If you’ve read this post, you will have seen that I briefly spoke about my issue with the way in which girls are portrayed in Young Adult Contemporary books. It’s something that really angers me the more I think of it because it’s just a little troubling to see that these kinds of harmful stereotypes are still prevalent in modern literature. Especially considering that the target audience are youngsters who are already facing enough criticism and negativity from older generations about their “attitude”. After writing that post, I became increasingly restless and wanted to get my thoughts out into the open to see if there are others who feel the same way.
Before I jump in, I just want to say that I truly despise being a negative troll and I genuinely make an effort to see the good side to every situation, so I’ve taken a good long thought about this post to see if it’s really something worth complaining about. I honestly believe that one person’s “good” will forever be another person’s “bad” and there will always be that one dark cloud hanging around pointing out all that’s wrong, in a condescending, judging tone – okay so that analogy fell apart pretty quickly… And now here I am, being a Moaning Myrtle! Although, I will try my best to be constructive and not forget that even though I may have a problem with the way something is being represented, there are a thousand more people who are grateful to have something to connect with.
Since that the formalities have been cleared up, let me share some of my qualms with you, regarding the way teenage girls are being portrayed in young adult contemporary books…
After reading more than a few YA contemporary books over the years, I’ve picked up a pattern in the way female characters, and to be more specific – female narrators, are portrayed by authors. I’ve noticed that most books depict girls to be catty, insecure and grossly vindictive, creating this idea that all teenage girls are exactly the same in this regard. More often than not I will get so annoyed by a female narrator for being whinny, unnecessarily jealous and indifferent to a point where she puts, not only her own well-being, but the well-being of others in jeopardy.
My mind has become so accustomed to one type of narrator that I’ve reached a point where I’m actively seeking out male narrators instead; and this pisses me off beyond words can begin to describe.
Because why is it that boys are portrayed as strong, smart, deep thinkers, who are able to achieve the best in every aspect of their lives by only doing the bare minimum required of them? They are written as complex, dynamic characters that are still funny and easy going – the very definition of “cool as a cucumber”. And even in the case of their back stories – it’s never about something trivial and fleeting! They are focused on complex, interesting issues while being their own bold character! I wish this was extended to female narrators as well. I would do anything for an Aelin Ashryver Galathynius-like female character in YA contemporary fiction!!
I understand the need for this kind of behaviour to be represented in YA books because it certainly makes you see how wrong it is; whether you’re the one displaying this sort of qualities or if you’re at the receiving end of it. But are these the only character traits to be highlighted? Can we not focus on healthy relationships between young girls instead of exclusively focusing on toxic ones? May I read a book about a teenage girl who isn’t solely focused on her appearance, but who thinks deeply on an emotional and intellectual level? Or how about a sassy, fierce girl who is confident in her own skin and refuses to conform to social norms yet she’s good and wishes no harm on others? A good example is Henry Page’s sister, Sadie, in Our Chemical Hearts – SOMEONE write a book with a female narrator like her! Please!! I beg of you!!!
I’m tired of reading books where the single agenda of the female narrator, revolves around a boy who broke her heart. I’m tired of reading about female characters whose only goal in life is to be pretty. And if I read another book about a girl who wants nothing more than to bring another girl down, then I may set it on fire – and for a biblio, that is a serious offense! I fail to understand how this can be the extent of importance in a young woman’s life. There’s an eternity of other things to write about that matter that will still bringing an important moral across for teenagers to learn. I cannot accept that I am so distanced from female narrators in young adult fiction… And I sincerely hope to see this pattern break, as it’s begun to in the YA Fantasy genre.
I hate that this is once again, a negative post about young adult fiction because I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of it on this space if you look here. But I needed to vent a bit since it is something that has been on my mind for a really long time. I certainly hope that there are people who share my frustrations on this matter because I refuse to believe that this is now the new normal, and hopefully we can let each other know about books that offer better insight and representation. So please, if you know of YA contemporary books that check these boxes, it would be terrific if you let me know!