We need more Katniss and Tris, and less Bella.
One thing that makes me cringe in YA books is seeing girls set the feminism movement back a decade.
That fact that books are still being written where the heroine falls for “the bad guy”, lets him treat her like crap, but forgives him, even BEGS him to be with her, is sickening. And the guy’s excuse is always the same: “I’m no good for you, so I’m going to break your heart to save your life.” Ugh. Then she still sits there and says, “I don’t care if you ruin my life, I love you. I’m willing to throw everything away because I love you so much, I can’t live without you.” *sigh*
I’m not saying every fictional girl has to be a warrior princess, or that she has to be alone to prove she can be strong. She doesn’t have to be perfect (something else that gets under my skin. Where are the flaws? Everyone has them!) nor does she ALWAYS have to be strong. Growth as a character is an integral part of writing. But what a female lead must have throughout, is respect for herself.
In the beginning of “The Institute” by the awesome and talented ME (toot toot – If I don’t blow my own horn, no one else might) seventeen-year-old Allira Daniels has always focused on her family for most of her life. She has followed the rules, remained in the shadows, and doesn’t draw attention to herself for fear of her Defective brother being discovered. And yet, enter Drew, the brown haired, green eyed boy who makes Allira tongue tied and stupid upon meeting. She starts breaking rules for him and she pays the consequence.
What I wanted to do, was show that the Insta-attraction, (I won’t use the word love because cynical me doesn’t believe in love at first sight) while often real, should sometimes be questioned.
Allira quickly becomes the type of girl who doesn’t let someone walk all over her. Drew teaches her a valuable lesson: her own agenda should always take priority over anyone/anything else. Boys have to fit her plans, and there’s little room for compromise.
Some may say that this is stubborn (which I will admit is Allira’s biggest flaw) and that it doesn’t teach that compromise is a big part of making a relationship work. But I would rather teach teenage girls that it is better to stand their ground than compromise their beliefs, morals, and integrity.
I will leave you with some books I have recently read and recommend because of their strong female leads:
“The Union” by T.H Hernandez is a good example of growth within the female lead. She wasn’t always the strong girl. In fact, in the beginning she had an ‘entitled’ presence about her. She had everything handed to her. So it surprised me when she found herself stuck in the middle of the Ruins with a group of people she didn’t know, how quickly she adapted to a life she’d never imagined could’ve existed, losing her spoiled attitude, replacing it with a strong-willed woman ready to take on the world.
The “Dawn of Rebellion” series by Michelle Lynn. This is a great series with two strong female leads. I love that even though Gabby and Dawn are complete opposites, they are both still strong role models for young girls. Gabby is brave and ready to dive into any situation, Dawn questions everything, but steps up when it’s essential to.
“Into Shadow,” by T.D. Shields. Main character Poppy was raised to be strong by her father (who is also the President!) When her father is assassinated, she must live on her own for the first time in her entire life. She’s lucky to meet some friends along the way, but she primarily does it on her own.
“Awaken: New Bloods Trilogy”, by Michelle Bryan. Main character Tara has a Katniss like quality to her. She’s reluctant at first to take on others, wanting to only focus on her own survival. But she inevitably proves to have a big heart after all, helping others along her way.
(You will notice all the above are all YA dystopians. I may be a little obsessed with this genre.)
An excellent “middle school”/real world book with strong female characters is “Joshua’s Island” by Patrick Hodges. The female lead in this is strong enough to stand up to her friends who are bullies, even though it means she’ll become exiled from the group. The sequel, coming out later this year will also prove to have a strong female lead (I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek!)
There are many others out there, but these are the ones that stand out in my mind.
It’s hard to write an achievable balance. A female lead must be strong, but still vulnerable. She can’t be perfect, but she can’t make major mistakes. And you know what the sucky thing about this is? If we were talking about male characters, would this blog post even have to exist?