October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Rachel Carroll from California.
We see it all the time in young adult literature these days. Blue Sargent, Katniss Everdeen, Beatrice Prior: girls who know how to stand up for themselves and do some serious damage. After spending so long watching Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, and Percy Jackson do their thing – you know, overcoming all odds, saving the world, the usual – a lot of female readers are excited to see some more girl power in the books they pick up and love. This new wave of strong female protagonists is something that I’m really excited to see on account of how empowering it is for women. Except, of course, when it isn’t. Because sometimes, having a female main character isn’t enough.
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to making sure that men and women are represented equally in literature and in all other kinds of media. The way that authors write about their female characters and the choices these writers make about how those characters interact with others says a lot about how society as a whole perceives women. So that begs the question: what is a “strong” female protagonist? When put side by side, there are a lot of overwhelming similarities between a lot of girls in recent young adult novels, particularly dystopian books, which are still experiencing a popularity surge. Since trends are always trends for a reason, I think it’s important to look at some of these patterns, as well as to think about why these women may not be as powerful as they’re meant to be.
PHYSICAL STRENGTH Perhaps one of the most obvious examples of a modern day heroine, someone I’ve already mentioned, is Katniss Everdeen. The driving focal point of The Hunger Games is the Games themselves, and the Games are very much a physical competition. Katniss’ strength is necessary for her survival. But when we see female characters over and over again who are only defined by their strength or other physical abilities – archery, for instance – it gives the impression that there are no other ways to be “strong.” (Counter example – Hazel Grace Lancaster, the main character in John Green’s wildly successful The Fault In Our Stars, is chronically ill throughout the entire novel, and is anything but physically fit in any sense of the word. However, this does not keep her from being intelligent, clever, and compassionate.) Continue reading Women as Warriors: Why Girls Deserve More