Book Nerd Problems #9: Relatable Characters (or, ‘Creating My Bookish DNA’)

Posted May 4, 2013 by Debby in Book Nerd Problems, Discussions / 13 Comments

This is a periodic discussion feature here at Snuggly Oranges about the many problems one can run into as a book nerd.

#9. Relatable Characters (or, ‘Creating My Bookish DNA’)

One of the most exciting things, as a book nerd, and possibly one of the first determinants of whether or not I’ll like the book, is when the book I’m reading contains a character that I relate to so much, it’s almost like looking in a mirror. Sometimes you almost wonder if the author just picked you up and wrote you into his/her world.

A relatable character has such an impact on the reading experience, I think, because it’s comforting. It reaffirms that we’re not alone in some of our traits or oddities, and, especially if you’re going through a rough patch, it’s wonderful to see that a similar character makes it through tough situations and gets a happy ending. It’s almost therapeutic… or cathartic. While characters we idolized and would want to be like (aspirational characters) are also appealing, to me, this personal bond with a relatable character definitely wins out.
So I was mulling over this idea of characters I super relate to or identify with, and I thought it would be interesting to map it out: show off which characters I relate to most and create my own Bookish DNA. And wow, surprise surprise, they’re all from my favorite series.

My Bookish DNA

Hermione Granger from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Probably most of us book nerds can agree on this. But especially lately at university… I am Hermione. Maybe I’m a bit less enthousiastic about being a know-it-all and answering all the questions posed in class, but my professor has lately just turned to me when asking a question. It’s pretty bad. Aside from that, there’s obviously the love of reading but also how I have difficulty to make and keep friends. I tend to just have a couple really good friends and for the rest stick to myself a lot. And I can be pretty stubborn when it comes to arguments with others.

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Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I’m not purposefully picking the two most popular female characters in YA, I swear. But Katniss reflects my trust issues. They run deep, man. I’m constantly aware of how the people around me seem to use me for their own personal gain and it makes me resentful like hell. Like Katniss, I only have a few people that I thoroughly trust, and I would do anything to help them. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, how I overanalyze people’s actions to try to read their intentions, but that does bind me to Katniss.

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Allyson Healey from Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Maybe this is not as relevant anymore, but rewind a few years and Allyson definitely was a big part of my bookish DNA. I did have sort of a sheltered upbringing, and going to college and being halfway around the world from my parents forced me into independence. Reading about Allyson’s transition to adulthood hit me hard. I could especially relate to how hard she found it to make friends. “Maybe making friends is a specific skill, and I missed the lesson.” Also, “I don’t seem to know how to open up to people without getting the door slammed in my face.”

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Katy Swartz from the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Katy, aside from being a book blogger, which serves as an immediate identifier, mostly reflects my sarcastic sense of humor. She basically makes the exact same jokes and holds the same world-view as I do. However, she also definitely had me cheering for her because she’s independent, or rather resented the idea of becoming fully dependent on the love interest, Daemon. She also won’t just lie down for him, calls him out on his bullshit, and makes him work for the relationship. That’s pretty much how I am as well. I will not be a doormat! So go Katy!

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Annabeth Chase from Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan

Much like Hermione, Annabeth is intelligent, prizes wisdom, and always thinks rationally. She is strong and independent and won’t let the other characters push her around, even Percy. She plans meticulously for battle strategies and such, and I’m quite the planner myself. However, at the same time, she is stubborn and recognizes her faults (hubris) and that all sums up to an extremely relatable character for me. I was so happy to read her POV in Mark of Athena. She’s brilliant.

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Me!

Well then. Hopefully you enjoyed this idea, the execution, and learned a bit more about this disturbed blogger you keep reading stuff from. Looking so deeply into these characters definitely teaches me a lot about myself and how I work as a person.

Let’s Talk!

What about you guys? What does your bookish DNA look like? Do we have any characters in common? Do you fall for the relatable characters or more for the aspirational characters? Let me know in the comments!

