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When I finished reading Corruption the other night, it got me thinking about ships. In my review, I said I loved the ship, and I also loved the book. And I started to wonder… would I love the books I love if I didn’t love the ship? Currently I am reading a book where I enjoy the plot,  but I am not a fan of the relationship. And to be honest, it is putting a bit of a damper on my enjoyment.

So I asked myself… would I have adored Mockingjay as much if my ship hadn’t sailed? Would Ignite Me be on my “favorites” list if Juliette had made different choices? I decided to do a bit of an… experiment to see how things shook out when I looked at books I loved versus books I… didn’t love. And for the sake of fairness, I didn’t add any books that didn’t feature romance (duh) or had several POVs/main romances.

The Books I Loved

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Well, that seems… skewed. I looked for books where I didn’t love the romance and still rated it five stars…. and basically they don’t exist. There are books that didn’t have a romance that I rated five stars- but none where I disliked the romance.

Now, the ones I… did not love.

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I feel like this is much more interesting. Because I did actually like a few of these romances! But sometimes, that was the only thing I liked. And more often than not, I disliked them. Or was apathetic toward them. (Or hated them so much they got two thumbs down, because that book deserves the fiery pits of hell, but I couldn’t locate that particular clipart.)

The Verdict?

Yeah, I think that a crappy romance can doom a book- at least, to the extent that it probably isn’t going to be a favorite if I dislike the romance. But a romance also cannot save a book that isn’t otherwise good.

So, what say you? Do you have favorites in which you didn’t like the romance? Can it doom an otherwise good book? Conversely, can it redeem an otherwise not-great book? Let’s chat! 

Posted October 6, 2016 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Discussion, Discussion Challenge / 75 Comments


75 responses to “Can a Ship Sink a Book?

  1. Oooh this is really interesting! I think yes, romance played a part in my enjoyement of books. I get so invested with the characters, obviously I would want them to end up with someone that I think would be the best for them! But we don’t always get what we want don’t we? Sometimes our ship crash and burn, and there’s nothing we can do (except going to fanfiction.net and tumblr) xD

  2. Yes!!! This is how I feel about Empire of Storms and the direction the Throne of Glass books have gone since Queen of Shadows (and essentially, Heir of Fire). The Rowaelin ship has totally sunk this series for me, and ruined Empire of Storms as a reading experience. Same goes for the ACOTAR books – ACOMAF was really well done, but put it together with the events of ACOTAR, and it’s nullified by the relationships. I’d probably be less inclined to enjoy a book if my “ship” does not sail. Mockingjay is my least favourite because of Gale.

    What a great way of looking at how we read, especially when a lot of books have romances!!

  3. YES ACTUALLY. I WAS JUST THINKING ABOUT THIS. I read a book recently where I really was a bit apathetic towards the ship..but like I loved the rest of the book? Yet I couldn’t give it 5stars because I didn’t love the ship. So basically I am SHIPPING TRASH and if I don’t ship it, then it isn’t winning my heart. And omgggg dON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON SUNK SHIPS. I will become a little water cyclone of rage. I can’t even look at the Grisha books because my ship sunk. And let’s not even talk about Throne of Glass hahhaah. *glares at it* 😂

    I do feel kind of bad about this??! But it is what it is.

    (Also the ship in Disruption is like one of my tOP SHIPS OF EVER OMG THOSE PRECIOUS DELINQUENT CHILDREN OF SCARY ADORABLENESS. <3)

    • BWHAHA I am shipping trash too, so it’s okay! We can be trash together. Throne of Glass… I seriously wonder if I’d like it more if I liked the ship more? Or would I still be bored? We may never know. And sorry about the Grisha books. I am one of the only people on Earth who liked that ship hahhaha. And YESS I love the Disruption ship SO. MUCH. 😍😍😍

  4. Great post! I do agree. If I’m just not feeling a relationship in a book that the author clearly wants me to care about, then it’s going to kill the vibe of the book a little for me. Especially when a romance is central to the plot but is so annoying, it just seems to overpower everything else and I’ll struggle to move past it. However, I can overlook it if the writing/characters/plot is really interesting.

