The Importance of Likeable Characters

I’m sure we’ve all read books with unlikeable characters before, and I’m not talking about the villains. I’m talking about the protagonists who are angry or troublesome and undergo character development throughout the course of the novel, or even the “bad boy with a heart of gold” trope. I do really like reading about unlikeable characters because while they frustrate me at times or I disagree with their decisions, I love reading about their growth as people and what serves as the catalyst for their changes. But have you ever read a book that takes this idea a little too far? Have you read a book where you despise the protagonist so much that it makes you want to hurl the book across the room? For me, that book was Olive in Love.

I wanted to like this book. I really did. I absolutely loved the idea behind it and was expecting a fun and quirky novel, but unfortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong. What had promised me gypsy curses, falling in love for the first time, and a feisty protagonist ended up delivering on none of those. The only thing I feel that wasn’t snatched from me was the character I was promised — but even then, it only remotely resembled the type of person I thought I’d be getting to know. There are two types of teenage characters you can get when the blurb uses the words “mad and rude”: (a) the angsty teen with a heart of gold that is revealed to be a really sweet person in the end, or, (b) the character that you actually hate because they’re so irredeemably spiteful and rude towards everything and everyone. Olive in Love was undeniably the latter, and that’s what made me dislike this book so much.

Here are some words to describe our protagonist, Olive. Immature. Rude. Loathsome. Self-absorbed. I could go on, but you get my point. Olive in Love was meant to be a story about a girl who learns that she doesn’t have to hate the world and everyone in it, which she learns by falling in love. I’ll return to that point later, but let me point something out: her character development was neither compelling nor realistic. I didn’t even like her when she had miraculously transformed into a “likeable” person because of some boy. The way she was introduced just left such a revolting impression on my mind and I found myself unable to connect or empathise with her. I couldn’t have cared less about her, or her story.

So yes, as I mentioned before, her path to so-called redemption is spurred on by falling in love, which is almost as bad as the “love curing mental illness” trope. There are some books that I enjoy reading which show a character to become a better person as a result of who they spend time with, but the boy in this narrative was just seen to be something that “fixed” her. Her growth as a character felt completely unrealistic and I despised the romance. It was a major eye-roll moment for me when she snuck into a club and her life changed spectacularly from flinging herself at some guy who “looked at her” a certain way. It was honestly pathetic, and I found the love interest just as annoying and unlikeable as Olive.

Ultimately, Olive in Love takes an loathsome character and an unlikeable love interest, moulding them together to form a wrecking ball that ruins any chance this novel had at being even remotely enjoyable.


1 Star

Let's Talk

Have you ever read a book with an unlikeable character that made you hate what you were reading? Have there been any characters who you hated in the beginning, but ended up loving? What’s one character you absolutely cannot stand? Let’s chat about characters we despise!

Thanks to Harlequin Teen Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Olive in Love by Tonya Alexandra

Olive in Love bookI get that I’m impossible.
I get that I’m mad and rude — perhaps even a drama queen at times.
But you’d be impossible if you lived my life … You’d be impossible if you were invisible.
Shakespeare was an idiot. Love is not blind. Love is being seen.

Plagued by a gypsy curse that she’ll be invisible to all but her true love, seventeen-year-old Olive is understandably bitter. Her mother is dead; her father has taken off. Her sister, Rose, is insufferably perfect. Her one friend, Felix, is blind and thinks she’s making it all up for attention.

Olive spends her days writing articles for her gossip column and stalking her childhood friend, Jordan, whom she had to abandon when she was ten because Jordan’s parents would no longer tolerate an ‘imaginary friend’. Nobody has seen her — until she meets Tom: the poster boy for normal and the absolute opposite of Olive.

But how do you date a boy who doesn’t know you’re invisible? Worse still, what happens when Mr Right feels wrong? Has destiny screwed up? In typical Olive fashion, the course is set for destruction. And because we’re talking Olive here, the ride is funny, passionate and way, way, way, way dramatic.

This story is for anyone who’s ever felt invisible.

This story is for anyone who sees the possible in the impossible.


Gorgeous art used in banner sourced from Pinterest and Tumblr.


7 thoughts on “The Importance of Likeable Characters

  1. Oh dear. That sounds like a rough reading experience. I am thinking that the characters don’t have to be likeable exactly, but there needs to be a connection between the readers and the characters, so that we are invested in their development. Maybe that was the issue you encountered with this story? At any rate, here’s hoping the next one is a much, much better fit.

    • It really was! It pains me to even think about it 😫 I definitely agree with you. Some of my favourite characters aren’t traditionally “likeable”! But yes, there was definitely an issue with being able to connect with the character, and my hatred for her didn’t help that. But thanks! 💖

  2. Such a shame! Usually, me not liking a character is a reason for me to DNF the novel early on (to many examples to name) but I have stuck around for unlikeable characters if I 1) knew I wasn’t going to like them from the start but liked the premise and 2) started to see character growth early on. It really sucks when that promising character growth falls flat or never happens.

    And I HATE when characters transform who they are because of a love interest! For me it’s such a fine line because I do enjoy stories where the love interest helps the person see the worth they had all along without completely changing the character. (I hope that makes sense :P)

    So this book will be an easy pass for me. Great, well-thought out review!

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