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Let’s Discuss: How Do You Feel About Books With Unlikable Characters?

Talking about characters like they’re real life people, per usual. Nothing to see here…

Let’s Discuss: How Do You Feel About Books With Unlikable Characters?

unlikeable book characters discussion post books

There are some lovable book characters out there – like Cinder, August (from Wonder), Ron Weasley, Blue Sargent and so many others. You just want to squeeze them because they’re so cute or funny or just plain likeable.

But not every book can have a protagonist you want to be best friends with. Which is what brings me to the post topic: How do you feel about unlikeable book characters?

You know, the ones who are whiny, annoying, immature or just plain stupid. Many readers feel that way in particular about Bella Swan. And yet….Twilight is one of the most well-known and well-read YA book series.

What does this mean for you, as a reader? Some unlikeable characters are set up that way to have incredible development over the course of the novel or series, which is great.

Others stay annoying and unlikeable.

I recently read a story where one of the main characters was set up to be the villain of sorts right away. It was hard reading the story from her perspective, and for most of the novel, I struggled to enjoy the story because of how much I loathed this character.

My question to you is: Do unlikeable characters affect your enjoyment of a book? Do you avoid stories with them? And, who are book characters you first hated then came to love?

For me, I can often separate my enjoyment of a book apart from the likability of the characters. However, like in the example I listed above, they can distract or push me away from the story.

There’s an important distinction I use, too: I can think a book is well-written and worthwhile even if I couldn’t say I loved or enjoyed it.

One character who I love to hate is the Darkling from the Grisha trilogy. I mean, look at him, though. He’s easy to forgive 😉

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts – please feel free to comment below!

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.
  • ari

    For me I guess it depends on whether it’s the characters or the setting driving the plot of the story. Also, if it’s the main character that’s the unlikeable one it makes it very hard for the reader to be able to relate to them, thus making it difficult to enjoy the book as much. Great post, really makes you think! xx

  • Molly Blacknell

    The whiny, annoying, and stupid, I can’t keep reading. I made it 1/3 way through Twilight. But a villainous character is my crack — so much so that if I don’t get enough of him/her I get a little punchy. Take the original Vampire Diaries series — even as a teen, I wasn’t entirely on board until Damon pulled the dirtiest trick to get Elena to let him into the house. He still sets the standard for b*stard anti-heroes in every book I read.

  • I think it definitely depends on the story. If the author intends for the character to be unlikeable – like in WINNING, out in June – I can definitely get behind it. That book makes no mistake about it: you know the MC is a mean girl. It’s harder if the author doesn’t intend for the character to be unlikeable; they just end up being kind of whiny or immature as one character trait. Not sure if this makes sense but hopefully you know what I mean 😉

  • Chat Ebooks

    Great post! I think it depends on how important the characters’ role are in the story. If the author intended to include unlikable characters to add depth and excitement to the plot, I’m in. But if they’re only support characters that do nothing to the story, I guess it’s up to the readers. ChatEbooks posted https://www.chatebooks.com/blog-Indie-Publishing-8-Questions-to-Answer-Before-You-Self-Publish

  • I’m a character driven person, so if I hate the characters, chances are I won’t like the book. The characters are what give a book life, they live it , they act, they give feels. If I can’t connect with them and just want to snapped at them most of the time, then of course I won’t enjoy the book! But sometimes I would push through the book if the side characters could make up for the unlikeable MC. Interesting post, Lisa! x

  • Actors often talk about how they prefer to play the bad guy as opposed to the hero, because, the bad guy is often a far more interesting character. Heroes that have flaws are also more interesting…but really bad…bad guys can be so over the top they really make the story.