So, recently after reading Vicious by V. E. Schwab, I got to thinking–Do I need to like book characters in order to like the book? Is it necessary to feel some connection with characters? To like something about them? For them to have at least one redeeming quality in order for me to truly enjoy the book? In short, the answer is yes.
Books need to have a good plot; they need to be going somewhere, but in truth I love books which are character driven (This is why I love ‘The Raven Cycle’ by Maggie Stiefvater so much). This is what truly pulls me towards a book: the characters. Books often have–broken down into the most basic categories–the villain and, for lack of a better term, the hero. You may be drawn to the ‘villain’ if they are charismatic–think the Darkling from the ‘Grisha’ series, I know a few people who like him–but ultimately you root for the ‘good’ guys to win (I hope so anyway; stay away from the dark side. Yes, I’m talking to you, haha). So ask yourself: What if there are no ‘good’ guys?
Reading Vicious I found myself not liking anyone really, not until the book was well underway. The book is most definitely interesting, complex and thought-provoking… But those pesky characters were often difficult to like. The two characters I came to like the most were probably Mitch and Sydney but I still didn’t fall in love with them. The reason why I gave Vicious four stars is because I did by the end feel something for some of these characters –I’ll admit, even Victor–otherwise, it would have been a 3/3.5 star rating and this says something about the intelligence of Schwabs’ writing alone. The portrayal of heroes and villains was a really interesting one and the idea of ExtraOrdinaries I found fascinating.
There is a quote at the front of Vicious:
Life—the way it really is—is a battle not between Bad and Good, but between Bad and Worse.
— Joseph Brodsky
Maybe a cynical view but that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t some truth to it. And this is basically what Vicious is about: The bad and the worst. Although, I do want characters to have complexity and not be completely perfect–because this is just unrealistic–I also want them to ultimately strive to do the right thing. I suppose this is where I had an issue with the characters in Vicious, because even though some of them believed themselves to be doing the right thing–I’m looking at you Eli–most of their motive does not involve the intention to do the ‘right’ thing. Basically, I have no desire to be friends with them. I need a mostly ‘good’ and a mostly ‘bad’ and the main characters in Vicious are just mostly ‘bad’ which sadly hindered my overall enjoyment of this intelligent book.