There’s something that’s been bothering me for a while now and I feel like I need to get it off my chest. I have some serious issues with books that start out slowly.
Sometimes they’re books that I know will turn out well and I end up loving. Other times they’re books that I’m unsure about right from the start and consider marking them as DNF fairly quickly. No matter what I decide to do in the end, the slow start always affects my overall opinion of a book.
There have been a lot of books that I’ve loved that felt like they dragged in the very beginning but turned out to have an AWESOME ending. Case in point: I just finished DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT, the second book in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and for as awesome and epic as that ending was (no, seriously. BLEW MY MIND), the beginning just felt like it took a while to really set everything up and start the EPIC. I absolutely loved the book and definitely left with a very positive feeling about it but… that slower start absolutely prevented me from giving it a full five stars.
When I give a book a rating, I look back on how I felt at each point in the book. I feel like I’m more apt to excuse a “lull” in the middle because the first section of the book has already grabbed my attention and gotten me invested in the story. If I don’t make a connection with a character or am excited by the plot within the first few chapters, I find it really hard to find that desire to keep reading.
Don’t get me wrong — not all books will start with some big action sequence and that’s not what I’m asking either. Some books totally nail it with that crazy, exciting action sequence and that’s usually guaranteed to get me excited to keep reading. Other books start by introducing the main characters and I really get to know them and make a connection within the first few chapters. However it happens, I always feel that in order for me to connect with a book right off the bat, there has to be some sort of unique or exciting premise in order to motivate me to keep reading.
Recently I’ve been heavily relying on my blogger friends for help (and they don’t even know they’re doing it)! The last couple slow starts I’ve had, I’ve actually STOPPED, put the book down, gone on Goodreads, and looked up other people’s feedback and reviews. Usually I never look at other reviews (for fear of spoilers!) before I finish a book, but in these cases, I must know if the book gets better. Trusted reviewers, tell me if this book is worth my time! I actually read someone’s full-on, spoiler-filled review in order to keep me motivated and I absolutely would have DNFed that particular book if that particular person’s Goodreads review hadn’t told me what happened in the end. I needed the motivation to push myself through the slow part to get to the good stuff! Other times I’ve put the book down, read other people’s opinions and saw that they didn’t care for the book either. That was enough for me to feel happy about marking it as DNF.
So how quickly do I mark a book as DNF? I’ve touched on this topic before but I also wanted to include it in this post because the slow start is one of the biggest reasons I choose to DNF a book. And the answer is… It always depends. Sometimes the slow start totally kicks me in the butt and I just don’t want to continue reading at all. Other times I know it will get better (or I sincerely hope it will get better) and I’ll make it further… say 100 pages or halfway through. I honestly think the beginning of the book is at times more important than the end. It can affect my entire opinion of a book — both positively and negatively. The positive beginning keeps me excited to read the rest of the book. A negative beginning makes me hesitant and suspicious of how the rest of the story will go or who the characters really turn out to be. For me as a reader, it’s a critical part of my reading experience and can really make or break a book for me.