Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Pet Peeves

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Previous Top Ten Tuesday Topics

Here we are in the first week of October, in the grip of dark mornings – and increasingly dark evenings – autumnal storms and pelting rain showers and distinctly unsettled weather. Halloween and Bonfire Night are approaching. The soups I make for lunch at work have become thicker and heartier and more warming – and yes the first mince pies of the year were baked last week!

So this week’s topic, pet peeves could lead to a number of directions: the way we treat our physical books – broken spines and folded page corners, coffee cup stains and watermarks, notes and shopping lists in the margins. Having said that, the presence of marginalia can be wonderful too! Or the tendency of book shops to plaster covers with promotional stickers , or publishers to bring out the dreaded film tie-in alternate cover. We could focus on grammatical and punctuation errors – little takes me out of a book as quickly as a grocer’s apostrophe! Or perhaps we can discuss other people – people who interrupt your reading or who think that reading is an admission of loneliness that they have to “cure”.

But I am the sort of person who, where others might waste hours procrastinating with cat videos on YouTube, achieve the same effect by browsing! Seriously, I can spend hours on that site! So I thought I would explore ten tropes in fiction that peeve me.

Inept Fathers – The Bumbling Dad

I am going to include both those parents – often fathers – who may be absent or, if they are around, are so bumblingly inept that they may as well not be there. Obviously this – and the next – trope are particular features of YA novels where your young adult protagonist needs the space to actually, you know, have a narrative.

Desmond Edgley in Skulduggery Pleasant fits this Homer Simpson stereotype. He lost shopping centres, forgot to put on shoes, didn’t notice that his daughter had been replaced by a mirror reflection…

Evil Fathers – Archnemesis Dad and Abusive Dad

Darth Vader in 1970s declaring “No Luke, I am your father” worked.

But then I was eight at the time!

George R. R. Martin is guilty of both these Dad Tropes: Eddard Stark allows himself to be executed – is that a little harsh of me? which absents himself from this children’s lives; and Tywin and Tyrion Lannister’s arc speaks for itself. Alexander Zalachenko – Lisbeth Salander’s dad in the Millenium Trilogy – also fits it in The Girl Who Played With Fire.

But there are so many abusive parents in literature – and very very often, it is a hugely important issue to raise and explore. But my issue comes with writers who use it lazily to generate sympathy for a protagonist.

Did I Not Tell You? – Poor Communication Kills

I am reading Holly Black’s As Good As Dead at the moment – currently at 78% – and this trope has been really threatening to take me out of the novel. Pip Fitz-Amobi, has parents are wonderful and warm, and whose Dad – is neither bumbling nor an archnemesis – and yet she does not let them know that she thinks she is being stalked! This had been present in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder too and it irked me there so I was irked at its reappearance.

The other book that I did actually love except for this trope was Normal People by Sally Rooney – God Connell, just talk to Marianne!

The Damsel in Distress

With this one, the title takes me to the Hammer Horror films – and the Gothic literature on which they were (loosely) based. Damsels in Frankenstein and in Dracula were continually in distress. But these novels were products of their time, and in Shelley’s case not a little critically and ironically.

But the series that really peeved me with this was The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Old Harry Dresden seems to be constantly running to save a woman – usually someone who is only in distress because he didn’t talk to them properly! Susan, Justine, Murphy….

Kill or Imprison Your Gays

It was an episode of Midsomer Murders that crystallised this one for me. For such a hetero-normative, white, middle class series, there was an episode which featured a lesbian couple. Progressive, I thought. And then one of the couple was found dead; the other was found to be the murderer. Disappointing is an understatement.

Maybe not all representation is good representation.

The Chosen One

Once again, such a staple of fantasy – and perhaps David and Leigh Eddings’ Belgariad is the epitome of this, which again I read as a very young reader.

I do however enjoy it when writers subvert the trope, such as Patrick Ness’ The Rest of Us Just Live Here or in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy.

Well-Why-Not-Then Sex

The novel that epitomises this for me was The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey where, in the second half, Melanie and her ragtag group of survivors are dodging zombies and terrors and gore. Characters who have been in conflict throughout on one occasion, with no apparent attraction, seemed to have sex because, well, why not?

At least build some sort of attraction, motivation, tension between the characters before getting down to it!

Cure-All Cock

The novel The Mermaid of Black Conch comes close to this as for some reason – love, desire, perhaps the fact that she was fished physically from the sea by a fishing boat – the mermaid returns to a human form. Whilst confused and distressed and oh-so-lonely she contemplates suicide, until she ends up having sex with the fisherman who rescued her when miraculously all seems well again! At least temporarily.

Sex that offers ‘cures’ for either mental health issues or – even worse – homosexuality is a real challenge for me.

Okay, only eight from me this week, but it has been a long day at work in my defence and I did get three book reviews up in the last seven days! Obviously – it goes without saying, doesn’t it? – that there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these tropes when done well, with freshness. The issue is when they become a signal of lazy writing or take the reader out of the story

Please do let me know in the comments what I have missed and what tropes tend to annoy and peeve you!

Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

  • October 12: Favourite Book Settings
  • October 19: Online Resources for Book Lovers (what websites, podcasts, apps, etc. do you use that make your reading life better?)
  • October 26: Halloween Freebie

13 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Pet Peeves”

  1. Another trope in YA that bothers me is the dead parent. Why are there so many single parents in YA? I understand not everyone has the “normal” family of a Mom and Dad in the same house. But this year, I have read 3 YA books where one of the parents was dead before the book began. And I attempted to read another where the dad was nowhere to be seen, and mom died in the first 25 pages.

    Pam @ Read! Bake! Create!


  2. An interesting post! I hadn’t thought of looking at the top ten topic in this way and I liked that you used book examples. Something I will think about doing in the future!


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