Do un-relatable characters effect your feelings of a book?

Wow! It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a discussion post! But this topic was weighing heavily on my mind for the last little while and I wondered what you all thought.

When I was doing some research on a book I was interested in, I noticed that there were very mixed feelings. Some loved it and rated it 5 stars, while others hated it and rated it 1-2 stars. I noticed that it was heavy on one side or the other, but little in between. I asked myself why and looked at some of the reviews.

There were a few people who commented on the pace, the writing style, or the plot, but it seemed that the great divide came down to the main character. Apparently, the main character was a person you either loved or hated. The people who loved the book appreciated how crude, brave, fearless, and badass the main character was. But the people who rated it low stated that the main character was rude, made bad decisions, and was an all around not nice person. People were seeing this character in a very different light, and it was all in the eye of the beholder. So this leaves me to my discussion question:

Do your feelings of a character impact how you rate a book? If you can’t relate to the character, does that negatively impact your final rating??

Many people who can’t relate to the character get annoyed. They don’t like the personality, their choices, nor do they understand why they do what they do or act the way they do. For example (this isn’t the book that I was researching) Jazz from the book Artemis by Andy Weir. This book got quite a few negative reviews because they couldn’t relate to her. She was a criminal, who made some really stupid mistakes, used her sexuality to gain her position, and was participating in a final illegal act that could harm others. She was crude, crass, bold, and vulgar. People claimed that she had no redeeming qualities and they couldn’t move past her personality. Because her character was so bold, they were unable to move past the character to enjoy the book.

I totally get that. It’s hard when you really don’t enjoy the perspective of a character that’s carrying the plot through! If they swear and you’re not into that type of language, then this could be a massive problem. If the character makes some really stupid decisions that you just can’t understand, that could make you cringe and wonder what they were thinking!!!

I personally am on the other side where I don’t need to relate to the character to enjoy the book. In fact, I quite like reading about other people who aren’t like me or are big trouble makers. I don’t really need to understand the decisions they make. It’s not a book about me lol. As long as their decisions pertain to the plot of the story and make sense as a whole, then I’m satisfied. I also find myself reading about these people and admiring the things that are so different from me. I take inspiration from their differences and wish I was like them in some way or another. Taking Jazz from Artemis for example again – she was vulgar and crude (totally me in real life!!!) but she was so comfortable in her skin and seemed to ooze confidence. That’s not me AT ALL! I admired her for that and loved that perspective! Yes, she made some really shitty decisions that I never would have, but it made sense for her and her situation and I could appreciate that.

What about you? Have you ever ran across a character you couldn’t relate to in a book? Did your feelings about that character effect how you enjoyed the book? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time, happy reading!

 

74 Comments Add yours

  1. Priyasha says:

    Unrelatable character are tough to understand and sometimes spoil the books.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Usually if I can’t relate to the character, I don’t let it impact my rating of the book. I like reading from characters who are different than me so I can see from their point of view. But I also like reading characters who I can relate to.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I usually don’t mind unrelatable characters as long as they grow over the course of the book. I don’t need them to change into someone relatable, but I do need them to be dynamic.

    And honestly, I feel like nine times out of ten, if a character isn’t relatable enough because they’re too crude or whatever, people seem to mean a female character who’s just too brash, so. Down with the relatable character and broaden all the horizons, I guess!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Very well said! I do appreciate when a character grows. Like you said, they don’t need to change into a completely different person, but some growth on their part and maybe more of an exploration of their personality is key!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. shalini says:

    Yes, to some extent. If the story overpowers it and is extremely exciting, I don’t mind unrelatable characters.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think for me I don’t need to relate to the character but I do have to like the character. If I don’t like the main character(s) then I stop caring about their story and become disinterested in the book rather quickly no matter how much I might love the premise or world-building. But it is interesting that the characters I like or love cover such a wide range of personalities! I think it comes down to how they’re written. But yeah, it doesn’t matter how sweet, badass, clever, quirky, or whatever they are, if I don’t like them then I don’t care and their book will end up a DNF or at least with a lower rating.

    Great discussion post! I love these! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good way of looking at it. I don’t care about their personality type. I like all types of characters. But I have to at least like them. I DNF’d from Twinkle With Love by Sandya Menon because I just didn’t like the main character. She annoyed the hell out of me for some reason

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think you need to relate to the character on at least one level. It doesn’t need to be a character who is exactly like me, but I do need something to make me want to root for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Exactly. There has to be something there that makes me like and connect to them for me to keep going 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. itsareaderslife says:

    I prefer character driven books to plot, so I think I do enjoy a book more if I can relate to a character. However, I do still enjoy books if I feel inspired by the character, like they’re someone I’d like to be similar to

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s a good point! People who prefer character driven books would need to relate to the characters more I think!

