TOP 10 FRUSTRATING PROTAGONISTS

It's always a shame when you're reading a book and you're enjoying the story but you can't help but daydream about strangling the protagonist. For all the story's otherwise good facets, the protagonist's lack of any redeeming qualities puts you in a stabby mood. (Is that just us? Moving on.)

At times, the story is strong enough to eclipse the protagonist's frustrating monologues or their senseless decision-making. We stick it out for other characters, for the plot, for an engaging world or an original magic system we want to see play out. After all, it isn't easy writing a universally beloved protagonist.

Other times, however, the protagonist ends up taking over and frustrating us into a puddle of nope. These are those protagonists.

(And disclaimer: some of the mentions on the lists below include spoilers. Tread carefully.)




1. Helena (F*ck Love)


I have to say, she was the most annoying protagonist I've read in a while. I found Helena to be just an all round disrespectful person to the people around her. Basically, the story goes that Helena has a dream about her best friend's boyfriend. Since then, she tries to sleep with him. Because of a dream. Some friend she is. But she justifies it as 'being in love with him because she loved the dream so much'. So, in Helena's mind, it's okay to ruin your best friend's happiness over a dream. Meanwhile, Helena tries to make her best friend, Della, out to be the villain. Even through all her friend's tribulations (and a miscarriage!), Helena is utterly unsupportive. All her friend wants is the white picket fence life, the marriage and kids, and all Helena does is judge her. She spends this book being rude, self-obsessed and mopey, because 'Woe is me, my friend's boyfriend won't cheat on her with me'. That is her actual thought process. Also, when she's sad, she takes selfies and touches socks. What.



2. Ben/Fallon (November 9)


This book was just a nightmare. It was told in duel POV and both narratives were just the worst. I found Fallon, the female protagonist, to be in constant need of compliments and valudation. It was just 'please love me, please tell me I'm pretty, please always put me before all else' and it got so boring so quickly. She was also just too much of a downer. I know she had had a bad thing happen to her, but after so many years, she is still just as irritating as she was at the start. There was so character growth at all, and I felt that she was just too self-involved. I also found her to be so dull.

Ben wasn't any better. He basically just thought with his nether regions. He found a hot, yet vulnerable and damaged girl, and his thought process was that he could sweet talk her and "fix" her, make her feel pretty for that one day a year then sleep with other girls in the meantime. No.

He also had sex with his brother's wife not even a year after he died. His body wasn't even COLD and he started sleeping with her. And if I read 'you're fucking beautiful' one more time...



3. November (Until November)

I think it's fair to say that this is one of my least favourite books of all time. I had major issues with this one, and the protagonist was one of them. First off, she was just plain annoying. She came from New York City to this place, and the first thing she does is take the dog that saved her life to an old folks' home. (Priorities, am I right?)
And then she meets Asher, and her brain goes to mush. Literally. She can't think for herself, well she can't THINK, when he is around due to an 'Asher Fog', and her life revolves around this massive douche.
I hate that she is so weak considering the way she grew up, and her past experiences. But instead of toughening up, she ignores all her friends, family, even her common sense, in favour of Asher but it doesn't matter because he is hot and good in bed.

Dependent, pointless, irritating, and completely useless.





4. Juliet (She Laughs In Pink)

I'm still in the process of reading this, it was sent as an ARC from a publisher and I'm really struggling with it. Juliet is the main protagonist who follows her best friend Ben to NJU because she is in love with him. The thing is, he doesn't want her. He has rejected her every day for the last 4 years and she won't get the message. She is obsessed. Her jealously, mood swings and constant need for drama wore very thin very soon. Even Ben says she is too dramatic for him.

Juliet, however, won't get the hint, nor attempt to move on. I don't even see how they are friends - they're nothing alike, have nothing in common and he spends his life rejecting her.
What's more - if a man was like this with a woman, if the roles were reversed, it would be a whole different story. But it's a woman being stalker-ish, so it's okay?


