The In Or Out Book Tag

The In Or Out Book Tag was created by Rick over at his BookTube channel, Rick MacDonnell, but I spotted it on Fatma’s blog.


1. Reading the Last Page First

I am so IN. I know this is book heresy, but I find that I struggle to enjoy books where I’m anxious over the fate of a particular character or who’s going to turn out to be the killer. I’d rather know in advance and be able to read the book at the speed I choose rather than skimming over it to find out the answers.

2. Enemies to Lovers

Generally I am OUT. I don’t read a lot of romance but, when I’ve encountered this in SFF novels like Naomi Novik’s Uprootedit’s tended to bring up a lot of harmful tropes. I’m up for a modified version of it though – perhaps ‘Annoying Person I Was Indifferent To Once to Lover’?

3. Dream Sequences

OUT OUT OUT OUT. I literally always skip them. They are either cheap, cheaty psychological exposition or some annoying quasi-supernatural occurrence that could have happened in another way.

4. Love Triangles

OUT. I generally encounter these in YA and I feel like they lead to numerous other bad tropes. They’re guaranteed to make you think less of all three characters involved, especially whoever (usually the girl) is at the centre of the love triangle.

5. Cracked Spines

IN. I don’t do it on purpose but I love my books with cracked spines. I also very much enjoy finding a book in a charity shop where the spine has only been cracked to a CERTAIN POINT, so you can see exactly where the previous person gave up reading.

6. Back To My Small Town

I’m tentatively IN. I don’t like this as a romance trope, and I’m not very interested in family drama, but I do love small-town settings, so if they’re vividly evoked, I’m up for it!

7. Monsters Are Regular People

I’m not 100% sure what this means. Is it literal (Edward Cullen goes to high school) or figurative (we all have the capacity to be monstrous)? I’m IN for the latter and don’t really care either way about the former.

8. No Paragraph Breaks

OUT. Even when this is clearly a literary choice, I don’t think it adds enough given the greater effort needed from the reader. On the other hand, I cannot read books that have too many one- or two-sentence paragraphs, so I’ll take no paragraph breaks over that.

9. Multi-Generational Sagas

IN, I guess, though it’s not something I’m especially drawn to. I often find it’s an excuse for poor characterisation, as everyone is defined solely by their position in the family and nothing else. I wrote a bit about my concerns in my review of Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s The Mountains SingOn the other hand, I have read some brilliant examples:  Jing-Jing Lee’s How We Disappeared, Lisa See’sThe Island of Sea Women, Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko.

10. Re-reading

Absolutely IN. I feel like I enter a calmer, more meditative space when I am re-reading (see my answer to 1.)

11. Artificial Intelligence

Hmmm, I am IN, but it’s a trope I definitely approach with caution. It can be handled brilliantly, with real thoughtfulness and wisdom (James Smythe’s I Still DreamTed Chiang’s ‘The Lifecycle of Software Objects’ in Exhalation) or it can devolve into either Evil Robots Taking Over The World or I Am Too Good For You Immoral Humans (like the TV series Humans, which, IIRC, managed both).

12. Drop Caps

I had to look this up, but once I did, I was OUT. They really interfere with the rhythm of opening sentences.

13. Happy Endings

I am obviously both IN and OUT – it completely depends on the book. Although, I am more likely than most to want a sad ending when other readers want a happy one. (JKR should obviously have killed Harry off that’s all I am saying)

14. Plot Points That Only Converge At The End

Definitely IN! I love this.

15. Detailed Magic Systems

Hmmmm. Sometimes absolutely necessary (the way mana works in Naomi Novik’s A Deadly Education series), sometimes an excuse for the author to pointlessly show off (Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind), sometimes a bit of both (RF Kuang’s Babel). I am IN on the whole, but suspicious.

16. Classic Fantasy Races

OUT. The quickest way to get me to drop a SFF novel is to include the words ‘fairy’ or ‘faery’ in the blurb.

