One of the reasons I started writing is because I have a difficult time relating to heroines, especially in young adult novels. In fact, “That’s why I started writing.” is a comment I often leave on fellow readers’ Facebook posts who laments a book’s heroine. It happens–a lot. Authors seem to like to make heroines do dumb things or be too passive. The thing is I won’t write an author off because I don’t like his or her heroine.
First, I’m a hero girl, so if I like the hero, I can live with a heroine I don’t like as much. That’s the case with a lot of books I’ve read. Second, an author may write a character I don’t like but turn around and write a character I do like.
I’m reading through the NPR 100 YA books list and I found a few examples.
I just finished The Fault in Our Stars, and I can’t wait to see the movie. It’s what fellow Scriblerian Lisa Godfrees calls a “chewy book” and one I’ll likely read again. As far as heroines go, it falls into both categories. I loved Augustus Waters. His story arc stayed with me for days. However, I wasn’t fond of Hazel. She was into shallow things like reality TV, and her desire to maintain a small footprint is the antithesis of how I live. But John Green nailed it in the heroine department with Lindsay in An Abundance of Katherines. She was kind to the elderly and really enjoyed their company. She was fun-loving with her friends and intellectual with the hero Colin. Lindsay was a girl I got.
Another character I don’t care for is Mia Thermopolis from The Princess Diaries series. She is the typical vegetarian, animal-loving, New York City dwelling, activist that permeates most mainstream literature. However, Meg Cabot redeemed herself in How to Be Popular. I love, love, love Stephanie Landry. On a side note: as a fellow Indiana native, I also appreciated how Meg Cabot was spot on in her description of life in small town Indiana. While the tales of Cabot’s reluctant princess are fun, the story of a social outcast’s attempt at popularity is so much better!
In general, I’m frustrated by characters who are so hard and driven they put personal safety and sensibility aside to achieve their goals. The opposite end of the spectrum are characters who are so insecure they sit by and wait for life to happen to them.
Characters I love are ones who are intelligent, witty, and make life happen. Think Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, Jo March from Little Women (I also happen to love Meg and Amy too), and Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series. These books are classics for a reason, and the heroines are ones that stay with you for a long, long time.
When you love a heroine, it makes the hero so much more appealing. Who doesn’t love Mr. Darcy or Gilbert Blythe? That they chose worthy women only adds to their character.
What heroines in literature frustrate you? What heroines in literature do you love? Is there an author who has written characters that you both like and dislike?
Next time, it’s the boys’ turn. I’ll tell you about my favorite heroes.