I have been thinking a lot lately about female protagonist and especially teen female protagonist. The more YA I read, it seems like most teenage female leads can be broken into 3 big buckets:
- the Hero – she is either the head cheerleader/prom queen who has the stereotypical perfect life but deep down inside is missing something OR the nerdy, unnoticed, unsuspecting girl who eventually finds herself and rivals the head cheerleader/prom queen.
- the Damsel in Distress – she is constantly needing/wanting to be saved. Mostly from herself, mostly by hot, male characters.
- the Born Matriarch – shel has the heart of Mother Teresa and will one day surely be canonized because she always does the right thing. She wants to save everyone (even your dark, vampire soul).
This is not to say that characters that fall into these buckets can’t be totally amazing. Of course, clichés exist for a reason; we all play these roles. Some of us favor one more than the others and some of us flip-flop every hour. Tavi Gevison, one of my favorite bloggers gave this great TedxTeen talk a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been reading Tavi’s blog Style Rookie, for the past four years partly because she’s amazing, partly because she really takes me back to my teenage years and partly because I want to be her when I grow up…
“…[cardboard characters cause people to] expect women to be that easy to understand and women get mad at themselves for not being that simple. In actuality, women are complicated. Women are multifaceted. Not because women are crazy, but because people are crazy and women happen to be people.”
Her concluding talking point is that people (especially teens) are a walking bundle of contradictions. I love this because despite having not been a teenager for a decade, I feel like every day is still an adventure in trying to reconcile these contradictions. Of course, now I use different tactics than I used then, and am now far more OK with this dichotomy within myself (personal growth #FTW!).
People make both rational and irrational decisions. Decisions that are pragmatic and decisions that are emotional. I know that in my life, some of the smartest decisions and some of the most boring choices I have made came from a logical place. Some of the most rewarding decisions and some of the dumbest choices I have made came from making completely emotional decisions.
I realize that this is all very obvious, but why isn’t it more reflected in teen female characters and particularly in YA Faction? Who are your favorite YA book characters or writers who break this mold?