      Like

  8. Rebecca says:

    I’ve only DNFd one book (that I can remember) because of the characters. It was Under the Dome by Stephen King and I just LOATHED all of the characters 😣

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahahaha I read that book and hated all of them! But I think I hated them so much that I wanted to see them get what they deserved 😂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Rebecca says:

        I just remember the dog got killed and I was SO Furious that I just stopped reading it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. 😂 not the books finest moment, that’s for sure!

          Like

  9. Rekha says:

    I don’t mind the unrelatable characters as long as the story keeps me hooked on to the book till the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dany says:

    Yes . I had many issues with shy people over time to time irl. So if the protagonist is like that i dont usually like that book. I know my problem so i finish that book and not post a review or rate that book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good thing though – to know the character types you like and don’t like. Makes it a little easier to stay away from what you don’t enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Dany says:

    Thats what I do . I dont read these YA hits .

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Alex says:

    What an excellent post. I like to read a whole slew of genre but key to any good book is the author showing us why characters make the choices or decisions they do. And what motivates them through out. The character doesn’t have to be relatable but we do need to understand them. It’s the mark of a good author who can present us with difficult, or annoying, or down right shit characters and make us understand them. Far more interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You said it perfectly! I don’t care if the character is likeable or relatable, I just need a reason for their decisions and a fully complex character personality 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m like you most of the time, I don’t have to relate to the characters (although it does help). That being said, most of the books I’ve DNFd have been because I hate the characters

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve DNF’d two books this year – both were because I couldn’t stand the characters! They were too annoying! It wasn’t that I couldn’t relate to them, and it wasn’t that they weren’t likeable, they just weren’t the type of personality that agrees with me

      Liked by 1 person

  14. booksofb says:

    It’s never one thing for me and I’ll often enjoy a book despite my antipathy for the protagonist or lead character. The Wounded Lands trilogy is a good example. Girton Clubfoot was a very frustrating protagonist for me but I enjoyed the books overall due to both plot and the secondary characters. Cheers, Brian

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find that I’m most drawn in by secondary characters…. it’s strange!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I really love this discussion post, it’s not something I’ve ever thought too excessively about before. I definitely want to relate to the characters when I’m reading a book. I think it plays a huge role in my ability to follow the story and enjoy the read. I don’t have to love them, but I do need to at least be able to understand where they’re coming from. However, I try really hard not to let it affect my rating SUPER heavily because I know lots of people who don’t care if the character is relatable or not. At most, I would drop my rating by one star, and at best, it wouldn’t affect my rating (if it has a great plot, writing style, and other reading qualities).

    Liked by 1 person

  16. For me, it depends on plot. When I read psychological thriller, I’m prepared that characters are going to be unrelatable, unlikable and their perspective going to be lot different than mine. They are real people out in real world, some with disturbed mentality and other facing them. I can change my lookout with these kind of books. I don’t rate them based on characters.
    When it comes to chick-lit, YA, or fantasy characters and their perspectives act differently. I definitely look for their development and some logic behind their action. I’m okay with language or character having questionable moral compass but, if there’s isn’t any development in characters, it has impact on the rating.
    From start to end character keeps whining, have no confidence and is subservient and then cry that i can’t fight back (that’s opposite of my nature), I won’t like them and won’t enjoy the story. It’s frustrating for me to read main character with such quality.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never thought of it depending on the genre like this but it’s so true! In thrillers and mysteries, there’s bound to be a lot of people I don’t like or relate to. I too can’t stand a character who whines constantly AND lacks confidence. It ends up getting on my nerves too much to read. There’s usually a learning curve in there for a character like that, but since it’s so against my nature I usually don’t make it that far 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Affect, not effect. Sorry, just… gah.

    Yes, unrelatable characters usually affect how I read the book. Sometimes they’ll keep me from enjoying it entirely, but a lot of the times I can understand that they are different and have different experiences, and that I’ll never be in that particular situation so I’m not really upset 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bwahahahaha I can never tell the difference between effect and affect. I usually just say effect and hope it’s proper 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. savb says:

    I mean it is nice when I can relate to a character because it makes reading that story an even better experience, but I don’t absolutely need to relate to a character.

