My Top Five Young Adult Female Protagonists
So I’ve been thinking alot about female protagonists lately. In particular I have been thinking about strong female protagonists. But what exactly constitutes a strong character? Does it mean you’re a badass ass-kicker? Does it mean you have a keen mind and can think yourself out of any bad situation? Is it a combination of the two? Or is it in actuality something else completely? Many of these types of characters have been cropping up in recent years, especially in the young adult genre. And we are seeing more and more of them being made into feature films or television series. Why is this? Who are these characters and why do we love these types of characters?
I’ve thought long and hard about it, and decided to comprise a list of my favorite female protagonists in young adult books. I started out from twenty, then ten, and I finally got it down to my top five. Take a look and see if you agree with me on any of them.
(Runner Up) *Mary ‘Jacky’ Faber: (Bloody Jack series)
“Then it hits me…. And it hits me with the force of a blow. I am maybe fifteen years old. I am a girl. I am also acting lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and, by the Naval Rules and Regulations as regards the chain of command, I am in command of His Majesty’s Ship Wolverine.”
Jacky Faber is a young orphan living in London in the early 19th century. She joins a gang at a young age after her family is killed by a plague, and after the leader of the gang dies, she disguises herself as a boy and gets a job aboard a ship. After shooting a pirate with a pistol and killing him, she earns the title of ‘bloody jack’ and becomes a fast favorite among the crew, even acquiring a tattoo with the rest of her ‘brothers’ aboard the crew, eventually as she gets older she also goes up the ladder of success as well as earning the complete respect of her shipmates.
“We clear the harbor and the wind catches her sails and my beautiful ship leans over ever so gracefully, and her elegant bow cuts cleanly into the increasing chop of the waves. I take a deep breath and my chest expands and my heart starts thumping so strongly I fear the others might see it beat through the cloth of my jacket. I face the wind and my lips peel back from my teeth in a grin of pure joy.”
So why do I love her? She lives in an era when young women are supposed to act in a certain way yet what does Jacky do? She basically spits in the eye of society, turns the social norms right on its ass, and does what she wants to do instead. She doesn’t let anyone get in the way of her dreams. She puts herself in a situation where she is at a clear disadvantage. She is out at sea with a ship full of men, completely in disguise. The consequences of her discovery could potentially be dire. Yet she not only perseveres, she survives. She is different and unique, yet instead of folding under the pressure of conforming to society’s conventions, she remains true to herself.
“I warn’t never meant to be a lady, I know that now. I got streaks of wildness in me that trip me up every time, and just like streaks in clothes, there’s some dirt that just won’t wash out.”
(5) *Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series)
“You said to us once before,” said Hermione quietly, “that there was time to turn back if we wanted to. We’ve had time, haven’t we?”
I have always had such a soft spot for Hermione. And really, whats not to love? She’s sassy, smart, and an absolute pro at getting the rest of the characters out of sticky situations.
“Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.”
Did I mention she’s sassy? 😉
Loads of female characters are intelligent, so what sets Hermione apart? I believe that it is because she is a character who is intelligent, but isn’t defined soley by her intelligence. If she had been, she would have probably been sorted into Ravenclaw. Her intelligence is only a small part of who she is, for she is also compassionate, courageous, hardworking, and loyal to her friends. And isn’t that a person we should all strive to emulate?
(4) *Katsa (Graceling Series)
“How absurd it was that in all seven kingdoms, the weakest and most vulnerable of people – girls, women – went unarmed and were taught nothing of fighting, while the strong were trained to the highest reaches of their skill.”
Katsa is a Graceling, a term for a person in the Seven Kingdoms that has a special skill or power which is marked by the person having two different colored eyes. Katsa’s just happens to be survival. She’s a survivor, there is no one or nothing that she will back down from.
“I’m not going to wear a red dress,” she said.
“It would look stunning, My Lady,” she called.
She spoke to the bubbles gathered on the surface of the water. “If there’s anyone I wish to stun at dinner, I’ll hit him in the face.”
In my opinion, Katsa is the epitome of a positive expression of feminism. She is independant, strong willed, and yet she isn’t a complete shrew. She is a hot blooded woman, who knows what she wants. She is not afraid or ashamed of her body or sexuality.
