Have you ever read a book and had to keep reminding yourself who or what the character is? I've had this happen a few times. Usually it is gender that leaves me confused, and (for me) usually a female character that reads male.
One book I really enjoyed, but the "female" lead was jolting. She was supposed to be tough, swore a lot, etc. I don't have a problem with a female character swearing, but there was something about this particular character that just didn't feel right.
This book was a fantasy novel, but I had the same experience later with a mystery. In this case the female wasn't a major character, but I knew she was one I supposed to really like. I didn't. I didn't hate her, but she just didn't feel real. I couldn't connect to her--again she was "tough" but I don't think it was that... Just like in the fantasy, there was some basic feminine nuance that was missing. And yes, before you ask both books were written by a man. I don't, however, think that means men can't write believable female characters--just that these two didn't for me.
I've also had this happen with race and age. The race one, I think the problem may have been the location. The book was set in England. Therefor there were a lot of cultural things, slang, etc. that was well, English and that kept me side-tracked. Honestly, I didn't realize until I was half-way through the book that pretty much all of the characters were black. Then I had to keep reminding myself. And then it became distracting. And yes, before you ask, the author is white and to my knowledge had never written a black character before.
So, for these two examples I have to wonder if it is how the author wrote the characters or how I read them. When I think of English things, I unfairly think white. Obviously there is a big population of English people who are not white. And while I know there are women who cuss a lot and act tough and I've known some of them, none of the women I've known who fit into this tough category were the same kind of tough as these two female characters. Does that mean females like that don't exist? Should I have accepted what the author told me more readily? And how about the English black character? Was that completely me and the English thing, or did the author leave out something that would have anchored that idea in my brain? Whose fault was my surprise?
The age thing was different though. I know in this case it wasn't me, because the book was marketed as an adult book. There was no mention anywhere that these characters should be anything but adults, but over and over I kept imagining them as teenagers. They just read young. The author is an adult, but she also writes young adult novels--something I didn't realize while reading this book. So, I have to think in this case, at least, it was the author and not the expectation I had going into the book.
How often does this happen to you, and who do you think is at fault?
I'm going to be on the road, when this publishes. I'll check in, but it might be just a little late. :)