So a couple weeks ago, I finished reading George Orwell’s 1984. Two of my flatmates had read and enjoyed it, with one of them citing Orwell as the author of the 20th century, so I figured I’d give it a go.
I go into a little more detail in my review, but suffice it to say that I was underwhelmed. By all means, I understand what both flatmates were on about – technically, 1984 is a brilliant dystopian novel.
It paints a grim picture of a state of constant surveillance. Freedom doesn’t exist. History and free will don’t exist. Media is controlled to show exactly the image of Oceania that they want to show, and the scariest part is the shock when you realise shit, this is what society could actually become.
So yeah, as I said – it’s a pretty damn good dystopian novel.
Alas, I really did not like the book. Some people might argue that I just “didn’t get it”, but I don’t think that’s it – I’m fully aware of the themes and can appreciate what this novel did for literature and the dystopian genre.
No, my issue is that I didn’t connect with the characters.
For me, reading is all about the characters. I will stick with even the most terrible novel if I love the characters. Case in point: The Death Cure. If you haven’t heard of The Maze Runner series, then you’ve probably done a good job avoiding YA dystopian fiction in general. I, as a young adult, read a fair amount of this, and I’m not gonna lie – the end of this series is horrifically bad.
However, I enjoyed these way more than 1984, and the first two books still hold a special place in my heart because they weren’t quite as terrible as the conclusion. I loved the characters – mostly Newt and Minho – and stuck with the series pretty much for them alone. (Spoiler alert: I got my heart broken at the end. Cheers, Dashner.)
It’s the same with some of Cassandra Clare’s books – by all means, she’s overrated, and I haven’t bought a few of her more recent ones because I have issues with her as an author but that’s a whole other post in itself. Her trilogy The Infernal Devices remains among my favourite books of all time because I adore Tessa, Will, and Jem – their dynamic will always stick with me, because they broke my heart about a million times over.
Even my favourite book of all time, Peter Pan, I can admit is not perfect. It’s dark, it’s twisted, and the ending is just plain sad. I need to reread it at some point soon, because it’s been a while and I feel like I should figure out how twisted it really is. All that aside, I love this particular book with all my heart – it’s my childhood, it’s probably one of the first classics I ever read, and I still look for faeries every time I go for a walk in the countryside.
I love the character of Peter because I find him and his eternal youth fascinating. His charm is dangerous, and the fact that he’s capable of such terrible things being merely a child is endlessly interesting to me. I love Tinkerbell because she reminds me not to be a jealous twat all the time. I love all the Lost Boys, even though none of them are really explored all that much. I love Captain Hook because he’s possibly one of the most terrifying villains I’ve come across in that I understand where he’s coming from.
In 1984, I didn’t get any of that. There are three characters that we get at least some development from, and every last one of them bores me.
So yeah. For me, a favourite book rests largely on whether or not I find the characters interesting and can be bothered to stick around and find out what happens to them.
That is all.
Anyone got a hot take on this? I’m curious to know people’s “best” books and “favourite” books!
Lots of love,