This month we asked our librarians what some of their literary, narrative, and film related pet peeves are. See what gets under our skin below!
For reasons unknown to me, I can’t stand it when I have to read about book characters’ dreams. Even if dreams have relevance to the plot, I usually skip over that part. I’m okay if a friend tells me about their dream, especially if it’s funny.
– Books that are told by alternating chapters between the time leading up to some event and the current aftermath of that event. It’s very effective for some stories, but it seems like every author has started doing it. There really is something to be said for a linear story line. Bring back stories that begin at the beginning and end at the end!
– Problems that could be solved with a simple conversation. Sometimes authors make these situations believable, but sometimes there are misunderstandings that are just SO UNLIKELY. The characters often have good opportunities to just say “oh hey, that’s not actually true” and they just don’t. I know you need to make a plot, but please try harder.
– Characters who are unbelievably selfless and generous all the time, especially when they’re teenagers. That’s when you’re still figuring out how to be a person and it’s realistic to be self-centered and screw up a lot more with interpersonal relationships. I’d love to see some more flawed protagonists in teen books.
– The shocking twist is getting a bit old, to be honest. Not every book needs to have one!
One thing I really dislike in novels (and in real life, I suppose), is when a character makes a lot of trouble for themselves by keeping a secret, or lying by omission. Nearly always, it’s used to create conflict or further the plot. On rare occasions, it’s believable and in fact an important part of the story; a book I read recently that did this naturally and brilliantly was Eliza and Her Monsters. But most of the time, it’s just frustrating to me as a reader: I want to yell at the character, “You’re making it so much worse! Just TELL them!”
- Tropes that play into/cause harmful stereotypes about marginalized group of people. (Especially tired of the Bury Your Gays trope & the Gayngst tropes. The locally based Boston-Area Homeschoolers’ Queer-Straight Alliance teens created the HEDA Project as a response to the Bury Your Gays trope!)
- Anything that leans heavily on gender stereotypes. Especially annoyed by/can’t relate to super macho characters. (The Andrew Smith books I’ve read are chock full of super macho characters & I really did not enjoy them.)
- Unnecessarily gendered things drive me up a wall. (Looking at you Sarah J Maas & your multiple uses of the phrase “male smile” in A Court of Mist and Fury. What even is that!?)
- Graphic novels where there is no diversity in the character’s body types. (There are so many graphic novels where all the men are athletic and muscular and all the women have hourglass figures. It’s boring and feels lazy to me. The graphic novels I’ve read that do include a range of body types are such a breath of fresh air.)
- Movies where non-white characters are played by white actors. Please stop. There are plenty of talented actors out there that aren’t white. There’s no excuse. (Also, please let more queer folks play queer characters. Especially trans folks! It should not be as hard as it is to find a good movie about a trans character who is played by a trans actor.)
- When female characters in movies/tv/graphic novels/video games/etc. get impractical/skimpy clothing but the male characters don’t. (Either everyone is wearing ridiculous outfits, or everyone gets to look practical. Having it unbalanced is just gross.)
I’ve counted at least three newly released books in the last few months that have been called “The Handmaid’s Tale for our times!” Please stop! The Power by Naomi Alderman is a great book, The Future Home of the Living God was not my favorite Louise Erdrich title, and I haven’t gotten around to Red Clocks by Leni Zumas yet, but all of these books can probably stand on their own without being compared to a book written in the 80s and inspired by the author’s Puritan forebearers. There’s something about our literary, TV, and political moment that has made it very appealing to publishers and reviewers to compare books featuring women to Margaret Atwood’s classic. Publishers and reviewers take note: trust us readers and stop comparing books about women to The Handmaid’s Tale!
My biggest literary pet peeve is when clique-lit doesn’t provide character growth. The basic tropes of Mean Girl, Plastics, and Basics, are out there in real life. In literature, they project very real issues young adults contend with daily. I just don’t like when the antagonist Mean Girl never a) grows up or b) receives comeuppance and is allowed to continue tyrannical reign over the lives of others in some form. I don’t mind the Mean Girl trope in literature when there is true growth for the character. When this is lacking, it only continues to promote a narcissistic lifestyle (already perpetuated and rewarded by much of society) that is ultimately damaging to those that attempt to emulate it or suffer by its hand.
I hate gratuitous plot twists. For example, I can no longer read Jodi Picoult books even though I love her writing style. She sets up this wonderful story, with heart-ache and trials, and right at the end when things are just starting to come together, something happens that solves everything but makes the whole struggle irrelevant.
I also find love triangles, in both books and film, unnecessary and annoying. I do love mis-communication (or lack of communication) leading to troubles, but love triangles just bug me.
Especially in movies and TV, I wish gay characters could just be real characters, not stereotypical, flamboyant caricatures. Likewise, any character with a disability, that one thing is usually their only defining feature. Really, I just wish there were more movies and TV shows with a wider range of people being people, not stereotypes.
I don’t when book titles have girl/boy in the title. In the past few years, GIRL seems like the most prevalent title word ever. It’s always describing, but why must I know if you’re on a TRAIN, IN A BLUE COAT, AT WAR, from BOSTON. It’s just tired, and I don’t like it, GIRL. In fact, there was this one time I did a display with books that have GIRL in the title, and I used Beyonce’s Who Run the World? GIRLS. An older man came up to me to tell me that my display was grammatically incorrect, stating the sign should say WHO RUNS THE WORLD? I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was a lyric from Queen B. Next time, I will!
The Hero’s Journey gets old for me. It can be so formulaic and predictable. I’m glad it demonstrates struggle and rising above it, but sometimes I need comedic relief?! Not everything needs to be soooooo serious. A solid example in teen lit is The Epic Crush of Genie Lo. Yes, the main character, Genie experiences struggle and moves beyond EPIC problems, but this character’s coping mechanism is wry humor that lightens the mood and makes the character just a bit more relatable to the average human.
I really hate the fact that there seems to be a large amount of movie remakes in which foreign language films (i.e. Oldboy, Funny Games, Let the Right One In, and the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) are remade sometimes almost shot for shot in English. I admittedly haven’t watched any of the remakes but I hear they are often times compromised in terms of quality. I think it also plays on the public’s aversion to foreign language cinema and serves to further cement Hollywood’s global hegemony.
What are some of your biggest book & movie related pet peeves? Let us know in the comments below!