Guest Blogger: Nadine Brandes
Katniss Everdeen. Tris Prior. Cassia Reyes. Linh Cinder.
Recognize any of these names? It’s okay, names were never my strong suit either, but the book titles might help you: The Hunger Games, Divergent, Matched, Cinder. These books have several things in common. First, they’re all YA dystopian novels. Second, they all have strong female protagonists.
Why are the protagonists predominantly female in so many dystopian books these days? Not only are they dominant, but these females tend to share similar story and character traits like holding back emotions (no crying allowed), rebelling against authority (parents, government, society, etc.), being a survivalist, and/or getting stuck in a love triangle.
We could blame the rise of female protagonists on Suzanne Collins for writing The Hunger Games, but things rise in fame because they’re desired by the public. Why is a self-sufficient female heroine so desirable?
Is it because statistics show more girls read books than boys? (Especially in the YA genre.) And since females are the main readers of YA books, that would make heroines more relatable by gender default.
Is it because females are tired of being portrayed as the “romantic love interest” or sidekick in a novel? Think of Bella Swan from Twilight – her world revolved around her love interests. She needed constant rescuing and, while that type of romance can appeal to young readers, many girls want more. They want to be seen as more than a sidekick or the helpless beauty.
Is it because these books show that anyone can have the power to change the world? These heroines go against the stereotypes that have grown about girls being overly-emotional, needy, romance-obsessed, and helpless. This commercial by Always efficiently brings to light the stereotype of what it looks like to do something “like a girl.”
Instead of fitting stereotypes, Katniss, Tris, Cinder, and all the other dystopian heroines tend to be more concerned with bettering their world and caring for their families than they do about fitting into social norms. Nowadays, “fitting in” is a high demand that few young adults can meet. We’re at the crossroads of “be yourself” and “be like that girl/boy.”
Modern YA fiction is reflecting that.
I think the upswing of female heroines is due to something much deeper than gender preference in fiction. I think it portrays a shift in thinking that teens are having toward the world, toward stereotypes, and toward expectations.
What do you think? Why are females so popular in today’s dystopian fiction?
Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, released fall 2014 from Enclave Publishing. When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at http://nadinebrandes.com or on Facebook.