October 28, 2013

Shelly Rambles: Female YA Protagonists

It’s no secret that I usually hate female protagonists in YA novels. I always complain about how much I hate them and so I decided that I probably needed some proof and explanations. I love character-driven books but I usually hate the main characters. It’s very odd but it works. I’ll try my best to narrow down the top reasons I usually hate female protagonists. I hope this post is not offensive, I am not insulting any other bloggers for liking these characters nor am I just insulting the authors for writing them. We all interpret characters differently and this is just how I interpret characters I read about.

1) Lack of listening skills. This one may seems self-explanatory but it’s not. Usually, characters are trying to get to the bottom of something (murder, a person’s location, a general mystery) and they ask people for help. These people proceed to tell them a lot of useful things but the character only seems to grasp ONE piece of “important” information from this person. For example, let’s say Female A was trying to solve a crime. Stranger C tells her that he was last seen in the woods but he was wearing a fur coat. Female A proceeds to be like “what woods? where was he? does he have a weapon?” et cetera. She COMPLETELY ignores the minute detail of his fur coat. So when she gets to the woods later, she sees minute amounts of fur and thinks “oh that’s just an animal” and then proceeds to look for footprints and stuff when the whole time she could have used her EARS and listened to the minute details. After searching to no avail, the criminal corners her and he’s wearing a fur coat (but the criminal could be a female too) and them Female A thinks to herself “ohh yea, Stranger C told me that he was wearing a fur coat!!” when it’s TOO LATE. Honestly, characters need to learn to pay attention to all the details. (and this was a made-up scene, I haven’t read a book with this EXACT scene but very similar)

2) No apparent reason for attractiveness to other characters. This is rarely a problem for me but when it happens oh boy, you do not want to be there. Sometimes, we are introduced to Nerd Girl A and she’s very smart and awesome but looks-wise, we learn that she’s no America’s Next Top Model. And suddenly she meets a cute boy. Insta-love. Cute Boy A tells her she’s hot. Then a wild Hot Dangerous Boy  B appears! He also tells Nerd Girl A that she’s “smokin” I’m sorry, but what exactly makes her so attractive? Let’s be honest, people notice you for your looks and THEN your personality and I doubt Hot Dangerous Boy B is looking for someone with substance. What did Nerd Girl A do to unleash this storm of swooning from attractive males? Once again, this is not a specific example but a generalization.

3) I hate their personality. For this one, I’m going to use an example. I’m assuming most readers here have read The Hunger Games, correct? Well, I did not like Katniss. There, I said it, I actually HATED Katniss and I think this deserves an explanation. I know Katniss is supposed to be “badass” and we’re supposed to sympathize for her but all I saw was a mean, manipulative jerk. I think this is mainly because I hated reading from her P.O.V. But basically, everything Katniss does is selfish. Volunteers for tribute? Saves herself from having to watch her sister die. Kisses Peeta? Does it so people will vote for her and let her live. Anything Katniss does, it’s for self-preservation and it’s annoying. She also suffers from “lack of listening skills” but that’s for another day.
4) Fail to see the clues. I pride myself on predicting plot twists and I want my main characters to be able to do it too. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read a book with the most predictable plot twist EVER and the main characters are like “OMFG WHAT???” and I’m sitting there laughing because I predicted it or rolling my eyes at the lack of intelligence displayed by the main character. This pisses me off SO much. It’s crazy.
And that’s it! I hope my explainations provide some clarity on why I hate most female protagonists in YA novels. If you disagree with some statements I made or you find them offensive, I’m sorry. This is a rant and in no way am I forcing you to share my beliefs. Basically, if a character does not do any of these things, I will like her. I may write a “things I love in female YA protagonists” soon but nothing for sure.

Do you find anything I listed above just as frustrating? Does anything else bother you about these characters? Let me know in the comments!


  1. " usually hate female protagonists in YA novels." I feel that way a LOT, too. That's one of the reasons of why I prefer male MCs over females.

    1. YES! And most of the time they stumble on the answer/killer by accident. Gah, I hate that.

    2. And she continues to say things like: "Oh, I'm nothing special" and "I'm SO plain" and other things along this line, and in the end believe her. So when I see all those guys falling all over themselves just at the sight of her, it really... baffles/bothers me.

    3. Hm, yeah Katniss had her dumb moments too. But, on the whole, I kinda liked her. And I was "Team Peeta", so... ;)

    4. Haha, yes. I really don't like plots where I can see the "twists" from a mile away but the MC fails to see it till it literally pokes her in the eye - so annoying.

    AWESOME rant!

  2. 1. Yes. Or someone says they saw something dangerous in the woods and the MC is totally like "I'm SO going there." NO!! What do you not understand about "danger"??
    2. Hate that. Why first tell me she is not very good looking before she is jumped on by several guys?

  3. YES, YES! I AGREE COMPLETELY...I just don't understand why most female protagonists are so annoying. Also, often with dual narrators in books (a female and a male) the author makes the girl super snobby, boring and close minded, while the male is adventurous and loveable, able to see what is actually occurring in the world (this can be seen in Under the Never Sky, Legend and a few other YA dual narrated novels)
    Great discussion post Shelly!

  4. Yes to this post! I think I've already tweeted this to you but we NEED more male perspectives! Now I admit, I don't feel as strongly toward female characters as you do but I definitely get tired of them! And all these points you bring up are SO true. Especially no. 2. I could NOT agree with that more.

    Ha, and I love that gif from Silver Linings Playbook you used! I still have yet to watch that movie but it looks great!

  5. Truer words were never spoken, my friend. I really, really dislike a lot of YA heroines and it's for pretty much the same reasons you gave here.

    1 + 4. Yes. They bumble around, half listening to what anyone with a brain is telling them, but they still manage to save the day. Sheer luck, I tell you.
    2. ALL THE TIME. Like you said, what did she do to suddenly have every hot guy around tell her how wonderful/special/pretty she is?
    3. My major reason for disliking YA heroines. In my experience they are whiny and selfish but everyone loves them anyway.

    Glad to see I'm not the only one!

  6. Lack of listening skills... You know, I think this is just a reflection of real life. I see this phenomenon with e-mails especially. You e-mail someone and ask them multiple questions... and they only answer the last one. WTF? Did they even read the whole thing?

    I dislike YA heroines who are obsessed with telling us minute details about what people are wearing or what colour their eyes are (though, technically, I guess this is more of a beef with the author than the character). I remember reading one novel where the heroine was constantly mentioning the hero's blue eyes. I searched an e-book version and found over thirty references to the guy's eyes. Overkill!


I'd love to read your opinion. Comment away!