Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I Heart YA: Offbeat and Unpretty Heroines

Yep, you all get two posts today because I didn't post on Monday - whee! Today over at Suze's I Heart YA bloghop, the question is: How do you take your female protagonists? (next week is about male protags, so you might want to check it out too)

My answer: Offbeat! I like the protags that don't fit in, aren't always pretty (in the traditional sense), and somehow have a keen sense of what's going on when others don't. These girls have a good head on their shoulders, a plan in their pocket, and a fire in their eyes. Sometimes they have to stir that fire a bit to get it going, but once it is, stand back!

An excellent example of these qualities is Tiffany Aching from Terry Pratchett's series that begins with The Wee Free Men. This girl is so kick-butt her weapon of choice is a frying pan! She's a young witch who wears very unwitchlike clothes, and boots that are far too big for her. Since brunettes in stories never become princesses, Tiffany is perfectly content with being the witch. After all, it's the witch who knows the most... even if she might end up cooked in her own oven at the end.

Of all the female protags I've read recently, Tiffany has the best sidekicks - the Nac Mac Feegle (AKA "the accused", violent kilted smurfs with claymores). They are the Wee Free Men spoken of in the first book, who for some reason have taken a liking to one stubborn, determined girl from the Chalk. And it's a good thing that they did.

Tiffany even has a miniature of herself! Not to mention cosplayers and fanart. Go Tiffany!

Next in my offbeat heroine lineup: Mosca Mye from Frances Hardinge's Fly By Night series. Born with a very inauspicious name in a world where names create your destiny, Mosca has to claw and scrape, lie and steal, for the right to life. Her only friends in a world 'determined to swat her' (Mosca is named after the god who keeps flies out of jars and butter churns) are a smooth-talking con-man and a homicidal goose.

Mosca doesn't have magic, but what she does have is just as dangerous in her world - the ability to read and write. Guilds hold all the power in the Shattered Realm and the power over the printed word is governed by the Stationers. They don't take kindly to scrawny little girls with nosy tendencies usurping their power.

I love both of these series so much I can't even tell you! Both the heroines are spunky, offbeat characters with good heads on their shoulders. Interestingly enough, both of the heroines are also preteens. (I hope that doesn't mean girls lose all their common sense when they become teenagers.)

And what lineup like this would be complete without Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series? I know she's already been mentioned in this blog hop, but I have to mention her again. She might be know-it-all, and she might be a bit bossy, but she's a witch who knows a thing or two about common sense. Not to mention, Hermione is unpretty. She had buck teeth and frizzy hair - until they put her in the movies. I'm glad she at least kept her frizzy hair for awhile.

Hermione is constantly helping out her male counterparts with all the knowledge she possesses. She's one book-worm who's not at all the stereotype we normally think of. Rock on, Hermione!

That's all the offbeat, awesome YA ladies I can think of for now. What about you? What female protagonists are your favorites?


  1. Jinx on Mosca! (We seem to read all the same books, hmmm)

    I was thinking about Tiffany Aching, but I adore Susan and Angua and Polly and Mal and Adora Belle so much that for me, Tiffany is just okay. And they're proof that girls don't have to lose their awesome when they hit puberty!

    (And if we want to go into awesome women who are even older, Sybil and Granny Weatherwax... man, any woman in his books is just so much more awesome than most other people ever.)

  2. These sound like great women. The frying pan makes me think of the Disney flik Tangled. My kids and I all got laughs out of that frying pan weapon.

  3. Wow! Loved your post! I can't WAIT to read the Tiffany Aching books - she sounds like my kind of girl! :) Mosca sounds very interesting too. I've got some reading to do!

  4. Off-beat is right! Love all those examples. Makes me wonder if Disney stole the frying pan idea!


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