Monday, March 15, 2010

Characterization and me

I recently stopped reading two books without finishing them, and in thinking about why, characterization stuck out as an important appeal aspect for me as a reader. As far as I can tell now, I like books with well-hashed-out complex characters or, if they're tropes (common in plot-centered genre fiction to help get to the action quickly), I want to relate to them or at least like them (which is surprisingly not necessary for all readers).

The Reckoners by Doranna Durgin is a paranormal romance about spunky 25-year-old ghost hunter, Garrie. As I was reading it, I thought it was a later book in a series (though it's actually book 1) because Garrie's mentor is referenced but not present (she has passed on), and Garrie's ghost-hunting support team come off as a stereotypical geek and a Latina princess. One of the characters is an "energy-based creature" that often appears in the form of a cat. I didn't understand Garrie's emotions or concerns. To illustrate the necessity of a reader's advisory interview, though, I give you reviews in which the book is praised for its characters (on Amazon, Goodreads, and blogs).

A totally different book in all other appeal aspects, I also stopped reading Gail Collins' When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. I'll admit, this was partly
owing to the trouble I have with reading more than one nonfiction book at a time. However, I had a hard time with this book's tendency to use real-life examples of women but barely introduce them. This is an effective means of writing history, but, as a reader who has specific characterization requirements, it irked me. I wanted to know more about who they were (not just some representative experience they had four decades ago) and why they were being referenced.

My point is not criticism but to figure out readers' advisory, and these two books gave me new insight into what's important to me as a reader reading for personal entertainment.

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