I love books. I really, really do. But there are certain things about them that on occasion make me cringe in a really big way. Nothing’s perfect after all. Now, you may well be wondering where I got the idea for this post. Okay, you’re probably not, but I’m going to tell you anyway. The reason for the rant that you’re about to skim is THIS abomination:
Yes, this. It seems that there has come a time when I don’t only need to cry about printed stickers, but TIKTOK printed stickers. Excuse me while I go scream into a void. Printed stickers aside, the whole publisher obsession with BookTok begs some further discussion and since I’ve already brought it up, let’s start this list there.
TikTok Sensation Labelling
TikTok is big, I get it. However, I’d be lying if I said a little part of my soul didn’t wither and die every time I see a book cover with something along the lines of ‘As Seen on TikTok’ on it or download an e-book listed as ‘[TITLE]: THE TIKTOK SENSATION’. Maybe I’m showing my age here, but it feels so cringey to me. Social media has been used to promote books into popularity for years now and as a member of the online book community myself, I love that. I have no problem with Booktok itself, it’s simply another branch of an already wonderful thing. Yet, as far as I can remember, I can’t think of any other platform being used by publishers in this way. You know, spamming its name all over the place to such a degree that you’d think someone had just invented the new sliced bread. I have to ask, why? It feels like the type of marketing that’ll date book covers within only a few years. Like, hey, remember when Tiktok was new and shiny and publishers kept plastering its name all over everything to sound hip and young? Oh, yeah, that was weird. Weirder still, quite a few of the books that have suddenly become “TikTok sensations”, like It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover or We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, are backlist books that have already been popular online for several years. It’s not as if it’s showcasing anything revolutionarily different or underrated. If bookstores want to do a table showcasing popular BookTok reads, go for it. But publishers, for the love of all things holy, keep it off the books themselves.
First Person Blurbs
I know this one’s going to be subjective so if I’m all alone on my little hill here, I understand, but the fact is: I don’t like first-person blurbs. There, I said it. They feel cheesy and CRINGEY. I think it might be because the blurb is trying to give the reader a broad overview of the plot but still sound character-focused. This never works for me because (a) it comes off sounding extremely melodramatic in a way that an omniscient narrator blurb ordinarily wouldn’t and (b) the character voice always feels so generic and different from the actual narration of the book’s MC. I believe this trend arose because people started to complain that third-person blurbs were misleading for books written in first-person, but this is super bizarre to me because I always thought it was widely known or accepted that blurbs were a third-person thing. Maybe I’m wrong? Regardless, I’m not a fan and it’s a trend I wish would disappear.
Bad Dirty Talk
Dirty talk in books can be extremely hot, but it can also be very, very bad. There’s nothing like a line of dreadfully written dirty talk to make me want to curl up into a ball of awkwardness and second-hand embarrassment. Like, no. Please, stop. While this is something I more often see in romance reads, there are certainly offender books from other genres, too. I’m sure that everyone has their own standards for what they like and don’t like in this area. All I know is that the minute a character opens their mouth during an intimate scene and says something cringey, I’m done. The mood is ruined. It somehow feels even weirder and more cringe when this dialogue is completely out of sorts with the character’s outside-the-bedroom personality. A recent example I had of this was The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas, in which I found myself dying slightly more inside every time the romantic lead, Aaron, opened his mouth during the first sex scene. It’s times like these that I genuinely feel pain for audiobook narrators.
Male Authors Badly Describing Women (Especially Their Bodies)
I’m confident that everyone is aware of the 1000% cringe level of this entry, especially if you spend time on Twitter or Reddit (do a quick search if you’re in the mood to experience an even blend of humour and horror). I think it’s safe to say that most of us have come across something like this at one point during our reading travels. You’d think authors would learn and yet, clearly not. There are few things that make me cringe harder than a male author’s creepy, awkward, incorrect and/or unnecessary descriptions of female characters – bodies and behaviours. What is it about boobs and butts? Seriously. Why do they constantly need to be pointed out and in the weirdest ways possible? Not to mention the subtle paedophilic undertones that pop up from time to time…yikes. Even my most recent read, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, is guilty of this and I wish I could say it was just the once. Unfortunately, I think I’m bound to suffer this particular form of bookish cringe many more times in the future.
Bare Torso Covers
Now, this entry is definitely a romance-only offense. I love romance books but sometimes the cringe factor is high, particularly with cover trends and none more so than the let’s smack some dude’s set of washboard abs right in the centre, that’ll pull in the readers! I get absolutely nothing from these types of covers. Nada. Zip. No sense of the story, vibe, characters, just the usual feelings of awkwardness, plus the annoyance of knowing there’s no way I’ll ever be able to bring the darn thing on the train without getting weird looks. They feel staged, weird and, of course, cringey. Please try something new, I beg you.
Trust me when I say that this list is far from an exclusive summary of the only bookish things that make me cringe. There’s always that one scene that pops up unexpectedly which makes you want to cover your eyes and not in a good horror book kind of way. Still, you’ve got to take the good with the bad, I suppose.
What bookish things make you cringe?