By C.L. Phillips
Do you remember the last time you fell in love? With a character? Sigh. I have a nasty confession to make. I've fallen in love with Suzanne Collins' heroine Katniss.
The first time I fell in love was with Nathaniel Bowditch, the main character in Jean Lathham's 1955 Newberry Award winning book Carry on Mr. Bowditch. I discovered Mr. Bowditch in the county library, squeezed between two other books. The title drew me in. Carry on, Mr. Bowditch didn't sound like a child's book. It was my first chapter book, the first time I discovered reading could transport me in time, place, and even gender. Part of me identified with fiercely independent Nathaniel. Subsequently, I begged my mother to take me to the library every week. Somehow she managed to turn the trip into a reward for good behavior. Practice the guitar every day for thirty minutes, or no trip to the library. Guess she knew how much I loved books.
Imagine my delight when I discovered Miss Marple, and the fact that she was in more than one book. I devoured each story I could find and over time moved on to Hercule Poirot. But it was different. Although I loved the mystery, I didn't fall in love with Miss Marple or Hercule. But I did love England and Europe. And my love for travel started to blossom. I saved my real love for Sherlock Holmes. But I must confess, I cheated on Sherlock when I read my first Lord Peter Wimsey novel. Now there was a man who could make my heart sing.
My next crush was Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware. A little wounded, always in danger, and a guitar lover. Robert Langdon from the DaVinci Code came close, but the truth is I couldn't get to really know him in only two books. And as for Stephanie Plum, Ranger and Joe Morelli, I lived near Trenton for too many years to be transported to another world, but I read them for the belly laughs.
So what does it take to fall in love with a main character? For me, it's about their strength of character. The fact that they are willing to overcome their own limitations in order to meet a challenge. I'm willing to fall in love with any one of them, male or female.
This summer I read Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Deal Breaker, Long Lost, The Narrows, The Brass Verdict, Echo Park, The Closers, Finger Licking Fifteen, Buck Fever, The Lady Elizabeth, and Death in a Strange Country. All were enjoyable reads. But Hunger Games drew me into a world similar to my own and yet deadly different. I find myself asking, "What would Katniss do?" She plucked the dormant rebel chord in me, one that had been silent since I met Nathaniel Bowditch.
I find myself dreaming new dreams now. Not of escape through literature, but of crafting a world where one's actions are led by true conviction. Maybe that's the secret to falling in love with a character, at least for me. What makes you fall in love?