17. Unreliable Narrators

Of course I am IN. Unless you are a rubbish thriller writer who thinks you can add a twist to your novel by having your narrator not tell us things that they obviously would have mentioned. That doesn’t count.

18. Evil Protagonists

100% IN, though not if they are actually ‘evil’, because that’s poor writing, but yes if they are morally dubious. Love a good anti-hero.

19. The Chosen One

OUT. I have never seen this done well.

20. When The Protagonist Dies

Oh, I am always IN. In contrast to my previous answer, I feel like I’ve rarely seen this done badly. Definitely a risk more writers should take.

21. Really Long Chapters

IN. I like to settle in for the ride. Loved this in Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend, for example.

22. French Flaps

IN, but I don’t really care

23. Deckled Edges

IN, partly because they are a novelty for British readers, we don’t get them here. However I must express my utter hatred for sprayed edges. No no no.

24. Signed Copies By The Author

OUT. I just don’t care. Even if I meet an author I may not bother to get a signed copy.

25. Dog-Earing Pages

OUT, but it’s not a big deal to me.

26. Chapter Titles Instead Of Numbers

I was going to say IN, but then I realised that I really like chapter titles and chapter numbers, which reminds me of childhood reading. Not so much a fan of titles without numbers, but I guess it’s acceptable.


27. No Speech Marks

IN. I like this a lot, but I know it drives other readers mad. My irrational hate is things-that-aren’t-speech-marks, e.g. dashes before speech – I’d much rather have no speech marks at all.

28. The Protagonist Has No Name

IN. Though I do like there to be a good reason for it, and I am definitely against stand-in names like ‘The Writer’, ‘The Waiter’, etc. Just don’t give them a name at all.

29. Prologues

OUT. I usually skip them to be honest and I’ve never struggled to understand the rest of the book. This is highly hypocritical as I actually use them in my own novels though. I am more likely to read a prologue if it looks like a substantive bit of the novel (e.g. GRRM’s prologues in A Song of Ice and Fire) rather than the typical thriller prologue (‘I run along the road, my legs aching with the effort. He’s after me…’).

30. Literary Fiction Jobs

I am OUT. I can’t help but feel it’s so lazy to give your characters highly symbolic jobs like ‘professor of weather patterns’ or ‘person who puts lost words back in the dictionary’ unless they are actually plot-relevant.

Anyone want to try this tag? I’d love to see your answers!


17 thoughts on “The In Or Out Book Tag

  1. This was too fun, especially the photo caption! Along with the no paragraph breaks, I would abolish long passages in italics (especially if they’re flashbacks) — I invariably skip these. I’m also irrationally opposed to made-up countries.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I did not realize that I have strong feelings on this but I am a hard no on deckled edges and very here for a good sprayed edge. The feeling of deckled edges freaks me out and I think they make the book look like it’s been chewed on by a hamster. I may have to do this tag – reading your answers was so much fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s interesting, isn’t it! I don’t feel that strongly about deckled edges either way but I just hate sprayed edges. I think they make the book look cheap, because the colour bleeds through onto the edges of the pages. Look forward to reading your answers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fair point about the colour bleeding through. I think, like your feelings on deckled edges, the novelty of sprayed edges is fun for me as it’s very rare to come across them in South Africa. I went and had a look at some of my sprayed edge editions after I commented and they’ve also faded quite fast. Real book worm struggles haha

        Liked by 1 person

  3. so interesting that you hate sprayed edges but like deckled edges! i can’t stand deckled edges — although i heard somewhere that books are all produced with deckled edges and ones with regular edges have just been trimmed. i also love sprayed edges! i think they are so fun to look at, although i understand your complaint about them bleeding into the paper. i love seeing everyone’s responses to this tag, i’ll have to do it sometime.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I’m the only person that hates sprayed edges. Yes the deckled edges are natural! We don’t really get them in the UK so I find them a bit of a novelty.

      Also love that pretty much all the discussion on this post has been on book edges 😂 look forward to seeing your responses!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: The In Or Out Book Tag – Once Upon An Ordinary

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