What Makes or Breaks a Book?

Posted June 1, 2017 by Emz Chang in Armchair BEA, Investigated / 15 Comments

2017 Armchair BEA

It’s day 2 of Armchair BEA and today I’ll be tackling the question: what do readers want?

As readers, we want many different things. Here are some of the many things I think can make or break a novel.

Characters

Diversity

As an Asian American, diversity and good representation is very important to me. Although I wish more books will have diverse characters as leads, I will settle for positive representation through a contributing supporting character. The token diversity characters don’t cut it anymore. They never have.

Relatable

For me, it’s hard to enjoy a book when I’m frustrated and annoyed at MCs that were not written with the intention to be frustrating and annoying. They don’t have to be likable (I would totally read Draco Malfoy’s version of HP) but I have to be able to understand them and their actions, decisions, thought patterns, etc. If I end up yelling something along the lines of “WHY?” or “That’s so dumb!” too many times… DNF.

Romance

Depending on my mood, there are two (very) different things I want in terms of romance.

As Little Romance As Possible

I’m tired of all the romance filled books. Why does every book have to have some romance? Why can’t everyone just be friends?

Realistic romance

You know, sometimes you just gotta have a little bit of romance. As long as it’s realistic, that is. I’m so sick of all the instalove, love triangle, poorly developed relationship bull that I keep reading. And no, you can’t just blame that on my genre of choice (YA).

Be Different

Plot

Original stories are hard to come by. Archetypes do exist, after all. There really is no such thing as an original story. But a story has to be different somehow. I can only read the same story with the same plot, characters of different names, set in different worlds so many times. Give me a good twist or a good spin and I’m good to go. I don’t have time to read a story where I already know what’s going to happen before I even get to the title page. No one does.

Good World Building

A different, well-built world will automatically change some mundane story like Romeo and Juliet into something completely different from what Shakespeare’s story and all other retellings of it out there in the world.

The Feels

I saved the best for last. The most important one, to me, is a story that makes me feel something. Anything. I’d rather be annoyed and angry (as long as it’s the author’s intention) than spend the whole novel feeling impassive about anything that happens.

In Conclusion…

A good book is many things. It’s one with diverse characters that I can empathize with. One with realistic romance (or none at all). It’s one that avoids unnecessary tropes and cliches. A good book is one that’s a little bit different from all the others; whether it’s a twist on a familiar plot or a whole new world. And last, but definitely not least, a good book is one that makes me feel some sort of emotion.

Emz Chang

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15 responses to “What Makes or Breaks a Book?

  1. Wonderful post!! I also need to relate to the characters on at least some level for me to enjoy a book. I think that is why I couldn’t stand books like Girl On The Train. That character drove me bonkers because I didn’t understand her at all.

    • I love that authors are starting to realize compelling characters go further than ones that are simple and always likable. Like you said, it’s a closer representation of reality and I find that shift refreshing. 🙂

  2. I read a book where it felt like the author thought if he had enough diverse characters then he didn’t have to do too much with characterization and plot. All the buzz was about the diversity but that was its only plus. I’m all for more diversity but it can’t be at the expense of everything else. You can read more about what I want and ways I collaborate

    • I agree! The worst part to me is that a lot of the books that are marketed as diverse (or being praised for containing it) aren’t actually diverse. They’re just full of generic token “diverse” characters. So in the end, you get nothing. No good plot, no good characters, and no real diverse representation. 🙁

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