What’s your ick factor? Can it ruin a novel?

Yeah, try taking her cubs. Not happening. I'm on the Mama Tiger side of things...

Yeah, try taking her cubs. Not happening. I'm on the Mama Tiger side of things...

Yesterday I posted a review of a book I couldn’t suggest picking up. This isn’t exactly new. If you’ve read Vampire Book Club for a bit, you know I’m not one to pull punches. I’ll always do my best to give you an honest explanation of what I think works and doesn’t work in each title. And character development is always a huge part of pass/fail for me in new novels.

So, in my review of Tessa Dawn’s Blood Destiny, I explained there were two things that made it hard for me to enjoy the book. First was the way rape was handled within the novel. Second, I was creeped out by the fact none of the characters in the book, human or vampire, was bothered by an element of an ancient curse that would require the sacrifice of an infant. A destined pair would give birth to twins and one was good, the other evil. The parents were to immediately sacrifice the evil one. The fact that no one had issue with this, and that it’s followed through in the actual novel, was too much for me. I’m not even a mom yet (unless you count my adorable dogs), and my maternal nature flared. To me that natural instinct to protect and bond with one’s child is universal and powerful.

I couldn’t get past it. The ick factor was too high.

Which brings me to my question: What’s your ick factor? Is there any element of a novel that you just can’t deal with or which will immediately turn you off an otherwise good book?

Take to the comments, and tell us — examples of awesome books that ended up on your ick list are certainly welcome.

16 Responses to “What’s your ick factor? Can it ruin a novel?”

  1. Sara H says:

    Rape is a huge Ick factor for me, but if it’s important to the plot, not for titillation and the guy/girl responsible gets thumped I can handle it.Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs comes to mind as one that I thought was handled really well.
    I can’t handle beastiality (I don’t care if he/she’s a shifter in his/her animal form)or rape caused by a “something else”. In one of Karen Chances Cassie Palmer books ( I think #1) Cassie Palmer’s raped by this weird tree-like fae-thing. Of course she goes back in time to keep this from “really” happening, but it’s already been described in the book so I’ve already read it.
    These are just things that keep ME from reading a book or make me wary of anything by the author who writes something like this.

  2. Linda E says:

    Agree, can’t handle rape either. Richelle Mead’s “Thorn Queen” immediately comes to mind. Loved it right up until she was kidnapped and raped by a fey prince who wanted to sire a child with her – a child that would supposedly and literally be the end of the human world. Of course, the rapist got what was coming to him, but still… it keeps bothering me and I’m not looking forward to the third book.

    And I can’t handle torture – of any kind. Great ick factor for me. Whenever I read about something like that, I can’t keep from imagining myself in the place of the character. And then I get nightmares. So, no torture. Huge mood killer.

    Then… let’s see… Well, if you come to a hot “adult” scene and you’re thinking: “wow, steamy” and then find out that someone or a bunch of someones overheard everything going on… well, you get the picture. Or if you even enter a sex scene knowing that someone with extraordinarily good hearing (hrrrm, vampires, hr hrrrm, cough) will undoubtely overhear, then that’s all I can think about through the entire thing. Very disturbing.

  3. I would agree about rape in books, but it has to done well and the story to work. I read the iron duke and there was a rape scene , and this threw off the relationship for me, and other than that I loved the book.

    It was a great world but I didn’t trust whether the relationship was real since he raped her, and then they got together. Hoping that this makes sense.

  4. Lyndsey says:

    A detailed explanation of the rape scene is a killer for me. The mention of it will stir something in the back of my brain that registers ick but I will literally put the book down if it goes into too much detail. I’ve only read one book where I had to do that and I haven’t been able to read scenes like that since (Book: Devil’s Embrace by Catherine Coulter). So, keep it high level if you want to keep me interested.

  5. Cem says:

    Rape’s a big ick factor for me too. And I agree with Sara H that Patricia Briggs is one who handled it very well. If it’s not absolutly needed, or poorly handled then it can put me completely off. I’m a huge Richelle Mead fan, but I wasn’t thrilled at the handling of that rape at the very end of Thorn Queen. Don’t get me wrong, the guy got what was coming to him, but while I understand that people react differently, I had a hard time understanding Eugenie’s. I’m still really looking forward to book 3, but I’m cautious about how that aftermath is going to be handled.

    The other thing that can put me completely off a book is character development gone backwards. I need characters to develop as a book/series goes on and one of the biggest points where this seems to fall off the tracks is with romantic relationships. If the guy does something to the girl (and yes, it can be the other way around, it’s just more commonly this way in my experience) that I couldn’t forgive, or at least would cause a complete loss of trust, then the girl forgives him with no real reason and suddenly everything is happy again, that can put me completely off a book. Say if the guy cheats/forces the girl (not rape, if it stops before then, but there was potential) or whatever else it is, then the girl comes back with ‘oh I can’t help it, I love him’ then I don’t want to know. It’s more common for me to be put off by backwards character development in romantic entanglements, but it can certainly happen with other forms as well. And characters making the same mistakes over and over is an ‘ick’ factor for me too. I don’t want to know.

