For me, it's like drinking alcohol. And like evaluating alcohol, it ultimately boils down to a matter of taste. Taste is relative and all that time I've spent stretching my brain to comprehend a whole world history of literary reading techniques has lead me to the same conclusion about fiction.
Like alcohol also however, it depends on how well you can take it without getting into sin. I admit that I myself am not a good example. :o Still, the problem remains to lie within me and my incapacity, not in the story.
With all that said, I usually prefer fiction with so-called fantastic elements. Fantasy of course, ranks numero uno on my list because of that. :p Strangely though I am not so fond of space-age science-fiction as there are times when it reminds me too much of the subjects that gave me a whopping headache (math, physics, chemistry shivers). On the other hand, I tend to have a strange attraction for stories that depict urban decay, dystopias run by crime bosses, and the anti-heroes that rise from such settings. At times, I have a similar fascination with post-apocalyptic ones.
As for storyline, it's actually hard for me to put my finger on it. I do know what I don't like though (and in no particular order):
Cheap class-struggle themes - I get enough of that junk from my country's trashy telenovelas. :mad: They never fail to offend me when the storyline predictably goes "OMG, he/she is rich and speaks English (or some other fancy foreign language), that means they're ALL evil! Oh no! He/she is poor and struggles to make ends meet! Underdog FTW!!" Gimme a break... I mean sure, class-struggle can be a nice premise but it certainly won't kill some writers to at least stick a little less closely to the black-and-white dichotomy of rich vs poor.
Cheap preachy segments - Here folks is the reason why Narnia will always rank second to LotR. Virtually anyone can enjoy LotR and appreciate the world of Middle Earth. Not everyone can read Narnia and go to sleep giddy. I'd bet Muslims and Atheists would be the highest in the ranks when it comes to not wanting Narnia on their shelves. Make no mistake, I have nothing against character monologues or speeches but please, puhleeze do not make them reference to an easily recognizable belief system. (And I don't just mean Christianity. This applies to other belief systems, atheism included.)
Blatantly religious stories - Possibly an even worse evolution of #2. In a nutshell, I would say these are the stories of authors who treat their audience like they're little children and they're like oh-so-holy priests/nuns giving them a sweet lecture on how baaad the world is and stuff like dancing and merry-making are temptations of the devil. :rolleyes: (Examples range from Chick Tracts to literature published by fringe traditionalist groups.)
Exceedingly anti-religious stories - In contrast to #3, you have garbage where the villains or group of villains coincidentally resemble real-life religious institutions. (Yes, Golden Compass, Priest, and Da Vinci Code I'm looking at you.) When it comes to pigeon-holing and generalizing, it has a lot in common with #3. Good God, can I please have a story that is not focused on spreading the joke that is anti-establishment and non-conformism?
Any story with an obvious agenda - I'm probably just summarizing all 1-4 here but I think the one thing that would really make me hate a story is by presenting itself with an obvious agenda to convert me. People, fiction is supposed to entertain you not educate you. That's what we have textbooks for. For us Catholics, that is what our Bible and Catechism are for. On the part of the authors, know that when you write, you are supposed to express not preach your ideas (yes, there's a difference). This is not just my view. This is a view that is being taught to me countless times by many of my mentors (all who have left their mark as far as my country's literature scene goes).
If you know any story that doesn't have any of the above, there's good chance I might like it. I'm pretty confident that my taste is very open as far as storyline and plots go (perhaps with the exception of tragedy but I wouldn't include it in my list seeing as how a preference for happy endings can come off as childish :o).
Frankly, I find the people who fear fiction are people who are either looking for the weakest of excuses or simply miserable souls who wish their bitterness upon others.
There are bigger things in real life to be afraid of than the things you read in fanciful tales. In fact, the reason why I like to escape to fiction is because I'm forced everyday to ground myself in the misery of real life.
In fiction, I often depict myself as a powerful warlock, feared by the world and capable of caring for himself to the point that he can survive in complete solitude.
In real life, I'm just a literature geek who's about to graduate but whose hopes of job-hunting and living on one's own are often put-down and haunted by a family who thinks I'll never amount to anything.
Despite knowing that my fantasies will never come true, they at least make for a soothing, mental ice-bag with all that I have to put up with reality 24/7. :rolleyes:
Some people think that religion does that for them. If ask me? Whatever. I don't really mind or even care. It's only when they start preaching that I should be like them that starts to tick me off :rolleyes: I mean my lifestyle is the last thing I would wish on anybody.
Sadly, my library is that short on fantasy fiction geared towards young adults (or even just contemporary young adult fiction in general). I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I've read more manga and watched more movies that suit my preferences compared to books. :blush: