The illustrious, and infamous, Moonrat asks:
Which kind of heroine do you think is better in YA fiction--one with a really positive self-image (to promote self-confidence in teen readers), or one with a flawed self-image (eg someone who has always felt like a misfit, who has never been labeled conventionally pretty, etc, to promote reader identification)?Below is my reply. I encourage everyone in the YA space to head on over and provide your 2 cents. Or comment here. But Moonrat is a real industry person, rather than a corporate hack writer like myself. If you aren't familiar with her blog, you should definitely add it to your reader.
I like a YA heroine who does not have an IQ of 36D. I want her to like boys but doesn’t think she needs one to complete her. I like to read about girls not psychologically addicted to abusive stalkers, malcontents, dishonorable curs and scallywags.
I would like a YA heroine who wants to slap her friend alongside the head for being emo, but loves her too much to do so. I want a YA heroine who is comfortable in her own skin, likes chocolate, but doesn’t like the extra ten pounds from going on the pill. A YA heroine who gets all squishy when she hears a baby giggle, occasionally likes pink nail polish and gets mad when it’s her turn to cook the family dinner, because her brother is so much better at it. And he seems so lazy, it's rather unfair.
I would like a YA heroine who does normal things like going to church even if it is just to make grandma happy. One who aces her math quiz but still thinks the cute little black dress at the Nordstrom Rack would look great on her for the formal, if only she could figure out how to wear it without a bra while simultaneously avoiding the lecture from her father, the father that can’t quite come to terms that Princess likes to make out with the boyfriend.
I would like a YA heroine who isn’t a doormat and is trying to figure out the difference between self-confidence and being cocky. While we’re at it, I would like a YA heroine who actually isn’t an empty shell the reader can project herself into for a bit of escapism. The world is full of empty shells, filling one up at the end of the novel and saying “Done!” isn’t about the personal struggle. I would like a YA heroine who, at the end of the novel, persevered against conflict despite her mistakes that only a young adult can make. She came out on top because of her strength of character and learning from those mistakes, not some male provided deus ex machina.
I guess that means I am in the “give me an American young woman” category. Give me the visceral, the substance over style, the power in femininity, one who never stopped reaching for her dream because at no time did she think “I can’t do that because I’m a girl.”