Okay, so I know I kind of lambasted Entertainment Weekly the other day with their list of “New Classics” (but come on! Classics most of those books were not) but I was strolling around their website yesterday and happened upon this interesting article: Girls with Grit. It’s about the lack of women (young women) in literature nowadays that one can really look up to and see as a tough girl, the main character of the story and someone that maybe possibly could be seen as a role model for the younger girls reading these books. Although it does say that the few movies/books that now have a strong lead female character shows that we're heading in the right direction. I agree.
Now, I don’t really read a lot of YA (or any YA really, though I am getting a bit interested in The Hunger Games) but I have to agree with this article. And this isn’t a new phenomenon. Young women are not normally the central character of blockbuster books, especially ones that send out a good message to other young girls (Twilight anyone?). And yes, Lisbeth Salander of the Stieg Larsson books is a kick-ass female and a good feminist role model (not perfect by any stretch, but the best characters are flawed). But there is no way that those books could be described as for a younger audience. They’re very graphic in parts and disturbing. If I had a daughter, I wouldn’t want her reading that book until…well I don’t know the age requirement I’d put on it, but it’s not a YA book for sure!
But I think this just shows the normal attitudes present in pop culture in general. Women are good supporting players but they rarely take the reins by themselves. It’s upsetting.
So that article pointed out four books (that were/are being turned into films) where women were kicking butt and flawed yet good role models for other young women. They were The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, True Grit by Charles Portis, the Stieg Larsson books and Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell. But I think the only YA in there is The Hunger Games. And the author of the article was seemingly talking about recent books but True Grit is not at all recent, just recently turned into a movie (again). But I’m struggling, with all the books I’ve read recently to make a longer list. And, like I said, I don’t know YA books at all so I’m hoping there’s a few I’m just missing because I don’t even know they exist. But so let's just think of any and all books. Books in general with strong female lead characters that you would be happy to have your daughter (fictitious or not) look up to a little bit.
So come on people, help me out! There have to be other books out there, let’s go with old and new, that have a strong female protagonist. She doesn’t have to be perfect (as I said, flawed characters make for better stories) but just four books is not good enough.