  6. Nachtangel says:

    As long as it’s handled well rape isn’t an ick factor for me, I wont say which book I’ve read that it’s done not well but with tact in as I know you haven’t read it yet but it wasn’t icky at all.

    I don’t know if it would class as ick but something that just makes me cringe so badly is people who are just TOO good and then when they are in love after like an hour. Sometimes it’s done well, but in Dark Visions by L.J.Smith even though he was the Good guy I loathed Rob and hated when he was in the story (which he was alot as he was a main character)and even more so when he was all lovely dovey with Kath. I don’t think I’m describing this well at all >.<

  7. Ick factors for me are man on man love action. I’m sure it’s great for them but I don’t want to read about it. Also, I agree with being ick-ed out by rape scenes. As a new mother, I don’t think I would be able to read anything with child sacrifice in it. I especially hate reading about abuse of any kind, to children, to animals, etc. I’m sure I’m leaving something out….

  8. Kristin C. says:

    None yet, but that’s only because I have soooo many books on the TBR pile, so if it icks me, or bothers me, I tend to put it down and move on. Very good post, got me thinking!


  9. melissa nunez says:

    I have yet to read any books with rape in them yet but i think that would be a big ick factor for me.

    I big no no r something that turns me off completely of a book are a few things. I hate when there is no character growth within a book or a series. I hate when the characters continue to do the same things and
    don’t learn at all.

    Another major thing for me is when an author wants to keeps the mystery in the book and make you read 300 of 400 pg book and you still have no idea whats going on books like (Evermore alyson noel and fallen by lauren kate )come to mind. It’s a shame really because those books had alot of potential but are ruined by trying to solve everything in the last pages.

    My last major problem is when the characters dont have that much depth and not relatable or realistic and i dont care what happens to them at the end of the book lik (Beautiful Creatures & A Great and Terrible Beauty)

    Sorry if anyone disagrees with my book choices.They are my opinion and in no way mean to offend anyone.

  10. I’m a little bit of a sociopath, so having to sacrifice babies and rape don’t do much to ick me out. Not at their base, that is.

    I don’t have mothering instincts, so if it was in character to not care if the evil baby had to die, I’d be fine with it. If the character were a super mom, and she was all blase about killing one of her kids, then I’d be distracted by the poor characterization.

    The two things that will almost always jerk me from the narrative are couples that have babies as a sign of love, and breaking up the passion to go digging around for a condom. Especially if there was no reason for the person to have a condom on them. If they’ve been alone for a year in the woods, why do they have one? Either one of those can ruin the story for me.

    But, again, I’m a little strange in these respects.

  11. Yeah I’ve read your review of Blood Destiny and I don’t thinnk I would enjoy that book either.

  12. Cindy says:

    So far I haven’t run in to anything to get at my ick factor. But gore might do it. Don’t know, guess I’ll just have to keep reading and see if anything gets to me.

  13. Melanie says:

    I agree that rape is probably my biggest ick although I have yet to find an occasion when it is central to the plot…even with Iron Kissed. I think perhaps which is more ick is when the character recovers so quickly from the assault and goes on to have sex with the significant other after a few days/weeks. Even as much as I love Patricia Briggs books she did this with her characters Mercy, Aralorn and Tisala…and one other that was a slave but can’t remember her name. So did Charlaine Harris with Sookie where she was tortured and back bopping Eric soon after.
    I also think torture scenes are pretty nasty especially when finger nails and fingers go missing!

  14. Natasha says:

    Menages are probably the biggest ick factor for me. Especially if it’s like 2 guys, which I just can’t wrap my head around. A girl and 2 guys… Yeah. To me that is like weird on so many levels.

    I can deal with reading about rape only if the author knows how to write it correctly and knows how to depict every emotion the characters are going through at the time.
    But the one thing I cannot handle about any book is reading a graphic detail description of the murder of a child. I would immediately put the book down and just not read it. How I made it through reading Hunger Games, I will never know. But a child’s death is just soo wrong.

  15. Tami Jackson says:

    I fully agree with this posting. Rape scenes seriously do NOT need to be described. That’s not merely an “ICK!” for me. It’s a total “GAG.”

    Reading details about genitalia is something I deplore on its own. “No thanks!” When violence is committed with such unmentionables? That’s just way WAY way worse.

    Thank you for being honest in your review. I would have felt horribly offended and I thought you were being very nice with the way you stated your displeasure.

  16. Tami Jackson says:

    I meant to write: “I would have felt horribly offended BY THAT BOOK and I though you were being very nice …

    Thanks again for your honest review.


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