Book Nerd Problems #18: The DNF, or When Do You Give Up?

Posted February 12, 2014 by Debby in Uncategorized

This is a periodic discussion feature here at Snuggly Oranges about the many problems one can run into as a book nerd.

#18. The DNF, or When Do You Give Up?

Today I want to talk a bit about something that I have a lot of trouble with. That would be the DNF – or the ‘did not finish’. I cannot bring myself to DNF often. It’s something that on the one hand I’m quite proud of, but on the other hand, I know it’s causing me to push through some books that I really dislike, thereby causing me pain.

I have a lot of rambly thoughts about DNFing, so I felt like putting that out there today. It’s definitely one of my book nerd problems. I’m not going to advocate a right way to determine whether you can DNF something – I mean, really, it’s person dependent and everyone’s perfectly entitled to their own methods. These are just my thoughts.

This post may be a little like this. … I’m sorry.

My DNF Thought Process

My mind goes through a kind of series of questions if I’m tempted to DNF a book. Until now, this has resulted in me barely ever DNFing a book. So I need to lighten up on my restrictions. But this is basically what I go through.

1. How many pages have you read?
I am a believer that you have to give a book a fair shot before you leave it in the dust. I mean, I can think of more than enough fantasy novels that have really slow starts because of the set up of the world at the beginning. It can be quite infodumpy and boring, but usually it’s worth it to push through. I don’t really have a set target for myself on how many pages to minimally read… but I think that 20% or so would be fair? Right? Or not?


2. Is this book a review book?
With review copies, regardless of whether they are physical or egalleys, whether I was auto-approved or invited or requested it, whether it was solicited or unsolicited, I feel more guilty when I’m tempted to not finish. I think I’m far from alone in that. Obviously, in some way, shape, form or statistic somewhere, I agreed with someone that I would read this book and talk about it. So I feel obligated to finish it. But if I’m really not feeling it, I’ll rate it negatively, which publishers also wouldn’t particularly enjoy. Now that I’m getting more access to review copies, I need to find some way to let it go. At the least, copies that I’m auto-approved for or invited to should be less of an obligation. Requesting and getting approved is a bigger deal.

TL;DR: if it’s a review copy, I’ll give it a bit more time to impress me than normal.

giphy (1)
Sorry, publishers…

3. Is it likely that there will be a twist – that the plot will get better?
Sometimes I do get the feeling that the end will truly be better. I might, at this point, consult with some friends that have read it. It’s harder, obviously, if it’s a review book that not many people have read yet. Most of the time you can kind of feel this – or you should be able to feel this – early on though. There might be a feeling that it’s building to something, that the plot twists could shock you, that you have to know WHY. But other times, there might not even be a clear plot or a clear driver behind the story. Should I go on? Hmm.

Help me, friend!

4. Is it bad enough that you want to set the record straight?
I have to admit, a lot of the tendency to DNF for me comes when I’m feeling lukewarm about a book – if I’m bored or not connecting. If it’s really bad, then I’ll often feel like I should set the record straight, and let followers and fellow readers make an informed opinion before picking up a book. This is pretty much the only thing that got me to finish September Girls and the unspeakable book last year. But basically, it needs to be a special kind of bad for me to do that. A kind of bad that gets the rant juices flowing. The kind where I’m just like…


5. How much time have you spent on it already?
I’m pretty picky in that I really want to keep up my reading schedule. I need to finish at least two books per week. It’s happened recently (*cough*The5thWave*cough*) that I really wanted to drop a book, but I’d already spent 4 days reading it. I needed to finish it because otherwise I wouldn’t get my 2 books per week in! This sounds kind of shallow, but I like my reading challenge, and I don’t count my DNF books. I mean, I guess I could if I read enough of them (>50%? >75%? I DON’T KNOW). But yeah. The same goes with posting a review. I don’t know if it’s fair to post a DNF review on the blog. I post reasoning behind DNFing on GR, but the blog? Meh. It also can invite drama because people can be like, “Well you didn’t even finish, what the hell do you know?” So I need the book finished to be able to post a review – to have content for my blog.

