Exit Page Right // Staircases, DNFs, and Bookish Turn-Offs

To DNF – to not finish a book – is something we’ve all done before. Perhaps it starts when we see a book with a heart-shatteringly beautiful cover that makes our fingers turn to glue (because yes, sometimes we do judge a book by its cover sue me), or maybe it begins when we read a particularly intriguing synopsis on Goodreads. Like a fish, we’re lured in and before we know it, we’ve got another book to read (that we probably don’t need, BUT DO).

However it starts, it usually ends like this: with a disappointed look on our faces, with a slight (or not so slight) squeeze in our chest, and with lost time that we won’t ever get back. Oh, and of course, with a book we didn’t finish reading. Yes, there is nothing quite as disappointing as watching your excitement for a book bleed out with every page, as if a Dementor is kissing it away from you.

Fare thee well, excitement. Welcome home disappointment, my old friend.

But how do we, as readers, go from being SUPER-DUPER-PUMPED-OVER-THE-WALL-EXCITED-LIKE IT’S-FREAKIN’-CHRISTMAS about a book to deciding not to finish it? For me, it’s kind of like descending a staircase. At the bottom lies the dreaded DNF door (I say dreaded because I don’t think anybody sets out to not finish a book). Every time I encounter something during my reading that turns me off, my excitement meter takes a hit and I take a step down the staircase. If there are too many of these so-called “bookish turn-offs,” then I reach the door and sadly walk out of it.


But what are my “bookish turn-offs?” What stairs lead me down to the DNF door? Honestly, it took me a while to articulate this. It’s easy for me to blabber on and on about what I like, but much harder to pin down what I don’t. When people ask me why I didn’t enjoy a book, I usually just shrug and say, “I dunno. It just didn’t work for me.”  But as I cross-examined some of my more recent DNFs on Goodreads (because who could possibly remember all the books they read without some kind of external help), I found a few recurring patterns:

Insta-love. Love triangles. Damsels-in-distress. A “plain-looking” MC who is “just a normal girl,” and yet every single boy in the freakin’ universe is tripping over himself to talk to her. The Chosen One. Prince Charming. The Bad Boy. A hidden power that the MC didn’t know they had that manifests itself just in time to save the world. The Rich Girl. The Dumb Jock. A highly improbable situation where the MC and the love interest have to take off their wet clothes to stay warm.


I look into his eyes, which are dark orbs of lust and night. I stare at his strong muscles glistening with sweat in the pale moonlight. I take in his chiseled jawline, as perfect as an angel’s. And in that moment, that one perfect moment, I know – just KNOW – that I love him. That I can’t live without him. That he is the one who will make my broken heart feel whole again. Now all I have to do is go talk to him. 

Nope. Peace. I’m out. See ya. Sayonara.

A major red flag for this one is if the love interest is introduced by saving the MC from some fabricated danger. Don’t get me wrong – teamwork is important. Relying on people is not a bad thing. Sometimes we all need a little help. Heck, sometimes we need more than a little. I know I do. I will be the first to tell you that going it alone is a BAD, BAD IDEA, FRIENDS. Always go to the bathroom or to fight the Boss with a buddy.

That being said, if the MC is incapable of doing anything themselves, especially if they look to the strong and handsome love interest to magically fix their every little problem, that’s when I start to roll my eyes. (It also leads to a whole Damsels-in-distress situation. For more on this, refer back to my first point.)

I want to be a strong person. Not physically, but mentally. I want to be the kind of person who is strong enough to rely on others, but also strong enough for others to rely on me. And it’s always nice to see characters like that in the books that I am reading.




57 thoughts on “Exit Page Right // Staircases, DNFs, and Bookish Turn-Offs

  1. Such a great post!! How you described the process of DNF’ing with the staircase and DNF door was so great, it really articulated how I feel but couldn’t really describe until now 👍 The romance turning messy is the quickest way for me to DNF, especially if it involves a MC who has no agency around the Love Interest :/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am really glad the analogy made some sense. I was like, “Does this even make any sense? Oh well. Too late now. Already posted it.” And yeah, I agree about romance. If the main romance isn’t healthily depicted in a book (but is presented as if it is), then I am extremely put off.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a lovely post 🙂 I don’t usually DNF a book – I can’t actually recall the last time I DNF-ed a book…. but there are so many turn-offs in books that make the reading kind of difficult for me, too. That staircase graphic is perfect though and perfectly describes why I would want to throw a book out the window, hahahahaa 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess I feel pretty lucky in that way 😂 after reading for so long though, I think I know what I’ll enjoy for the most part. I don’t know everything though and sometimes I might be missing out because I’m too nervous to try out other things? 😂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a really great post! I always try my hardest not to DNF a book. I’m always so worried that I’ll miss something that could potentially turn everything around and make me love it! The majority of the time I DNF if I can’t connect with the characters, it makes it so difficult to enjoy a book if I can’t understand the characters actions or motivations, or just generally hate the character haha!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. LOVE THIS POST KAT! I had a good laugh reading the cheesy romance you mentioned 😂😂😂. I mostly power through every book, I can’t even remember when was the last time I DNF a book 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. awesome post,
    for me ill DNF a book if the MC or plot does something so stupid it annoys me or if i find the writing style boring. usually if after a week ivefound ive had no desire to pick it up ill put it on-hold until a later time to try again – bc sometimes its just im reaidng better books at the same time so i dont always think its fair to DNF straight away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Lauren 🙂 I like that you put down a book for a bit but try to come back again, just to really make sure how you’re feeling about it before you DNF for sure. Thanks for sharing! And yeah, if the book is annoying, then why keep reading it, right? haha

