Annie DNF’ed a Book

Today’s been a day of new experiences.  I attended my first college football game (my school, Elon University, won in case anyone’s wondering!), bought my first pepper spray (college safety is important), and DNF’ed my first book.  Whew, what a day!

I’ve read a lot of discussion posts lately that address the great DNF debate: as readers, do we have the literary right to elect to not finish a book?  If we aren’t enjoying a book, should we push through and finish or just say “no thanks?”

In the past, I’ve been on the push-through-and-finish side.  As a writer, reading is fuel to the proverbial fire, so reading a wide variety of books helps writers write.  Even when I’ve read books I didn’t like in the past, I continued because reading “bad” books is productive too.  In truth, I love reading a book and thinking through how I would write it better.

However, I’ve never sought out bad books just to appease my ego.  I also love reading books that stretch me, books that make me think in ways I’ve never thought before.  Books that pose a challenge inspire me to write at a higher level and motivate me to improve my craft.

So why did I DNF a book today?


The book in question is The Program by Suzanne Young.  I’ve had this book on my Goodreads TBR shelf for quite a long time and when I found a discounted version on ThriftBooks, I couldn’t resist.  The cover is striking and gorgeous.  The synopsis, which I’ve included below, was enticing.  This looked like the kind of book that would transport me to a world where my BIO 101 homework no longer existed.

Here is the Goodreads synopsis of The Program:

In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.

Sounds freaking awesome, right?  I couldn’t wait to start reading and practically jumped out of my skin when it came in the mail.  I was so excited that I actually stopped myself from ripping open the packaging so I could do an unboxing on my Instagram.  (Shameless plug: make sure you follow Annie Likes Words on Instagram so you can keep up with my day-to-day literary adventures!)

The first chapter or two were a nice transition into the world of Sloane, our protagonist.  Depression and teen suicide are an epidemic, so the government instituted The Program to “correct” teenagers who contract depression.  Thus far, it was all smooth sailing.  Well, the characters had it pretty rough, but it was smooth sailing for me as a reader.

And then we met James.  James was Sloane’s devoted boyfriend of two years and self-determined protector of Sloane and their mutual friend (and perpetual third-wheel) Miller.  James was a pretty-boy and knew it, which I’m not entirely opposed to if the trope is executed tastefully.  However, Sloane seemed to confuse his love for himself with his love for her.  I understand how the two could intermingle sometimes, but the relationship didn’t feel genuine.

Sloane was under the impression that James was the sun, moon, and stars.  He was her everything because she was his everythingI love a good sappy romance, but seriously?  The boy couldn’t hold a conversation without referencing his rock-hard abs.  I’m sure he loved Sloane, but his love for himself superseded everything.

About sixty pages in, the exposition stopped and we reached the first plot point.  Sloane and James are furiously racing to a friend’s house after receiving a call from him, during which he admitted to taking a drug known as QuikDeath.  Sadly, they were too late.  Sloane started to cry, which is all but forbidden in their world because it marks the onset of depression, but James isn’t having it.  So he slaps her.

And that’s when I slammed the book shut.

I understand the complexities of why James hit Sloane.  She was crying, risking exposure, and he didn’t wasn’t to lose his love to The Program.  But was physical violence really necessary to send a message?  Coupled with his rampant egocentrism and arrogant attitude, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I officially thew in the towel on The Program, turned off the lights and drew the curtain.  Time of DNF: 9:00 PM.

I might have enjoyed the book if I’d continued reading it.  I might come back to it later and give it another chance, but I’ve got plenty of other books to read at the moment and I don’t want to waste my time with a book that offends and confuses me.  I’ve got plenty of other books to keep me company.

Do you DNF books?  What’s the last book you didn’t finish?

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20 thoughts on “Annie DNF’ed a Book

  1. I have lots of feelings about DNFing books. I used to hate the idea of DNFing something, but I do it with no guilt or shame now. There are so many incredible books out there — why would I want to waste my time powering through something that’s just not working for me? When I am reading something I really don’t enjoy, I tend to avoid it. That means I avoid reading in general. I just can’t do that to myself.

    My rule is that a book has about 100 pages to catch my interest in some way. There are a few exceptions — I’ll give more time to a book by an author I love or if I’ve been told that things don’t pick up until later on.

    A book can be amazing to one person, and not click with another. Just because a book doesn’t work for me doesn’t make it bad! It could just be that it’s not to my taste, but another kind of reader would love it. I try to explain why I DNFed something in my reviews and why another reader should give it a chance.

    That being said, this book sounds terrible. Which means this was really fun to read! I don’t blame you for slamming that book shut.

    1. I like your self-determined rule! 100 pages is a good amount of time to give a book a chance, but you’re also right about finding other fish in the sea. With so many fabulous books, why get stuck on the one that don’t stick with us?

      1. Yeah! Even with my rule, I don’t actually DNF that many things. But it does make me feel better knowing that I won’t get stuck on something 🙂

  2. When I was buying books at 7 to 8 dollars a pop, I would rarely, if ever, DNF a book, but now, with ebooks, I have access to so many books I want to read that are much less expensive (and as a result are often of lower quality–but not always!), that I will DNF if my interest isn’t captured within the first 25 percent of the book.

    I read mostly indie books now, since I find a lot of the mainstream books to be too bland and formulaic for my tastes. However, this means I come across a lot of not-so-good writing, so I don’t feel guilty about DNFing a book.

    I’ve had the same transition in my habits and tastes with movies. I watch mostly indie or foreign films and won’t hesitate to quit watching for a variety of reasons, whereas I used to just stick it out to see if it got better.

    The older I get, the more protective I am of my time. I dont want to waste any of my precious freetime doing something I don’t want to do. 😊

    1. Totally agree–it’s much harder to say “no thanks” to a book when you’re holding it in your hands, which is how I read most of my books. The 25% rule seems like the general consensus on how long to give a book before DNFing.

  3. I used to hate DNFing books, and would push through unless something was really bad. But then I discovered Goodreads, and I got a kindle. And suddenly I could research books first to make sure they were my kind of thing, and with ebooks I’m less reluctant to stop reading. Since then, I think I’ve only DNF a couple books, except most of the time was that because I started on something, realised it’s not what I wanted to read at the time, and shelved it for later. Then never got back to it…

    1. Goodreads is such an awesome resource! I’m always hesitant to read reviews because I like going into books with just enough knowledge to make sense, but I love seeing how many stars each book gets!

  4. Ayeee holla at Elon! I just graduated from Salem College in Winston Salem! Also, I am a big fan of DNFing books, especially since I’m a mood reader. Sometimes it’s not a DNF but just a “not right now”

    1. Wow what a small world!! Me too–that’s why I’m constantly reading like 6 books at a time. I’ve got a book for the day and a book for before bed and a book for, well, pretty much every possible time 🙂

  5. Yeah, there’s been a few books over the years I put down and refused to finish halfway in, or less than that. Usually it has been because of a few a-hole characters or just some seriously bad writing, or trope-y writing… well I guess there are a few reasons! Anyways, great post x