There's always a kind of book that calls to you, one you're positive you will enjoy just from the summary. For example, I read the copy for Kathleen O'Dell's historical middle-grade fantasy The Aviary and fell in love on the spot. (Read it yourself and let me know what you think!)
Then there are books that don't sound quite up your alley. They might surprise you, you know, but really, it comes down to whether you're willing to invest some time into starting something that probably won't hold your attention.
Those are the basic judgements you mentally make before reading any book. But there are more, subtler factors that go into deciding your opinion of a book before you've even cracked open the covers.
- Summary. Sure, you might've decided that you like the sound of the book. But your decision was founded on the book's summary, right? And that summary was written by a copywriter, whose job is to sell that book. If winged mermen are on trend, maybe they'll emphasize that aspect of the book, even if it doesn't play a large part. Thus a book's summary is only as good as its writer.
- Hype. It's everywhere, thanks to ye old Internet -- less so for MG authors than YA (anyone notice that all-out marketing campaign/Internet takeover for Veronica Roth's Insurgent?), but it's definitely present. Take R J Palacio's Wonder. I wouldn't have picked it up if our own Michael Gettel-Gilmartin hadn't talked it up -- but when I did pick it up, I expected much more than if I'd found it myself.
- Series. Sequel-itis happens a lot. If a debut was critically acclaimed, you might go into the second book either expecting more of the same awesomeness, or fearing the book won't live up to the first -- or a mixture of both. (This is especially true for trilogies: it's that dreaded middle book.) Or if it's a last book -- how much of a happily-ever-after do we get? I face this worry right now with Eoin Colfer's last Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian. I'm both anticipating and fearing reading it.
Other factors include publisher (e.g. I don't expect great things from Simon Pulse -- but don't let them know), author (my friend Audrey would give her pancreas for Markus Zusak's unreleased The Bridge of Clay) or even yourself. Maybe you've gorged on contemporary and you just want to read a sci-fi, which makes the next contemp that crosses your desk the unlikely victim. Or you've had one bad experience with a verse book that's soured other verse books for you.
Of course, you might go into a book completely blind, free of judgement. And there's nothing wrong with that, either. But it seems to happen less and less these days,
What do you think? How much affects your opinion before you read?