TL;DR: if I’ve already spent a long time on it, I’m more likely to push through and finish. (Obviously this directly conflicts with #1 – have I given it a fair shot? ARGH LIFE IS SO HARD.)


My 4 Rare DNFs

To this day, I can count the number of books I’ve DNFed on one hand. *dances* Well I’m not counting required reading books in school, because I’m sure there were plenty of those. BUT ANYWAY. Basically, when I DNF, I don’t do so lightly. Here are my 4 DNFs, and why I couldn’t bear to finish them.

breaking-dawn-cover1. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer – Read 50% / Quit somewhere in 2009.
To be honest, I’m surprised I even lasted that long, but I made it through almost half this last book in the series before I could finally give it up. I was reading the whole series just trying to understand the hype. I thought Twilight was relatively entertaining, if corny and sappy and melodramatic. The series went downhill from there though. But I wasn’t much of a reader, and I’d bought the box set, so I continued. Breaking Dawn was just too horrible. What I remember most that pissed me off was the sudden addition of Jacob’s point of view. I could not stand his voice. Eventually I just was occupied with other things and forgot about the book. But I didn’t care. At all.

The_Scorch_Trials_cover2. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner – Read 60% / Quit in May 2012.
I really quite enjoyed The Maze Runner, but the sequel was just… what? It totally did not go the way that I expected and I was just not into it. The charm was lost. The story just became more… horror-esque, that at least at that point in time was really a turn off for me. The characters were also all over the place. The worldbuilding left much to be desired. The “romance” was melodramatic. But I could potentially give this a shot some other time. I haven’t completely written it off. But I just don’t get the hype about this series. The first book, sure, I guess. But this? Meh.

A-Million-Suns-An-Across-the-Universe-Novel-700x10243. A Million Suns by Beth Revis – Read 45% / Quit in August 2012.
I pretty much disliked the first book (though I gave it 3 stars… I was less critical at the time) but everyone raved about this series, so I felt like I should push on. My problem was that I had no connection to the characters, they were as stiff as cardboard, and their romance was infuriatingly bad. When I reached halfway in the sequel and still saw no personality from either of them, I let myself out. One and a half books was a fair enough try. I wasn’t even impressed by the plot, and after quitting, I read some spoilers on where it was going, and yeah, no. Not my thing. Weaksauce sci-fi.

180076324. White Space by Ilsa J. Bick – Read 15% / Quit in February 2014.
I actually went a year and a half without DNFing anything – my whole career as a blogger, pretty much. But then this happened last week. I couldn’t do it. It’s what triggered this post, actually, because obviously I feel guilty for DNFing a review book. But knowing how confusing the world was, how immense the book was, the fact that there were 4 different POVs and I had no clue who was who because it rushed right into confusing plot, and the writing either gave me a headache or couldn’t hold my attention for more than 5 seconds… it was going nowhere. Another thing I couldn’t stand was that there were brutal scenes with a bunch of gore that were written in the most cold and detached way – and that I seriously cannot handle in books.

Let’s Talk!

Now obviously I’m not the first to broach this topic, but I want to hear from you guys!
1. Do you write reviews for books you DNF? Only on Goodreads or also on your blog?
2. When is it okay to DNF a review copy? How do you let the publisher know?
3. Do you set yourself a minimum number of pages to get through before DNFing?
4. Or am I just crazy and do you think about NONE of these things and just DNF when you feel like it?
5. Any other thoughts!

Let me know in the comments!



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23 responses to “Book Nerd Problems #18: The DNF, or When Do You Give Up?

