If you’ve seen any of my posts, you’d know I take great enjoyment in reading well written villains. When their characterization is fully fleshed out, no other character can match them. And authors who recognize that deserve a post devoted solely to them…or the stellar antagonists they’ve created. So this Top 5 Wednesday let’s discuss villains!
More Than This by Patrick Ness- the Driver
More Than This is a deeply philosophical book, and one of the best offerings in YA. Though that’s due to many factors, antagonist ‘the Driver’ contributed greatly to the palpable atmosphere. An unknown, black clad figure with no apparent purpose in the book; never have I been so transfixed by a character I know so little about. I hate the situations he puts our characters in, I hate the world he works for, I hate HIM so much. However he just adds so much to the story. Many of the details that made the world so realistic pertained to him and the circumstances he threw our characters in. I simply cannot imagine the book without his ever elusive figure. Some readers may hate that we know so little about him, but I loved the book more for it. You’ll find your jaw dropping every couple chapters, hitting the ground with a twist you never saw coming.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey- the Aliens
Though Rick Yancey’s series quickly descended into madness, it’s undeniable that the villains of his first novel were goals. The Aliens are unlike any antagonist I’ve seen before, defying stereotypes and striking out on a unique branch. Able to embody and inhabit humans, this trait lends to an interesting question: who do you kill if the enemy is you? I’d never seen such a concept tackled before in YA, and immediately found it so intriguing. I was now able to connect with the villains in a way I never could have had they been nothing more than little green men. I respected them as highly advanced members of a different world, one not so different from our own. This was the backbone that made The 5th Wave really click for me, and without it the story had little going for it. Had Yancey ridden on this plot line, as opposed to hapless love triangles, this series could have gone down in the history books.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys- Nikolai
The only historical fiction book to appear on this list, NKVD soldier Nikolai is among the grayest villain/hero’s out there. Protagonist Lina is often unsure of his true colors, as he flips from callous private to savior and back again. As a reader I was often in the same boat, weighing my opinion of his morals in terms of pro vs. con. He truly is the inspiration behind the title, as it’s his characterization that spawns Lina’s reflection on the many levels of moral ambiguity. Between Shades of Gray is a story about humanity, and I found it fitting that equal attention was given to humanizing a brass “villain” in the same way Sepetys would a Lithuanian victim. I cannot wait to see the portrayal of his character when the movie adaptation hits theaters later this year, and I hope the film runner recognizes his importance to the story.
Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis- Jasper
I don’t talk about the fantastic Not a Drop to Drink nearly enough on here, and when I do it’s about MC Lynn. However this topic is perfect for discussing Jasper, the villain to end all villains in a waterless world. He doesn’t come into the picture until the very end, but boy does he leave an impression. For anyone who’s ever seen The Walking Dead, his origins are very similar to any baddie on the show. He’s a former reprobate who prospered off society’s collapse, using a mix of fear tactics and genuine cunning to achieve “success”. To me though, he’s far more terrifying than anything yet to appear on TWD. This is because he’s not a cannibal, nor a bad wielding psycho, nor any other number of terrifying prospects. Jasper’s a very real person in our world, one who can uses anything to their advantage. It may not be flashy, but I appreciated McGinnis’s subtlety in portraying a villain unbound by the traditional mold.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart- The Boy’s Club
Okay, okay. I technically understand that the likes of Matthew Livingston and Alpha are not truly villains. They’re obnoxious high school boys, yes, but that descriptor easily pales next to others on this list. However they ARE the antagonist to MC Frankie’s story, so for that I’m counting them. What’s my beef with their antics, anyways? To be honest I don’t really know, but Lockhart’s portrayal of a private school “boy’s club” really resonated me. Her understanding of neo masculine dynamics was spot on, and despite hating the club…I didn’t hate them? It’s confusing, but a part of me felt for them as products of our society, while also wanting to shake my head for our current generation. Though The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is a fun one, the nods to deeper themes certainly payed off. A great book, with great characters, and even stronger “villains”.
Who are your favorite villains? Do you agree with my list? Let me know in the comments!
-Keep Calm and Read On