  5. There have been books that I loved or really liked where I didn’t like or didn’t care one way or another about the romance. Unfortunately I seem to always pick the wrong guy in a love triangle. Grisha, Mortal Instruments, Daughter of Smoke and Bone are some of my favorites but I didn’t care for the romance.

  6. Sookie had so many ships by the end I lost track of everyone. 🙂 However, without spoiling it, I didn’t mind who she ended up with. It made the most sense out of all the options. Humans don’t live forever and Sookie was never a Bella.

    • BWHAHAH so true! I don’t think I could list them all if I tried! I mean… Idk, I DO get what you mean, but the whole end of the series was such a mess that she seemed to like, not even develop as a character I guess- or rather, undid her development? Either way, I hated it 😉

  7. Interesting post. I’m not a big romance fan, so I usually don’t care about ships unless they’re abusive. If an abusive relationship is presented as healthy or desirable, I’ll hate the book. (Twilight, 50 Shades.) If the romances are healthy, I don’t really care who the characters end up with.

  8. It depends on a great plot for me. If a story is really good but I hate the ship, I’ll still enjoy it. As with The Hunger Games trilogy, I didn’t ship Katniss and Peta. EVER! LOL! I was always team Gale, even when he made an idiotic mistake in Mockingjay at the end, I still gave the book 5 stars because I enjoyed how Katniss’ and the rebellion’s purpose prevailed. The Shatter Me trilogy is another good example: I didn’t ship Juliette with anyone, but I loved the writing and other plot points, so overall I enjoyed the trilogy and gave it 4 stars. I guess it depends on how much you like a story to really love it above the ships. I had to give up on TOG because the whole plot took a turn for the worse and it seems the whole series is about ships. Yes, I loved Chaol and I hate how it turned out for him, but the overall story has started to make no sense. Great post!

    • GAH, I mean, we can still be friends even if you were Team Gale. I guess 😉 Kidding, kidding. But seriously, I think you have a point! I am reading a book currently where I am not 100% sold on the ship, but the book isn’t really ABOUT the relationship, so I am kind of fine with it. But when it is a central plot, I am MUCH sadder hahah. Thanks so much!! 😀

  9. There have been a number of books where I would’ve preferred the author have the MC choose nobody. The main book that I feel that way about is The Selection trilogy (haven’t and don’t plan on reading the other two books in that series because they have a different MC and I didn’t really love the series that much to feel motivated to “finish” it.)
    There are a lot of things that happen in that series that made me feel like she didn’t really romantically care for either guy as much as maybe some of the other characters did. It didn’t make sense to me that she chose the life she did when it didn’t seem that, that kind of life wouldn’t make her happy.

    I think there are too many books out there where a character has to “choose” a guy for the story to be complete. Too many books were a romance is unnecessarily shoved into the story when it doesn’t really add anything to the plot, or character development to any of the characters. And too many books when a female MC is introduced as independent capable, but when she meets the love interest she becomes useless and needs to constantly be saved by him.

    • This is SUCH a good point! You are so right, a romance should not be needed to “complete” the book! I haven’t read The Selection because the whole thing was spoiled by the companion series hahah. And now, I really don’t plan to. But you are really right about when the romance is forced just for the sake of there being a romance. That was how the book I was reading felt (it was the last in a series and I don’t want to spoil anything!) and I felt like it just took away from the actual plot more than added to it!

  10. I’m still reading Ignite Me and at first, I didn’t like how it was going, but now I’m liking it so far. I didn’t like the romance of Peeta and Katniss, but that’s not the reason I dislike the series. I did like 50 Shades of Grey.

  11. I have to really dislike a couple for it to impact the book for me. I mean if I am eh on them but the rest of the book is strong I am ok. If the rest of the book is also eh then well yeah it doesn’t work for me. I honestly never really thought about it though so great discussion!

