Looking upon my shelf of YA and MG books (and a few adult titles too), I’m coming to the realization that there are very few books I’ve read where the bad guy was someone I could love to hate. For all the advice we’re given to create complex antagonists, it shouldn’t be very hard to find one of those bad guys to talk about here. But, it strangely is. So here are the few exceptions from books, one from a movie, and something I want to use in one of my future projects.
1) Miss McCleethy in the Gemma Doyle trilogy. Libba Bray does a great thing here: she sets this teacher up as the devil, someone for Gemma to fear and distrust. And though she slowly shows that Miss McCleethy is actually working on Gemma’s side, she doesn’t pull a total 180 in order to make her a saint. She’s still prickly and not 100% likable. Perfection when it comes to turning a bad guy (or gal) into a surprisingly trustworthy antagonist.
2) Katsa in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling. Not only is she the protagonist, but Katsa, a young woman Graced with the unnatural ability to kill, is also for a short time the antagonist. Cool, huh? Katsa is the feared assassin for a power-hungry king until she dares to defy him and his orders.
3) Melissa in Danette Haworth’s Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning. I can’t stop talking about this book! It was such a pleasant read, evoking feelings I knew so well as a pre-teen when it came to possessiveness of friends and being needed as a friend. Melissa comes to town and tries to take Violet’s place as Lottie’s best friend. All along, I knew there was something driving Melissa’s actions, and even though I couldn’t stand her, I waited patiently until I found out what it was.
4) The Irish Hotties from The Boondock Saints. OK, yes, this is a movie, but these antagonist/protagonists are everything I love in bad guys. They have their pious reasons for murdering the slime of Boston, and even though we all know murder isn’t the answer, we can’t help but root for them. If you haven’t seen this movie, it is SO worth the rental.
5) Romance. That’s right, I would love to see the romantic interest of the protagonist be the antagonist. Just imagine the conflicting feelings something like that would bring! I’ve seen the protagonist slowly learn her main squeeze is the bad guy (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), but it would be very interesting to see her knowing right off the bat, and still falling for him.