5. Thomas (The Maze Runner)


I wasn't a big fan of this book. I liked the idea of it - it's why I picked it up, but too many things bothered me. One of the main one's was Thomas, the protagonist.
All through this book, all he did was whine. "Why is nobody telling me anything? Tell me things! Stop lying to me and keeping things from me!" Shush, Thomas.

At every turn of the page, he is repeating the exact same lines - all of which revolve around his being kept in the dark, and how unfair it all is. I found nothing remotely interesting about him and I couldn't have cared less what happened to him.

I don't like characters who are flat and lifeless, who have zero purpose other than to just whine and thinks he should know everything. Give it time. Don't just show up, demand answers and get all mopey. Maybe be nice to people first? They might tell you then.





I didn't finish this, as I literally hated everyone. Why continue when I didn't care?
Lexi is basically an idiot. Over six years, she repeatedly sleeps with her on-again-off-again flame in full knowledge that he has a girlfriend/fiance/wife, etc. And she basically has the mentality of November, who is previously mentioned: oh, a hot man is around? Everyone and everything else disappears. I will take time out of my life and just dedicate myself to him fully because I can't think for myself.

And he's not even a nice person. He will use her for sex, and she won't even care. He invites her to the other side of the US, after having no contact with her, to basically have an affair with him. I thought 'if she goes, I'm not reading this'. She went. I put the book down. Lexi plays the victim but in full awareness of the wrongness of her actions. I don't like her - or Jack.



7. America Singer (The Selection)


I never thought I'd meet a character as indecisive as Katniss Everdeen - and then I meet America Singer. She is one annoying protagonist! If you ever thought you can't make life decisions, America will make you feel better about yourself. She is so backwards and forwards, unsure of anything and goes back on nearly every choice she makes immediately.
America is your typical tropey YA protagonist who is from a poor family and gets the opportunity to change her world by being pampered and snogging a rich, handsome suitor. I found the 'strong-willed girl who hates girly stuff' to be wearing a bit thin by that point, and I got so bored of America's inability to make a decision. She kept leading on both boys in her love triangle. They were the Gale and Peeta of this story, for sure.
She fell flat for me and she was quite wishy washy.





8. Tenley (Clipped Wings)

Tenley in one word - drama.
I know she had some bad things happen in her life, but honestly. Every second was a constant reminder that her life sucked. Can't you be happy for one second without dragging us down?

"I'm damaged. I can't be fixed. You deserve someone better than plain and broken me

I mean, this story at first was quite promising, I found it to be interesting until it dragged and became repetitive. I felt like Tenley couldn't function without being dramatic, and unnecessary drama in a book is just one of my bookish pet peeves. It's just one of those 'love me because I lost everyone in my life' stories. If you like those, by all means, read this book. I, however, got bored quickly. I just grow tired of the 'I'm too damaged and you can't fix me' stories, and it even got a bit irritating that she wouldn't tell the guy who she supposedly falls in love with her "big secret".




9. Griffin (Untamed)


I want to clarify - I LOVE GRIFFIN. I adore him in the Thoughtless series. He is so funny, and I will forever love him. HOWEVER, in Untamed, a spin-off book of the series - he was NOT IN CHARACTER.

S.C. Stephens keeps adding more books to this finished series, and I was all for Thoughtful, which was a re-telling in another POV. But this one? It was a train-wreck. I now class it as fan fiction because nobody in this book was in character at all. Griffin isn't the Griffin I know and love. I know he can be a jackass in the earlier books, but in this one, he cared about no one and nothing but himself. That's not him. In the original series, he cares about the other characters, his wife, his kids. But in this one, he just turned into a huge douchebag. His brain was just 'fame, money, sex', when he used to be more complex than that. He grew so much in the series, and then S.C. just took a huge step back with his development.
Very disappointing book. If you love the Thoughtless series, don't read this one. I try and forget it as it puts a damper on the original series.



10. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)


I don't hate Katniss - but you can't deny that she was a little frustrating. While most other characters on this list annoyed me outright, Katniss annoyed me while simultaneously making me love her. As previously mentioned in America's section, she isn't very decisive. I lost patience with her sometimes, and I found her to be a bit rude to people when they're trying to help. I know things didn't go very smoothly for her or anyone, but everyone was trying.  People like Peeta, Haymitch and many more were only trying to help but she was just a little ungrateful sometimes - not to mention cold, distant, and unable to make her mind up.

Love triangles don't bother me as much as everyone else, but her constant changing from Peeta to Gale wore thin with me too. The only two guys who show her interest and she's so in love that she needs to have them both? Thankfully, she got there in the end.






1. Mare Barrow (Red Queen)

Following Glass Sword, the second book in the Red Queen trilogy, Mare Barrow has cemented her place as #1 on my list of the world's (or at least YA literature's) most frustrating protagonists. With series this popular, this would usually be the place where I'd apologize for it, but... I'm not even sorry. Mare Barrow, on top of being an amalgamation of already established YA characters and tired YA tropes, also contradicts herself to the point of insanity. On the one hand, she is the most important person in the world - her survival and prosperity is more important than anyone else's (as she repeatedly informs you in rambling internal monologues). On the other hand, she spends 70% of the time feeling desperately sorry for herself - even as others around her have it much, much worse than she does. Mare also despises her own friends and looks down on them in a way that frequently made me think "If this is how she treats her friends, woe be on her enemies... once we get to the actual plot."




2. Eadlyn Schreave (The Selection)

Natalie chose the mother, so I choose the daughter. It was, perhaps, to be expected that America Singer and Maxon Schreave would produce this sort of offspring: entitled, capricious, immature, self-absorbed and cruel. Eadlyn is her parents' worse qualities combined - and nowhere is it more evident than when she's presented with 36 choices for a guy she should marry. (Her mother, if you'll remember, drove the entire YA community mad by not being able to pick between 2!) Eadlyn is the living embodiment of a temper tantrum - and makes damn sure they all know it.








To be fair, Echo might never have made this list. For the hoards of readers who read and loved Echo's story, she certainly doesn't. And I would probably agree - had I not already read Daughter of Smoke and Bone and City of Bones. Echo's most frustrating quality, perhaps unfairly, is that she is the exact replica (and I do mean the. Exact. Replica.) of Karou, now accompanied by Akiva, Magnus and Alec on her quest to live out the Daughter of Smoke and Bone plot once again - right down to the plot twists and the resolution. So Echo's most grievous crime is a complete lack of originality. But given how frustrated this made me throughout - here's a spot on the list for you, Echo.




4. Bella Swan (Twilight)

For all her faults - and there are many - Bella, at least, was the original Mary Sue. Which isn't to say that there weren't Mary Sues before her, but it very much implies that following Bella, the withdrawn, oblivious, self-deprecating damsel was everywhere in YA literature. And even when we set all the tropey qualities aside, the fact that Bella stood for "a boyfriend above all else" and "it's okay to become catatonic for months and then repeatedly do suicidal things if said boyfriend leaves you" just didn't sit well with me, no matter how hard I tried to get past it. (Which, admittedly, wasn't very hard most days.)







5. Tris Prior (Divergent)

Hold your horses. I'm not saying that Divergent is in any way atrocious. I'm not even saying that Tris, its protagonist, is all bad. But on the list of the most frustrating protagonists, Tris very much earns her spot, if nothing else than for causing endless romantic drama in the midst of a mild apocalypse - and most of which stems from a simple lack in communication. (Also, her voice is exactly the same as her love interest's, but... perhaps that's not her fault.)











