Fair? No, probably not. I looked the book up on Goodreads when I got home, and it's gotten numerous good reviews. Several readers point out that while the characters are annoying at the beginning, they mature through the course of the novel.
Maybe I should've given the book another shot, but it happened to be the second literary novel I'd encountered in the past month with this issue. If I'm going to devote hours of my time (11+ in the case of this audiobook), I don't want to spend it with whiny, immature people.
So I've been thinking lately about unsympathetic characters, and when they work and when they don't. I'm happy to root for Scarlett in Gone With the Wind. There's nothing likable about Richard III or Dr. House, yet I watch with interest. So a character doesn't have to be a saint to capture my imagination. But there still has to be something there.
Meg Rosoff in her talk at the Bath Kids Lit Fest said she dealt with an unsympathetic narrator (Bob, the 19-year-old god in There Is No Dog) by giving him flashes of brilliance.
Meg and Melvin Burgess also talked about how in Melvin's book, Kill All Enemies, the characters start out unlikable, but as the reader learns more about them, the reader becomes more sympathetic.
I think the author has to do something to either help the reader engage with her character (make him funny or fascinating, brilliant or sympathetic) or her story (even though the reader can't stand the character, she reads on because she HAS to know what this character's going to do next).
Can you think of any other ways to entice readers with an unsympathetic character? And do you have any favorite unsympathetic characters?
I think ya author Courtney Summers is a master at making readers care about her characters, even though they do terrible things.