A character-driven reader is someone who reads in order to get into the head of an interesting character. This is different from those who read for setting, storyline or prose. A book with character as its biggest appeal is a book in which readers feel so connected with the characters that when the book is over, they feel they lost someone dear to them. However, there is more than one type of character-driven reader and there is more than one type of character-driven book. Some readers don’t actually need that character connection; sometimes they just need to feel like they have walked around in another’s shoes – regardless of whether the character is likable or even a decent person. Personally, I enjoy reading about characters of all kinds and often find unlikeable (or, at least, complicated) characters offer a more immersive reading experience, simply because they are more realistic. Here are a few books I read recently that should appeal to the character-driven reader – but not that kind that needs to like the person they are reading about!

It took a few starts and stops before I could get into The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll, but I was hooked once I did. It follows the stars of a reality show that is centered on young female entrepreneurs. You know from the outset that the book will end in murder, but the why/how isn’t revealed until the very end. That being said, I wouldn’t classify this as a mystery or thriller or anything of the sort. It felt more like chick-lit minus any love story – lots of gossip, designer name-dropping, etc. It also has strong feminist themes, lots of great quotable material and some interesting, love-to-hate characters. I particularly enjoyed the voice of Stephanie. She’s complicated, borderline diabolical and whip smart. This is definitely a character-driven read, but if you can’t tolerate unlikable characters then steer clear!

The Other Woman follows Emily, a young professional in London. She has just met the man of her dreams, Adam – but he comes with baggage in the form of his mother, Pammie. Manipulative Pammie will seemingly say and do anything to come between Emily and Adam, but only Emily sees what she is up to. As far as Adam is concerned, his mother can do no wrong. Pammie is a character that will get under your skin – no question – but I found Emily to be a bit of piece of work herself. In any case, this a solid page turner with an unsuspected ending. I would suggest it to any reader who is can’t get enough domestic thrillers – clearly the genre du jour. This is a good one! It will be released at the end of August.

Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering was a trainwreck in the very best way. It follows Lucy and Stephen, who meet as students in University and have a long and fraught on-again/off-again relationship. Stephen is a sociopath and a cheat while Lucy is emotionally fragile...and so becomes addicted to him in spite of his treatment of her. Tell Me Lies is being marketed as comparable to Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll (author of The Favorite Sister, incidentally) and Sweetbitter by Stephanie Dalner — both of which I can see — but the lustiness, interchanging perspectives, and Stephen’s predatory behaviour also reminded me of You by Caroline Kepnes. There are some very interesting, complicated characters here. For example, Lucy isn’t a repulsive like Stephen but, still, you’d really wish she’d just get it together already.

You can reserve any of these books at your branch of the County of Lennox & Addington Libraries or through our online catalogue here. And if you are wondering what kind of reader you are (character-driven or otherwise), simply try this: 1) think about your favourite book, 2) start to tell someone about the book, 3) take note of what is the first thing you mention in your description. Either you’ll start by describing a lovable or intriguing character, the book’s beautiful or unique prose, it’s fascinating or immersive setting, or an edge-of-your-seat storyline. 

This article was originally published in The Napanee Guide.