6. Vhalla Yarl (Air Awakens)

Speaking of filler-romantic-conflict-of-the-incommunicado-variety, behold Vhalla Yarl and Air Awakens. For anyone who read the first book puzzled as to how a plot that thin could stretch to fill five more books - Vhalla Yarl is the clear answer. The following books, apparently, will consist of 10% plot, 90% romantic drama stemming from an absence of communication. And Vhalla, the protagonist, excels at it.








7. Nora Grey (Hush Hush)

Nora Grey, perhaps, should not have made this list. Hush Hush came out shortly after Twilight and cashed in on Twilight's fame. In this, Nora is no different than Luce (Fallen), Gemma (Fallen Star), and many, many other Bella Swan impersonators. But even years later, and after having forgotten most of the (albeit flimsy) plot, I vividly remember Nora Grey standing out to me as the worst of the lot, for one sole reason: after her (dreamy, six-packed) love interest confesses that he had actively been trying to kill her, and wants to kill her even now, Nora's response is that "despite the fact that he terrified her on every level, she didn't think he'd really do it, so she resolved to trust him completely".







Utter lack of agency, thy name is Twylla. (And yes, it is a weird name.) Admittedly, my biggest problem with this book was not the protagonist so much as an absence of plot, the snail pacing, and a mountain of tropes. Having said that, never before had I encountered a protagonist who takes everything at face value, questions nothing, has no critical thought to speak of, and then acts shocked and outraged when she is deceived. But then, I had also never encountered a protagonist who spends most of the book (a) praying (in long, tired monologues), and (b) desperately attempting to manufacture a love triangle for herself. So there's that, too.






9. Clary Fray (The Mortal Instruments)

As with Divergent, this isn't a reflection on the series as a whole, nor on its cast of characters. But all throughout the six Mortal Instruments books, Clary excelled at... making trouble that others have to come in and clean up. It became a given at the beginning of each book, and Clary would be faithful to her mess-making ways throughout. And when the next chapter would open with Simon giving a great sigh and proceeding to work out how to fix said mess and save everyone's' asses once again - I was right there, sighing with him. For me, Clary's decision-making left something to be desired.





10. Tessa (After)

No. No, no, no, no, no. No. No. Nein. Nyet. Non. Ne. Nope.
(That is my professional analysis.)



















Don't hate us. We mean well. Most of the time. And when we don't, we utilize this blog as a ranting tool to get the negative character build-up out of our system. (Oh, like you've never done that. Shush.)

Whether you're prone to the same or not - leave us a comment below and let us know which protagonists have frustrated you the most over the years. And have you been able to enjoy the book/series despite it?



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1 June 2016 at 10:56

Completely agree with America and Katniss Natalie! SO frustrating. America was the worst in The Elite. And Lexie, Eadlyn was a true nightmare and I hate her. And yes, duhh Bella.

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1 June 2016 at 22:49

I'M GETTING FRUSTRATED JUST READING THE NAMES OF THESE CHARACTERS OMG. I actually adored Katniss, but I can see why people may not love her. Tris, though, I wasn't as much of a fan of. And Nora, America, and Bella were all annoying as well. Thanks for sharing this and, as always, fabulous post! <3

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2 June 2016 at 06:10

Basically, the entire Schreave family tree is doomed to Eternal Frustration. Which isn't as bad for them as it is for the rest of us. (PLEASE, let it be over now! I'M A MASOCHIST AND I SUBJECT MYSELF TO INFINITE ATROCIOUS SEQUELS!)

Bella shall not even be discussed.

- Lexie

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2 June 2016 at 06:13

Same - I genuinely never minded Katniss. I do, however, recognize that like Bella, she has established ENDLESS robotic copycats - who usually lacked the WHY regarding Katniss's forced emotionless persona.

Nora and Bella are essentially the same person. They should both come with a domestic abuse pamphlet. (And I don't make this comment lightly.)

America et al. - the height of frustration.

Thank you for stopping by, as always, Zoe!

- Lexie

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3 June 2016 at 04:32

Ironically, I have a niece named Tenley and she is all drama, too. Must be a name thing.

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