I read kind all kinds of books, from light women’s fiction to darker literary fiction to funny memoirs to heartbreaking ones. I tend to have a pretty upbeat view on life, so characters who do or think terrible things do not necessarily bother me. I recognize the darker side of humanity as a fact of life, so I just view it as a psychological study to an extent.

Many others do not agree with me and online reviews of books often site this reason as a low star rating: “I didn’t like any of the characters.”

mad men pic

Is this a book thing, or does it extend to movies and television as well? I don’t seem to hear that criticism in regards to TV, and I wonder why that would be? After all, if that held true, how would we account for the success of such television shows as Mad Men? I couldn’t stop watching in spite of the abysmal moral character and choices of most of the principals in the show. I’ve said I don’t shy away from dark, but binge-watching this show was almost too much for me, and I think it was the binging that put it over the top.

When I started reading The Nest, I knew that people either found it “unputdownnable” or “overrated” (since it appeared on many of the summer must-read lists in magazines and online). The main reason people cited for not being able to even finish the book was that the characters were jerks, unlikable, despicable, etcetera.

the nest

I picked this up because it is one of five books I’m reading in my online book club, but I love a good family drama, so I probably would have read it anyway. I also love a great setting (and New York in particular), and New York is practically a character in this novel.

I was a quarter way into the book when I realized, “I don’t hate anyone in this book.” Then I had to ask myself, “Am I a horrible person because of this?” I actually posed this question in our online discussion group. Most rushed to my side claiming that it didn’t make me a horrible person — whether they found the characters likable or not…

This is an excerpt from the article Are unlikable characters a deal-breaker? which originally appeared on 5 Minutes for Mom.