Discussion: Pacing

Since becoming a book blogger I’ve noticed a lot about other book bloggers. While there are sometimes mixed opinions out there, there are  a lot of things that most people agree about. For example, book bloggers on the whole don’t like “instalove”. They are tired of it. Another example, book bloggers on the whole DO like Warcross. These aren’t universal opinions, but they’re pretty dang popular ones.

There have been a few times since I’ve started blogging that I’ve been surprised to find books that I absolutely love that the blogging community on the whole doesn’t. Or, at least, can’t agree on it. The first time this happened was when I realized how many people absolutely hated The Night Circus. I was in shock because it’s one of my all-time favorite books, and it’s so gorgeous and romantic and magical, I’m not sure what there really is to hate…

Since then I’ve been surprised to find that I’m on the less popular side of Uprooted, The Bear and the Nightengale, and most recently, Renegades. And as I’ve been thinking about this I’ve noticed criticism for all four of these books have had one major thing in common.


Bloggers have complained that these books are too slow. Again, each time this has happened, I have been surprised. I didn’t find them slow. They don’t move at break-neck pace any of them, but it’s not like they were Ana Karenina or something.

So I thought about it. Obsessively, if we’re being honest. After reading so many reviews of Renegades that criticized pacing I felt like maybe I was a bad book blogger who was too stupid to catch something like that, and I started thought-spiraling a little. And eventually I came to a conclusion that I’m okay with. I don’t know if everyone reading this will be okay with it, but I’m taking a deep breath and posting it anyway. Okay. Here goes.

Most people who have commented on slow pacing (most, not all!) are people who primarily read Young Adult books. Young Adult books tend to move faster than “adult” fiction. Therefore  I propose they are more used to a fast-paced book, and that is why they might enjoy a “slow” book less.

Part of what drew me to this conclusion is that I don’t read a lot of YA. And as I was thinking about books like Uprooted that others found slow and I didn’t, I thought about other books I read this year that were paced similarly. The Song of Achilles, The Essex Serpent, and My Cousin Rachel all come to mind. What do all these books have in common? Aside from the fact that they were pretty well loved, they aren’t YA.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve read some pretty slow books. The Bone Clocks took me for freaking ever this summer, and it was LONG too. It was slow, dense, and definitely attempting for “literature”. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, because it was, but the slow pace definitely detracted from how much I enjoyed it. But comparing The Bone Clocks to, say, Renegades would be silly. Renegades flew in comparison.

What’s the point? I don’t know that I have one. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and everyone is going to enjoy different things. This is just what has been really consuming my thoughts for about a week now, and I had to get it out.

I would love to hear what you think. Am I way off base? Let me know, because talking about it always helps my thought-spirals!

22 thoughts on “Discussion: Pacing

  1. I hadn’t seen any criticisms of The Bear and the Nightingale’s pacing myself, but I certainly didn’t find it to be slow. It’s one of my favorites of 2017.

    I think with YA, we expect events to be more attention-grabbing and for the plot to run along at a good clip, and if it slows down to just allow the characters to exist in their world for a time, then some readers will find that to be a pacing flaw. Personally, I like those moments. If a book’s world is well-built, then I don’t mind spending a few extra paragraphs reading descriptions of this or that, or seeing character interactions that don’t initially seem plot-critical.

    Pace is just another tool a good author can use to build or release tension. Not every book is meant to be a thrill-a-minute, and I’m perfectly okay with that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this post! I always get super conscious when I see that bloggers liked a book I didn’t or visa versa. But you’re right, we all have a right to our own opinions, regardless of whether or not they match with the general public.
    I see where you are coming from though- I am only JUST getting back into YA books, and can see the severe difference in the pacing of those books in comparison to adult fictions.. It actually makes me a little nervous because I have been reading a lot of YA lately in order to catch-up and it is making me hesitant about picking up adult fiction because of how much extra time is needed to appreciate and get through those books.

    I am REALLLY sad to see that you have seen a lot of bad reviews about Night Circus! I JUST got it for Christmas from a friend who wants to read it and chat about it together (like an impromptu book club) and was super excited to read it! Luckily, since I’ve received the book, I have only seen good things about it, either that it is high on wish lists or one that they absolutely loved. But then again, maybe I follow a diverse enough group of book bloggers?

    I am really glad that you loved it so much. I love most of your reviews, and take them to heart (it seems like we have somewhat similar taste) so in the very least, at least you have one follower who is still hopeful!

    I look forward to chatting with you about Night Circus once I finally get to reading it :]

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YES. We must chat about the Night Circus! I hope you love it. I always feel like a little piece of my heart dies every time somebody doesn’t. And thank you for your kind words about my reviews. That really means sooooooo much to me. Thanks for making my day. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Spot on. I’ve read stories that sprinkle tension in the pacing, slow it down so you feel like you have to absorb every nuance, or pacing that fools you (the reader) into a false sense of comfort before the one tiny little thing that raises the eyebrows, makes the heart beat a little faster – oh, no, not that! – and then moves on at a tangent so you have to keep reading to find out what happened. Slow and fast, speed and restraint – in the right places for the right purposes.
    YA stories are designed to be more of a fast pace, stories for younger males are designed to be a faster pace, adventure – can you imagine it being slowed down (except at that moment when the grip on the clifftop is slipping and the fall is soooooo faaaaaarrrrr dooooooowwwwn and the only person who could help you isn’t sure if the character is a good guy or not).
    Pacing can be something to draw the reader into the right frame of mind, the sense of security, the swim or paddle of enjoyment – or not.
    I like some stories to be fast-paced. I like some that don’t. A slow crime story? Better not be too slow, or they’ll lose the main readers.
    So it really does all depend on the genre, the reader, the needs of the story. Get it right, and even if you only get half the regular readers of that genre, the story will not be forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. See, I don’t know. I read (and loved) Cuckoo’s Calling this summer, and I didn’t think it had that gripping break-neck speed that I would typically associate with a crime novel. And critics loved it. I’m not sure if (other than YA) I really associate a particular pace with a particular genre.

