Does This Book Suck (Or Am I Not The Target Audience)?

Let’s talk about critical thinking in books.

Specifically, let’s talk about a question that I literally NEVER see anyone asking when they completely rag on a book that doesn’t meet their reader expectations: “Does this book suck, or am I just not the target audience?”

We’ve all been there—slogging through a book that everyone seems to love, but for some reason, it’s just not clicking for us. So, what gives?

Free Books Aren’t Universal

First off, let’s talk about free books. We all love a good freebie, right? For many indie authors, free is part of their marketing. But here’s the catch: just because a book is free doesn’t mean it’s going to be a perfect match for your reading taste. When a book is offered for free, it attracts a wide range of readers, including those who might not typically pick up that genre.

Imagine you’re a hardcore sci-fi fan who loves complex world-building and hard science, but you snag a free contemporary romance because, well, it’s free! You dive in, for some reason expecting your usual dose of mind-bending plots, but instead, you find yourself in a small-town love story. Chances are, you’re going to feel a bit let down. But that doesn’t mean the book is bad. It just wasn’t written with you in mind.

Viral Books and the FOMO Effect

Then there’s the whole phenomenon of books going viral. Suddenly, thanks to Booktok, everyone is talking about that book, and even if it’s not your usual genre, you feel the irresistible pull of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). So, you pick it up, even though you normally avoid romance, horror, or whatever genre it is.

You start reading, but it just doesn’t grab you the way it seems to have grabbed everyone else. Maybe you’re used to fantasy epics with dragons and magic, but this book is all about steamy relationships and emotional drama (case in point: Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros). It’s not that the book sucks; it’s just that your expectations and preferences don’t align with what the book delivers.

And I’ve totally been there! I saw a post on Tumblr crowing about how fantastic The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires was, even though it was about housewives in the 80s, which I would not normally read anyway, fighting a seductive vampire. Thanks to this hard marketing by a loyal fan, I thought, swell! I’d better check it out. I didn’t even read the blurb. I only found out after I’d started reading that it was, in fact, a horror book. Horror is the only genre I don’t read. I DNF’d the book, basically apologising for my own oversight. The book is not a bad book, I am just very clearly not the target audience.

Reader Expectations Matter

This brings me to a crucial point: reader expectations. Every genre has its own conventions and styles. If you go into a cosy mystery expecting gritty crime drama, or pick up a YA fantasy thinking it will be a historical fiction, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Books have blurbs for a reason, people! They’re there to give you a taste of what to expect, a little teaser of the adventure (or romance, or horror) that lies within. Ignoring the blurb and diving in blind can lead to some serious mismatched expectations. See my case in point above!

So, let’s cut books some slack. If you don’t enjoy a book, it might not be because it’s objectively bad. It might just be that you’re not the target audience. And that’s okay! Not every book needs to cater to every reader. What’s important is finding books that do speak to you, books that hit that sweet spot of your personal preferences and expectations.

Next time you find yourself disliking a book that everyone else seems to rave about, take a moment to consider if it’s really the book, or if it’s just not your cup of tea. And remember, that’s totally fine. The beauty of the literary world is its diversity—there’s something out there for everyone.

So, embrace the variety, read those blurbs, and keep searching for your perfect read.

What’s a book you’ve read that didn’t meet your expectations, and did you realise later that it just wasn’t meant for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Nemo
Nemo

About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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