The impulsive teen main character trope: illustrated in Captive by Aimee Carter

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, teen book reviews, Writing Thoughts


Lila Hart is really Kitty Doe. She was somehow persuaded it was for the good of the resistance for her to impersonate the niece of the President, and does so begrudgingly, pretending to be engaged to the bossy Knox and longing for her loving boyfriend Benjy. But her impulsive decisions and confusion over who to trust lead to an attempt to escape – but she is caught sent to the mysterious Elsewhere, where again she finds herself torn between fleeing for her freedom or fighting for her country.

The set up was good here. Why is she impersonating someone? What secrets does this strange society hold? Is Knox really on her side? What has happened to make society like this? Will Kitty be able to keep up the pretence? Why did the real Lila go into hiding? The story was gripping and pacy… but ultimately let down by the characters.

Sadly, as I realised even more when writing the synopsis above, I don’t actually know the answers to most of those questions still. Sure, secrets were revealed throughout the book, and they were shocking and exciting as we went, the world was well built and suitably horrible for a dystopia – but still, looking back I’m not quite sure how things fit together.

This is partly because of Lila’s extreme impulsiveness. She never, ever, ever, ever EVER waits to try to understand anything or hear anyone out. She’s always made a decision and reaction straight away – and soon I found I couldn’t even tell if they were the right decision or not. It got terrifically annoying, particularly as I found that I didn’t trust her judgement at all.

So I was found it very hard to identify with the main character. I can remember feeling that was as a teen reader too: I was thoughtful and careful in my reactions, whereas every heroine I read about was totally different to me, and I genuinely couldn’t understand how and why they acted as they did. (Apart from Mia in The Princess Diaries, but I don’t admit to loving that…)

OH and also, her love interest Benjy literally had NO character whatsoever. His rather lame name matched everything about him we know. Literally the only thing is he and Kitty grew up together, and he drew her a picture of a house they’d live in together on a napkin.

But still, I did genuinely enjoy reading it. The plot was pacy and gripping, and I’m not saying I won’t read the next one. If only to finally maybe work out what’s going on. But I’d really like some better characterisation, please.

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