popular books I didn't like

5 Popular Books I Didn’t like + Reasons Why

We’ve all been there – eagerly picking up a book that everyone seems to be raving about, only to find ourselves scratching our heads and wondering if we read the same thing. And, well, that happens to me a lot. I tend to get major FOMO when I see book hype — sometimes it becomes my favorite book, sometimes not so much. Here’s a list of some of the popular books I didn’t like.

1. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

popular books I didn't like: fourth wing

Fourth Wing is a romance fantasy book about Violet, a young girl with a chronic illness who is forced (by her mother) to attend a very dangerous war college for dragon riders. In there, she finds friends, bonds with cool dragons, and even falls in love. 

What I liked

The dragons! In this story, the dragons can communicate with their riders, and one of Violet’s dragons are so snarky and interesting to read about. 

What I Didn’t Like

Oh boy, here we go. So, first off, the war college makes no sense. It seems to be trying to kill its cadets at every step, which is ridiculous considering the military needs more people. I get that it was included to add that sense of danger, but it doesn’t come off as dangerous when you’re reading. No one we get to know in the book dies, so it’s not really a big deal. And Violet is the main character, so you know she’s going to live. 

Violet also has a serious case of main character-itis. She’s the only one with long hair, her hair is magically two-tone (because of her illness), and her eyes are gray. She’s so frail and small and beautiful, that even her mortal enemy falls for her (without much interaction). Oh, and also, she gets two dragons. Not only that, but she gets the two rarest dragons around. Plus, I’m pretty sure her illness disappears along the way or is just mentioned less, so make of that what you will. 

The main love interest is an amalgamation of every other love interest in romantasy books. There’s a bit of Rhys, a bit of Casteel, even a bit of Cassian. He’s so handsome that Violet is horny all the time around him, but his personality is non-existent. He’s also painted to be the villain of the story, but is of course, not. Which is truly becoming boring. 

What could have been better

So I know this is very arrogant of me, but I’ve been an editor for a few years, and I can’t help it. What should have been done to make this book better is to have the Threshing (dragon-getting) at the beginning of the book. If you bond with a dragon, you get in. If not, you’re out (alive). There was really no reason for this to happen two months into the school year. And then we would get the romance started earlier — reluctant, tons of yearning, lots of enemies-to-lovers goodness. 

What to read instead:

I mean, you can just go straight to the source and read A Court of Mist and Fury. But all jokes aside, I don’t have any specific book recommendations that match Fourth Wing vibes. If you have some, let me know in the comments!

2. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

popular books I didn't like: cruel prince

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black is a young adult novel about a girl named Jude who grows up in fairyland (a hostile, dangerous fairyland) and is tired of being in danger all the time, so she decides to become someone powerful and important at the fairy court. 

What I liked

This book is full of political scheming, betrayal, and twists, which I liked. The writing style is also really great, perhaps a bit overwritten. Jude, as the main character, is awesome. That girl ingested various poisons for months (?) so she could grow immune to them (Feyre could never). 

What I didn’t like

My biggest issue with this was that my expectations were totally different. For months before reading it, all I saw on social media were posts about Jude and Cardan in a romantic sense, and so I expected that it would be more romance-focused (which is what I was looking for at the time). However, the romance is just a background thing, it doesn’t play a huge role in the story, and there are really only two or three vaguely romantic scenes. I read the following two parts, and the situation is pretty much the same. 

What could have been better

Nothing! This book is great as it is, I just didn’t know what I was getting into. 

What to read instead

If you’re looking for a great fantasy book about female characters who have no power in their world, but grow to earn and take it, I recommend Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. It’s a fantastic read, with only a smidge of romance, but tons of great characters, and the story is just sublime. The main female characters have to do a lot of scheming and politicking to get what they want. 

You should also try Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher — while the type of power the main character takes is a bit different, and she’s a softer heroine, I still think it’s an amazing (also very funny, and romantic) book. 

3. From Blood and Ash by J. L. Armentrout

popular books I didn't like: from blood and ash

From Blood and Ash is a multiple-part series that features Poppy, a sheltered girl who’s also a religious symbol, finding out the truth about herself, her country, and her history. She falls for her guard, Hawke Flynn, and we also follow her romance with him. 

