We need a strong female role model in YA because Bella and Katniss failed.

Where have all of the strong girls gone?

So a few years ago everyone was reading Twilight by Stephany Meyer as if it was the best thing ever written. Girls were lugging around huge novels from place to place and squeeling about vampires and werewolves. For the first time since Harry Potter, people were coming back to YA fiction books hungry for a new series to capture their imaginations. But sadly in recent years, our female lead characters have been moody and sort of bitch. Can we please get a storyline where girls can have a good role model who will teach our daughters to believe in themselves and value strong values?

I was one of those women who loved the idea of a romantic vampire novel and I didn’t mind that it was a YA book. I figured that unlike some of the adult supernatural books I had been poking about it, I would have a solid story that wasn’t overly filled with sexual adventures. The plot promised a strong female lead, an mysterious place, and yes vampires that weren’t like the Dracula fiends of yesteryear. But once I started reading the series I had a really hard time actually liking Bella.

Bella Swan is a stupid, bitchy, manic depressant who would have ended up cutting herself to sleep at night if she hadn’t moved to town with a bunch of pansy vampires. Yep, I said it. I read all of the books and in every one of them I wanted to punch Bella right in the face. Come ON! Why can’t Edward read her thoughts? SHE DOESN’T HAVE ANY! This girl lacks any definition of character, she’s bland boring and really should have been a midnight snack. Bella is not a heroine at all. Truthfully, all of the books are terrible. It’s both terribly written and poorly thought out. I have NO idea how this crap ever got published and even fewer ideas of why anyone liked it enough to make it to best seller lists and movies. NO clue.

We do not need books that make women pathetic. At one point, Bella must realize herself what a waste of paper she is and throws herself off a cliff. Sadly, she didn’t die and that wasn’t the end.  We do not need female lead characters that promote suicide, cheating behavior even though she’s apparently willing to kill herself for a guy old enough to be her great-grandfather (EEW), and she’s a horrible person.

The Hunger games by Suzanne Collins was a little different. I didn’t mind the writing in the books, even though I felt like the third book could have flowed a little better. The characters were at least engaging and had a little bit more personality. Katniss Everdeen at least had a small back story to give her a reason to be a moody teen. Her love for her sister, her reasons for needing to step up and protect her, and the setting of the story had a good strong feet to it. My husband and I both agree that Las Vegas would be the first US city to set up Hunger Games like Panem. I liked the concept that Katniss was not bound to some ever lasting love and wasn’t a mindless robot like Bella.

But even Katniss struggled to be a solid role model for girls. She was moody, unsure of herself, and frankly I just couldn’t figure out the connection with her and Peeta Mellark. I felt frustrated repeatedly because I actually liked the link she has in the beginning with the hometown boy Gale Hawthorne. So as the Hunger Games proceed I kept finding myself angry with how Katniss handled the hearts of two very good men. Both men were strong likeable characters with a honest heart and loyal nature. However Katniss used their emotions and good nature throughout the books to her advantage without actually coming out and owning her behavior.

I think the Hunger Games had a chance to show that you can be a strong role model, but the main character still lacked belief in herself to be able to pull that off.

So which female character makes a better lead? Neither of them.. they are both horrible leaders. But I’ll have to go with Katniss, since she at least could kick a little butt with a bow.

 

12 comments

  1. Personally, I enjoyed Katniss and thought she was quite realistic (in that most leaders in my experience regardless of gender, despite outward appearances, constantly second guess themselves). In many ways, I think she’s like LotR’s Frodo. Both are small town people comfortable in their, relatively, limited community who get thrown into situations that are far out of their depth. This is, arguaby, why Frodo ultimately fails in his quest: he’s a folktale or fairy tale hero in a epic story; likewise with Katniss, she’s a local figure, a local leader, who is thrown into a world of politics, double dealing, and intrigue that exists on such a scale that it’s overwhelming. In a way, I suppose there’s some shadow of Captain America there too – when he’s beating up Nazis or HYDRA, he’s confident, certain, and in his element, when he has to deal with politics, all of that confidence and certainty disappears (usually).

    If Katniss was confident in her situation, when the revolution starts, I think she’d fail as a character in terms of believability. Having the small town hunter suddenly become a highly politically savvy, master of intrigue, overnight wouldn’t sit right (or could get into Mary Sue territory very fast). Actually, Harry Potter’s pretty similar in that respect: when there’s a clear target, a clear goal, he’s sure of things, but when the goal or whatnot becomes muddled or appearances are shown to be false, all his certainty drops away.

    All that said, there are a significant number of strong female role models in YA literature from Alyss (Frank Beddor) to Sophie Newman (Michael Scott), Sadie Carter to Annabeth (and others; both Rick Riordan), Captain Holly (Eoin Colfer) to Tiffany Aching (Terry Pratchett), and those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

    • I love your great response!

      I think what really bothered me as a mother of a teen girl wasn’t so much that Katniss needed to lead the revolution, but that she had a hard time mustering up courage in her personal life and left young readers confused about who she was.

      My own daughter is 14 and really didn’t like Katniss because all of the political drama really didn’t keep her interest, she wanted to know about her relationships with the other characters like her mother, her sister, Peeta and Gale were just upsetting. The feedback I got from several of the teen girls reading the Hunger Games was that while they were glad to see kick ass girls, Katniss really wasn’t as a winner without the help of other people and if they hadn’t of helped her, she would have died in the games like the others.

      But I agree, there are other strong female role models, but not in these two very popular books. I would love to see your reviews of some of your titles, want to Guest Blog for us?

      • Very true, Collins didn’t do especially well with the political elements. They were rather dry, even for an older reader interested in such things.

        A couple more came to mind: Mosca Mye (Francis Hardinge, _Fly by Night_) and both Kaye & Valerie (Holly Black, Tithe trilogy). Hardinge’s probably more older childrens to younger YA. That trilogy from Black is definitely older YA (rather dark, horrorish, urban fantasy).

        I’d have to re-read a bit (twist my arm), but I’d be happy to do a review or so at some point.

        • I have to admit, I haven’t read any of those and would love to learn more about them. If you would do reviews I know the other readers would love it. Annnnnd… it’s a good way to get your own blog name out there. Links and Bios in Guest Blog spots are highly encouraged!

          Dooooo it!

          • I’ll look into it, one I get my current read done. Should have the major elements of a world build done by then too, so a tad more free time.

            Mostly, I write for myself, I’m still kinda bemused that a couple hundred people actually read what I write (blog or book). 🙂

  2. If you at all enjoy science fiction and are looking for a great female lead, consider Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series. I have no relationship to the author or the books, I just think they’re great YA fiction.

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