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Rating Book Low Because Of Character
Discussion post

Rating Book Low Because Of Character, Fair Or Unfair? #DiscussionPost

Rating Book Low Because Of Character

Hello Readers! I might not be the first to discuss this. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any related post to backlink but I do remember me commenting on someone’s blog on topic something like this but different. How much is it fair or unfair rating book low because of character? This question had been on my mind for long but didn’t know if I wanted to write about it or nor but then I stopped overthinking and braved myself to write it.

Characters are essential part of book and even more when story is character driven and we all pay attention to them and they are also one of the points in our rating system 50% or 70% of rating only goes after characters and it varies depending on genre. But when I saw these lines often in reviews “I didn’t like the character“, “I couldn’t relate to character“. I have seen books rated low for these reasons which made me think and gave the idea for post.

Okay let say first, I have nothing against reviewers who rate book low because of characters. Nor I’m some expert or a writer or something. I’m just curious, trying to share my view, and also trying to understand from reader who have opinions on this topic (similar or different).

When I feel it’s unfair-

When I see that “I didn’t like the character” and of course when it wasn’t explained, it instantly make me think, not all characters are meant to be likable. You won’t find any likable characters in thrillers and mostly in psychological thrillers, even in fantasy with morally grey characters. They are supposed to be that way in these genre or some stories, they are written that way.

This is really more common than that likability thing. “I couldn’t relate to character”. Are we supposed to? I have read tons of books that I couldn’t relate to, I haven’t experienced same thing as character, nothing like that going to happen or happened to me. Nothing is similar or familiar- characteristics, habits, personalities are different than me but I still enjoyed those books because I was trying to know those characters who were from different background, had different life, personality and so on. They are written to be understood the perspective. I was reading through their perspective as third person looking in their world from outside and that made all those book different for me and enjoyable.

When it feels fair enough-

I did rate book low myself because of unlikable characters in the beginning and still do but only when it falls into this points-

Character doesn’t develop until last 20 or 30% of the book or when there is no development at all.

Characters are completely annoying and jerk in whole book. (I’m looking at Mal from Grishaverse trilogy)

Characters not acting their age- I read a book this year in which woman who was 30 should be adult was making whole drama over nerd vs cool guy thing, and comparing look like she was still in school.

No depth- When character doesn’t make any impact, they feel superficial like they are just there in story to keep it moving.

‘This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.’ 

Thank you for reading! Let’s chat…

What do you think about this post? Have it ever crossed your mind?
Do you agree with my points or reason? Would you like to add your own points?
Do you have any different opinion?

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Hi, I'm Yesha, an Indian book blogger. Avid and eclectic reader who loves to read with a cup of tea. Not born reader but I don't think I’m going to stop reading books in this life. “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

38 Comments

  • Stephen

    A very interesting discussion post, Yesha! It totally depends for me – of course I do understand and take it into account when characters are not meant to be likeable, but sometimes when a protagonist is unlikable I enjoy the book a lot less.

  • Bookstooge

    I totally will drop a rating on a book if the characters are all unlikeable. One or two I can handle, but with everybody? No thanks.

    Thankfully, I’ve learned that certain genres tend to do this and am doing my best to stay away from those. It’s just not worth getting upset by my hobby :-/

  • Jessica @ The Awkward Book Blogger

    I agree with a lot of what you said! For me, my book ratings are based off of how enjoyable/meaningful the reading experience was when I read a book. Sometimes, if a character is super annoying my rating goes down a bit, but not by much (maybe a half star or so). Interesting discussion question!

  • peatlong

    Think I’d pretty much always support a reviewer giving a low rating if they didn’t get on with the characters – that’s just part of an honest opinion, to state the obvious, and I’d rather reviewers be absolutely honest about what they felt rather than trying to be objective and not giving their experience.

    But it definitely is pretty useless when they don’t leave why!

    I think the most interesting cases are the characters who are meant to be fascinating rather than likeable, and when reviewers dig into what makes the character fascinating or not. Liking a character seems straight forwards, having that sense of “wow, this character is something else, I want to see what they do” isn’t so much.

  • Kaya @ afictionalbookworm

    great topic, with incredible points! i think that rating a book lower when disliking a character can be valid as long as they’re meant to be unlikable. reading a book where the main character is CLEARLY supposed to be morally questionable and then rating it low because of that is a whole different ballpark imo. i totally agree though, when a character doesn’t get development or feels flat as a whole, the book should be rated lower! after all, characters are just as important as aspects such as story and worldbuilding.

  • Briana | Pages Unbound

    I agree that rating something low because you didn’t like the character, particularly if they’re not even meant to be “good” and “likable” isn’t really fair.