    There’s books I’ve enjoyed where the character is absolutely nothing like myself but I’ve enjoyed it because I still got something out of it, like a new perspective on something.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Suziey Bravo says:

    I think for me it depends on the story. I loathe Briony from Atonement but I loved the book. I was annoyed by Mim in Mosquitoland and didn’t like the book. They were both unrelatable but I responded to the books differently. It’s the story that does it for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Dorine says:

    For me it doesn’t really matter, because I really like seeing things from a different perspective

    Liked by 1 person

  21. This is a great discussion topic!!! Personally, I love relating to the main characters but that rarely happens. I think it really just comes down to if I’m attached to the character or not? Like right now I’m reading The Cruel Prince, and while I can’t relate to Jude and don’t “like” her, I think she’s a great main character for the book. It sorta depends on how the author develops the character!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. Character development and arcs of their personality and story line mean a lot 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Beware Of The Reader says:

    I am mainly a character driven person but I don’t need to relate to one but to understand the character. Of course I need to connect with the character but not because he is like me. If I can’t connect or understand the character I won’t be able to like the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Having the understanding of why a character is going the things they’re doing is a big factor!

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Kiersten says:

    It depends, for me. If there are other characters or scenarios I can relate to, then the book isn’t necessarily ruined. Unfortunately, a very un-relatable protagonist doesn’t usually get the highest rating from me.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Flavia says:

    They definitely affect my feelings about a book sometimes! It really depends on the character, the plot, and HOW un-relatable they are haha like to what degree.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I think I’m sort of 50-50 when it comes to characters. I do love character-driven stories but I don’t have to 100% like a character to appreciate them. For me, it mostly just depends on the book because everything else could be 5-stars besides the MC. Basically, I’m sort of in the middle lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😂 there are a lot of people who mentioned that it all depends on the book so you’re not alone!

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Lola says:

    It can do, but not always. Sometimes you feel like you SHOULD relate to a particular character, that they are written that way. If I don’t connect to a character that I feel I should, it can bother me. However, if a character is so out there that their actions or thoughts seem completely alien to me, then I am fine with it. Does that make sense?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It totally makes sense! I feel the same way. Sometimes the weirder their actions, the more into it I am 😂

      Like

  27. Wow, great post. I am kind of in the middle. I don’t read contemporary novels or romance because I can never relate to the characters. Most of them are just so normal with no REAL struggles besides who to date and I need grittier characters and stories to relate to. (I love gritty contemporary fiction, that’s the one exception.) It’s the whole reason I couldn’t stand Anna and the French Kiss. It was so boring to me.

    I’ve also really loved characters that make bad decisions or are bad in some ways. I loved Jaz from Artemis! Maybe it’s because I was/am a bit of a trouble maker, but I can’t stand vanilla characters. So yeah, I guess I don’t like books with characters I can’t relate to personality wise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same! I don’t read contemporary very often and Jazz – I need her as my new best friend!!

      Liked by 1 person

  28. This is such an interesting concept. If I think of a book that I didn’t relate to the MC, I usually say Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. Now, I absolutely understand why the MC did what she did, and for the most part I backed her decisions, but I couldn’t get a grip on her regardless of that. She was too in her own head, and because of this, there was little room for the environment, world building, other characters or consequences of her actions. That’s the part that I couldn’t connect with, and ultimately why I didn’t enjoy the book. Maybe it was deliberately written that way, but it was harder to connect with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t read it yet but from what I understand it was written that way. With books written that way it’s REALLY hard to get into a book if you don’t enjoy/relate to the character 100%

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Carolina @fictionologyst says:

    This has happened to me so many times, usually I don’t mind the characters as long as I enjoy the other aspect of the book, like the plot, writing, and worldbuilding. I wouldn’t give a bad rating to a book just because I didn’t like the character.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. This is a tricky one that really made me think. I always say that I don’t mind if a character isn’t likeable and I don’t mind if I don’t like them as long as they’re interesting. But I’ve never really considered my thoughts on whether they are relatable!

    I wonder if I don’t mind the non-relatable element either because there’s loads of characters that I haven’t been able to relate to or like but where I found the story quite interesting. And actually if the characters voice is unique and they feel ‘real,’ even though I can’t relate to them or I don’t like them I find that I can still root for them. Two examples that come to my mind are Eleanor from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Nesta from the ACOTAR series.

    That being said, it does help if I like/ relate to other characters in conjunction with them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nesta is a good example! So many people either loved her or hated her with a passion. I liked her a lot, probably because she was so broken and angry and her character fit the situation

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m the same, I liked her a lot as well because I found her so interesting. I have a strange fondness for angry, bitter characters especially if no one else in the story is because not everyone can be positive or view life the same way!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Omg you’re reading my mind! I loved that she was so angry. Her situation warranted it! I can’t wait to see what happens in the next trilogy!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I want to see how her character develops, I hope she heals but keeps her Nesta-ness! Only time will tell!

