The world has spun round seven times to bring you another edition of that fabulous meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. It’s a good one this week: Top Ten Favorite Characters of All Time. Here they are, in no particular order (because the order will ever be entirely dependent on my mood).
1. Cadel Piggott (Darkkon), Evil Genius by Catherine Jinx
Cadel is a fantastic character: a brilliant, amoral, incredibly lonely boy who has been raised to become an Evil Genius, right down to the creation of a school just for him. He begins the novel all science and systems, doing things to see if he can, but through a burgeoning relationship with puzzle-lover and chess whiz Kay-Lee he begins to form a philosophy. Cadel is a truly unique male character in a sea of glib dreamboats and navel-gazing wimps. Watching him find his way to the moral and spiritual from a place of cold scientific fact was a pretty awesome literary journey (and one hell of a fun read).
2. Finnick Odair, Haymitch Abernathy, and Cinna; The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Yeah, so this is actually three characters. Bite me. Peeta may be my Panem dreamboy but Finnick, Haymitch, and Cinna are three of the most compelling characters in the series. Each has a depth and grit to match their more obvious talents. Finnick is shrewd and observant when it comes to people (and a big old softie when you get down to it), Haymitch an incomparable strategist, and Cinna more courageous than any Capitol fashion designer has a right to be. SPOILER IN WHITE I didn’t cry for Prim, but I had to take a moment for Finnick. Must have read that page five times just to be sure it was true.
3. Dolphus Raymond, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Dolphus Raymond seems like the honey badger of Maycomb at first blush, but Scout eventually discovers that he knows what people think and he’s clever enough to keep them from hassling him. His Coke-as-whiskey ruse allows him the freedom to stroll about a town of busybody Baptists doing and saying what he pleases. Boo Radley ought to take notes.
4. Katie John; Honestly, Katie John by Mary Calhoun
My mom used to spend weekends scouring yard sales and The Salvation Army for affordable treasure as a form of (mostly) free entertainment. I would always tag along in hopes of finding a decent paperback or two amongst the endless mysteries and romances for the low low price of a quarter. Honestly, Katie John was one of my Salvation Army finds and I fell directly in love with its prickly porcupine of a heroine. Lipstick-biting, Halloween-loving, cootie-catching Katie John was my kind of gal. She was defiantly stomping her way through puberty and I loved every minute. I read this book over and over until it got misplaced in my mother’s move from trailer to apartment.
Erin was another of my Salvation Army finds, the main character rendered as prickly as Katy John by personal tragedy rather than puberty (though puberty seems the most personal of tragedies). Erin Whitney was smart and cynical with a thick mane of red hair and fearless thrift-store fashion sense (appealing to a girl whose every stitch came from Salvation Army or Costco). She was also a wonderful artist, despite being emotionally guarded. Her wittily narrated journey from bitter expelled orphan to square-dancing one-legged orphan keeps her in the running for favorite character.
6. Arnie the Doughnut, Arnie the Doughnut by Laurie Keller
Being rather gullible and naively optimistic about my future and my friends, I found Arnie to be a supremely relatable (and delicious) character. Arnie has the audacity to dream that a doughnut can be more than a delectable snack, and he gets out of that bakery case and makes his dreams come true! What a winner. That pastry’s an inspiration.
Kobie is a pain in the ass, the bull in the china shop. While I liked Alice (of the Phyllis Reynolds Naylor series), she was a bit too average for me to connect. Too normal, she fit right in. Kobie was weird looking, high-strung, an artistic perfectionist doomed to suffer under the tyranny of group projects. She cared too hard about some things and not at all about others, with frequently embarrassing results. She was often completely out of touch with reality. Those were shoes I could climb into and walk around with ease. I think I found Thirteen at a garage sale and liked it so much I tracked down the rest at local libraries. From her offended dignity over insults to her representation of clouds, to the keenly felt wounds of puberty and growing apart from a friend who had grown into the look of the moment while she struggled with difficult hair and bony everything, I always got where Kobie was coming from.
Even the smart kids have their weirdos, a fact I am all too familiar with from my days in GATE. Luna is my girl, just hanging out and doing her thing until something threatens her friends. She’s aware of pretty much everything that’s going on at Hogwarts, has even thought deeply about it in many cases, but it’s all on the same level of curiosity to her. Her Quidditch commentary alone would be reason enough to sit in the stands no matter how foul the weather. I was a little disappointed with the last film pairing her with Neville. I love Neville, but Luna didn’t need to be paired off and wrapped in a tidy bow. Socially acceptable because a boy (and a suddenly heroic one) had given her the stamp of his approval. Up until book five I had always figured I’d be a Hermione-style Gryffindor, but with Luna on the scene it became clear that I was Ravenclaw all the way (stupid Cho Chang notwithstanding).
9. Julia Shumway, Under the Dome by Stephen King
Julia Shumway may be the best female character King has ever written, certainly the best in any of his novels that I’ve read. She is competent, capable, and courageous without becoming a caricature of a “strong woman”. She is also empathetic, thoughtful, and practical…a truly strong woman. Under the Dome is full of great female characters, actually, from determinedly protective mother and dope dealer Sammy Bushey to reformed (then off-the-wagon) rageaholic Reverend Piper Libby. Ms. Shumway is front and center, the unwavering editor of the town paper who wades into the thick of everything whether the enemy she’s facing is the U.S. military, a small-town government bully, or an invisible dome of unknown origin.
And not once does she think about her vagina or breasts (thanks for that, Steve!).
10. Astrid Magnussen, White Oleander by Janet Fitch
Astrid is an interesting character because she is the absence of one at the beginning of the novel. She is her mother’s shadow, following behind her and absorbing her pearls of wisdom, waiting patiently for her to come back when they are apart. When Ingrid is imprisoned and Astrid begins her time in the foster care system, she begins to develop into a person in her own right. Reading this as it happens, with Astrid’s musings and observations on her own experience, has etched her indelibly in my mind. She makes mistake after mistake in the most spectacular fashion possible, each one leaving its mark on her both physically and emotionally. By the end of the novel she is, as a character, the sum of these experiences. Really, isn’t that all any of us are?