    The one thing that does drive me nuts is when the story/author is trying to convince me the character is amazing and a nice person and they’re clearly a complete jerk. Or that they’re a genius but obviously not that bright. Don’t tell me they’re so sweet and kind and try to make me like them when they then go around mocking all the other characters!

  • lindawis

    Great topic! In a book club long ago, someone commented that they didn’t like the book because one of the characters was “a bad mother.” LOL Most book clubbers are women. Anyway, I liked the book because bad mother characters are interesting! You want to see if they become good or suffer for their badness.

    • Books Teacup and Reviews

      About that bad mother, there are mostly a reason behind it, it’s part part of understanding that character, making readers hook to story to figure out why and what happens next. And like I said author created that character to be bad which I’m sure might be essential for that book or there would some different kind of story and not the one you read. Thank you! 😀

  • Krysta @ Pages Unbound

    This is why I find reviews more helpful than actual star ratings. The rating could be based on anything from an assessment of well done the book is from a technical point of view (tight writing, rounded characters, etc.) to a reflection of an emotional reaction (Did I enjoy reading this?). Star ratings can’t really tell you things like, “I recognize this book is well written, but I hated reading it because the main character was so annoying.” A review can discuss both, though.

    • Books Teacup and Reviews

      I get it! But not all reviewers just review without star rating and on some platforms you have to rate it and when other reader check the book, they definitely are going to notice star rating. I bet they hardly notice or not everyone mentions what make them cut star and just leave a line without explaining properly.
      Like Wendy said in other comment, some even DNF book saying character wasn’t likable or relatable which i find totally unfair.

  • WendyW

    Great discussion! I think what sometimes irks me about reviewers, is when they DNF a book early in the book because they don’t like/can’t relate to a character and won’t finish the book. I’ve read several books where I strongly disliked a character in the beginning, but by the end, I understood the character and even liked them by the end. I rarely DNF book because I always have hope that I will be able to understand and perhaps like/relate the the character by the end of the book.

  • Teri Polen

    You raise some good questions, Yesha. I recently finished a book where the MC was morally gray, and that’s something that draws me to characters and makes them more complex. But by the end of the book she’d manipulated, destroyed, and schemed so much and taken away the choices of other characters that I can’t imagine where the story will go in the second book. I doubt I’ll even read it. I think it’s the only time I’ve felt this way about a character.

    • Books Teacup and Reviews

      Thank you, Teri! I also enjoy morally grey characters, they sure are interesting and definitely not entirely likable or relatable and that’s expected but when we are left unsure at the end, being the reason we might not read next book that’s definitely not okay.

  • happytonic

    Great discussion question, Yesha!
    Mal-heh? 😏😏😏 he is the reason I’m not so keen on continuing with the thrilogy…
    I agree with your point on lack of growth/ development. Somebooks are just not character-driven, they are all about the plot and shocking twists…
    I think if you are basing your rating on your enjoyment of the book, then it’s fair (it is probably a good idea to state it somewhere in your review). Last year I read a book with one of the most unlikeable characters ever…The current rating on GR is 3.21, despite the author being a winner of lots presigious awards. It’s still a 5star read for me, deep and honest in looking at things we try to avoid thinking about.
    2 examples from classics that sprang to my mind are Emma Bovary and Fyodor Raskolnikov. Likeable?no.Relatable?no. Great books-absolutely!

    • Books Teacup and Reviews

      Thank you, Toni! I agree and good point! It really depends on story, if it’s character driven or balanced one sure look at character growth, how much they dampen the enjoyment of story being annoying and all but they definitely don’t need to be likable or relatable to enjoy book for most stories.

  • kbbookreviewer

    I agree that rating books low because of characters definitely needs an explanation in the review as characters don’t have to be likeable. I ususally rate a book low due to characters if they had little or no development or if they were unlikable just for the sake of it (for no reason or as their only trait etc…). I didn’t like Mal from Grishaverse books either which affected my rating because his relationship with Alina is a big part of the story 😂. I agree with your reasons for rating characters low, I mostly rate them on the same list! Great post! 💜

  • dianthaa

    In a perfect world I wouldn’t mind, if people didn’t like the book because of a character then they should rate it as such and it’s an honest rating. But I’ve seen a lot of authors from marginalized identities say they get “I couldn’t relate to the character” a lot, and in that case I think it’s often to do more with the reader’s biases than any fault in the book. And since ratings to affect a book’s sales and success that makes it a lot less “fair enough” and a lot more something that reviewers should think about when rating.

    • Books Teacup and Reviews

      I think it’s more about how reader is viewing it or understanding about relatability and diversity than biases.they should keep in mind it’s rare or unlikely find characters in books just like you or culture you have known or are familiar with.

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