  12. Oh how I love this post! And I know that not liking a ship can ruin a book for me. Although, I will say, with the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, my ship didn’t sail and I still plan on reading book #3. I don’t know, I hate love triangles in general so I avoid books with them, when I can. When I do read books with them, I know not liking the romance can ruin it for me (Elementals series by JLA UGHHHHHHHHHHHH). I don’t have to have romance (and actually there is too much of it out there — every book doesn’t need to have it, especially YA) but if I do have it, I have to like the romance to like the book. Really. Great discussion boo! ♥

    • Aww thank youuuu! You know, I have been SO back and forth with TATBILB, I ship one dude, then the next. So I think I am okay? Plus now there’s still room for your ship to happen 😉 And I agree, that if there is romance… just let it be a decent one!

  13. This is such a great topic and I completely agree! I’ve noticed the past few books I’ve read have featured romances that I really couldn’t care less about and I’ve rated them lower than normally. Yet I still liked the books! I just couldn’t justify giving them a higher rating. I think this also links in with how a character is portrayed, though. Maybe if I adore the characters themselves I would give a book a higher rating.

  14. Well, it sunk the Titanic. #TooSoon SO glad you have The Night We Said Yes on this list. I detested it, too. lolz. AHHH, Fifty Shades has two thumbs down. And The Love That Split The World. AND THAT COVER THO. So prettiful. I wanted to read Hold Me Like A Breath, but now that it has your thumbs-down, I’ll probably pass. Haaa

    • 😂😂😂 DYING. I was not a fan of The Night We Said Yes- especially not the romance! And YES, 50 Shades would have 50 thumbs down if I could 😉 Hold Me Like a Breath… isn’t my favorite book ever hahah. I wrote a break-up letter to it so… yeah, it wasn;t great- the romance was cringe worthy, tbh!

  15. Ooh definitely. A relationship will make or break a book I think, I mean not aLWAYS but I think if I can’t get into the ‘ship it’s going to be really hard for that book to be a favorite. I might still like it, 4 star it or something, but for it to be a fave I think the ship has to work. Especially since everything else kinda revolves around that? I think too if I’m not feeling the ship it’s because one or both of the characters isn’t doing it for me- I mean the romance can be written well but if I don’t LIKE one of them that can be the kiss of death.

    This is really interesting, now I want to go through my faves and analyze the romances !!!

    • Yep, totally agree! Like, it doesn’t mean I’ll hate it, but like you said, somewhere in the 4 star range maybe. Because if time in a book is being devoted to a romance I don’t like, then how can I love the whole book? I had the same thing you described happen- I just didn’t LIKE one of the characters in the ship, and it really made the book feel flatter because I just couldn’t get invested in that WHOLE storyline. And thanks!! I’d be curious to see if your favorites ended up the same way!

  16. I used to hate romance. I used to avoid it like the plague.

    And now, I think it would definitely affect how I enjoy the book. Not a good romance? Then I most likely won’t like the book. On the other hand, if it was an amazing book and had NO romance, then I am totally on board. Most of the time, I want there to be a romance, but because it’s barely there, I end up shipping it more. I know that is totally a thing too hahah. SO YEAH. I like romance now. I like it a lot 😉

  17. Hmmmm, I don’t know! I can’t think of any books in which I loved the book but didn’t like the romance… but I don’t think that necessarily means I disliked the books for that reason. It could just be coincidence. But I kinda feel like a good romance can redeem an otherwise not-so-great book? It depends though. Obviously if the book is terrible, just a good romance isn’t going to save it, but maybe an ok book could be saved.

    • I think that’s true, a lackluster plot can be plumped a bit by a REALLY solid romance. And if you really hate the romance, I feel like if it is a BIG part of the book, it just stands to reason you won’t love the book as a whole, I guess!

  18. lol two thumbs down for fifty shades of grey. love it. I cant think of any books that I would’ve not liked, but then the ship saved the day. If I don’t ship the relationship that to me speaks to a pretty deep flaw in the writing, which is probably why I wouldn’t enjoy the book. The ship is only as good as its captain : )

  19. Considering I have a ridiculous affection for romances in books, I totally think it can sink (or help keep a float) a book. If a book chooses to highlight the romance than it better be good because now it’s a part of the book and who the characters are. Sometimes if I dislike the story but like the couple, I might be more lenient on the book because I love romance so much haha. Great discussion Shannon!

    • Aw thanks! And yes, I agree, if there is going to be a large chunk of time devoted to it, a romance had better be decent! And I also agree that a romance can help along a book that may otherwise have been not great. I don’t think it can fully save a non-existent or subpar plot, but it can definitely help for me too!