  1. 1. I feel weird writing reviews for books I DNF. I might write a little thing saying “DNF” and why the book wasn’t for me but I feel like I can’t review a book properly if I haven’t finished. I’ll be like: This is how I felt up to page “x” and then I stopped and I just don’t know what happens next.
    2. I’ve never DNFed a review copy but I guess if it was a publisher I got a bunch of books for and wasn’t doing a review thing for, I might just hope my lack of proper feedback goes unnoticed. But if I’m on a blog tour, I’d post the way after review after my tour post. And if it was just a pub that was expecting something, I might write something bland-ish that makes the book seem like it’s for SOMEONE (because it usually is) or explain to them that it just didn’t work out.
    3. I give up when I can’t take anymore. No quantifiable thing. But I try to give it at least 100 pages. This is problematic with short (250-ish) page books because I’ll just finish them even though I don’t really want to since I’m like half-way done already (this happened to me recently with Teen Spirit by Francesca Lia Block).
    4. Uh, I think about everything constantly. Clearly.
    5. WTH DNF.

    Love you and this post.
    xxxxxxx times a million.

    • 1. Right? I would feel odd because I’m not exactly standing on solid ground with my reasoning… or something. This might change as I DNF more books though.
      2. Hahaha, I toooootally get you. I am right there with you in the “Huh? Did I get that book? What? *feign ignorance*” realm. Obviously, for blog tours that would be awkwarddddd. That’s generally why I don’t do blog tours at all. SO awkward if you don’t like the book.
      3. I AM SO WITH YOU ON THE SHORT BOOKS. I should have added another question, “How long will it take me to still finish the book?” because sometimes you’re just too far in, and why not? =/

      <3 LOVE YOU. WTH DNF.

  2. 1. Ah, I’ve written one DFN review for my blog, which was Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. I think it counts though, because I read it a long time ago. It’s just that I wanted to reread it, and I found out how not-for-me it was. xD

    2. I think it’s okay to DFN a review copy if you’ve read 50% and you’re really not feeling it. I would only post the review on my blog if I have enough to say about it without it being a boring and non-informal review. Ashley from Nose Graze had a great post about it here.

    3. Not really. I mean, I didn’t really want to read The Book Thief, but somehow I pushed through it. I’ve DFN’d a lot of books (11 so far?) so I think from now on I’m going to try and do that less often. (Technically Shiver wasn’t a DFN! I’ve read it before! xD) I think around the 150 page mark if I’m really not feeling it, I’ll move on.

    4. Half and half. I don’t want to DFN a book because really, that’s a waste of time. But then again, I feel like I shouldn’t force myself to read it, because it will result in a negative review. I’m a horrible person, and I kind of like writing negative reviews, but that’s it. I just like to write them. I take no pleasure in posting them online and having the slight chance of the author reading it.

    5. This is sort of related to this post—do you give authors another try? For example, if you read a book and don’t like it, do you give said author another chance with another one of their books? Personally, I do. I don’t think an author’s writing ability should be judged on just one book. But that’s only if I’m interested in said author’s other book. xD Otherwise, I just don’t think about them anymore.

    Great post! I love the book nerd mini series you have going on here. 😀

    Tori @ YA Book Queens

  3. Hmmm well I’ve never actually DNFed a book before, but that’s because I like to see if there is anything by the end that will somehow change my mind about the rest of the book 😀 It’s happened before, but very rarely XD So yeah, I think if you’re going to DNF a book sent to you by the publisher, it’s still your choice whether or not you want to review it, but of course it’s really hard to do so especially since they gave away a copy. If I were in that position though, I wouldn’t try to sugarcoat it and just review the book honestly, which I think is better than ending up not reviewing at all. At least they know where to improve! I’m just a little nervous about the backlash, if ever D:

    But anyway, great post Debby <3

  4. I can understand DNFing White Space. I don’t know how I managed to push through it to be honest… (it didn’t get much better).

    So far in my blogging career, I haven’t purposely DNFed anything so I don’t really have any guidelines to follow. If I ever get over my guilt of putting books down, I think I’d have to read at least 25% of a book and be HATING is to put it down (if it’s just meh/really unenjoyable then I’d try to read 40-50%).

    DNF reviews… I think I will write them but they’ll be different to my normal reviews. It’d be fair, stating each of the reasons I decided to give up (with examples if I can manage it) and maybe also list a few things I might have liked (if any). And I think such reasons would be enough to send to a publisher. They should realise that books is not going to be for everyone (though it’d still be really scary giving that feedback!)