What I liked

Um, nothing. 

What I didn’t like

First of all, the writing. It was horrible. This book is super long, but earns none of it and it could have been only 200 pages long with the same story. Poppy’s internal monologues go on and on and on. It’s very cringey.

Poppy is whiny. Hawke is a poor man’s Rhys. The story is predictable and boring. The world building is non-existent. It also bothered me that Poppy, who is truly extremely sheltered, got tricked by Hawke in that way. It was very uncomfortable for me. 

The thing is, I read this book a while ago when it just came out, and I forgot most of the details that angered me, so this is just a summary of what bothered me most. 

What could have been better

We could start by erasing this book from existence, but let’s say we keep it. It should be shorter. The world needs to be fleshed out and explained well. The romance can begin where it does, but Poppy needs to learn the truth before she hooks up with Hawke. 

What to read instead

Literally anything. But if you’re looking for fantasy romance, I would say that Fourth Wing is better and more fun to read than this. 

4. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

popular books I didn't like: people we meet on vacation

People We Meet on Vacation is a romance novel that features Poppy (hey, another Poppy), who seems to be successful and happy but is actually very sad and wants to reconnect with Alex, her best friend whom she used to travel with. They go on one last trip together, but something happened years ago which makes it all awkward for them. We get two timelines — one of their past trips, and one of their present trip. 

What I liked

I mean, the writing style was great, you can’t fault Emily Henry for that. The characters are also fleshed out well and the dialogue is snappy and witty. There were some great descriptions of various places, and I really enjoyed the present chapters. 

What I didn’t like

For starters, I didn’t like the dual timeline. Romance novels seem to be doing this a lot these days, but I see no valid reason for it. I don’t want to know the past, it can be summed up to me in a few sentences. I need to understand why these characters work in the present. Two or three years is a long time to spend apart, so you better make me believe that they should be together now (not all that time ago). 

Alex has a girlfriend who stays behind as he and Poppy travel, and Poppy is unnecessarily mean to this woman. From what I’ve gathered, there’s really no reason for it — she seems like a great person, who had to put up with a lot to be with Alex. If anything, I was rooting for her to get out of that relationship. 

Overall, I was just really disappointed with this book. I loved Beach Read, and then this just wasn’t on that level for me. If you’d like to hear more about this book, I go more in-depth about it in this review.

What could have been better

The past timeline should have been removed from this. It could have been summed up or maybe told in the form of a prologue instead. I would have enjoyed this book more if the focus was on the present and how Poppy and Alex work together as a couple now. 

Also, remove the girl-on-girl hate, please. 

What to read instead

From Emily Henry, Beach Read is my top choice. If you want a friends-to-lovers romance, I recommend Beautiful World Where Are You (it’s lit fic, but with good romance), Emergency Contact, or Take a Hint, Dani Brown

5. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

popular books I didn't like: the kiss quotient

The Kiss Quotient is a book about Stella, a woman in STEM who also has Asperger’s and has trouble with relationships because of that. She hires a male escort to help her out and they end up falling in love. 

What I liked

The writing style was great, and I loved all the representation. 

What I didn’t like

So, I have a big problem when sheltered female characters with no experience with sex or romance end up with the first guy who shows them kindness. It comes off as predatory, and it doesn’t help that Michael, the male escort, basically stalks her and pesters her for forgiveness in the end, until she says yes. His thoughts during the sex scenes were a bit odd too, with a lot of focus on how tiny and young-like our main character is. 

What could have been done better

Basically, just remove everything I mentioned above. Give Stella some backbone, and have her decide to be with Michael instead of just passively going with whatever he says. 

What to read instead

I don’t know many stories like this, but if you want the representation, check out the Brown Sisters series by Talia Hibbert or anything by Chloe Liese. 

Popular Books I Didn’t Like: Bottom Line + Disclaimer

If you liked these books, I’m so happy for you! I never start reading to hate a book — it just happens for various reasons (some of which I listed below). Everyone gets to form their own opinions, and these are just mine. It’s not a personal attack on anyone’s reading tastes, and even less so an attack on these authors.

There will probably be parts two and three of popular books I didn’t like (yes, there are that many), so keep an eye out for those. And let me know in the comments which popular books you didn’t like! 

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