RTW: So Good at Bad

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This Week’s Topic: Who are your favorite literary villains ? (Or, what makes an antagonist you LOVE to hate?)

Well, the first villain who popped into my head was this creeper:

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, or The Nose-less Wonder. Upon further reflection, though, Voldemort felt a little too obvious. He’s just SO bad. Sure, he has a super complex back story and a true, make-no-apologies heart of evil, but never once during my decade-spanning love of the Harry Potter series did I think, Hey, wouldn’t it be cool of Voldemort came out victorious?

So, I’m going with Ty, the antagonist from Lucy Christopher’s YA novel Stolen.

In case you haven’t read this one (wait–you haven’t read Stolen?! RUN to your nearest bookstore and pick it up! It is AMAZING.) here’s the GoodReads blurb:

Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back? The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don’t exist – almost.

This book is–for lack of a better expression–a complete and utter mindfuck. I swear, Lucy Christopher gave me Stockholm Syndrome. I was so back and forth about Ty I almost ended up with whiplash. My inner monologue during reading went something like this: Ugh… Ty. What a horrible, deluded man. Well, hold on… now I kind of want Ty to be content. But NO! He’s a kidnapper! Still, though, wouldn’t it be romantic if Gemma fell in love with him? Of course not! He took her against her will and trapped her in the middle of nowhere. But then, he loves her SO much and he’s so sweet and caring. Although, he won’t let her leave his shack of a home, ever. By the time I read the final chapters,  I was rooting for Ty. I wanted him and Gemma to live happily ever after in the formidable Australian Outback. Still, almost a year after reading Stolen, I kind of love Ty.

The mark of a great antagonist, I think, is a feeling of uncertainty on the reader’s part–a sort of push and pull between love and hate. I want to care about a story’s antagonist as much as I care about its protagonist, albeit in a completely different way. In my opinion, the best antagonists are layered, unpredictable, and sympathetic, not black-and-white villains who cackle manically and carry big guns.

So, who are your favorite Literary antagonists? And don’t forget to stop by YAHighway to see how everyone else answered today’s prompt!


25 thoughts on “RTW: So Good at Bad

  1. Rebecca B says:

    Okay, I have to read STOLEN now. It sounds fascinating. I read Lucy Christopher’s MG Flyaway and love her writing.
    I’m so with you that the mark of a great antagonist is uncertainty in the reader’s response.

  2. Erin Bowman says:

    I was just discussing Stockholm Syndrome with some writer friends this past weekend. It is such a fascinating — and disturbing — phenomenon. Now I must read this book.

  3. Alison Miller says:

    I am either going to have to stop visiting your blog or I’m going to need someone to buy me a thousand dollar Amazon gift card for all the books I want to read based on YOUR POSTS!!! Gah! I must buy this NOW.
    Yes, I tend to favor the layered antag, the one you can sympathize with, the one that has redeeming qualities.
    Awesome post!

  4. Carolina Valdez Miller says:

    Wow. Okay, I have to read this book!! Love those books that screw with your mind like that.

    Also, have you read Bel Canto? It deal with a hostage situation and the relationship between hostage and captor. It’s unbelievable. An adult book. One of my favorite books.

    • katyupperman says:

      Ooh, Bel Canto sounds very intriguing. I’ll definitely add it to my list!

      And I can’t believe you haven’t read STOLEN, Carol. I feel like you read EVERYTHING even before it comes out! I’d highly recommend this one. 🙂

  5. Yahong says:

    OMG you and Tracey (Neithercott) have the same villain! Whoooaa. Stockholm Syndrome really kind of creeps me out, so I probably will be skipping Stolen, but awesome pick. 🙂

  6. sarah says:

    This one has been on my TBR list, and I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about it. I admit it seems like an almost impossible feat to write a book that handles this subject well, which makes it all the more intriguing to read!

    • katyupperman says:

      I agree, Sarah. I’m not quite sure how she did it, but Lucy Christopher excels at difficult topics and making you question what you think you know. Hope you enjoy reading it!

  7. Tracey Neithercott says:

    I picked Stolen, too! I read it for the first time this week and, yeah, had the same experience as you. It totally messes with your mind, and I’m pretty sure I have Stockholm Syndrome. I was totally rooting for Ty and Gemma to end up together even though part of me was like, NO NO NO that’s WRONG.

  8. Sarah Nicolas says:

    Yes! I love it when you can’t decide whether you love or hate a villain. For me, it’s so much better than the definitely-evil-couldn’t-stand-to-be-in-the-same-room villain.

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