Meta: Cover Blurb No-Nos

I have actual review posts in the works, including one of the latest Sisters Grimm, but I wanted to take a minute to speak more generally of books. Specifically, what makes me put books down without buying them after reading the back cover blurb.

I picked up two books in the store the other day and immediately put them back down because according to the back cover, they both revolved around three male characters. I will happily read and enjoy books with a male protagonist (the Gregor books were probably the best things I read all last year), but if there’s no female character important enough to be even mentioned on the back, I move on.

I also picked up – and put down – The Key to Rondo by Emily Rodda. According to the blurb on the back, it’s about a boy who inherits a music box from an elderly relative, which is governed by strict rules, and his uncontrollable girl cousin, who breaks those rules and releases an evil sorceress that the children must then defeat. You know what? I am sick of the trope of boys respectfully following the rules of magic and girls breaking them willy nilly because apparently that’s just how girls are. I’ve been sick of it since Eve and Pandora were blamed for bringing evil into the world. (And of course the evil itself takes the form of a woman. Nice.)

It’s entirely possible that this book actually reclaims and reverse that trope. And it’s entirely possible that the other books are full of rich, nuanced female characters who didn’t make it into the blurb, or have no female characters to speak of but are really good books otherwise. But these are the things that made me go: “Hmm. I don’t think I want to read this,” when I looked at the books in the store. And since it does writers no good to have books that are awesome if people don’t want to buy and read them, I think these things are worth looking at.

What are the things that make you put down a book based on the description? I’m not talking about things like “Oh, this book appears to be about a dystopia and that’s not really my thing.” I mean pet peeves or narrative tropes that annoy you enough to keep the book in the store and your money in your wallet. Do you hate wiseass talking cats? Do girls in love with vampires leave you cold? Do you want to punch emo loner protagonists in the face? Share!

    8 Responses to “Meta: Cover Blurb No-Nos”

    1. Rebecca says:

      See, this is hard, becomes some things are difficult to tell if they’re genre or trope. I’m not going to pick up anything with an anthropormorphic animal as the protagonist (*cough*Swordbird*cough*), but is that a trope or a genre? Either way, it’s not for me.

      Wiseass talking cats — and horses, Mercedes Lackey… — are A-OK with me. Vampires and emo protagonists, on the other hand…

    2. Jessica says:

      Okay, but Swordbird is hilarious.

      But yeah, I had trouble coming up with examples beyond the ones I actually encountered. Like, I KNOW I don’t want to read books only about men or books that replay Original Sin without putting any kind of feminist spin on it, and I KNOW those are tropes rather than genres. But abstract examples are harder to come by.

    3. Rebecca says:

      Wait, I thought of one, kind of! “I am a mysterious wizened person with information vital to your quest…but now isn’t the time for you to know.” Because there’s usually NO reason for people not to know, except that it would ruin the dramatic tension of the protagonist finding out whatever’s going on later, and that’s just poor planning. Bah, humbug.

    4. Rebecca says:

      Here’s another, though I don’t think you see it advertised on cover blurbs: the love interest who’s sent away from the climactic battle, because the hero can’t stand the thought of her being hurt. Blech.

    5. Gillian says:

      Ok, so I often read things from the library that I really would rather not, but it goes with the job. The most unappealing things get a quick flip-through and then put back on the shelf.

      I’m getting incredibly sick of:
      -Emo-vampires and the girls that love them. I really disliked Twilight.
      -Girl discovers she’s a witch and/or has other powers.
      -Books that have blurbs claiming, that this is the next Harry Potter or Tolkien. If the words “Move over…” are featured, I’ll put it down.

    6. Kelly says:

      -Mysterious Vampire Love Interests. Blech, it’s gotten so bad that the second I see the word “Vampire” in a blurb I can’t even bring myself to read the rest. Also I’m going to throw Incredibly Fashionable And Sexy Vampires in here too. Ugh.

    7. Christina says:

      I find that if the protagonist is a small hero and revolves around “Oh I don’t have a family and I’m not a good person to save the day” and “Discovers they really are the ‘chosen one'”… then I also find a new book to move onto. The REAL good ones are the new and creative, twisted yet fantastic characters you find in definitely vivid books. Stories as I like to call them, pfft, because even the word ‘Book’ is becoming dry!

    8. […] That’s sort of why I like it. Jessica has mentioned the problem with mythological retellings that don’t reclaim characters and storylines, and I’m right there with her. I don’t want to read a story about how Helen was so very […]

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