It’s April, and that means it’s time for the A to Z challenge. I really must be a glutton for punishment; April is my last month of college, and I’m still an amateur blogger, but I must say, I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m going to be writing short little blurbs about some retired characters from my DISTANT past up until recently; all of them are failed concepts. Part of me is hoping that writing about these characters will inspire me…perhaps to write more during the summer when school is out.
I have something to confess.
I really dislike heroines in Young Adult novels. There are very few female protagonists that I actually like. (Hermione from the Harry Potter franchise is one of the first I came to respect. And I read those books for the first time last year.) Granted, I haven’t read a lot of YA novels lately (feel free to give me recommendations), but here are a few
not-so brief reasons as to why I don’t like many female protagonists:
- The author tries too hard to make them “strong, independent women.” There is nothing wrong with being strong or independent or a woman, but for some reason, that translates as, “You need to be stubborn and refuse help from everyone and put all the world’s burdens on your shoulders…but you also need a boy.” There’s always a boy involved. I’d like to see novels where the heroine is independent in a way that isn’t destructive.
- She’s always awkward…but is she really? This this seems to be a trend with YA authors who want to create a relatable character. “Oh, I’m your average Jane Doe. Look how awkward I am. No one could possibly like me,” she says as she flips her impossibly perfect hair. I’m an awkward person. I know awkward. It doesn’t just mean that you’re uncomfortable in a social situation. It doesn’t mean that you have one or two friends because everyone else hates you. My awkwardness shows in my sense of humor and how loud I am, how sheltered I am. Once I dig myself a hole, I keep digging, and I make it worse. I’m melodramatic. There’s a lot more to being awkward than being an outcast. (And I’d like to point out that most of these girls are self-imposed outcasts.)
- Most YA heroines forfeit traditional roles because apparently that’s the only way to be strong. Now I know what you’re thinking. “This is the 21st century! We’re beyond that!” But I’m a traditional person. In my opinion, some of the bravest women are mothers, and I’ve always wanted to read a story about a young mother (or even a middle-aged mother) fighting for what she believes in. I think that’s why I love Molly Weasley so much. (Granted, I also love women in non-traditional roles. The female soldier from the movie World War Z was beyond epic.) I think you can have it all: a woman who clings to traditional values and chooses to be a leader.
Now that I’ve talked your ear off…allow me to introduce my character. Yue Li Xiu is a general for a group known as the Dragon’s Throat. She worked for these knights on and off throughout her early years before deciding to take a break after she got pregnant. She was in love with a fellow soldier, and he was in love with her. They never really got married, but she gave birth to a healthy baby boy and was content taking care of him until…
…a soldier she had burned in the past came looking for revenge. I can’t remember if she had rejected him as a lover or had gotten him into some trouble for inappropriate conduct. I believe it was the latter. This man was known for doing rather inappropriate things with the new recruits. Well, her not-hubby was killed. Her son was taken. And Yue was left injured. She spent a good, long time looking for her boy, but it was no use. She spent some time in recovery before rejoining the knights. Very few people know about her tragic love story, and she tries not to let it interfere with her work.
I like Yue a lot because she’s stern, but she doesn’t let her broken heart keep her from healing. And she doesn’t treat people like crap just because she had a tragic past. She mourns when it’s appropriate and has tried to build a new life for herself. Her past doesn’t necessarily define her. It comes back to haunt her, but she fights it, and she lets others help her. She struggles with her vices, but she recognizes that she has faults and tries to move beyond them. Being a leader doesn’t mean thinking about yourself. It means thinking about your organization, and she tries to think about her country and the men/women under her before she does something wild and reckless.