This is something that has been bugging me for a while. I am going to try my best to articulate my thought without going on too many tangents (this is an issue of mine) and I would like to stress that I do not wish to offend anyone at all with what I am about to say.
I am finding many female lead characters in YA that are stereotyped so immensely that it is doing my head in. Is it in all YA books? No. Is it in many? Yes.
I think we can all agree that authors, in general, want their readers to relate and empathise with their characters. One of the most obvious ways in which authors do this is by making the main character love reading… You are reading a book, so you love reading, so the character you are reading about loves reading too (that’s a lot of uses of the word “reading” in one sentence). Slightly annoying but happy to go with it.
The other characteristics, which I have more of an issue with, says more about how YA authors (or their publishers) perceive their audience, rather than who their actual audience is. Here it is…
Why is there a tendency to make them socially awkward outcasts who do not have fulfilled lives?
Is this who they think reads YA Fiction?Think Bella Swan (Twilight), moved to a new school. Previously had no friends and acted more like a 40 year old. Grace in the Wolves of Mercy Falls. Has a a couple of friends who she barely talks to and again oddly adult.
Mia from If I Stay, an introverted Cello player. The Memory Book, Sammie had no social skills to speak of and was polarising in her academic nature. Lara Jean from To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, quite and introverted with no friends. I could go on but I am sure you get the point and can think of a tonne of your own.
Yes, by all means use the “outcast” angle if you really think it is needs or if there is a big twist and your character is not of this world (like Lucinda in Fallen), but don’t just cop out and assume that every girl reading YA is part of the lonely hearts club.
Do socially awkward people read? Yes. Do extroverted people read? Yes. Do girls who have never had a boyfriend? Yes. Do girls that do have boyfriends? Yes. What about people who are the top of their class or more towards the bottom of the pile? Yes and yes. How about we reflect this then, with some different female leads??? There are some who are strong and fearless (Katniss for one), but the tendency to make them these stunted wall flowers gets to me especially because the main thing that makes them “bloom” is the attention of a strong male. Please.
I went to a small high school, but I will say this every girl on my year read for pleasure. The pot head, the quite reserved, the extrovert, the sporty, the “popular”, the teachers pet and every other one in between. So when we talk about bringing diversity into books can we not just focus on race/religion/sexual preference, but also making some more diverse personalities to go with it.
That is all. Let me know if you think I have lost my marbles.
Happy reading x