My first Top 5 Wednesday! Coming in a little late, but…better late than never right? Top 5 Wednesday is hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes, and you can check out the Goodreads group to see more topics for this month!
Problematic Faves: Characters you don’t want to love, but you can’t help liking.
I must preface with the fact that…I’ve hated the word problematic used to describe people since it started coming into fashion in like, 2010. Who is NOT problematic, is my question?? How do you have a good story without characters that cause problems, or are problems, or represent the problems of the real world? The way it’s used as a blanket-term niggles at me. One can call Kaz Brekker problematic. One can call Winnie the Pooh problematic. Does the word have the same meaning when describing both of them? I….would be interested in an analysis, if so.
For this list I chose characters I genuinely did not like at first, and none of which I’d ever want to be real people or meet in real life, none of whose actions or world-views I necessarily approve of or agree with, but in the end…they earned some part of my heart. I appreciated them and I learned something from them – perhaps something good, perhaps something bad – and I felt for them. I didn’t want to….BUT I DID.
I mean, you could choose literally any character in this book and they’d be a problematic fave, but I adore Andrew and I WRESTLED with him because he infuriated and disturbed me at times. He’s cruel and twisted and will murder anyone that looks at someone he cares about the wrong way (even if the offender is someone he cares about too). I HATED how he treated his brother’s girlfriend, Kaitlyn, and his choices would upset me, but as I read through the books and began to understand…he won me over. And it didn’t make up for how awful he could be, but showed me that he could be good in rather unconventional ways, and excruciating ways. He’s a truly unique character, and getting to see the broken, softer parts of him is very hard-earned by the reader.
CHARLES AND MAUDE AVERY
Charles and Maude Avery are quite honestly the worst parents I’ve ever loved in a work of fiction. They are the adoptive parents of Cyril, and they never miss a chance to remind him and everyone else that they are, in fact, his adoptive parents and not his biological ones. And as such, they use this as a reason to treat him more poorly they would treat a “real” son. They are neglectful, inappropriate, unfair, and stone-hearted when it comes to Cyril as he is growing up. Charles cheats on Maude and swindles money and Maude doesn’t have a tender-hearted bone in her body. And yet…they are two of the most hilarious characters in this book, and while humor does not make up for bad actions or choices, it planted that seed of affection in me. And as the novel progresses, not only did they make me laugh, but they grew on my heart as I saw the way Cyril began to regard them as he grew older, and the peculiar kind of love they all shared. They made me angry and sad and I loved them.
Also, shout out to Chelsea for featuring Cyril, and Rachel for featuring Julian in their problematic characters posts. I would easily have done both Cyril and Julian, but this book is filled with a beautifully problematic cast of characters, so as many featured as possible the better, I say.
I mean…yes, obviously. And you know what, I genuinely did not like Kaz at the beginning of this book. Don’t get me wrong, I thought he was brilliant, but I didn’t like him. He gouges a guy’s eye out of his head and then throws him into open sea. But then I was like WAIT….he did that….because there is love in his heart….
I love Kaz and his violent, greedy ways and for so much more that is revealed to us. He’s a MASTERMIND anti-hero and I love him, even if I never would want to cross him in real life (I don’t want to cross any of these people in real life).
I don’t know why I feel the need to feature Charles in this post, because at least I feel like there are redeeming qualities to the others, but Charles is just…pitiful. He’s awful. He’s cruel and horribly horribly selfish and grossly sexual toward his sister and terrible to his friends. And yet when I think of him, I think of that scene where he’s sick in Richard’s room, of his terrible alcoholism, and I think of the end of the novel and how he ended up…and I feel so much pity for him my heart goes soft? Kind of like…if ONLY he could have utilized any of what goodness he had, things may not have been as bad as they were.
Of course, the same could be said for all the characters in this book. But they harnessed the worst of themselves, and that’s what makes it such a brilliant story and and makes me crave and stretch to find something good in them. Why do I like Charles so much??? It’s hard to say, but I loved the complexity he brought to the story.
Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles in this unique Trojan War retelling, is….naïve and boyish, selfish and thoughtless and immature. Time and time again throughout the novel, characters fall in love with him, and time and time again he breaks their hearts with his own selfishness. Time and time again, I kept having my heart broken because, stupidly, I always expected the best of him, and he always gave me his worst. He’s charming and powerful as even as the reader I could not escape it.
The journey he goes on is truly heart-twist, though, when love actually does come upon him…that’s all I can say, and just that I hate how much I love Pyrrhus. He’s brilliantly written, as is this entire book.
Anyway, that was a problematic journey, wasn’t it? Who are some of your problematic faves??