I’m very entirely of the opinion that characters are enormously important. I’m talking ENORMOUS, okay?! Books can get away with all sorts of writing-flavoured failings and evillery, for me, but so long as I’m invested in the character’s wormy little lives, I’m going to enjoy myself.
I also happen to like relatable characters. Oh, you know the ones…when you’re gnawing down on a delicious story and suddenly stop and gasp, “BUT I THINK THAT WAY TOO.” When a character is relatable, the book becomes more personal. For me, I even get so sucked into a story that I feel like the character. Especially if we share similar life circumstances or sense of humour or faults or a deep appreciation for cake.
So, if a book has characters who don’t relate to me, not even a little…will I still enjoy the book?
Eh. This is a hard one.
I don’t like to fully base my opinion of a book on the characters. Maybe 90% of my opinion…but I like to consider how much I enjoy the world! Or the writing! But honestly…if the characters fall into unrelatable puddings of squashed flatness? The book just kind of plops into a puddle of nope.
But I don’t have to relate 100% to the character for the book to be a winner. It can be something small but powerful. For instance! Take Ronan from The Raven Cycle! That dude is like a bitter uncooked espresso with a side dish of vinegar. But he still cares super deeply for his friends…and I relate to that! Even if he shows it by…you know…throwing them out the window. (But he does like you Noah, I swear.) I totally show people I love them by throwing them off high ledges. I relate!
But there are also characters I’m notoriously fond of that I can’t find much to relate to. I mean, Legolas is epic. But…I’m 99% sure he spends more time on hair than I do. And Kaz from Six of Crows is my newest darling but…he’s craaaaazy. Zlich in common there. And as much as I love Sharzhad from The Wrath and the Dawn…I probably would’ve thrown the grapes and olives in the king’s face and RAN OUTTA THERE. I think an unrelatable but well written character can still resonate with me! But it’s not often.
How much I relate to the characters definitely affects my enjoyment of the book. But is that fair?! Should it affect my enjoyment this much?! I mean: WHAT ABOUT THE WRITING!? That should count too, right?! RIGHT!? And the plot. AND THE AMUONT OF CAKE!??! Oh, excuse me, bookworm existential crisis here.
I feel like if I’m going to chew an entire book from a certain character’s perspective, I want to connect in some way. For me, reading is about having adventures! About being someone else for 400-pages and getting in their shoes. I want the shoes to be comfy. If the character irritates me, how am I going to enjoy this adventure?!
And obviously there are just SOME BOOKS that are always going to clash with my personality. Ergo the book and my relationship just won’t work out. Ever. It’s me not you, darling. That’s why it’s a relief there are SO many books in the world. Odds are we’ll find one we connect to, right?!
“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” ~ JK Rowling
I don’t need to be the same person as the character. I don’t have to be their brain twin. I just have to relate to something about them. A thought process. Or a struggle. Or the random urge to SHRIEK IN THE MIDDLE OF A SENTENCE. If you get that reference, dark side cookies for you. Characters are the life of a story! THEY ARE. And I want to love them.