Almost all the reading blogs online write about ‘top 10 books’, ‘best books of this year’ or even ‘books you shouldn’t miss out’. But what about the books most readers didn’t finish because they realized halfway that this isn’t their cup of tea? Readers refrained from discussing such novels, opting to sweep them under the rug. But now, the literary world has come up with a term for the books you never finished – DNF.
DNF is an acronym for did not finish, which is self-explanatory. There will always be books that weren’t appealing to you, weren’t written well enough to continue, or you simply hated them. These are the books which go on the DNF list.
A reader’s tastes can never be compared with another because everyone’s reading styles and preferences are unique. Even so, the entire world agrees on one thing about many novels – that they are not worth finishing. You may have read some of these books and even loved them. But don’t be discouraged if the ones you really liked are many people’s DNF additions. These are subjective opinions, after all!
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue – V. E. Schwab:
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V. E. Schwab was released in 2020. It has won Goodreads Choice Award – yet, more than 2900 readers have put this in the DNF list on Goodreads. The story jumps between flashbacks of France of the 1700s and the present, following the life of Addie LaRue. This French woman makes a deal with the devil – or Luc, the god of the night – and has to bear its consequences till the end.
The novel has received much love from the world. And yet, many readers needed help to finish. According to the reviews, what threw them off was the flowery prose, which was littered with repetitive flashbacks. Also, the lack of character development and the slow, monotonous feel of the narrative made the book simply unreadable for a lot of people.
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern:
Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus takes something as simple as a circus and gives it a magical realism twist! Celia and Marco are two magicians who have to duel with each other, as instructed by their masters. Their battleground is a magical circus that only opens at night and entertains the masses through this covert duel. But while the battle is raging, the young magicians fall in love – and decide to instead save the circus and put a stop to their masters’ tactics.
A combination of circus and darkness, and magic is enough to rouse any reader’s interest. So, it’s a surprise to see more than 2700 readers putting it on their DNF list. The romance is as instant as unbearably sugary, with descriptive, flowery prose. The multiple perspectives and the story’s poor execution ruin the narrative’s direction. It tries to cover everything and run everywhere, and that has ultimately led to the book’s downfall.
Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston:
A YA novel usually promises cute romance, smut scenes and a little conflict that eventually leads to the happily ever after. This description matches Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue – but make it M/M Romance. Alex is the White House boy, and Henry is the British Prince – and accompanying their enemies to lovers’ story is American/British politics.
For various reasons, the readers who have DNF-ed this book – around 2150 people. Because what could’ve been a beautiful novel was turned dull by the childish scenes, childish dialogues and even the initial childish enmity. It seemed like fan fiction with a bad political plotline and an inaccurate depiction of the main British character. The only redeeming qualities were the M/M romance and their handful of fluffy scenes.
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller:
Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is not just any book – in fact, it is one of the most significant novels in American Literature. The setting is Italy during World War II, where we see Yossarian, a bombardier, who is frustrated with both the enemy army and his own. He wants to excuse himself from his missions but can’t because of Catch-22, a twisted bureaucratic rule that shows the absurdity of the war.
Catch-22 is a classic war novel – and many readers aren’t comfortable with such books. Adding more to this is the sheer number of male characters – with only women being sex workers with no dialogue – which is a huge problem, especially for today’s readers. The prose is frustrating and disjointed, which is the whole point of the book, to show the bureaucracy’s frustration. However, readers simply couldn’t deal with the boringness of the narrative. That is precisely why more than 2000 people voted it DNF.
A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas:
A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first of the series of the same name by Sarah J. Maas. The protagonist is Feyre, a huntress captured by a faerie for killing a wolf in the woods. Feyre, who never realized that the faerie clan was still alive, now has to live indefinitely with Tamlin, her kidnapper. And as every romance story goes, their coldness towards each other soon transforms into a passionate romance.
It is a loose adaptation of Beauty and the Beast but skips over many vital themes from the original. All the mystery – yes, there is a mystery in this romance – is revealed at the very end, with flimsy overshadowing and no gasp-worthy moments. There is no gradual development; instead, the protagonist is told everything she needs to know quickly. If there is no excitement in the narrative, who will complete reading it, smut or not? That is precisely why over 1900 readers have DNFed this!
Outlander – Diana Gabaldon:
Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander – book one of the series – has been around since the 90s. To put it simply, the series focuses on Claire Randall, a British nurse of the 20th century who accidentally travels back to 18th-century Scotland. She meets Jamie Fraser, a handsome man from Clan MacKenzie, who perceives Claire as an Outlander. In the middle of Claire’s struggle to go back to the present and the ongoing issues, the two fall in love.
The book’s initial pages – responsible for setting the tone for the entire series, by the way – are not enough to entice the readers. People called it boring and pretentious, with problematic perspectives on romance, adultery and violence. And more importantly, the reason why over 900 people DNFed it is because it’s too long – 850 pages!
The Casual Vacancy – J. K. Rowling:
It is hard to believe that the author of the children’s favourite series could have a book in the DNF category. And yet, here, J. K. Rowling is on this list because of her novel, The Casual Vacancy. The novel is set in the small town of Pagford, where one of the councillors of the Parish Council dies. A war-like election ensues about the casual vacancy, which shows the true colours of the town everyone thought of as quiet and unproblematic.
Despite its initial hype, many people didn’t finish reading this book. Why? One of the most listed reasons was the depiction of vile, wretched, and selfish characters. The plot is slow and can confuse you to the point that you just want to throw the book away. But the main problem for more than a thousand readers was the book’s realistic blandness and negativity.
When it comes to these books, to read or not to read is the question! But even if the entire world hates these, it doesn’t mean you have to. Reading is all about self-expression – and if that means loving the books, a bunch of readers never finished, then so be it.