that book is about.  But instead, when it was translated and published in English, we get The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which makes Lisbeth Salander sound like some quirky alternative protagonist, not an abuse survivor in a novel which deals with some seriously dark and twisted themes.  But it’s gotten to the point where we see ‘Girl’ in a title and we almost instinctively know it’s going to be a thriller about rape, abuse, violence, murder – except these books are often dressed up with an alluring cover which includes an image of a sexy woman.  Which is so unbelievably twisted.  Can we please stop this.

5. Sex scenes written as awkwardly as possible for no other reason than to be deliberately provocative.  I feel like there’s a certain type of literary fiction that attempts to rebel against sex being portrayed as this ~magical~ event, but they take it so far as to try to shock the reader into thinking ‘isn’t this profound?’ when really, no???  It is not profound????  Describing a guy’s stomach as resembling crème brulée is not profound???  A guy comparing himself to an orangutan during a threesome is not profound???  (I’m looking at you guys – Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and White Fur by Jardine Libaire.)  But also, if you’re not already familiar with it and you need a laugh, check out the Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

What are some bookish tropes and trends that irrationally annoy you??  Comment and let me know!

34 thoughts on “top 5 wednesday: Bookish Things I’m a Grinch About

    • Very true!!! To be completely honest fantasy names annoy me too a lot of the time, but since I’m not a big fantasy reader I’ll admit that there’s a lot I just don’t get about those naming procedures.

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  1. laughing too loud @ “A guy comparing himself to an orangutan during a threesome is not profound??? ”
    Some of those sex scenes are beyond ridiculous and since my favourite genre is romance, I come across them too often.

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  2. I totally agree with so many of these!!!! The Quirky Name thing is so annoying (another My Immortal thing tbh). Like, common names are totally fine too! There’s a reason they’re common!

    Also YES to all the things you said about the issues with using “girl.” UGH I just hate the infantilizing of women, and like most people don’t think it’s an issue but it is??? One time my mom was hiring someone, and he referred to her and her colleagues (all of whom have several phDs and MDs) as “you girls” and that was one of the main reasons she didn’t hire him.

    ALSO the twist for shock value thing is SO ANNOYING. That was basically the whole Pretty Little Liars franchise tbh. Like you couldn’t guess any of the twists because there was NO WAY to even think that would happen and no hints whatsoever. I love Agatha Christie because a lot of her twists, I would never predict BUT someone who was more perceptive than I am could probably guess because she actually hints to it in her writing. It’s just bad writing to throw random twists in with no way of being able to guess (sorry for ranting lol)

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    • Omg no need to apologize I love ranting!!

      YOUR MOM IS SO BADASS AND THAT STORY IS AMAZING. Like…. it does not require a doctorate in feminist theory to see why referring to grown women as ‘girls’ is insulting??? ESPECIALLY when the books then go on to discuss very adult themes. It’s interesting (and by interesting I mean sexist) that there’s basically no male equivalent for this trend, like the only “Boy” book I can think of is The Boy in the Striped Pajamas which is about AN ACTUAL CHILD. And then there’s A Gentleman in Moscow but “Gentleman” is an honorific so why aren’t female protagonists given that same courtesy??? Ugh.

      I haven’t seen Pretty Little Liars but that sounds so irritating! YES what I love about Christie is that her plot reveals are always so unexpected but if you go back through the book you realize the answer was there the whole time. With shock reveals that are totally out of left field it’s like… what’s the point if you don’t even let your reader play along?

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      • I’ve started to refer to all men I know between the ages of 16-25 as “kids” to bug them and show them how annoying it is. I’m like “oh hey, look at that kid over there!” and my male friends are like OKAY ALLY WE GET IT but I mean it works! And like I get sometimes “girl” might sound better than “woman” (like Gone Girl) but STILL not every book needs to do that! Find a new word!!

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      • Cracking up @ the thought of “Gone Woman” tbh…… But honestly I think the “Woman” trend is only a very small step up from “Girl” – at least the creepy infantilization is gone but you never see “The Man who blah blah” titles. Oh my god and don’t even get me started on “the ___’s Wife”

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      • Yeah there’s very few books with “Man” in the title. And “the ___’s Wife” is the WORST. She’s not JUST a wife, like I’m pretty sure she has other things going for her and the story is about *her* not him

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  3. Oh my goodness, I can’t even tell you how disproportionately annoying I find the quirky name thing. Especially in YA, when the author tries so desperately hard to make the characters seem ‘just like every normal teenager’, then slaps them in the face with a name like Aquamarine, or Radiance, or Pop Tart. My eyes roll so hard I nearly fall over.

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    • I KNOW SAME….. every time I see a quirky YA book with a character called Watermelon or Lemongrass or some kind of nonsense I die a little inside. I was actually reading the summary of a book (adult I think) that sounded interesting yesterday but the protagonist’s name was Pinch so I just whispered ‘no’ and closed the tab. I am fickle.

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  4. I’m screaming at your examples of quirky names but I actually did read a YA book with a character named Cinnamon once…and one with a character named Star.

    Completely agreed on number five, omg. It’s just awkward and weird as hell.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, thank you! I love to rant so I’m glad someone enjoys it.

      One of my friends commented here to let me know she actually read a book with a protagonist called Cinnamon, which is hilarious because I’d actually been trying to come up with names so over the top that no one could possibly be offended?? Whoops.

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  5. Ughhh quirky names are so annoying and distracting! Once my uni teacher told us to do this and I was like noooo, I can’t. All the others are so spot on, especially the second one. It is easy for the reader to know when two characters should be together.