  20. Great topic! I can’t really think of enough cases in books I’ve read, but I do think I’d agree with you. A good romance isn’t necessarily going to make a book good enough for me to read or love, but yeah, if I really don’t like a romance in a book, it probably will bring down my “rating” of it.

  21. 100% YES for me. I’m a big romance reader and the likelihood of me reading a book with no romance is very low, so a lot of times if I don’t enjoy a romance, it’s unlikely that I’ll enjoy the book. I mean sometimes I’ll like the plot enough to give it a 3 star rating, but anything above that is a no. What can I do? I read for the romance and I’m a shipper at heart. I have no shame in admitting that! 🙂
    Look at you being all sciency and doing experiments! Though I’ll admit your sample size is too small from a statistical point of view! 😛 I’m just teasing! Grad school is rubbing off on me! 😉

    • Bwhahah I love this! I know my sample size is small, BUT I looked at like, my WHOLE list, I just didn’t add them all here- but I also have the bias of writing the post, so you don’t even know which samples I chose, so the whole thing is an unscientific mess, tbh 😉 And I feel you, if I hate the romance, no way is the book getting a full 5 stars, EVER really!

  22. I love the way you organized this post. As someone who needs a little romance in her books, I think it can totally make or break my enjoyment. If I’m not feeling the romance, I’m definitely less likely to declare that book a favourite. And sometimes if a romance is just THAT good, I may look past other faults in the book. I just took a peak at my Goodreads shelf, and the only book I could find that I love, but didn’t love the romance is Red Queen & Glass Sword. I don’t think it’s going in a direction I want, but I’m actually ok with that. On a side note, I get more upset while watching TV shows if my ships don’t sail. XD

  23. YOU ARE SOOOOO RIGHT, Shannon!!! But yeah, a crappy ship can affect my love for the book…but maybe not to the extent that I DNF them…well, unless I read ROMANCE where THE romance is the primary plot.

    But for the sake of this argument, we will talk about those in a different genre where romance is usually second potato to the plot.. ehemm.. For example…. in Throne of Glass, I FREAKING HATE THE SHIP!!!! UGH UGH UGH! DOWN SHIP! DOWWWNNN SINK SINK SINK!!!! This is an unpopular opinion, though so… but this also doesn’t mean I hate the series, because I DOOOOO!! OMG THE AMAZINGNESS!!

    Another example would be (YOU WILL HATE ME FOR THIIISSSS) The Hunger Games ship… I also don’t care much for it but I DO understand why Katniss chose the other. I even had a discussion with the with one of my IRL book friends and we came into the same conclusion. ALSO HUNGER GAMES IS SOOOOO GOOOD (even if I don’t really like the ship)

    By the way, I LOL’ed at the book that got a double thumbs down! I didn’t even read the book OR watch the movie…

    • Aw thanks! Yeah, I wouldn’t DNF a book, but maybe that’s because I am terrible at DNFing hahah. I also hate the ship in ToG. SO MUCH. But I also don’t love the series, but not because of the ship? I am just bored with the million pages I think hahah. I am glad you liked THG despite not liking the ship, too! That is pretty impressive, because I honestly don’t know how I’d have felt if it had ended differently!

      I didn’t watch the movie either, and I HATED the books. I read them only because I had some crappy friend accusing me of being ill informed for saying shit about it when I hadn’t read it… so I read it and then said LOTS of shit about it 😉

  24. I think it would depend on how “important” or BIG the romance is to the story. If it’s something in the background, then no. But if it takes at least 50% of the book, than yes. But, that doesn’t mean I would HATE the book or dis it, ya know? It was just totally affect my overall thoughts

  25. Ooh, good question! I guess it would put a bit of a damper on things if I didn’t like the relationship(s) in the book? Didn’t we have several disagreements about the relationships in some of the books we’ve both read? 😀 I think it doesn’t automatically turn a book bad for me, but it definitely influences my opinion!

