Top Ten Books For Readers Who Like Not-So-Easy-To-Like Characters

Top Ten Tuesday, as  always, is hosted at my other blog — The Broke & the Bookish

This week’s topic: Top Ten Books For Readers Who Like Not-So-Easy-To-Like (to narrow it down I’m sticking with the ladies because they are so often the ones who get talked about)

I see a lot of discussion in book reviews and online about unlikeable characters. Most always seem to be females. It’s always funny because so often they are talking about a character that I LOVED. I love my characters genuinely flawed and especially in YA I see so much of my high school self in them. Slut-shamer? Bitchy? Maker of horrendous decisions at times? Selfish? Standoffish? HARD TO LIKE? YEPPP. That was me. I appreciate a good flawed character especially when their arc is done so well. And I don’t even need/like TOTAL REDEMPTION at the end because most of the time I don’t think anyone does a total transformation. It’s a constant work in progress. So when I see that girl who was a total mean girl to start to have even the slightest bit of epiphany, even if she’s not totally CHANGED, I’m like YES GO YOU. Because these things we endure and slowly learn from shape us into the adults we become. High school Jamie put other girls down and slut-shamed because she was insecure, wanted other girls to approve and felt threatened. It took me many, many years to learn how toxic and awful this was. How tearing down other girls did NOT make me feel better…it just made me a shitty person with the same insecurities.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that I root for the girls who are hard to understand, the ones who aren’t immediately likeable. I mean, I don’t like all “unlikeable” characters I come across because I might not feel them to be realistic/their arc doesn’t resonate with me but the same goes for any likeable character who I don’t think rings true/seems flat. I mean, after all, I’ve come a long way since high school but I can still do some pretty unlikeable things. I can still fall into bad habits. I don’t know, I just think we can all be pretty unlikeable characters at times. Do I like being that way? Nope but even at 29 I’m still learning and growing and trying to not be a shitty person.

(And no I’m not trying to say you are wrong for not liking these characters. We are all different! This is just how I read and relate to certain kinds of characters!)


Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu — I was surprised after reading this one to see so many people NOT like the main character of this one because I LOVED her. SO MUCH. Check out my review of this super underrated book!!


The Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty — Watching Jessica grow from high school to adulthood and make mistakes and be super realistically flawed along the way? LOVE. I loved her so much and her journey resonated with me so much. Plus, it’s written in her headspace soooo you get unfiltered thoughts. My thoughts on the series here!


Open Road Summer by Emery Lord: I SO UNDERSTOOD REAGAN SO MUCH. Especially with how she talked about other girls. Those were my same defense mechanisms. I’m not saying it is right but I really identified with her. Check out my review of Open Road Summer. SUCH A GREAT BOOK!



The Young Elites by Marie Lu: Adelina is kiiind of an anti-hero in a lot of ways. You feel for her in a lot of ways but she also does some things you are like NO STOP, BE BETTER. But you understand the reason behind why she is the way she is…so you battle in your mind if you should root for her. My review of The Young Elites!


A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller: So I think a lot of people DID like this character but I know a lot couldn’t handle her. She’s not a perfect character and that’s what I loved about her. She only really seems to be interested in the suffragette’s works at first because it can further her dreams of going to art school. She has her prejudices, due to her upbringing, that will make you cringe. But it all felt so realistic. How her eyes were opened to the things that the suffragette’s were fighting for. How she looked differently at the social constructs after the things she experienced. I loved watching her growth SO MUCH as she fights to be able to create the art she so desires and begins to ask the hard questions. Check out my review!


17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen: This was a book I picked up BECAUSE of the polarizing reviews and the thoughts about the main character! I wrote all about how I almost DIDN’T but then I’m glad I trusted my gut. Loved this book!


Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy: I liked this book! I maybe didn’t LOVE it the way others did but it had NOTHING to do with the main character who A LOT of people didn’t like. It’s true…she’s not always sympathetic but I was so happy about that fact. It gave her so much dimension. You can read more about why I liked her in my review of Side Effects May Vary.


Tease by Amanda Maciel: This one was a challenging one because it’s from the POV of a bully and one of the girls she had targets commits suicide. Such a good and interesting read! Check out my review of Tease!


Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang: This was anovel FULL of unlikeable characters basically. Like SO HARD TO HANDLE SOMETIMES. But the way the layers peeled off throughout the course of the book…WOW. I bawled. Check out my review of Falling Into Place.


Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers: This is one of my most fave books! A book with characters that are hard to swallow but OH MY GOODNESS SO GREAT. Read my review of Some Girls Are.





So tell me…who are some not-so-easy to like characters I should meet? And I’m curious…do you need to like the characters of books you read? I love hearing how different everyone feels about it!

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. Interesting post! I look forward to reading some of these books 😀

  2. I still have a few of these on my TTBR, but of the ones I’ve read, going to say yep to Jessica Darling and Reagan…especially Reagan. I understood so much about her!

