Yesterday I was discussing books with friend, and I commented that I had really disliked a particular book because the main character was her own worst enemy and just couldn’t seem to be helped no matter what kind of a leg up was given to her. She much seemed to prefer complaining about how terrible her life was and how she never got a break in life than to actually ever try to fix anything. It drove me nuts. My friend’s response gave me pause. She suggested that feeling that much hate towards a character is also a sign of a really good book because the author has deliberately made you feel that way, and has obviously done a great job of it. Thinking about it further, I realized that I read that book 20 years ago and I still remember it well, and I still get angry when I think about the character. I also realized that I have never once said that the writing was terrible or that I put it down because I couldn’t get through it. It just really made me angry.
Since that realization, I’ve started considering other books I’ve also “hated” for similar reasons. The characters were unsympathetic, unlikable, and people who made it difficult to care about them. But where is written that it has to be otherwise? As I suggested in my previous post, one of the things that makes me fall in love with a book are rich, unforgettable characters whose lives I become invested in, but if the world were as black and white as liking the hero, hating the villain, life would be pretty boring. How to Get Away With Murder has quickly become one of my favourite TV shows, but Analise (the main character) lies and cheats and is overall pretty selfish, but I absolutely love her! She’s hard to like, but she’s complex, interesting and compelling, which I think are the most important things a character can be.
Sutter in The Spectacular Now made me really angry. He was a walking train wreck on a path for disaster. I wanted to shake him and scream at him and give him a solid kick to the you-know-where, but the key is that I felt something. Regardless of how much of a disaster he was, he compelled me to keep reading, and to remember him.
A book that makes you feel any emotion strongly (love or hate) is a successful book So the next time you want to throw a book at the wall because it makes you angry or scared or sad, take a deep breath and keep reading because we read to feel, and it’s a special kind of book that makes us feel that intensely.