Unsympathetic Characters – what happens when you don’t like anyone in the book?

This is actually a review of a free Kindle download entitled Intrusion by Arlene Kay.  So, like usual, with my free Kindle downloads, I read them mainly as a way to pass the time on the way to work or passing out before I go to sleep.  As I’ve invested literally no money in the product, I do not have high expectations for these stories, other than the curiosity of keeping up with what makes the Top 10 on the free Kindle download list.  I read this book approaching it that 1) it was written in first person (which the Fates project is) and 2) it’s a thriller (so I wanted to read it for various pacing).

A better title might have been, Obnoxious Characters Unite.

Enter, Intrusion – a modern ‘medical’ thriller with a cast of highly obnoxious characters.  I can’t think of the last time I was so irritated with a group of people.

THE CAST

The protagonist, who internally refers to herself as Lizzie Mae, is called ‘Betts’ (!) by her best friend and ‘Elisa’ by her paramour.  However, the most annoying way she is referred to is the constant (!!!!!!!!!!!!!) use of her widowed name “Mrs. Buckley.”  While making a character a widow (especially a recent one) is an interesting development choice, I’d like to think we live in a modern world.  The nearly obsessive use of her married name grated on me for some reason.  It’s rare that I call any person I know “Mrs. HisLastName.”  Why?  Because everyone I meet is more than there husband (or father’s) name.  While the character interacts with people who do not know her, and I understand they might call her by her full (married) name, it seems the author wants us to be reminded Elizabeth was married AND SHE’S NEVER GOING TO FORGET IT.  NEVER.  EVER.  Names aside, the protagonist has the potential to be sympathetic, but comes off aloof, overly emotional and obnoxious.  She’s hyper educated, crazy (ridiculously and unnecessarily) wealthy and not dealing with the tragic (and never fully detailed) death of her husband and unborn son (another plot point that gets mentioned, but doesn’t goes anywhere).  I think Ms. Kay wants us to sympathize with this woman, but ultimately, I ended up not caring one way or the other what happened to Lizzie – whether or not she was in danger, or figured out who was behind her friend’s death.

Candy, the best friend – who is constantly described in annoying terms.  ‘Betts’ internally complains about her friend on a near paragraph basis (‘whining’ is not a verb I want to read about).  Candy is interested in boys men (like, OMG!), dressing up and make up (the make up makes sense because didn’t you know? Naturally, Betts and Candy run a highly successful make up company.)

The blonde French guy (I’ve already forgotten his name, but it’s something like Luc Sand) aka “The Sandman” – the love interest kind of whips in out of nowhere with his flowing blonde hair and Gallic shrugs (there are enough references to his being French and doing Frenchy thinks to make you choke on your French toast).  Things he’s good at:  being too perfect, cooking, being handsome, sexing, being mysterious.  He dresses like her dead husband, fits into her dead husband’s clothes and has long hair.  Whatever floats your boat, but I do not find long hair on men very attractive.

Della – the dog, consistent useful plot excuse (‘You can’t stay over, French hottie, I must walk the dog’) and perhaps the only character I was rooting for.

Dr. Meg Cahill – the assumed antagonist.  While I’m all yay for strong women characters, this lady doesn’t get very far, especially because she made a play for Hot French Guy (who wasn’t interested).

Some police people – surprise! they aren’t very good at their jobs.

So why did I finish reading?  Ultimately, I switched off about 43% of the way through (thank you, Kindle).  And full disclosure, I only read that far to see if French dude got Lizzie May in the sack (spoiler – he does!).  I’m not sure if it was the presentation of the characters or that I had literally no connection to them, but this was the first time in a long time where I’ve not found anything to like about ANY of the characters.

Ultimately, what I walked away from this book was to ensure my characters (even the antagonist) has some sort of likable quality.  I am especially aware of this fact because the protagonist of the Fates is a pretentious know-it-all.  She has good reason, but I think there are still ways I can warm an audience up to her.  Intrusion was a good lesson in the need to create characters that readers want to care about (even if only for a few hours).

Do you have any recent examples of books you just couldn’t get into?  Why?

What are your thoughts?

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