  3. I think unlikeable characters can be quite amazing. x) Although very subjective. hehe. I have to admit I did NOT like Side Effects, but Falling into Place was incredible and I think half the point of the story was how unlikeable (and kind of horrible) she was. I still really want to read Tease. 🙂

    • VERY subjective! It’s always so interesting to me how I’ll read a book and hate/love a character and find out that others passionately feel the opposite. Yeah, out of list Side Effects is probably the one I RATED the least because I had OTHER problems with it..but I understood the MC…I think just bc of watching my mom have cancer and just seeing the variety of emotions and feelings she had which wasn’t always pretty. But omg YES I agree re: Falling Into Place. 5 stars EASILY. Made me SOB. I will be interested to see what you think of Tease! THAT was one of the most challenging ones on this list!!

  4. I don’t mind if I don’t like a character as long as I can, in some way, understand where they’re coming from. If they’re well written then I don’t mind at all. I think if a character evokes any emotion in you then the writer is doing something right! 🙂 Great list Jamie!

    • YES this is exactly how I feel! I need to FEEL why they are they way they are and understand their motivations even if I don’t agree with them. Like with Tease, she was SO complicated because she was a bully and not really all that remorseful but then there were glimpses of her that I felt like underneath some of this awfulness that I got her. And SO agree. I think even when I feel such things for a character it’s always a testament to how well the author wrote that character! I’ve had characters I hated most of the time but still LOVED the books!

  5. I looooooove flawed characters. I love reading them. I love writing them. I loved what you said about no one doing a complete transformation. When I wrote THE ART OF LAINEY, I wanted to tell the story of the seemingly vapid popular girl in order to show that she wasn’t that different from everyone else.

    I wanted her to start out clueless and grow up throughout the book. But at the same time, I made sure that she didn’t do a complete transformation from selfish and shallow to Mother Teresa, you know? Lainey is still silly and celebrity-obsessed at the end of the book. She’s still very much the same person. She’s just learned to love herself and realized what’s important to her over the course of a couple of months.

    Anyway, I think I already hit you up once for a review so I’ll resist the urge and tell you to read LIARS, INC. instead. More flawed characters with realistic development 🙂

    Thanks for being an ambassador of books and unlikable characters. Those are my favorites too 🙂

  6. this is a great idea for this week’s post! sometimes i feel like i can really relate to those characters as well, and it makes reading those books so much better!

  7. Deb Nance at Readerbuzz says:

    You can add this one to your list: Hausfrau. I just finished it a few weeks ago. Very unlikeable.

    Thanks for this great idea for a prompt.

    Here’s my Top Ten: Good Books for Old Broads (Like Me).

  8. This is definitely an interesting read. Some of those books are still on my TBR list.
    I believe flawed characters make the story better and more realistic.

  9. I always enjoy an unlikable character. It definitely gives them more dimension and makes them more interesting. As long as I understand why they are doing what they are doing I am on board. Plus it makes for great character development and a redemptive arc throughout the book. Probably my favorites you mention are Adelina and Alice. And I never saw Vicky as unlikable but you make some really excellent points, she is pretty self-centered. Great list!

  10. Hmm, that’s an interesting point you make about unlikeable characters – that sometimes it’s our own weaknesses that we see in others that makes us so uncomfortable. Probably the most complex and unlikeable character I’ve come across in literature is Scarlett O’Hara; she’s incredibly selfish. And yeah, I see that in myself every day (especially as a mom to little ones!).

  11. Ah, I’m so with you on Life by Committee, Open Road Summer, & Some Girls Are! I really think Open Road Summer in particular is a great look at a perhaps “unlikable” female protagonist, because to me it was clear that Reagan was behaving that way out of defense, which is something I could relate to SO much. It’s easier to do that & protect yourself. I think her friendship with Lilah too also showed that–it wasn’t that she was incapable of making female friends or being a supportive person in the slightest, but she’s not quick to trust others(which is fine), but the way she went about it wasn’t good, but SO realistic to me.

    I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to 17 First Kisses when it first came out, but I read an ARC of The Revenge Playbook so now I really want to pick it up because I LOVED the way Allen wrote relationships between all the girls in The Revenge Playbook.

  12. I really like flawed characters because I’m able to connect with them, especially because I see parts of myself in them. Like you said, it’s totally okay if they don’t have total redemption at the end because just seeing growth is enough (and I think everyone’s always going to have flaws, one way or another).

    Open Road Summer was such a great book! I actually didn’t really like Reagan (heh) at first but after a while, I saw where she was coming from.

  13. Yes to everything you said about Open Road Summer! I identified myself with Reagan so much it was almost scary! And Falling Into Place was one of my favorites from last year. But definitely hard to read sometimes. You should read The Duff by Kody Keplinger if you haven’t yet. It’s 100% different from the movie and the character is cynical and bitter and a bit of a hypocrite and it’s hard sometimes to like her but it’s easy to understand why she’s doing what she’s doing. And she’s so different from so many contemp YA romance characters, it really made me think about how gender can make us feel about a character’s actions and what’s acceptable from a guy character and a girl character. I loved the book and its message.

  14. It’s not always easy to like a character, but to me, authors who write them well and authentically can usually manage to make me open my eyes towards appreciating the character for what she (or even he) is. It can be a challenge, particularly if I see attitudes that I don’t necessarily agree with, but it’s worthwhile to just open your eyes to a fresh perspective sometimes, you know?

