Have you ever read a teen novel and wanted nothing more than to sit the main character down and lecture her on something? Do you ever, after reading about this girl's adventures, kind of hate that you're a woman (assuming you're a woman reader of this blog...if not, well, skip this one) because that is something you have in common with this mutton-headed dolt? Have you ever wanted to throw the book at the wall really hard hoping that will knock some sense into the idiotic main character?
Okay, well, I haven't done the last one (at least not intentionally), because books are too pretty to throw, but I have wanted to. These are the stereotypical heroines of young adult literature. Rather unfortunately, these are generally the heroines of the most popular teen fiction. Why don't folks talk about the badass chicks?
For my selections, I tried to get a sampling of girls with various faults as heroines, rather than just ones derived from number one.
10. Grace from Wolves of Mercy Falls / Deirdre from A Gathering of Faerie
Maggie Stiefvater's heroines, thus far, have not been girls I much like. Well, the ones in book one, anyway. In both of these series, she switches perspectives in book two. The first girl is always really put together, smart and talented. She also comes off as rather icy and distant. Until the day that she meets the perfect guy and falls in instant, no-baking-required love. This is made worse by the fact that I think Deirdre chose the wrong guy. Their distance makes for a tricky heroine to like, even though I can be emotionally distant myself. For another heroine like this, check out Trella from Inside Out.
9. Mia Thermopolis from The Princess Diaries
Overall, I really like Meg Cabot. I even put her on my list of favorite contemporary authors. However, I do not like everything she has written, particularly this, her most famous of series. Oh, I thought they were okay for the first book are two, although not as good as the movie, which has some problems of its own. After the first couple though, I became seriously annoyed with the series and Mia, eventually giving up, somewhere around book ten. Mia gets older, but she doesn't mature at all. She is a heroine who does not learn anything from her mistakes in the past, so she just keeps doing the same stupid things and then complaining when, shock, it doesn't work out this time either. Heroines need to grow and adapt through their experiences.
8. Frannie from Personal Demons
I reviewed this book a few months back, so I will spare you a restatement of that. If you haven't read it or want a refresher, follow this link. This book represents a combination of the worst of YA literature and stands in for others of its kind. Writers like Desrochers read the most popular, which is not necessarily the best, YA books and then extrapolate that into their own book or series. This heroine has pretty much every feature of all of the others, especially of the number one worst heroine.
7. Miranda from Life as We Knew It
The world is ending because the moon was knocked out of alignment by a comment, which in turn messed with the tides, which messed with all of the environment. Food starts running out, so, of course, do electricity and gasoline. I have every sympathy with people trying to survive. What I do not sympathize with is the fact that even as shit's really getting real, Miranda's focus is still on the boy who didn't ask her to prom and how her mom likes her brother better. Waaa, cry moar. I mean, Miranda has lots of things to be upset about, but instead she whines about the things that matter the least. A whiny, selfish heroine is not a good heroine.
6. Blair, Serena, Jenny, etc. from Gossip Girl
Before I commence this rant, I must confess that the television show Gossip Girl is one of my favorite current shows, a definite guilty pleasure. Because of this, I tried once again (there was a failed attempt in high school) to read this series. I made it through a few of the novels before I could not take the shallow, disgusting characters anymore. There is absolutely no one likable. For example, in the first book, they all smoke constantly (a disgusting habit that was edited out of the show). Blaire is bulimic. Jenny has a size 2 waist and a D bust. I mean, come on. These girls are not role models; they're not even people I want to have to read about. It's depressing how much they waste their lives.
5. Clary Fray from Mortal Instruments / Tessa Gray from The Infernal Devices / Meghan Chase from The Iron Fey
Perhaps worse than a powerless heroine is a powerful heroine who cannot use her power. These girls are all extremely strong, but still often have to be saved, or told what they need to do to save everyone by an external source. There will be an incredibly obvious way to save themselves, but they do not do it. This is just so incredibly frustrating. Plus, these girls only become really strong, independent fighters when the men are gone. If the guy is there, they will probably require assistance.
4. Bianca from Evernight / Ever from The Immortals / Haven Moore from The Eternal Ones
Another trend in YA fiction is immediate, everlasting true love. Heroines like Bianca fall in love the second they see their hero. From that point on, they proceed to think about him obsessively. They have almost no thoughts that do not revolve around this guy for the rest of the book or series. Believe me, this will feel interminable. They generally fail to see any problems in their boyfriend; he is perfection personified, so, of course, they never fight. This is not realistic at all. What real girl has a relationship like this? Even in high school and college, before really entering the real world, this kind of relationship is impossible. Honestly, rather than listing YA novels that feature true love at first sight, it would be simpler to list those that don't.
3. Jay Jin from 100% Perfect Girl / Hatsumi Narita from Hot Gimmick
What these two manga series have in common is a romance between the heroine and her abuser. While I have not actually read more than one volume of the first series, I read enough to know that the male "hero" raped, or so was implied, the heroine. And yet, I know, because of my experience with manga tropes, that she will spend the next x volumes being obsessively in love wit this guy. Hot Gimmick, so far as I recall, may not have been rape per se, but is about a girl who loves a guy who continually tears her down verbally and physically. This is a more common plot line in manga than in American novels. Unfortunately, it may be coming, as I have heard that this is essentially what happens in Hush, Hush. Rape is an important issue, as is abuse, but I do not want to see it romanticized.
2. Zoey Redbird from The House of Night
I am fairly certain Zoey is one of my least favorite characters of all time. Why? Because she is a whiny bitch, who thinks only about herself AND doesn't even realize it. At one point, she is dating something like three guys, has an affair with a teacher at the school, and doesn't tell her best friends about any of her drama. When everything comes out, the boys dump her and her friends are hella pissed, because, if you're gonna be a slut, you ought at least to confide in your besties. Seriously? Not only that, but Zoey is actually surprised and indignant that her friends and boyfriends are pissed off at her. SERIOUSLY??? In a horror movie, she would die first; now, wouldn't that be nice.
1. Bella Swan from Twilight
While there are heroines that I think are worse (sadly), Bella has to be number one because of the impact this series had on culture. I shudder to think how many tweens and teens must think of Bella as some sort of role model. I mean, what are they learning here?
- Klutziness is endearing; if you fall down a lot, boys will carry you and think you're precious.
- It is entirely normal for your boyfriend to watch you sleep, even before he has become your boyfriend.
- If he acts like he hates you, don't worry, because he's secretly super in love with you, like zomg.
- Codependency is HOT!
- If your boyfriend dumps you, do not get over it; the proper reaction to a breakup is months of intense moping, followed by a series of suicide attempts. I mean, it's not true love if you can live without him.
- Leading on a male friend who is totally in love with you is okay, because you should always have a backup, in case your boyfriend does not react to your suicide attempts.
- You should definitely get married as soon as you're of age. Why wait?
- And then, you should probably pop out a child. Immediately. This is how women find fulfillment.
- Also, it's totally okay to let your daughter hook up with your backup guy. That's not weird at all.