We read to know we are not alone. C.S. Lewis

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13 responses to “Book Nerd Problems #9: Relatable Characters (or, ‘Creating My Bookish DNA’)

  1. dKatrina

    I agree with pretty much all of the heroines you've mentioned. Special kind of love goes to Allyson, Katy and the amazing Hermione. It's not really that I'm super similar to them, just a little bit, but more that I hope I was like them, you know?
    My recent post Stacking the Shelves

  2. achoquet

    Oh, I love this idea! You're so creative! I have only read two of these books (Hunger Games and Harry Potter) so I'm not as familiar with the other characters, but still enjoyed seeing how you relate yourself to them. I'm not sure which characters I would choose to create my Bookish DNA. Half the time I find myself wishing I was more like a character than noticing how we're similar. Isn't that bad?!
    My recent post Bookish News: The Spread of YA Imprints

  3. Aww, yay πŸ™‚ While I do relate a lot to these characters there's also many points on which I wish I could be more like them – and I guess that's kind of awesome too, because that gives me something to strive for πŸ™‚ Like, Allyson, I wish I could be so brave to go traveling all by myself. And the others as well – I just can't think of any examples right now, haha.
    My recent post Book Nerd Problems #9: Relatable Characters (or, 'Creating My Bookish DNA')

  4. Okay, I love this. Whenever I read a book, I keep looking for things that would connect me with the main character. It doesn't always happen and sometimes it's mostly that I agree with their choices and all. But other times, I kind of see myself in them. So yeah, this has happened with me especially with Tris from Divergent 'cause she's in this phase where she'd like to an ultra adventurer and very brave and I'm so much like that. I'm an adventurer but sometimes I have to convince myself to be one 'cause you have to get over your fears one way or the other.

    And then there's Dylan from Take Me There and even though he's a boy I related to the darkest place he'd ever been. We all go through days when we feel everything sucks and my thought process is pretty much like Dylan's on such days. But I don't struggle with decision-making. I have indecisiveness.

    And lastly, I relate to Bianca from The DUFF because of her cynical and sarcastic nature. I'm not as cynical as her but I'm definitely a little. Also, I don't have trust issues as such but I'm like Katniss with her fierce protectiveness of the people that are close to her. Go Katniss.

    And oh, this is a great post. You rock! =D
    My recent post Review: Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols

  5. Oh I totally get your thing with Tris. I was way too much of a pansy to add her in myself. I was debating on Christina for a little bit because my faction is totally Candor, but she hardly got enough "screentime" for me to truly connect with her.

    I've never heard of Take Me There! But that sounds quite impressive, I'm going to have to look it up now.

    Ohhh I've been meaning to read The DUFF for so long – I think I'd relate to Bianca a ton as well. I really need to move that one up on my TBR, it sounds awesome.

    Thank youuu πŸ™‚
    My recent post Waiting on Wednesday #25: Inferno by Dan Brown

  6. Definitely Hermione! I've always been the one all teacher liked, I always make my homework and I love reading of course. I wish I could come up with some kick ass characters, but I'm not that tough. Perhaps I'm a bit like Kira in Partials: I'm going to study microbiology and I want to work in a hospital. When something comes on my way, I will put all my effort in it. I can be strong when I need to and I do like a little adventure now and then.

    And there are definitely more characters I can identify it. Most of the times there are small things I recognize myself in, like shyness or certain hobbies. I always love it when I come across characters I feel I could be friends with.
    My recent post WoW 38. Retellings: Scarlet in snow & Unhinged.

  7. I love this idea! I have a hard time figuring out my bookish DNA because it's tough for me to separate which characters I like because I admire them and wish I were more like them and which ones I'm actually like.

    For example, I'd love to think I'm brave and tough like Tris from Divergent or June from Legend, but realistically I am so not. Forget climbing ferris wheels, I freak out on step ladders sometimes (heights are for other people as far as I'm concerned). Although, check it out, I'm facing my fear of commenting! πŸ™‚

    Realistically, I've definitely got some Hermione going for me (love of books: check, desire to research everything: check, know-it-all overachiever: check). I like to think I'm also a little like Janelle from Unraveling. I like to puzzle things out and once I decide on a course of action I go for it all out.

  8. Judith

    So I am basically in LOVE with this post right now. This is absolutely BRILLIANT. I think being able to relate to characters is what, 90% of the time, makes me fall in love with that book. It's the recognition of a characteristic or an experience that makes me feel even closer to the story. And therefore, I love it. This is why reading Just One Day was such a great experience: I recognized what Allyson went through at college. The loneliness, the trying to find your own place and your own way, dark times included. Especially the dark times. That is probably why it's one of my favorite books of all time.

    I had fun reading The Extraordinary Secrets of April May & June because it's about three sisters and I'm the oldest of three children, and April (the oldest) is SO ME. I'm always the responsible one and the one looking out for everyone. But also May, who had just my sort of humor. (Much like Katy from Lux, actually!) And errrrr. This is pretty hard! Maybe Hadley from Statistical because of her claustrophobia and fear of airplanes?! HAHA. Oh boy. I'm bad at this. AWESOME post.

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