    Thanks for this fantastic post 🙂

  5. I can onl think of one book that I have DNF’d recently. I’m scared of saying what it was, haha, but I didn’t write a review simply to spare the feelings of a really close friend that ADORED it. There was not a good word to say about it. It made me ANGRY.

    I WOULD have written a few otherwise though. It was so offensive to me that I would have felt compelled to tear it apart.

    This is rare though. Haha, I just made myself sound so psycho.

    I tend to force myself to finish books even if they are dumb. Twilight, Hush Hush…those are examples.

    If I were to DNF it would either be because it was crazy offensive, or because it bored me to tears.

  6. I don’t DNF often but some books are painful so I can’t force myself. I have only reviewed one DNF on my blog–White Space. It was horribly painful and I knew early there was zero chance I’d make it through that whole thing.

    I think if I DNFed often I’d feel bad but since it is very rare for me I don’t mind or feel guilty.

    Love this discussion 🙂

  7. When I started blogging, I never DNF-ed. Ever. But in the past six months, I’ve started doing it more rather than just slogging through books that are a chore. And it’s interesting–books I don’t like aren’t always a chore. It’s more of the “meh” ones that become a chore for me–if I have issues with a book(like, severe issues with say, sexism or something in the book), I’m more compelled to finish so I can write a proper review. If there aren’t issues, but I’m just bored, I’m more likely to DNF. So. . .

    1. I don’t write full reviews, but I guess you could say I do mini reviews. I keep a DNF Round-up draft post on my blog, and every time I DNF a book, I write a paragraph saying why I DNF-ed and at what point. I do post these on the blog eventually, but not until I have 3 or 4 DNFs for each post, so in the six months I’ve started doing those, I’ve posted two of those. Considering I read about 3 or 4 books a week on average, it’s a pretty small percentage I dnf. Usually a book or two a month.

    2. I don’t treat review copy DNFs differently than other books. I try to give each book until 25%. That seems pretty reasonable to me. There have been times I dnf-ed earlier when it was SO CLEAR a book was just not for me, or later, but 25% is my rule of thumb. I prefer e-ARCs to physical ones, so I’ve only requested a handful of physical books, and I think the distance does make it easier to give publishers DNF reviews for e-arcs. I just put my mini-DNF review paragraph in the review space.

  8. Twilight & White Space are also DNF books for me.

    1. Do you write reviews for books you DNF? Only on Goodreads or also on your blog?
    Only on Goodreads. I don’t feel like it’s fair to review them when I haven’t read the whole book. What IF it gets better towards the end? So I just leave some of my thoughts on Goodreads and that’s it. I do like the DNF wrap-up posts some bloggers have.

    2. When is it okay to DNF a review copy? How do you let the publisher know?
    I always try to finish review copies. I give them more opportunities than my own books, even if that means that I skim half of the book. I let the publisher now I couldn’t finish it and that I’m sorry about it, but I might showcase it somewhere to give it some publicity 🙂 Most of the times I give them a link to Goodreads instead of a review link to my blog.

    3. Do you set yourself a minimum number of pages to get through before DNFing?
    It depends on how many pages the book has. If it’s around 200 pages, I can DNF it after 50 pages. If it’s thicker, I give it more chance. So I guess I’m around 25% before I decided to DNF a book.

    4. Or am I just crazy and do you think about NONE of these things and just DNF when you feel like it?
    I must say that I’m getting easier with DNF. Before blogging I used to finish every book, no matter what. Now, I’m more aware of the many upcoming books, so I don’t want to waste my time reading a book I’m clearly not enjoying 🙂

  9. Haha, so I’ve tried to enforce a “read at least this much” push for myself, but there were some books that I just couldn’t even reach that goal. Basically, if it gets to the point where I’m dreading reading time because of that book, I’d rather DNF than make myself not want to read ya know?