  26. Unfortunately I can’t answer this directly – since in the case of love triangles or iffy romances, I either drop the series or wait until the last book and read the spoilers before deciding whether or not to continue. But I guess that answers it. I don’t want to read a series unless I have a reasonable expectation about the ending. (I don’t always care how a triangle turns out, I just want to know ahead of time.)

    My most recent discussion: Whetting Your Appetite or Pure Torture: Excerpts

    • Ahh that makes sense! So in that case, yeah, I guess it REALLY makes a difference on your enjoyment- and whether you’ll even bother! Which is totally fair, I can understand not wanting to waste your time on something that will inevitibly make you mad!

  27. I’ve thought this before and as a big romance fan I do find a bad romance can ruin a book for me (case in point, the Grisha trilogy was ruined for me because of the romance) but I hadn’t thought about how a good romance can’t redeem a book before. I have found that not all bad romances ruin a book, if I am indifferent to the romance in a book I can still really enjoy it but a romance that is completely illogical in a really well written book will make me enjoy it less which is annoying. It’s why I do wish that some books had less romance.

    I have just finished a book that has obvious hints of romance and there was a lot of romantic tension but not once was there a kiss or anything and I loved that far more than some books where the romance plays out in seconds and twenty pages in someone is declaring their love. Too often the romance is rushed and the characters don’t have time to develop and the romance takes over any chance for character growth. I love romance but I really wish authors would learn the power of a slow burn romance and succeed in making the romance a secondary element of a book from time to time.

    I don’t know, I wish for less romance in books sometimes but I would also feel a bit lost without. I suppose when I enjoy it so much I just have to take the bad with the good.

    • I think a LOT of people agree with you about the Grisha series romance. I am one of like, 5 people who shipped that particular ship hahha. I think indifference is probably a bit easier to tolerate than flat out dislike, so that is probably good. I also TOTALLY agree that I would rather have a super minimal romance than insta-love. NO questioN!

  28. Such a great discussion! I definitely think a ship can sink a book too.

    If there is a romance that plays quite a big part of a book, I feel like I can’t truly love a book if I don’t love the romance. I can like it, sure, but love it? 5 star worthy? Probably not. It’s the reason I gave Clockwork Prince(ss) 4.5 stars instead of 5 (I did so for both I think), and The Beauty of Darkness 4 stars. I still really enjoyed them, don’t get me wrong! But I didn’t love them as much as I could have.

    I guess it all depends on whether I can accept the romance, especially with love triangles! Sometimes, it’s not the person I wanted the MC to be with… When that happens, I feel like there’s only one way I can still really enjoy the book: if I can accept it was the “right” choice from the MC’s point of view. Maybe I don’t agree, but for her/him, that person was best. But when I don’t think the chosen person is the right one to be with, I just can’t accept it -and thus can’t love it…

    • Aw thank you!! And yeah, I agree- I can LIKE the book, but not love it. Love triangles are SO hard because you know that inevitably, bunch of people are going to be bummed hahha. And VERY good point about it being the right choice for the character, that DOES make it easier to deal with, I agree completely!

  29. Interesting question. I think there can be a book with a ship I don’t like — but it has to be a REALLY good book in other ways. Anna Karenina springs to mind!

  30. I don’t mind books without romance, ones that have very little. Kasie West is one of my faaaves and her books fit in this category. But I also get 10x more invested in a book (especially a series) if I love a ship. Shipping makes my fangirl heart happy, and it can really up the feels and emotions for me, and that in turn can up the rating. But I’d have to do an experiment like you did to really see if it can sink a book for me. It definitely doesn’t help a book if I don’t like the romance or the rare times when I didn’t ship the endgame one. Romantic drama, on the other hand, can absolutely ruin a reading experience for me.

    Example: I super loved the first book in the Lynburn Legacy series; it felt like the right amount of romantic angst. But in book two, whoa boy, the angst was 100% worse and seemed unnecessary and it completely pulled me out of the story a few times. It happened in book three a bit too. It was just UGH. I rated the next two books lower because of it. BUT I did still ship the ship, so I don’t think that truly counts here. HAHA.

