Let me make one thing clear: The characters on this list are not there because they are bad people, e.g. villains or antagonists, because honestly a well-written antagonist can be some of the greatest characters. It is a list of characters that I find under-developed, annoying or badly written, as these are usually the reasons I dislike characters. These characters have appeared in books I hate as well as in books that I have loved.
With that out of the way, let me introduce you to my top 10 of most dislikable characters.
- Kat Potente from Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Manic pixie dream girl en masse. I don’t know what infuriates me more about her; that she is so overly enthusiastic about everything, especially the thing she has been brought into by a complete stranger or that she seems to have solutions to every problem Clay runs into in the mystery of the book, whether they work or not, she just always have a solution. In general there seems to be no basis for the relationship between her and Clay except for them both being involved in this mystery. God, I almost gagged when she was like – paraphrasing here – “the machine is scanning all these pages and it makes me hot, let’s have sex right here”. It is too bad, because I really like the book’s topic and plot, but most of the characters were just so underdeveloped. I feel the same way about Clay’s roommate who is the epitome of a hipster. And the worst part is that there is not a single one of the characters that does not play some sort of part in solving the mystery, as if they have no other role in life than to assist Clay in solving it.
- Robert Langdon from The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons etc. by Dan Brown
I liked these books when I was younger, but as I have grown older I have realised that Robert Langdom – along with other male characters in Brown’s books – is such a mansplainer. There is always a female character going “but I always thought it was like this” and in steps Langdom and says “Well actually…” going on a tangent about how she is wrong. It is a way for an author to boast their knowledge about a subject, but having no better way than the character outright saying it to show that knowledge and it is boring to read. It is a violation of one of the oldest rules in storytelling: Show, don’t tell
- Duke Roger from Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce
Let me be honest, I just found him boring. So boring. I understand that there was this kind of scheming in royal families in order to get to the throne, but Roger’s motivation was exactly that: that it ‘is just how it is supposed to be in these stories’. I found nothing in his interactions with the characters, his words, anything, to suggest his reasons for wanting the power so bad, except wanting the power. I like the books so much, and I would have wished that Alanna had had a better villain against her rather than one that essentially makes her a weaker character. No, seriously, the only way Alanna suspects that he is a bad guy is because she senses it with her magical powers and no one else in the story knows it because how would they? It would have been better if Roger was actually doing something that should be seen as sketchy and people just failed to notice or put the pieces together. Then Alanna could point it out to them and they would realize it, but no, instead Alanna just comes off as the chosen one because she is the only one who knows immediately.
- Madrigal from The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Flawless equals boring. She is that special girl “who is not like the other girls” who are all fawning over Thiago and telling her that she should consider herself lucky, even though he is an obvious sociopath, because ‘other girls are superficial’ and she is ‘actually smart’. It might be weird that I like Karou and dislike Madrigal, but the former at least has to start from scratch and found out all of it on her own, whereas Madrigal at the time we are introduced to her is just all-knowing and perfect already and I was just waiting for that flashback to go haywire… and of course it then came down to petty jealousy and rivalry between her and her adoptive sister. Ugh.
- All the characters from the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer
Do I have to explain this? Okay: Not a single character in this series is likable and they should not be relatable either. Bella is a cardboard character who thinks she is ugly despite EVERY guy having a crush on her, Edward is an abusing, violent and controlling asshole, Jacob is no better as he thinks he knows what’s best for Bella and even kisses her without her consent – much to her father’s approval when he hears about it I might add – her friends at school are two-dimensional and stereotypical and I could go on, but I do not want to waste more typing on these horrible characters.
- Genji from The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki
Okay, I am not done with the book yet, but what I have read so far I love. Genji as a person/character, though, is not at all likable. He basically just runs around sexually assaulting women – oh sorry, women “let him have his way with them” – he kidnaps a girl who is 10 years old because he is attracted to her in order to form her into becoming a perfect wife for him once she has gotten older and in general just whines quite a lot when he cannot have his way, but I guess that is how you end up as the non-royal son of the emperor. I know this book is from the 11th century and stuff was different back then, but I am still hoping for something drastic to happen to negate all of the current messages Murasaki is sending with the story. I am only about 200 pages in of over 1100 pages so a LOT can still happen.
Despite all of this, The Tale of Genji is still a wonderfully written book and I hope that one day it will finally steal the title ‘first modern novel’ from Don Quixote because it is so much better. I am so looking forward to writing a review of it here on the blog.
- Mentor/Minerva from Telemachus by Fenelon
This is not the first time I am writing about this book and it probably will not be the last one. This time I am going to focus on one specific character: Minerva/Mentor. The other characters have some traits and ways that make them human and not too flawless. I know that Minerva is a goddess and all, but she is just a nuisance in this book because her only role in this book is to help out the protagonist when he is in too deep to save himself and give him a lecture when they have gotten out of the trouble. Several. Chapters. In. A. Row. Blabbering about virtue and modesty and self-control. I know it is a book designed to educate a prince, but I just wanted to strangle Mentor after three chapters of his preaching bullshit.
- Mr. B from Pamela by Samuel Richardson
Mr. B. That gaslighting predatory self-absorbed classist douchebag. Pamela is treated horribly, sexually harassed and assaulted several times and every time when she starts to actually reason her thoughts and argue why he is wrong, he just says that she thinks too highly of herself and should stop being so rude when his mother was so kind to take her in. I do not care that he seems to mend his ways at the end, because he only does so after almost raping her and she has a panic attack as follows, and I do not care that Pamela falls in lo- actually, I do care about that a lot because I hate stories with protagonists falling in love with their abusers because they suddenly become nice. Abusive and entitled once, will be abusive and entitled later. I was uncomfortable every time he was present in the story
- Romeo Montague from Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare
Romeo is heartbroken that he cannot have Rosaline, says he will never love again and that life is meaningless. Then he spots Juliet – who is 14 – and ‘falls in love at first sight’, completely forgetting about Rosaline. Arguably, they are both morons for being the cause of several people’s deaths and then killing themselves within a week of meeting each other, but Juliet has been isolated from the world until now, while Romeo has been out and about. He should definitely know better, but he lets his hots for this girl rule him. Romeo is the original fuckboi. Excuse me while I barf whenever I hear people calling this the greatest love story of all time.
- Emma Bovary from Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
I was told I would like this book. I did not. In honesty I am tired of books portraying female protagonists as vapid and clueless to the world around them, even as a satire. If a person was really this obsessed with getting the life they read about in romance books and thinking it was a genuine depiction of life, they are probably suffering from sort of delusion in relation to a mental disorder. The book wants you to laugh at this, but I just find it tragic. I do not hate the book, but despite being the centre of this novel she was so one-dimensional and the parody just fell flat because of it.
Top Ten Tuesday is a post type that combines lists with the love of literature. It was started by The Broke and The Bookish and I learned about it from my friend Regitze over at Bookish Love Affair and I decided to join in on this trend. I know that I will not always be able to come up with ten answers so I will just refer to it as Top Tuesday.