To clarify, in this post I'll be concentrating on novels that have a romantic sub-plot, however, are not strictly romance novel. I feel like the answer to "can a romance novel be ruined if you hate the ship?" is a pretty obvious yes, because the relationship of the protagonists is the main focus of these novels.
With that being said, my answer to the question in any novel with a ship is the same - a yes, but perhaps a more tentative one. Depending on a variety of things, disliking, or even downright hating a couple can have totally different results when it comes my overall rating and enjoyment of a novel.
Take Six of Crows as an example, which is well-written with an amazing plot and fantastic characters and three ships. I personally adore each couple (and character), however, even if I didn't, all the things I've just listed would be able to make up for it.
On the other side of the coin, we have the scenarios where the ship can totally sank a book for me:
(1) the romance is a massive part of the book, which means that disliking it equals disliking a massive amount of the novel
(2) the romance may not even be that big of a deal in the novel, however, I hate it so much (e.g. because it feels unhealthy) that I am unable to enjoy the rest of the book
(3) not liking the ship makes me hate one or more protagonists, and characters can make or break a book for me
So, yes, I absolutely believe that a ship can screw up a whole book - at least as far as I'm concerned. Still... when I tried to think of any examples my mind went totally blank. Well, a shit ton of romance novels came to my mind, but like I said above, this post is not about those. Thus, I found myself scrolling through my goodreads shelves, looking for potential candidates for this post, and woah, I found quite a few.
To begin with, many of my teen favorites - aka the novels of the Twilight era - have highly toxic relationships. They go from weird to controlling to creepy as fuck, and they are exactly the type that could ruin a book for me today. Yes, indeed, I'm having a cringe attack thinking of how I used to be so into these series.
I'm not sure if I'm reading better books - aka ones with something to make up for a relationship I dislike - or maybe I've just become more accepting, but I was actually struggling to find any novels I've read lately where the ship ruined a book for me. There certainly are ships I dislike, but I either (a) accept the character's/author's decision, or (b) there's so much to enjoy in a book or series that the ship feels insignificant compared.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Who are your least favorite and favorite couples? Did your love/hate for them