You don’t know true torture until you’ve read a review criticizing your favorite book. It hurts!!! The pain! The pain! The pain!
Sometimes, I do what you might call “binge-read” reviews. I will just sit there and read reviews of books. And in my journey through the depths of Goodreads, I kept stumbling upon the same thing. If a reviewer doesn’t like or can’t relate to a character, the reviewer will give a lower rating to a character.
And I ask why?
Why does a character have to be likeable?
Does a character have to be likeable in order for me to enjoy a book? The simple answer is no. But lately I’ve been noticing that the relatability and likeablity of a character. I can see why. It’s just easier to become attached and invested to a story when you have an emotional connection to the main characters. It’s part of the reason why I loved Morgan Matson’s Since You’ve Been Gone and countless other books so much. But a character shouldn’t have to be likeable in order for the book to be good. It should be possible to separate the writing and development of the character and personal feelings about the main character. I admit, it’s hard to do. I remember reading Emma by Jane Austen and then watching the webseries, Emma Approved. Emma is one of those snobby, nosy, thinks-she-knows-better-than-you type of character but she has good intentions and a good heart. I saw comment after comment of people saying they hated her with an undying passion, saying they were going to quit the series because she was the worst character ever.
Of course, there are different dynamics to this question even in terms of gender. For example, when author Marie Lu first received feedback from fans about her dystopian series, Legend, a lot of fans called June “cold” and I can’t help but think that I never hear male characters being called “cold”. Gillian Flynn has been criticized for writing a seriously flawed character in Amy and ironically was called sexist because of it. It’s interesting to see that characters–especially female–have to fit into a certain range of likeability in order for their stories to be valid.
Even in romance novels, I can imagine it’s a lot easier to dislike the female character because so much rests on her opinion on the male character and because so much relies on the male character doing things for the main female protagonist’s love, readers think that after all the things he did for her, obviously she has to love him back, right? And of course in romance, so much rests on the hero being swoonworthy but so much more rests on the female being relatable so then the reader can insert themselves as the character.
I feel it’s important that I read about characters I can’t relate to because then I can see a different perspective. The same with unlikeable characters.
As with all my discussions, they basically make no sense but hopefully you see what point I’m trying to make..