  15. The only one I’ve read on this list is Sloppy Firsts and I’m kind of surprised Jessica Darling is considered unlikeable! Haha, she’s not perfect and annoyed me sometimes, but I did genuinely like her. Then again, I think I also enjoy a really well-done flawed, messy character!

  16. Great list!! I haven’t read any of these yet, but half of them are on my TBR list. I had no idea the characters were not easy to like. I’m intrigued. Perhaps I may need to move one up my list just to see for myself.

    Here is my TTT:

  17. Yes! I understood Reagan so much too! <3 On the other hand, I thought that the Side Effects MC was a total brat! ha!

  18. Nice list of books! I haven’r read any of them, so will need to check them out and add a few titles to my ever growing reading wishlist.

    Here’s my link to my TTT post for the week:

  19. A Mad, Wicked Folly!!! One of my fav reads of 2014. I can see why Vicky may be an unlikeable character at times, but I thought she was great. Very real. She was a bit spoiled, but that fit with her lifestyle.

    Also loved LBC. I got it for my mom for Christmas (she teaches 7th and 8th grade and thought it might be good for her students).

    Falling Into Place – definitely an tough mc to like, but man that book was so good. Tore me up in the BEST way.

    The Young Elites!! Adelina is definitely an antihero. I never could really tell if she was good or bad. But she was so interesting to read about!

    I do love my characters perfectly flawed! Great choice of topic!

  20. OOOh intriguing topic choice! Gotta say, I haven’t read any of these! Except for The Young Elites! Adelina was definitely a complicated character for me! I wasn’t even sure if I was supposed to like her! LOL.

    Here’s my Tuesday Post

    Have a GREAT day!

    Old Follower 🙂

  21. I really need to read Marie Lu books, they’re everywhere and for some unknown reason I haven’t picked them up and yet I know I’m more than likely to love them! Thank you for sharing Jamie! 🙂 I’m a new follower and I’m enjoying reading your blog, here’s my TTT on contemporary novels if you would like to check it out 🙂

  22. Ooh, good topic! I would add The Girl on the Train, The Liar’s Chair, and The Forgotten Girls to this. I too like when my characters are flawed—it makes them seem more real. Manic Pixie Dream Girls/Guys are fun sometimes, but most of the time they’re just annoyingly unrealistic.

    My topic for today was recommendations for people who like unreliable narrators. 😀

  23. I think I’ve talked to you about how much I love flawed characters. If a character is flawed, I don’t hate them automatically. Being flawed is so much more realistic than being totally perfect all the time with the perfect family, friends, grades etc. Most of the books on your list were books I either loved or really liked a lot. I still haven’t read A Mad Wicked Folly even though I’ve owned it for about 8 months (maybe longer) But a few of them (mainly Falling Into Place and Side Effects May Vary) had such polarizing viewpoints because of the female main characters.

    I still haven’t read the Jessica Darling books, though I do want to. I also haven’t read Some Girls Are, but I definitely want to.

  24. Wow! What a touch subject! I haven’t read anything from your list, so I’ll have to check out some of your recommendations! 🙂

  25. Great topic! I love complicated, morally ambiguous characters.

  26. This is a really great post, J! You know, I really really struggle with unlikeable characters. It makes it hard for me to enjoy a book, but reading what you wrote that makes me feel horrible! Because you are SO right. I’ve had my fair share of bitchy moments and horrible-human-being moments, especially in high school, so I know I need to cut some of these characters more slack. I will totally admit, though, that it’s been a struggle for me!

  27. I agree with you regarding Vickie in A Mad, Wicked Folly. Some people didn’t like her, but I think it’s unfair to expect more from her. We’re all products of our upbringing and hers was a spoiled, prejudice, naive, and high minded one. Therefore it’s not a surprise when we see her fall back into one or more of these characteristics because it is all she really knows. Plus when we’re confronted with different, although appealing, circumstances than what we ourselves are used to we look to what we know to stabilize us. I think the author did a good job of writing Vickie as a realistic woman of her times who was caught in the middle of tradition versus change. I’m sure a lot of women at that time struggled like Vickie did.

  28. Many of these are on my TBR, and I completely agree with you about Alice from SEMV. She was pretty unlikable, but even so, the story still made me care for her.

    One of my favorite unlikable heroines is Samantha from Before I Fall, and then there is also Anika from Anatomy of a Misfit.

    Thanks for a great post!

  29. I would absolutely add Ruby from H2O by Virginia Bergin to this list. What a little stinker. (I love her so.)

  30. What a great post. I was literally just having this discussion with my book club this week after reading Last Train to Babylon by Charlee Fam, but I can think of many other books that this applies to as well. We got into a pretty heated debate about Last Train. Most of us felt it was a raw and honest portrayal of growing up and the toxic relationships between friends. Girls can be cruel. It’s just how it is. But one of the readers in my group had trouble getting behind Aubrey’s (the MC) poor-decision making, slut-shaming and lack of empathy throughout the book. I do think the author did a fantastic job of balancing unlikeable-ness and empathy.