What I Want from YA Fiction

What I Want from YA Fiction: Complex Characters

No one likes a flat character. They’re difficult to relate to and simpathize with, and they’re dull. Though some might argue that plot is what drives a book, I disagree. I need a complex and interesting character before I’ll become invested in what’s happening to them. Too often I pick up books that receive rave reviews or sell like hotcakes only to be disappointed by the one dimensional characters. I’m much more interested in a character who is complicated. It’s more realistic. I’ll give examples, though I will not name any books or authors. I don’t want to be disrespectful of an authors work or bash, and I think my examples can really be applied to a number of books.

Last year, I kept seeing the of cover of a certain book. It seemed like it was following me around. Everyone was reviewing it and groups were reading it on Goodreads. I am usually turned off by hype, but I decided that I was going to give this one a try. What I found was a main character with no spine and seemingly no real purpose in life. She seemed to be compeletely defined by her relationship with a boy. There was little introduction to her past or who she was previous to her meeting with this guy. I was never able to understand who she really was. Though relationships are important, they don’t define a person. People are much more complex than that and I have a hard time caring about a character who’s only worries, hopes, and dreams in the world are based around their significant other. That’s so unrealistic and uninteresting. Though I’m afraid I’ll be burned at the stake for saying this, I find this more in paranormal and urban fantasy books. I’m not saying they’re all like that, but it’s more common in them than in realistic fiction.

Later in the year,  I discovered my love of realistic fiction. In one book, the main character was going through a lot of issues. I was amazed at how the author dealt with all of it. There was such a range of human emotion and conflicted feelings. There was no way to sit down and explain who the character was with a simple sentence. He was too complex for that. Yes, his relationships with people were part of him, but there was so much more than that. I would even say that was part of the plot. He had to discover who he was outside of his relationship with his father or brother or girlfriend. He also had to discover that the person he would become was entirely up to him. His worries, hopes, and dreams were not rooted in one person or place or idea. They were based on a number of different people and circumstances. I find that kind of character much more interesting to read about.

You may argue that I shouldn’t expect this kind of character out of paranormal book, that I could only find that kind of character in realistic fiction. Oh, ye of little faith, I have another example. I picked up a paranormal book thinking it would be just like the others I’d read recently, fun but full of flat characters I could care less about. I was more than a little suprised to find some pretty amazing characters: intelligent and witty, not at all defined by their teen love or even by their paranormal abilities. I was thrilled! I’m even more thrilled that there’s more to come for these characters.

Leave a comment


  1. This is not only a great type of blog post, but I agree that complex characters "make" the book. Characters that are just either boring or unrealistic end up making me put down the book and start a new one.Great post!

  2. I also agree with you… especially about the characters, typically the girl, who only can think of the bad boy who is conflicted…I cant stand when the book is 300 pages long of "Does he love me or not" and the other thing that I typically see is when I'm reading, I see great avenues for ways to make the character complex but am greatly disappointed when they fall flat… Has that happened to you?Great ramble… though I don't think it was a ramble!

  3. I couldn't agree with you more, especially about finding flat characters in Paranormal and Urban Fantasy books. I don't know why this is, but I suspect it's because publishers are willing to overlook character development since the genre is so hot right now. I get hesitant to read some of the books that have a lot of hype because of this issue. I've been burned in the past, and I really can't stand female characters who claim that the boy they're with is "like a drug" and that they'll "die if I can't be with him." Thanks for the post!


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