      But I definitely DO agree that as long as the pace the author was going for is done right it’s a big win. It’s always a little awful when you read a book that’s unintentionally slow, or faster than the author can handle.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I absolutely love The Night Circus. I’m also a fan of both Uprooted and The Bear and The Nightingale. I’ve only read a few chapters of Renegades but I’m really enjoying it so far.

    This post is great, and I do think you have some very valid points. Just like there are differences in writing style and language when it comes to adult and YA books, I think it is also true that they are paced differently. It’s much like in the fantasy genre: if the book is part of a standalone, duology, or trilogy, I expect the world building and the pacing to be quite a bit different from the 10+ book epic fantasy books.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I honestly think that pacing just like writing style or plot is something that can only be subjectively evaluated. So I wouldn’t stress too much about other people’s opinions because it usually comes down to taste. Though I do agree that YA usually moves faster than adult fiction and that might change your take on pacing. 😉 Great discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, it’s all subjective. Except when it isn’t. Like, we can probably all agree that the third Throne of Glass book was slow as molasses compared to the first two. Now, whether that bothered us or not, THAT’S where it gets subjective.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sure, there are definitely books that have a slower pace (though I can’t say anything about the Throne Of Glass series because I haven’t read it yet). And yes, that is exactly what I meant. Our evaluation of whether a slow-paced book actually feels slow or fast is where it gets personal. There have been fast-paced books that felt incredibly slow to me, just like I have read slow-paced books where I just felt like it was very fast. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  6. This is such an interesting discussion! I’m still currently reading Renegades, but just cos I haven’t had much time and definitely not because it’s in any way slow- I’ve been thinking that a bit cos of you mentioning that other readers have found it slow and I really don’t see it with that book. Conversely, I absolutely *loved* bear and the nightingale, but can see why other people view it as slow (though I’d term it less “slow” and more “beautiful”) I think you’re onto something about the YA thing though. I think that I find YA definitely speeds by in the way that classics, historical fiction or even fantasy often do not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, Bear and the Nightingale I could definitely see where they were coming from, although I think the phrase I used was “leisurely” or “left time to stop and smell the forest” or something like that. But I’m still scratching my head about Renegades a little. Like literally, EVER SINGLE REVIEW said the pacing was slow, but I found it rather brisk. Maybe because the book I read right before that was The Song of Achilles, which DEFINITELY took it’s time?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. hehe yes I can totally understand that too 😉 Yeah I just finished Renegades and thoroughly enjoyed it- it wasn’t slow IN THE SLIGHTEST. I really don’t get a lot of the criticisms there- and I actually think it was fast paced and entertaining throughout. And yeah, I agree that Song of Achilles took its time 😉 But even so, I don’t see Renegades as being slow. It just wasn’t.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Okay, good, not just me. Because I didn’t find it at all slow either. Now I feel completely better about my original review. Whew.

          Like, I specifically remember thinking, “Wow, she really knows how to throw a good action sequence in there at just the right time so that the book doesn’t get too slow.”

          Liked by 1 person

          1. hehe no worries- I’m really glad I read your review before as well, cos I’d also seen a lot of people talking about its pacing negatively, but since I didn’t think anything was off, that reassured me. Totally agree with you!

            Liked by 1 person

  7. If anything, it always makes for an interesting read when someone has an opinion that is different. Your opinions are not facts and neither are the opinions of other book bloggers. They’re simply perspectives. And, I mean, as you rightly said, if the pacing is the same or even slower than Anna Karenina it would make sense because my goodness, that book was mental torture. No, wait, Levin was mental torture.

    I, personally, loved The Essex Serpent and My Cousin Rachel. Both started slowly, sure, which made it difficult to continue at the beginning but when it picked up, it picked up good to the point that it was difficult to put down. Especially My Cousin Rachel. The pacing was necessary for the symbolism to sink in with The Essex Serpent that Cora is the living version of the Essex Serpent.

    Also, what is instalove?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Instalove- When characters instantly fall in love. Think Twilight. I don’t know, people complain about it a lot on twitter.

      For me My Cousin Rachel was never un-put-down-able. But yes, I see your point that both books picked up dramatically towards the end of the book. Still, compared to a lot of YA books or mystery/thrillers, not what I would call “fast-paced”.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. New to the whole book blog thing here! I liked renegades AND i thought it was slow. So i’m not sure where that puts me! haha. I do read a lot of YA- so maybe that’s how i noticed it to begin with? I did enjoy it though!

    I also didn’t particularly enjoy the night circus- but i always thought i was the minority there! it seemed like everyone loved that one!

    Liked by 1 person

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