So last week the Huffington Post ran this great article about the amazingness of Hermione Granger:
Much more than just making it okay to be smart and nerdy, however, Hermione reaffirmed that it was okay to ruffle feathers, take a stand, and back it up with some hardcore knowledge…I look forward to the day when I read the Harry Potter series to my daughter, and through Hermione’s character, instill in her the desire to take control of her own fate and never be afraid to voice an opinion or show her intelligence.
I can’t even express how much I agree. There are a lot of great female characters out there, characters who struggle through terrible crises and triumph on the other side, characters who make us laugh until our sides ache, and characters who’s downfall shakes the world within the pages of their book, but there aren’t that many role models. I can love a character dearly (coughAlaskacough) without wanting my little sister to become her.
Unfortunately, the most well known female character today is one that I would never want any girl to look up to (Bella, I’m looking at you), so I thought to offset the trend, I’d share some of my favorite literary girls:
First up: Jess Darling from the Sloppy Firsts series
This hilarious, incredible series spans ten years of Jessica’s life, from sixteen to twenty-six. Throughout it all, Jess maintains her intelligence, wit, and keen observations of her surrounding world. Although she does the typical self-deprecation when it comes to the looks department, she realistically gains self esteem as she ages and manages to be so funny that it doesn’t annoy me (I wish I had been able to make fun of my acne when I was sixteen).
I love Jess because she’s realistic. Over the course of the books she learns how to be a better friend, a better daughter, and ultimately, a teacher and role model to other girls. She has high standards for the man in her life, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t mess up. Jess doesn’t live up to what society expects of women, to the chagrine of many characters in the book, but she’s definitely one of the strongest characters, male or female, that I’ve come across.
Frankie from The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Frankie is only fifteen, and stuck in a world where the roles for women have been defined for centuries. Elite boarding school. While she unabashedly uses her newfound good looks to snag herself a boyfriend (finally, a high school female who is confident with how she looks!), she quickly becomes frustrated with the limitations put on her by the boys that surround her. She turns the tables on the school and her boyfriend, using their assumptions that a girl would never infiltrate their secret society to have the whole school following her lead without their knowledge. When she possible takes the whole charade too far, she doesn’t go quietly into the night. She makes mistakes, yes, but she learns from them and becomes even stronger. No boarding school boys are going to get her down.
Caitlin from Dreamland
I often get a little frustrated with Sarah Dessen’s characters. Dessen has so much power and readership, and I feel like she has fallen into a bit of a formula with her books. If more of her characters were like Caitlin, I’d be a happy gal. Caitlin is a wonderfully complex teenager, wanting at once to break free and to fit in to her family better (I know what that feels like, for sure). Unfortunately for her, the first time she really tries to do something different, she lands in the arms of Rogerson, a mysterious bad boy who leads her into a comfortable, easy rapport of driving around and hanging out in his room. Soon, it becomes clear that he when he means he wants Caitlin in his life, he means only his life, and he doesn’t like her doing anything for herself.
This book is so difficult to read, if only because it is one of the most convincing portrayals of a girl becoming entwined with an abusive boyfriend that I’ve come across. So many teenagers think that they’ll be able to extricate themselves from a dangerous relationship, but it’s hard to blame someone for being hurtful when you are so deeply in love with them by the time the danger reveals itself. Caitlin reveals all to the reader, forging a connection that is deep and powerful. Her eventual ascent back to reality is difficult and real, and not without the help that everyone needs to get out of similar situations. Her strength comes from her ability to eventually accept help to get her out of such deep water.