Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters Ever

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created to share lists with other bookish folks! For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday list, we were asked to list our top ten most frustrating characters ever! This is a great idea for a list, and it’s one that I mulled over quite a bit, since frustrating characters are poised on a bit of a tight-rope. Some remain likeable, and some are just…not.

1. Rex and Rose Marie Walls, from The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
Perhaps because I read it so recently, author Jeannette Walls’ parents immediately sprang to mind as the epitome of “frustrating.” In my review, I spoke about struggling to feel sympathetic for them–the way Walls herself seems to!–but ultimately being unable to understand or forgive their negligence and cruelty toward their children.

2. Quentin Coldwater, from The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman
Quentin is whiny, arrogant, thoughtless, and decidedly unsympathetic. And he’s our protagonist! You’ll want to shake him constantly throughout these novels. That being said, he’s a fairly-realistic sketch of what a teenage boy with magical powers would be like.

3. Susan Norton, from Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Ugh, Susan. You’ve watched horror movies–you know what happens to blonde girls who go wandering around creepy mansions on their own! (You can read the rest of my review here.)

4. Henry VIII, from Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Compared to Cromwell, our main character, Henry VIII comes across as immature and undisciplined. While Cromwell has had to work hard for every opportunity afforded to him, the blue-blooded nobility look down upon him for his humble origins. (Review here.)

5. Llewellyn, from No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
The entire book–and all of its attendant cold-blooded murder and mayhem–could have been averted if you just didn’t pick up that bag of cash in the desert, Llewellyn.

6. Zoe from White Horse by Alex Adams
In my review, I found White Horse to be a frustrating book overall, due in part to protagonist Zoe. She really didn’t display any of the characteristics I would expect to find in one of the only survivors of a global apocalypse, and never seemed to learn from the mistakes that got her companions killed in various ways. Her totally inappropriate obsession with her therapist also drove me nuts.

7. Samad, from White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Like entry #9 in my list, White Teeth is populated by frustrating characters. Smith’s characters feel so realistic that even the poor choices they make are understandable. For me, Samad was one of the more frustrating individuals; he not only cheated on his wife, but also drives his sons away with his unreasonable demands and his lack of sympathy for the struggles of first-generation immigrants. Read my review here.

8. Tris, from Divergent (Divergent Trilogy #1) by Veronica Roth
Girl.

9. Everyone in The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
I couldn’t choose between Madeleine, Leonard, and Mitchell, who are all frustrating in different ways: Madeleine for her romanticism and playacting at adulthood; Leonard for his inability to take his mental illness seriously; and Mitchell for being generally privileged, pretentious, and unable to understand why a girl he’s friends with might not want to date him. More complaints here.

10. Lacey Yeagar, from An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
The consummate social climber, Lacey uses her youth and beauty to charm countless men into furthering her career and her expensive tastes. And unfortunately, because the novel is not from her point of view, we are never really given much chance to empathize with her. As I said in my review, “An Object of Beauty failed to wow me.”

Who are your top ten most frustrating characters? Feel free to link to your own post in the comments!

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4 Responses to “Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters Ever”


  1. 1 Rory O'Connor January 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    You’re Susan description made me laugh, as much as I love that novel that is exactly how she is. Luckily, Stephen King seems to have gotten better as writing female characters.

  2. 2 Zo January 29, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Some of these are on my “to read” list but haven’t made it there yet. I’ll have to see if I find any of them annoying!

  3. 3 rubybastille January 31, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Your list reminded me of another character that drives me nuts – I don’t even remember his name anymore, but he’s from “Intimacy” by Hanif Kureishi. The book was a scathing look at infidelity and a passionless marriage, and it was the kind of thing that only really artsy, literary people actually enjoy reading or writing. The main character is an emotionally manipulative, selfish, whiny SOB on par with Quentin, only I find this guy worse because he deliberately sets out to make life for the other characters as miserable as possible. UGH.

  4. 4 Blythe Harris February 1, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    LOL I completely agree about Susan from Salem’s Lot! And I agree about Tris from Divergent, too. She didn’t make my list, but she was pretty damn close to it. I haven’t read any other books on your list, but I enjoyed reading it nonetheless! Great list. 🙂


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