I have been in a reading frenzy this break, devouring any book I can get my hands on. I got to thinking about how judgmental I get about books, not necessarily about the books themselves, but about the characters in them. It made me think; does this mean the author is doing his job? To get a reaction out of the reader is something I'm sure all authors want; but sometimes, the reaction isn't good.
Let's take, for example, "A Lion Among Men," the third book in the Wicked trilogy by Gregory Maguire. I love the story of Wicked, I especially loved following the exploits of Elphaba in "Wicked" in fact I loved Elphaba as a character. However, I find Maguire's writing a little prosaic and wordy. Just get to the point already! But I endure because I must find out if Elphaba is ever going to come back.
Now, "A Lion Among Men" follows the life and times of the Cowardly Lion, who goes by the name of Brrr. I imagine since he is the Cowardly Lion, it should go without saying that I will dislike him. Which I do, right from the start. He has had a pitiful childhood, ripped from his family to be subjected to torture, then abandoned in an unknown forest alone, to live his life in solitary, with fear being his main emotion. He just can't seem to do anything right! A turncoat, a weakling, we learn that he isn't the sweet companion of Dorothy that we might have thought. Anyway, point being, I didn't like Brr the character, which led me at first to think I didn't like the book. So, has Maguire failed? Or has he succeeded? I reacted very strongly to his character, which was what authors must want, but it made me dislike the book. So, I'm at a crossroads with this one.
Let's take Twilight into consideration here. I love this book and I normally don't go in for lovestories. But this was different, and Edward was dreamy. I've already said I didn't much care for Bella, the heroine. It wasn't an ardent dislike, I just know that if we met in real life, we wouldn't have that much in common or get along very well. I loved the entire Cullen family, was intrigued by them all, but Bella left a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, she's in high school, meets Edward, falls in love. This happens. But then she forsakes all her other friends, doesn't attempt any extracurriculars and is content to let her life revolve around him. This happens too, and I feel the same way about those girls as I would Bella. It's just not healthy and sets a bad example. Especially since in real life those little high school twerp boys aren't even worth it. But then, to make matters worse, Bella ends up hemming and hawing a little too long over whether or not to marry Edward. I almost had to put the third book down, because it seemed a little ridiculous of her. Bella, you've dropped your whole life for Edward, your new life's dream is to be a vampire, and yet you're just not sure if you want to marry him. What I remember of the girls of my high school that dropped everything for a boy is that they married him right after high school. You're one of those girls, Edward is a hot vampire and furthermore, you'll get your wish as soon as you marry him, which is to become a vampire. In the end though, I loved the books and the story, even though I didn't care for Bella. I'm pretty sure Stephenie Meyer succeeded there.
Now, let's think about a book that I LOVED, even though the main character made me want to reach inside the book and punch her lights out. I'm talking about "Breakfast at Tiffany's". Which, if you've only seen the movie, you're missing out. I was appalled after having read the book. Holly Golightly is one of those girls that you would see on the street, and everyone would be staring at her. I mean, everyone, men and women alike. You would see her and want to be her, but man, is she infuriating. So vindictive and mean and yet so sweet and kind. One minute you hate her and the next you wish she was your friend. In the end, I loved her and felt sad for her, even though throughout the course of the book I really had a strong dislike for her. I've never met a Holly Golightly in real life and am not sure I want to, but I'm always on the lookout. In the end, Truman Capote DEFINITELY succeeded, I loved this story so much.
I think this is why I like to read. After I finish a book, I like to reflect on not just the story itself, but on the characters. Those are what keeps the book going for me. In every book I've read I can name a favorite character, and a character I didn't like. I suppose that if an author's intention is for you to dislike a character, you will. I mean, in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" I hated Professor Umbridge, and that was clearly Rowling's intent. The only book on which the jury is still out on is "A Lion Among Men". I guess my conclusion is that I really am not sure of Maguire's intent. Should I have liked the lion? Pitied him? Disliked him? Had a change of heart toward the end? I don't know.
I just know I really like to read.