Dissecting Perfection: Does Trey Atlas Work as a Main Character?

Books rely heavily on their main characters.  The main characters have to be people that the reader wants to journey with.  They have to be someone the reader wants to cheer for.  For that reason, many agents and publishers look for the underdog.  The character that has everything against them and has to fight to survive.  I’ve been told to think Harry Potter.  Think Katniss Everdeen. But I wanted a different type of character for The Atlantis Revolution. Even if it wasn't as easy to sell.

You probably know by now that the protagonist of Hippocampus (Book One of the Atlantis Revolution) is sixteen-year-old Trey Atlas.  On the surface, Trey Atlas seems perfect, which makes the book hard to sell (unless you get past the first few chapters) because it doesn’t follow the underdog formula.  But if you really truly read the entire story, you’ll see that Trey is far from perfect.  You’ll see that while I broke the norm of presenting an underdog at the beginning of the book, I actually created someone that you might relate to even more.  It’s obvious that Michael at thebookshelfreview.blogspot.com “got” what I was trying to do.  He said “Trey was a great main character even though on the outside he seemed to have no flaws on the inside he was a real person who had feelings and some troubles of his own”  
I want to take this opportunity to “sell” Trey Atlas to you.  Let’s dissect Trey from the beginning so that you can get the full effect of what I did.

Trey Atlas has model-worthy looks.  His parents are rich.  He’s popular.  Girls fall at his feet.  He gets straight “A’s” in school.  He’s a champion swimmer.  You just know that he has a bright future filled with recognition, college scholarships, and loads of money from a great career he’ll love. If you look at those characteristics, it’s easy to see why someone wouldn’t want to read about Trey Atlas.  After all, most people don’t have all of those things going for them.  But those traits were used so that I could give you the ultimate effect as you progress with Trey’s journey.  To convince you, let’s look at how those characteristics break down throughout the book.  

First, if you really pay attention to Trey’s rich family, you’ll get the sense that he’s not close to his father.  You’ll also realize that he strives to please his father but feels he always comes up short.  That’s an underdog--and a feeling that many teens have.  Check one box for being able to relate to Trey.  And let’s check another box right away because Trey learns that he’s adopted.  So even though his family is rich, he’s not related to them by blood.  I don’t see how that--not knowing who you really are-- makes you anything but an underdog.

I made Trey a champion swimmer and popular in school so that when he has the visions of Atlantis in the pool, and yells about fire in the water, his sanity could be questioned.  One moment would make all of his fellow students see him in a new, less popular light.  This is also something that many teens can relate to.  They struggle to keep their image.  Trey loses his image (and it was a really great one) and can’t figure out how to get it back.  Check #3 for relatable!

Let’s keep the focus on Trey’s image.  I made him good looking (model-worthy) for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I always thought of Atlanteans as a beautiful race so I wanted to stick with my image of the island and its people.  Secondly, I wanted to setup a drastic difference between Trey’s world and Atlantis.  In Miami, girls fall at Trey’s feet.  They struggle to get his attention.  And Trey loves the attention.  It’s an important part of him.  Take this scene between Trey and Coal (his best friend) for example:

     “Again?” he replied, sounding annoyed.
     “You know the meet is tomorrow and I...”
     “Not that,” he cut me off.  “Jessica’s staring you down again.  It’s amazing she’s not drooling.”
      I turned my attention to her and met her eyes with my best smile.  She glowed with exhilaration.

Trey uses his charm to keep the girls interested in him.  He teases them and he loves the rush of it.  And it always works for him--until he ends up in Atlantis.  In Atlantis, Trey’s looks aren’t a big deal.  Unlike Jessica, Trey’s love interest in Atlantis, Aerian, doesn’t get caught up by his looks.  Here’s a scene with Trey and Aerian to demonstrate that fact:

     I stood up next to her and she fixed the top part of my tunic, still too short for my tastes.  Then she fixed my hair and observed me carefully.
     “How do I look?” I asked as I spun around for her.
     “Like a prince.”
     “A good looking one?” I smiled.
     “Trey, all of the royals were beautiful.  But there is one thing you are missing.”
     “What’s that?”
     “The royal tattoo.”

As you witness in that scene, Trey’s charm didn’t work.  He didn’t captivate Aerian.  He didn’t get the rush he used to thrive on.  Imagine a boy who had girls swooning over him now getting little reaction.  His self-confidence would take a drastic hit. That’s what happens to Trey.  Check another box for relatable! What boy (or girl) doesn't know the feeling of rejection? And add in the fact that he’s also on an island he knows nothing about, expected to lead a revolution to save the island, and is being hunted because he has royal blood.  

So the whole point to making Trey seem perfect in the beginning of the book is so that the reader can’t help but feel for him when his world is shattered.  He goes from being the smart, popular, rich, good-looking boy next door to being the Prince of an island that’s falling apart.  His bright future gets ripped away from him and replaced with a future of unknowns.  When being a prince would seem incredible for most teens, it’s the opposite for Trey.  He doesn’t want that life.  Why would he when he had a great life?.  But unfortunately, he’s connected to the island of Atlantis and so he can’t escape it.  Besides, the life he had wasn’t even real.  

It’s true.  Trey isn’t an underdog at the start of the story.  But by the end, his whole world is shattered and he has to struggle to pick up the pieces.  So while most people look for a formula, Trey atlas being different from Harry or Katniss is not necessarily a bad thing.  Think about it.  The difference between Trey and Harry, Katniss, or most other underdogs  is that Trey knew the good life.  He knew what it was like to live comfortably.  And then it was taken away.  

They say that you can’t miss what you didn’t have.  If that’s the case, Harry or Katniss didn’t miss a good life, they just fought against the bad life they always had.  Trey on the other hand has a lot to miss by the end of Hippocampus.  He had a good life so he has something concrete to fight for.  He knows a better life than what he ends up with so he has only one option--fight for what was taken away; not what he never had. Surely that can be a formula that works.