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  6. I read the first one and then proceeded to scream YES YES YES YES all the way through your entire list. OMG THOUGH THAT FIRST ONE. I hate quirky names, or even just common names spelled weirdly. Like, if the world or setting is unique, fine, but in contemporary books it feels like very precocious. I HATE when a character’s name is something normal but then it’s like “Oh, that’s Jessica, but we all call her Scout because when she was 12 she had an intense obsession with To Kill a Mockingbird and formed her identity around it and since then her goal has been to become lawyer like Atticus.” (OR SOME OTHER CLASSIC THAT SOUNDS PRETENTIOUS IN A YA CONTEMPORARY SETTING)

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    • IM SO GLAD YOU SHARE IN MY HATRED OF QUIRKY NAMES omfg!!! Like The Scorpio Races is actually an example of one where I don’t mind the unusual nickname thing because Puck fit the vibe of the story so much better than an ordinary name like Kate but THAT’S BECAUSE IT WAS FANTASY if that book had been contemporary I would have been so annoyed by it. Like it just has to suit your story!!!! How is this such a difficult concept!!! Also like……. when the name is IN THE TITLE aka the whole selling point for your story is that your character has an unusual name I’m just not going to read it and I don’t care how petty that is, so SORRY When Dimple Met Rishi/From Twinkle With Love and your YA contemporary quirkily names brethren 🙃

      Omg and normal names spelled weird are horrible, WHAT IS THE PURPOSE???? Both for authors and parents who give their children ridiculous names, WHY do your want their identity to be all about their name???

      I have really unnecessarily strong feelings about bad names tbh I’ve just been burned so many times

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      • I was going to mention Looking for Alaska by John Green omg 😭😭😭 Like I actually think the name Alaska is gorgeous but used in a YA contemporary setting I HATED IT!!! But if it was used in a fantasy or something I’d be all over it. Puck would have been so annoying if it’d been set anywhere but in that book…Maggie Stiefvater really toes the edge with her quirky names but she manages to sneak by with her world building…..

        Okay I’ve never heard of From Twinkle with Love but please don’t tell me the character’s name is Twinkle.

        As for parents naming their kids normal names with weird spelling like DON’T DO IT YOU’RE CURSING THEM WITH HAVING TO SPELL OUT THEIR NAMES FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.

        It’s honestly names like these that make me so thankful that JKR named Harry Potter JUST HARRY. (Even though every single kid ever got tripped up by Hermione, she gets a pass because that is literally the perfect name for her).

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      • OMG I haven’t read Looking for Alaska but I remember finding out that Alaska was someone’s NAME in the book and getting SO ANNOYED??? It is not a bad name but just strikes me as SO GIMMICKY. Like if your character’s name was Jane would you call your book Looking For Jane??? PROBABLY NOT. PICK A NEW TITLE. AND PREFERABLY A NEW NAME. I SEE YOU TRYING TO BE ~QUIRKY JOHN GREEN

        From Twinkle With Love is the new book by the author who wrote When Dimple Met Rishi that comes out next year 😨 I always thought WDMR was kind of a stupid title but THIS NEW ONE MAN OH MAN…….

        RIGHT OMG I am so thankful my parents spelled my name CORRECTLY and not like Rachael because that spelling is dumb and unnecessary. And I cannot even deal with how many variations of Caitlin there are. Like why are you purposefully making your child’s name difficult!!!! I don’t want children but if I did I would give them such a normal oldschool name like Kate or Sarah or Oliver or Sam or something….. none of this trendy nonsense, just NORMAL NAMES.

        OMG I was one of those kids who thought her name was pronounced Hermy-own 😂 YOU’RE RIGHT THOUGH IT IS PERFECT and also it’s a mythology name AND a Shakespeare name so it’s not like she named her something arbitrary like Butterscotch??? JKR really is the name queen of children’s literature tbh she strikes SUCH a phenomenal balance between ordinary names like Harry and wacky names like Xenophilius BUT EVERY NAME SUITS THE CHARACTER PERFECTLY IT’S AMAZING

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      • YES I wish they’d all just gone to Alaska instead of it being a character. Alaska is a very underutilized setting imo.

        Oh noooo, I’m not really a fan of WDMR so I don’t think I’ll be reading that anyway, but…..no thanks.

        I called Hermione “Harmony” lol, but the movie set me straight. Hermione is such a classical name I love it :’) I feel like the name Luna would particularly sound dumb in any other book but that is another one that is SO PERFECT for her character.

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  7. When you have to repeatedly point out the chemistry that should be a huge indicator that there is no chemistry. I don’t think the acting is to blame but more so the characters themselves did not go well together. Even Sansa and Jon had more chemistry.
    Excellent point with number 4. I’m not going to lie, it’s a marketing trend that works because when I see the word ‘girl’ in a book it makes me want to read it. But you’re certainly right that it is hugely misleading in terms of age and it’s a trend that needs to stop

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  8. I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS LIST!!! I just had to say that again because I read this emphatically nodding and saying OMG YES, and laughing at your perfect awkward examples. These things bug me so much, especially the quirky names (I’m looking at you YA contemporary).

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  9. This post was so hilarious, hahaha, I’m still laughing after that bad sex one. Also, I’ve never noticed the thing with ‘girl’ before you mentioned it, but damn, you’re so right! I also love how you explained why this trend isn’t the best, thank you very much! I like (sometimes) when people comment on the chemistry of two people (especially if it’s a tease), but only if it’s not overdone. Lovely post, as always!

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    • Aren’t they awful??? Sometimes if I need a laugh I’ll scroll through the Bad Sex Awards, there is so much gold there. And ugh, the Girl thing irritates me to no end, when will this trend be over???

      And yes, I agree completely that I don’t mind that trope if it isn’t overused! If a character is teasing just one or twice it can be funny, but when it’s meant to hit the reader as an indication of how ~profound their love is~ that ~even a random stranger can see it~ it’s like…. come on. Write better.

      Liked by 1 person

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