Friday 30 July 2010

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Discussion: What Type of Hero/ine do you Prefer?

Today's discussion comes with thanks to Moon Rat over at Editorial Ass for letting me borrow her question.

In YA fiction, what kind of hero/ine is better; one with a really positive self image or one with a flawed self-image?

One may promote self-confidence in teen readers, while the other may ("may" being the key word here) seem more realistic, more identifiable.

Teens, which do you prefer to read about? Which do you find more entertaining in a novel?

To the adults, the same questions, but also which would you prefer teens to read about - be them your children, your nieces or nephews, yours cousins, etc?

Does the author have the responsibility to send out positive messages about self-image, or more to entertain? Can an author do both - where the protagonist has a healthy self-image from the very beginning running throughout? I can't honestly think of a YA novel where the protag is happy with themselves from beginning to end.

Just questions to start a discussion, not condeming, criticising, or deeming anything impossible.


  1. I think I really like those characters with flawed self-image who develop a positive self image over the course of the novel. I would want teens to read books with both types of characters but I think they would identify more with a character that has a flawed self image. If they saw that character grow and develop a more positive self image it might help them do the same in their own lives.

    Some of my favorite characters of this type: Terra from North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley and Virginia Shreves from The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things.

  2. I think there's room for both. Having a healthy self-image is the ideal, isn't it? It's great to see characters developing better self-image, but I also like it when I read about a character who isn't concerned about their looks. I think a lot of people have low self-esteem because of our culture that insists that we must always be lacking in some way and therefore trying to improve (and willing to buy something somebody wants to sell us). It's much more difficult to say 'I am beautiful and intelligent' than to be "modest" and say 'I am unattractive and not as clever as other people', or even 'I am ugly and stupid'. It's considered normal to be self-critical. I think we learn to be cruel to ourselves partly by watching other people be cruel to themselves. If you've seen Mean Girls, you might remember the scene in which the Plastics take turns to stand in front of the mirror and complain about their bodies, and Cady, a newcomer to Girl World, is confused and just ends up saying that she has bad breath in the morning, because she's never been in a situation where she's *expected* to be negative about her body before. I was on a forum once and a girl posted saying she didn't like the way the skin underneath her armpit creased and only a couple of the replies were like 'Me too', most of them either had no idea what she was talking about, or were along the lines of 'I never noticed that before, but I looked in the mirror and I hate it too'. Sad and completely ridiculous!

  3. I love heroines who are smart and sassy and who can look after themselves, but still have awesome, smart, snarky banter with a guy. I love heroines who stand up for what they believe in, who look after their friends, who are flawed and make mistakes then learn from them.

  4. Great comments from everyone! I'm loving all the opinions! :)