            Liked by 1 person

  31. Chelsea says:

    Interesting discussion! I’m someone who enjoys character-driven novels so if I hate all of the characters it does put me off a novel. That said, I think hating a character and not being able to relate to them aren’t always the same thing. Personally I don’t need to be able to relate to the characters I read about. Some of my favourite characters are people who are so completely different in their values, life experiences, and motivations from me (take Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows for instance)! But I have to be able to understand why a character acts the way they do. I may not always agree with the choices a character makes. they may not be decisions that I’d make, but if I can see the thought process that led them there and it makes sense I’m on-board.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So well said! Like you said, not liking a character and not being able to relate to them are two different things. There are quite a few characters that I found relatable, yet their personalities drove me up the wall! As long as the character is developed properly, relatable or not, everyone can understand their decisions and thought process

      Liked by 1 person

  32. hannawsreads says:

    Great discussion topic! Honestly if I can’t relate to characters at all, it does affect my rating big time. Maybe that shouldn’t matter that much but if I don’t have any feelings or interest for the characters, I lose some interest toward the book too.
    With books that has some characters I can’t relate to, I do mention it in my reviews (at least I think so) but it doesn’t affect my rating as much as it does with a book with no relatable characters.
    For me characters play the biggest part in books, mostly. I want to be able to relate to them at least at some levels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This was brought up before and it was something I hadn’t considered. Some people prefer characters over plot and world building. So when they’re faced with a book that has characters with zero redeeming qualities, it can negatively impact their rating.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Graham says:

    I’ve just finished reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Brilliant novel to read but Cathy was just so evil I spent ages hoping she’d get her comeuppance. Couldn’t relate to her…but she sure made the book! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh now that sounds interesting! I love those types of characters! I’ve heard of this book a lot – need to look into it!

      Like

      1. Graham says:

        It’s great. When I finished it I said to my wife that I doubted I’d ever read a better book. Praise indeed! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  34. WOW I LOVE THIS POST. What a great discussion question! It really made me stop and think. I do think connecting with the character (to some degree) is important. If we don’t empathize with the MC, it’s hard to keep with the story because why do I even care what happens? It’s simple: I don’t.

    The best example I can think of is Alina from Shadow and Bone. The storyline? Amazing. The world-building? I love it. Alina? Not so much. She was such a “meh” character who felt flat to me and that, in and of itself, made me not want to continue on with the series. On the other hand, we have antiheroes such as Adelina from the Young Elites or Xifeng from Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. These characters are the villains of their story – they make some really bad choices that I didn’t like. And yet, I still wanted to follow them and see where they went. To empathize with a character doesn’t necessarily mean we have to agree with all of their choices, or even like them. I hope makes a bit of sense??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It absolutely makes sense! Regardless if they’re the hero or the villain, we need to be interested in the characters! We need to enjoy them and find them interesting in order to want to continue to read. Character development is big when writing any type of character, but especially those who are a little off the wall. We need to know why they do the things they do and what’s inside their head. They need to have humour, cunning, empathy – basically SOMETHING that we can latch onto that makes that person enjoyable on some level.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly! And if they don’t, that’s when I think my experience with the book suffers.

        Liked by 1 person

  35. I’m kind of 50/50 on this because sometimes if I truly disagree with a character and their choices I don’t enjoy the book, but sometimes I find characters like that interesting, especially if they are villains, or main characters that learn lessons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love it when villains are interesting or if the main character started off one way but learned through their experiences

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly! So, I think sometimes it’s necessary to have those characters that are unrelatable.

        Liked by 1 person

  36. Love this topic! Don’t think I’ve seen a post on this before either, hah.

    I do think sometimes unrelatable characters can influence my opinion on a book but more in the sense of unlikable characters. I can’t name one off the top of my head, but there’ve been a few instances where I simply didn’t enjoy the book because the main character was annoying as hell. Can’t remember the exact book, but I do remember one time where it was a teenage POV and it was just.. too childish and egocentric for my liking. I couldn’t relate to it at all, didn’t like how that person talked about their friends / family and I simply quit reading after.. ten pages? I just couldn’t take it anymore. So maybe it was still a matter of unrelatable since I’m obviously too old for that book; but on the other hand.. also unlikable.

    Most of the time I don’t mind characters I can’t relate to because it’s a brilliant way of getting to know different kinds of people and get insight in other personalities than your own. As long as it makes sense what they do and why they are the way they are, I’m all fine, haha. It’s only once characters start behaving unlike their characteristics that I start getting annoyed and wonder what’s going on.

    Awesome post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you 100%. I attempted to read two books this year where the main character was a teenage pain in the ass. The world revolves around them, the whined constantly, and were so immature and naive that I just couldn’t do it!!

      Liked by 1 person

  37. I love this discussion post! I think that an unrelatable character can be a turn off for a book if they are not written well. I know that if I can’t get inside the mind of the character then it makes it hard for me to like them. If I can’t understand why they are doing the things they’re doing then I won’t care. I also think POV plays a part in this. If an unrelatable character is written in third person, it’s harder to really understand that character’s motives.

    Liked by 1 person

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