I charge readers to remove “likeable” or “relatable” from their review vocabulary. These responses are limiting to our own reading experiences and what we can expect from works of art.
Instead, I ask readers to focus on what is human and what is pressing. A character may be likeable or unlikeable, but what is it about him that feels human and true? What about her touches on what is most real in the human condition and experience, either in small or large ways? And a story may be about something that we can personally connect with, but what about it is pressing? What about this story feels necessary in some way? This isn’t about a character on any other day, going about his or her business—what about this time and place and challenge is urgent and about the deep changes and challenges we all face at some point? It may or may not be something that a reader can personally relate to, but why does it feel necessary? Maybe the responses will be “this doesn’t feel human” or “this doesn’t feel pressing”—and that’s okay, too.
Not all stories are for all readers. But I feel that it’s more worthwhile to assess a reading experience from the perspective of what is human and what is pressing than from the perspective of who we like."
"When reading, we don’t fall in love with the characters’ appearance. We fall in love with their words, their thoughts, and their hearts. We fall in love with their souls."