Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Unlikable Main Characters

I've said it before: A highly unlikable main character does not ruin a book for me. In fact, I've read some really great and interesting books that feature MCs I didn't fall in love with. But their flaws were what made them real to me.

However, I recently finished a book that I really didn't like. And I've thought about this for a while — I finished the book well over a week ago and kept drafting a review, but I think I'm going to do a discussion-style post for this one. Here is the book in question.

How to Win at High School by Owen Matthews
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 528
Keywords: high school, popularity, drugs
Format Read: ARC via publisher (thanks!)
Goodreads | IndieBound
Adam Higgs is a loser, and he’s not okay with it. 
But starting as a junior in a new high school seems like exactly the right time to change things. He brainstorms with his best friend, Brian: What will it take for him to take over Nixon Collegiate? 
Adam searches for the A-listers’ weak spot and strikes gold when he gets queen bee Sara Bryant to pay him for doing her physics homework. One part nerd, two parts badass, Adam ditches his legit job and turns to full-time cheating. His clients? All the Nixon Collegiate gods and goddesses.
But soon his homework business becomes a booze business, which becomes a fake ID business. Adam’s popularity soars as he unlocks high school achievements left and right, from his first kiss to his first rebound hookup. But something else is haunting him—a dark memory from his past, driving him to keep climbing. What is it? And will he go too far?
So I put the book's summary above, but it's a little lengthy and I know some people may skip past it. The basic gist is that Adam is at a new school. And he's tired of being a loser. So he's on a mission to win high school and become king of school, or something. So he starts a homework business to get in good with the cool kids.

This book is written differently than most. Not really in verse, but not really in prose. It's a sort of stream of consciousness, broken thought paths voice. And it's interesting. I will say the book went quickly because some chapters were only a few lines long.

But here we arrive at the main problem: Adam was a deplorable character. He started out pretty bad, and this was expected. He's looking to make a change, and he's working on it, and things start to get busier and crazier and worse. He makes some poor decisions when it comes to his new and old friends, and that was all expected. But it didn't redeem anything for me. I didn't feel connected to Adam at all. He treated his brother horribly, his girlfriend horribly, his old friend from the other school horribly, and I just wasn't sure what the benefit of his actions were once they got so far.

It's at this point in the story when the bad decisions and the hatred of the character usually has some kind of reasoning behind it, and the reader can begin to understand why the character is behaving the way they are. This did not happen with Adam. I finished the book feeling confused more than satisfied, and I think this is what made me not like the book. By the end, Adam didn't seem to have learned anything or changed at all. Which is not totally necessary I suppose. But no one in the book changed at all either. There didn't seem to be any point to it other than to recount the tales of high school juniors for 528 pages and then simply be done. Poof. That's it.

So while I try to not let unlikeable main characters affect my opinion of the book, this one was too much. There was too much to hate about the character and no clear point as to what we were supposed to get out of the story for me to enjoy it. Sure, there were about 4 lines at the end with the "moral meaning" but it was forced and cheesy. So I ultimately really didn't enjoy this, and I'm a little sad I spent so much time reading this many pages.

What do you think about unlikeable characters? Does this affect how you read a book? Let's talk in the comments!

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