Saturday, May 5, 2012

What I want to read more of: Smart Heroines

Cover debates. Here are two words that should be enough to make your hair stand on end. Whether it’s whitewashing, or slimming up, or putting women in anatomically impossible poses, we can all agree that covers are one of the most frustrating parts about a book. The line between good representation and good marketing is a slim one, and more often than not, it is completely missed.

But as much as I detest the dead/passive-white-cover-girl trend, there is one thing that bothers me: Why is it that heroines can’t be heroic and still own the freaking dress?

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself…

Okay, do you know this annoying tendency where a YA heroine is either completely disowning her femininity for the sake of kicking ass (see: Katsa from Graceling or Tris from Divergent) or she is completely self-effacing and weak and has to rely on a hot dude to rescue her, and only wears the pretty dress once so that it can get on the cover (if I start naming them, we’ll be here all day). Even those that are more well-rounded tend to dismiss skirts as impractical… which is a valid point, but still a bit unfair.

Full disclosure: I’m a jeans kind of girl. In fact, it was years before I even owned a skirt, and even now, my most adventurous hems are granny-ish by some standards. I like practicality. And no-one ever said that jeans are unfeminine.

But I like skirts and dresses too. I like pretty colors and textures. I like heels, because I enjoy being tall, and yeah, I also think my legs look awesome. I don’t think mascara is anti-feminist and I am sick and tired of the notion that a heroine has to completely disregard every single thing associated with her gender in order to be considered well-rounded. Just because some things like poofy dresses and pastels are traditionally associated with females doesn’t mean that they are kryptonite that the MC should avoid at all cost.

Which is why, today, I went to GR and exclaimed: I want to read about a heroine who wins through her smarts, without throwing a single punch. I want to see a heroine who owns her femininity and is still considered awesome.

Tall order? I don’t know. Hermione Granger is a pretty good example, even if we see her dress up exactly twice in seven books. Tiffany Aching from “The Wee Free Men” is also a heroine who gets by with smarts all the time, but since she’s ten or something in the first book, gender doesn’t play much of a role in her story, at least at first. Clara Gardner from Unearthly is pretty smart, and she’s not ashamed to admit that she cares about how she looks – she’s the closest to what I’m talking about… that I’ve read in YA.

Anyway, my two cents. Let me know what you think. Are there any heroines you know that fit the bill? What are the things you’d like to read about in YA?

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