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This post is SO GREAT and I agree with everything you listed !! Cheesy romance and overly dependent MC’s could definitely force me to DNF. And, of course, the dreaded love triangle. Great post and also YOUR BLOG IS SO CUTE! I LOVE IT.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yesss, this is exactly how I feel when I decide to DNF a book! I always feel guilty for not finishing something but at the end of the day there are just too many books and not enough time so it’s better spent reading books you’re actually enjoying!
    While reading the post, I was thinking of the book I’m currently considering DNFing, Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout and I realised it had everything that you mentioned; too many cliches, cheesy romance and an overly dependent MC so I might just stop reading it haha

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi, Kat! First of all, can I tell you that I am IN LOVE with your blog graphics? Flat vectors get me every time, and everything’s so clean and crisp. I’m having an eyegasm right now! 😍💕 Anyway, I totally agree with these! Having too many cliches is just THE WORST. Just because all of these things made other books popular doesn’t mean you have to include ~all~ of them in your book. *smh* Fantastic post!

    – Aimee @ Aimee, Always

    Liked by 1 person

  9. That staircase is so point on! For me, firstly, if the writing is not to my liking, I abandon the book. I allow myself three chapters, maybe, before giving up!

    By the way, I love your blog’s design! The colours are so pleasing and I love the graphics!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I rarely DNF a book but I do feel like dnfing at times. Since my perspective is a little unique where I share writing tips and thoughts I really can always get a use out of finishing a book… because what can I say if I haven’t finished it. Still wanting to DNF sends up red flags and you’re right its typically due to specific things that are deal breakers. Love this post Kat! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I definitely hate reading books with a lot of these things! Although I usually don’t DNF because I just…wanna finish things eep. I always hope the ending might redeem it?! But ugh I really hate it when the protagonist does NOTHING for themselves (or has to be saved or told what to do the whole time). Take some initiative! And I don’t like unengaging writing or so many cliches either. 😂Another big turn-off for me is girl-on-girl hate and when the protagonist is excessively mean for no good reason!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, I always worry that I might be DNFing a book too early! I’m like, “Just one more chapter, and maybeeeeeee it will get good…” And yeah, isn’t girl-on-girl hate just the worst?Like, girls aren’t really like that. But if you are going just by what happens in books, you would think that pretty much every girl hates each other! It’s sad that it’s such a common trope. I wish we would be able to see more realistic girl friendships in books.


  12. It really takes a lot for me to DNF a book, I have had to stop reading two this year, the first was because of a toxic main character and I just couldn’t stand to be in his headspace any longer. and the second was because I couldn’t get on with the style of writing, though I am tempted to give this one another go to see if I just needed to be in the right frame of mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ugh, I wouldn’t want to read a book with a toxic MC either. Like, if I feel just GROSS reading a book, it’s a sure sign that maybe it’s not for me. Sure, books should make us question the world and stretch us to see things in a different way, but they shouldn’t make us feel disgusting. If that makes sense, haha. Thanks for such a great comment!


  13. Hahaha, you made me laugh with those stairs… 😀 But it’s so true.
    I’m not a romance reader, and that cheesy description made me cringe as well. To me most romance feels just like that…

    I can’t stand boring books. And i don’t mean the slow burners. Those i love. But when nothing happens for ages, and it’s not for creating atmosphere, or all the characters talk like no normal person ever would… then i drop the book 😀

    Or if it has a misleading blurb. I got a book once, expecting a suspense / thriller. It was erotica, and kind of boring. Like, a very boring main character. * eye roll *

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Love how you formatted this post. I feel like the longer I am a blogger, the easier it’s become to set a book aside. My biggest turn off is an unbearable romance. Did you write that cheesy romance excerpt yourself or is it from a book? I honestly can’t tell because I have read things similar to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I love all your metaphors, they’re amazing, haha. And yeah, a lot of these things bother me too. There are a lot of tropes and cliches I don’t like, and when a book is just all tropes and doesn’t do anything new with them, it’s bland and not memorable at best, aggravating to read at worst. This is such a fun post though!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I used to have only 2-3 DNFs in 100 books, cause I used to try my best. But now that I read more books, I actually started DNFing more. Lately, it’s mostly been because of triggers! Or I don’t know, maybe I just pick very depressing books.

    Too many cliches is definitely a turn off! Or mysogyny (I can never know if I spelled that right…) Or love tropes. Ugh.

    Points for the Tuxedo Mask GIF 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Well I can live with cliché and insta romance but I can’t live with a doormat as an MC! Or someone having no respect at all for himself or herself and letting others abuse her. I just become mad!!!! Or some triggers that I have like drugs or …Another pet peeves are books poorly written. I mean I am not so hard to please but some authors leave hundreds mistakes, inconsistencies etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Love this post, especially the staircase diagram that you did and the poll! I agree with your points here, cliched and weak MCs are also some reasons that I feel bored by a book. However I’ve been bad at actually DNFing a book because I feel like I’ve already invested time/money on a book and I might as well finish it lol. I need to learn to DNF more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your wonderful comment! I totally agree with both of your DNF reasons. The perfectionist in me especially cringes at the editorial errors one. There’s nothing like a spelling mistake to pull you out of the book.


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