Relatable characters

So currently there’s a book expo in the US, called BEA, and I don’t live in the US, so I’m not there. But there is a blog called Armchair BEA where people can participate from home. Which is fun. I’m not actually participating, this is just me explaining where I got this topic from. I was watching a video by Sarah Actually Reads, who is one of my favorite booktubers. She’s awesome. She was talking about relatable characters, and how everyone deserves to read about someone they relate to, which I completely agree with, and it was a great video.

I was a very bookish kid, and because I was a white middle class girl, and am a white middle class woman it’s not hard to find characters like me, and I feel like everyone should have that opportunity. We should all be able to see ourselves, or at least part of ourselves, in books. Not because I think it’ll revolutionarily make your life perfect, but because you’ll see someone who is like you, and you’ll feel less alone. Which is good. You can see someone struggling with the same stuff as you, and that’s nice.

So I feel like there should be characters you connect with, and characters that you can relate to. And that you can see yourself in, which is why I am glad that there is more focus on diverse books, books with characters of color, gay characters, bi characters, trans characters, and so on. And I really like that, and I’m trying to read more of those kinds of books as well, because while I think it’s important to have characters you see yourself in, it’s also important to read people who are different so you can see different perspectives. This isn’t very coherent, but it is very me.

Sarah brought up a book that she saw herself in. And I thought I’d do that too. When I was little I remember that I really loved Matilda. I read it a gazillion times when I was little. There’s a lot about Matilda that I don’t relate to, I have kind, and loving parents and they care about me. But Matilda was precocious and weird. She also read a lot. She takes out pretty much every book in her local library, and I love it. I love to read, and I read a lot when I was little too. And my friends in school didn’t really do that, or they just hid it from me, so I didn’t really have anyone to talk about books with, because my sister was too young. And I felt a little weird. But I had Matilda, and she was like me. Other bookish girls, Hermione. She’s weird, she’s obsessed with school, I’m a nerd, she’s so bookish, and I love her. And I related to her.

Another character that I related to recently, was Cath, from Fangirl, which sounds a bit weird, maybe? Fangirl is about Cath who has just started college, and for the first time is not sharing a room with her twin sister. She’s a huge fangirl of this book series and writes fanfiction. I’m not like Cath in a lot of ways, I’m not in college, I’m not a twin (although my astrological sign is Gemini, which has no bearing on anything, but it is a fact), my mother did not walk out on us, and my dad does not have manic episodes where I feel like I have to take care of him, he’s fine. I am however like Cath in a couple of ways, when Cath starts college she has all these plans of how to avoid being around people, because new people scare her a little. When she can’t figure out where the dining hall is she just decides to leave it, because she can’t bear to ask anyone. She doesn’t really connect with her roommate at first because she is shy and weird, and she doesn’t really like talking to new people. When I read it I had this moment of thinking ‘Cath must have some sort of anxiety, also, this is how I am.’ So maybe I’m a bit anxious, or a lot. It’s fine, I know how I interact with others isn’t optimal, and that I tend to be a little weird, and too shy, and sarcastic, because then people don’t realize I’m sort of angsty. Yes, this does have the feel of a confessional, don’t worry. My point is; Rainbow Rowell somehow wrote the most relatable character I’ve read, for me. I read Cath and I was like; yeah, she’s weird, and shy and anxious, but it’s so nice to read someone who’s like me, and to know it’s not just me. And also to know, Cath is okay. She’s a bit weird, but she’s okay. Cath also loves to write, not only fanfiction, but also pretty much everything else. I also love writing, and I use it sort of to explain myself and to focus.

Anyway. It’s nice to read something about someone who you recognize, someone you relate to, and someone who makes you feel less alone. It doesn’t even have to be big, it could be really small, it could be huge, but I think it’s important.

Sarah also asked another question in her video, but I think I’ll use a whole other post on that. So that’ll come later, I guess. Do you have any books that you really related to, and made you feel less alone, I guess? Or do you have any thoughts on the subject? Let me know.