“Katsa sat in the darkness of the Sunderan forest and understood three truths. She loved Po. She wanted Po. And she could never be anyone’s but her own.”
She loves Po, but doesn’t stop her life or change who she is because of it. And that is important, I think. She loves, but she loves in a way that still allows her to be her own person. She is a perfect example of a strong female character.
(3) * Rose Hathway (Vampire Academy Series)
“You said you were a victim. That’s why…that’s why ultimately, you and I aren’t matched for each other. In spite of everything that’s happened, I’ve never though of myself that way. Being a victim means you’re powerless. That you won’t take action. Always…always I’ve done something to fight for myself…for others. No matter what.”
The reason I love this series isn’t because of the awesome storytelling or fabulous romance and fight scenes. It’s because of Rose. I fell head over heels in love with her in the first book and that propelled me into reading the rest of the series with such fervor. She is a straight up badass. She is a fighter, has been training to fight and defend for years now, and she is good at it. She defends her friends and what she believes in as hard as she can with no hesitation.
“Sex had been amazing, but it wasn’t a magical cure for everything. Damn. Somewhere along the way, I’d picked up common sense.”
The main reason that I adore Rose however, is because she is not at all afraid of her sexuality. She is a very attractive girl. She knows it. She uses it. It is a sad fact that so many young adult novels these days participate in ‘slut shaming’. Which is basically figratively throwing stones at a female character for being sexual. But not only is Rose comfortable with her body, she’s smart with it too. Not to mention the fact that she is the biggest smartass probably ever!
(2) *Beatrice (Triss) Prior (Divergent Trilogy)
“I believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.”
Triss Prior literally leaves her whole family behind to embark on her new journey as a member of the Dauntless faction. She believes that courage is not necessarily doing things that are dangerous or risky, but rather standing up for what you believe in. As she grows physically stronger, she grows emotionally stronger as well. She is a girl who is independant, and stands behind what she feels is right. She has alot of people against her, and a lot of obstacles to face throughout the series, but she perserveres through it all and becomes stronger and stronger as a person.
“People tend to overestimate my character. They think that because I’m small, or a girl, I can’t possibly be cruel. But they’re wrong.”
(1) *Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games Triology)
“At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead.The hard thing is finding the courage to do it.”
I honestly don’t even have many words for how amazing of a character I think Katniss is, and how much I admire her. One of the most interesting things that shows up in many of these characters is the fact that they have the potential to be cruel. Let me explain before people start throwing things at me. I don’t mean to say that they are mean people, or are cruel to others, but rather if the situation calls for something to be done, they will do it. No matter what it is. Especially if not doing it will cause harm to themselves or people they care about. This is especially true for Triss and Katniss. They will hurt others if it means protecting their loved ones. That doesn’t necessarily make them cruel people. I believe it makes them survivors. They will survive no matter what. And I think that is a quality that is most admirable. Because it makes them feel real. Any person can preach a certain thing or act a certain way but when push comes to shove, ideals only go so far when faced with reality. It’s great to say, ‘Well I would never kill another person if I was chosen for the hunger games’, but really how would you even know that until you were in that position? These characters are survivors, and I love reading about people like that.
“Finally, he can see me for who I really am. Violent. Distrustful. Manipulative. Deadly.”
“I try to forgive her for my father’s sake. But to be honest, I’m not the forgiving type.”
A few months ago I read a fantasy series by Freda Warrington called The Jewelfire trilogy. What really resonated with me when I completed it was the main female protagonist, Tanthe. She was a multi-faceted character, with varying confidences and vulnerabilites that made it very easy to identify with her. But I think the main aspect of her personality that I enjoyed the most was the fact that she did not give up, no matter how awful the circumstances were.
“Come on, haven’t you got one spark of fire left in you to fight this? What are you going to do, fucking curl up and die?”
This, for me, is what constitutes a strong character, female or male. Someone who has the strength of spirit to keep pushing and standing up for what they believe in, no matter the odds or their chance of success. That type of ‘survival spirit’ will endear me to a character forever. So why do we love our strong female characters? Because they are strong-willed and independant. They are intelligent. They are not afraid of their own bodies or sexuality. They are not afraid to stand out, or be different. And most importantly, they never EVER give up.
And for that we love them. 🙂