I think most of us know instinctively when we're reading character-driven books. There's a focus on character growth: characters grow older, grow into themselves, make decisions that will change the trajectory of their lives or confirm previous choices... and then find ways to deal with that. The story is more about personality than plot. I enjoy plot-driven books as much as the next young adult fiction fan, but I have a soft spot in my heart for reads where the heroes and heroines have rich inner lives.
Top Ten Books for Readers Who Like Character-Driven Novels
1. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – Conor's mother is ill, and he is being visited by a monster. Though there's plenty of story here, the focus is Conor, dealing with denial and grief on the way to adulthood.
2. Chalice by Robin McKinley – Beekeeper Mirasol is faced with a seemingly impossible task, and must rely on her strengths, develop her talents, and trust in order to save her world.
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – It feels like cheating to include a classic, but this one really is character-driven. Jane is a prickly person capable of deep feeling, and it is (almost) her downfall.
4. Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach – Felton is the best. This book is the best. Whenever I think of the genuine awkward that is teenage life, I think of this book.
5. Relish by Lucy Knisley – Yes, this is a graphic memoir, and thus the author is writing her (own) character. I think the medium gives Lucy's story a bit of distance, and the result is all about growing up in your own way.
6. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – This is a very autumnal book... and while I liked the human (and equine) characters very well, my favorite was the island of Thisby. Which was very much a character of its own, thank you very much!
7. The Humming Room by Ellen Potter – This reimagining of The Secret Garden is carried by main character Roo, who has a haunting past, a mysterious present, and possibly a positive future ahead.
8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – Junior comes to grips with the differences between his home life on the Rez and his white, farm town school in his hilarious, tragic and haunting diary.
9. A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle – This is a book about family, history, and a ghost. It has the best dialogue I can remember reading, and some of the most memorable female characters.
10. Plain Kate by Erin Bow – FEELS. All of them. Just... read this book!
Honorable Mention: Anything/everything by Sharon Shinn – Shinn writes really great fantasy and sci-fi with fantastic worldbuilding, and she ALSO writes beautiful, genuine characters. Who often fall in love. Mmmm...
What is your favorite character-driven novel?