    I mean, just looking at the top of my bookshelf, most of the ultimate faves of mine are a book where I FREAKING LOVED THE SHIP AND WOULD GO DOWN WITH IT. I don’t see any there where I didn’t like the romance or the ship. It makes me feel a little shallow, but oh whatever, I love romance. I love romance in the books I read, I love shipping characters, I refuse to feel bad about that.

    • Wait, Kasie West’s books don’t have romance?! I thought there were like, all romance? Shows how much I know 😂 I also love a ship BUT only if it makes sense in the story. Like your example in the Lynburn book, if it is annoying and unnecessary… just NO. Don’t do it!

      My shelves are the same- my favs are also my favorite ships of all time so… guess we’re just shipping trash 😉

  31. Wow, intriguing topic! I honestly don’t know. I can’t think of ANY books that I LOVED that I disliked the romance off the top of my head. So yeah, I would have to say that disliking a romance can really sink a book I suppose. On the other hand I don’t think a romance can save a horrendous book. Great post!

  32. I think that a bad romance will definitely ruin a book, and it will most certainly keep said book from becoming a favorite. A meh romance can sometimes be overcome if the book has A LOT of other things going for it (I’m thinking of The Crown’s Game, which I loved, but the romance felt a bit like insta-love and I wasn’t super connected to it). AND I can definitely love a romance, but still only feel meh about a book. Romance is a major element that I can’t easily overlook when it comes to my feelings about a book.

    • Yes I do agree, a meh romance CAN be overlooked, in certain books. A really crappy one… probably not. I think you hit the nail on the head, because the romance makes you FEEL, and so like, if it makes you feel BAD, then how would you have positive feelings about the book, I guess?

  33. Becca

    WOW! I never thought of it that way, but you are totaly right! I think a ship can sink a book or make it amazing! I loved Gale (for myself) but it was just right for him and Katniss to be together! I KNOW i would’ve felt differently if Juliette ended up with Adam! I have not finished the Snow Like Ashes series yet (I need to read the last book) but I know that I do not want Meira and Mather together and that may effect my feelings on the series overall!

    • Hahhaha I know what you mean, I am afraid to read the end of Snow Like Ashes for the same reason, only the opposite bwhahah. I should probably read it soon before I stumble across spoilers! And yesss, I would have wanted to smack Juliette and then the whole thing would have been a big old mess for me too!

  34. I definitely think a ship can sink a book. I usually get really annoyed when a ship doesn’t end up the way I wanted it too! I was shipping Katniss & Gale in The Hunger Games so I was really peeved when Katniss chose Peeta. In fact I think I was peeved that Katnis chose anyone at all, I don’t think she truly loved anyone but her family in that series. Katniss should have ended up alone. I was expecting her to commit suicide to be honest so it was a surprise when she ended up with a kind-of happily ever after…

    I feel like I like a book more when the ship I want works out and everythings all nice & rainbows. So I definitely think it would alter my opinion of the book if the character didn’t end up with who I wanted them to end up with…

    • Awww I am sorry about THG! I mean, I am a huuuuuuge Peeta fan, probably more than Katniss bwhahah. I also actually thought she’d end up with none of them for awhile, and I am glad that she did, but I understand how you feel, especially since you prefered Gale!

  35. I think a romance would primarily doom the book if the book were a romance or romance-based (such as the Matched trilogy, which is potentially dystopian but mostly about what guy the protagonist will choose). Matched didn’t appeal to me because I didn’t care for the ships, but mostly because it seemed so ridiculous that there’s a rebellion brewing and our protagonist is only concerned about her love life! But the romance in Shannon Hale’s Dangerous ruined the book for me. The guy seemed like the type of guy no woman should ever date. He manipulates the girl and she just waves it aside like it’s nothing. Not what I’d expect from Hale.

    • Ah, that is a very good poinT! I liked Matched, BUT I also read it a long time ago, and probably would feel similar to you at this point. She was WAYYY too concerned about those dudes bwahah. And as for the Dangerous one, yep, I am 100% the same- if a romance is unhealthy, I am OUT. No question.

  36. I think a ship can totally sink a book. Makes sense. I disliked Mockingjay for the same reason you liked it (I’m on the other “team”, ship-wise). If the romance doesn’t ring true, or if I don’t think the people are supposed to be together, it’s going to colour my view of the whole book.

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