    It’s funny that you mention Million Suns since I just started Across the Universe on audio and won’t be continuing it since the male narrator is just getting on my nerves. I’ll probably still give them a try reading someday, but now it’s kind of left a bad taste D:

  10. 4 – I really, really hate to DNF (and especially so if it’s a book I was REALLY looking forward to) but yeah, sometimes I just can’t.push.on. If it’s a review copy I’ll try harder though (since I don’t post DNF reviews).

    1 – nope. I might leave a note on GR or something though…

    2 – well, I don’t request ARCs that much so it rarely happens, but when it does I email the publisher/author or let them know through Netgalley/Edelweiss.

    3 – yep, it depends; if it’s a library book I have no problem DNF-ing after a few pages. On the other hand, if it’s a book I bought with my own money or a review copy, I give it (a little) more time.

    Great post! 🙂

  11. Your post about DNF is so well-written, so props for that! And now, to answer your questions:

    1. I only write reviews for DNF books if I got them for review via NetGalley or EW. Usually, they’re very short and I just say what made me drop a book. I don’t think I’ve ever done a DNF review on my blog or GR, and don’t think I intend to start now.

    2. My general philosophy is, if it’s not working for you, just let it go. Most of the time, I’ve got a lot of patience. It’s only really, really bad (in my opinion) things that I can’t finish. I’m very honest with the publisher when I do report back to them (see number 1).

    3. Mine is usually somewhere between 50-100, depending on the book length. I do generally just push on though, even if it’s only one tiny thing that has caught my interest, because I generally have a really hard time letting go of stuff.

  12. DNF books are the hardest for me. I really try to get half way before I decide to stop. I have had some books where after 8 chapters I was getting headaches because it was so bad. What’s worse is that sometimes, it would be books I’ve had on my TBR list for a long time or I’ve noticed a huge amount of love given from other bloggers.

    So I review the book. Give it my thoughts, explain why I DNF, and hope the author and publisher understand.

  13. 1.I don’t write reviews for my DNF books, but I do make a note of exactly why I gave up on Goodreads/Booklikes, and then when I have a bunch of those I put them together as a post on my blog.

    2. I’ve DNF’d a review copy on the first page! I couldn’t stand the writing and knew I would hate it the whole way through. I for sure let the publishers know! Mostly because I’m in denial about any of them reading my reviews, so I say whatever the heck I want. I give them feedback on Netgalley but I also put the same thing up on Goodreads/Booklikes and eventually my blog.

    3. I’d like to set a minimum number of pages. Normally I try to make it to 20%, but there have been a lot of books that are so badly written I haven’t even made it that far. If I make it to 50% without DNFing, I try to push through, though there have been some books I’ve wished I DNF’d at about 70% or whatever. They weren’t worth the time or agony of pushing through and I wish I’d listened to my instincts. I’m learning to, though!

    4. I understand that some people feel obligated to finish a book or as you said ‘give it a chance’ but I feel like I give it a chance by opening the damn thing and reading the first page. Some books just won’t work for me. I try to stick to my 20% rule but I normally DNF whenever I feel like it. If the book’s not working, it’s not working for a reason (normally bad writing) that won’t improve later on.

    5. My last thought is that I don’t write full reviews because of the backlash of haters against reviewers who ‘dare’ to ‘waste their time’ either reading or writing about a book they didn’t like. I’m not going to invest time in a book that doesn’t deserve it, and this includes writing a full review!

  14. I am actually starting to define my DNFs. If it is less than 20 pages, I just call it a bust and move on. I actually ready 40% of The Stockholm Octavo before I called it a DNF. Usually, a character will offend me or I will find that I am doing everything I can not to have to read the book. That is when I DNF. Because I have too many books on my shelf to force myself to read a ho-hum book.

  15. I have problems quitting books. There have been some that I really should have just given up instead of writing a negative review on the book. The one book I did give up last year is Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi. Everybody raved about the book, but I was 100 pages in and I just was not understanding so I gave it up. Splintered is a book I should have given up. I almost gave up on Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen because I could not get into the writing style, but I ended up finishing it and I wrote a positive review because of the ending, but I’m not sure if I’m going to read the second book.