Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Lone Strong Girl

Joan of Arc, the first "lone strong girl?"

I don't read a lot of YA fiction, but I do tend to read a lot of reviews on Goodreads and Amazon for books that get my attention. I love reading about books I'll probably never get the chance to actually read. Finding out about all the different perspectives readers bring to a book is also very helpful for writers. I've noticed a few comments lately about the emergence of what one reviewer has called the "strong girl spotlight." (this review was for The Immortal Rules, which I haven't read so I can't comment on the book itself).

Basically this term refers to books that have a strong female heroine. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say. The only problem is the strong heroine also happens to be the ONLY worthwhile female in the book. The other women are defined by their weakness or jealousy and competitiveness towards her. It seems there is more acceptance these days of strong women across genres, but is this the trade-off? Are strong female characters acceptable as long as there aren't too many of them? Another reason the "lone strong girl might be appealing to some is that she appears to be an anomaly, different from other women and in a class of her own.

Maybe I'm reading too much into the few comments I've come across in reviews, but it's an interesting issue to keep an eye on. I do worry about the messages young women are constantly bombarded with in the media because the emphasis seems to be on looks and sexual attractiveness more than ever, and this is not a recipe for female solidarity. Instead it sets girls up to compete for male approval and I wonder is this reflected in the books written for young audiences?

Are there a diverese range of role models for young women in YA fiction, or is the lone strong girl (or good / smart girl) a common character?

It's not really fair to call Lisa the "lone smart girl" in Springfield as she's really the "lone smart person."

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