I've called the time of death on stories before. *insert dirge of your choice here* I'm always saddened when the life (premise) has such potential but it fails to reach said potential. *sniffles*
I'm getting to the question. Patience.
So, I started thinking...it happens. What makes a reader to connect with a character? I mean, the character doesn't have to be happy-go-lucky. I just finished listening to Wintergirls by L.H. Anderson. Wintergirls is NOT a happy-go-lucky book. But I connected with Lia. I cared about Lia. She didn't have super powers. She didn't make killer grades. She didn't have a lot of friends. In fact, I don't think she had a living friend. (Her best-friend was a ghost. Well, she was alive, but died right before the book started and haunted Lia. (Bumber.)) And the book before Wintergirls, Dracula . . . okay, Dracula had powers. But Dracula is not the first person the reader meets. Yes, there is some serious creepy stuff going on in the first chapter, but that is not the point. You can have creepy stuff and not care about the characters. (Theoretically.)
Characters don't have to have special powers or a happy demeanor to draw me in. However, they do need one (preferably more) of the following (I think, but I am rambling at midnight). In the first chapter (or two) I like to see: 1) a character face an interesting question or situation, 2) a character face an everyday issue in an unique/interesting way, 3) characters with a strong voice (i.e., articulate, sharp, witty, lively, intuitive, astute, something...), and/or 4) enough of a character's personality that I could predict how s/he would fight, and what they would fight for (yep, a glimpse at a motivator.)
Like I said, I am trying to sort through my reaction. What helps you connect with a character?