I’m currently reading yet another YA book with a “strong female character” who performs crazy physical feats. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great book (Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard) and I love the action in the book and the main character, Mare. However, I’ve been thinking a lot about all the female heroines and protagonists in many YA books, and while I love female lead characters, most of them have some sort of physical strength.
Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games? She can hunt, run, fight, and swim. Tris Prior from Divergent? She can throw knives, run, jump, climb, and fight. And all rather magically, considered she was raised in the simple, humble Abnegation faction. I’ve been counting off YA books with such characters, many of whom develop instant physical prowess when confronted with challenges that require strong physical abilities.
Now, most of these characters are also intelligent, strategic, and loving. They’re not all brute. But the problem is that I can’t imagine myself as any of these characters. I’m not athletic or strong. I could never fight or jump or run like these characters do. I would really love to see more books where the “strong female character” is strong because of her intelligence. What would that kind of book look like?
We were traveling today, so in the car I asked my family to brainstorm with me. We thought of all kinds of different problems that would require brains to solve, from a poisonous virus destroying trees to an asteroid hitting Earth to some technological crisis similar to Y2K. It was a fun conversation!
It hit me that this might be another reason why I love Madeleine L’Engle’s female characters so much. They’re smart. They’re strength is in their intelligence, and often, their love. Meg Murry was nerdy and average, but she ended up being the heroine in A Wrinkle in Time. She wasn’t larger than life. She was a normal girl that I can imagine myself being. Yet she still saved her father and little brother.
While I will always love the YA genre and YA “strong female characters,” I want to see more books that paint more realistic girls doing important things in their lives and the lives of others. In the novel I’m currently working on, my main character, Jasmine, is smart, but her intelligence in not necessarily helping her solve a problem. It’s more of a story about finding herself, and her art is actually what helps her comes to terms with who she is. But one day maybe I’ll write a book with a “strong female character” who isn’t unbelievably physically strong, but is still a person who makes a difference.
What YA books have you read with female characters whose strength was something other than their physical feats?