As an avid reader ever since I set eyes on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I’ve always enjoyed reading about female fictional characters whom I could try and relate with in reality. Through my teen years, I have extensively read popular YA fiction books, replete with women protagonists who seem strong and daring at first glance. In retrospect, though, it’s become clear that these “Teen Heroines” are more problematic than heroic. Here’s why- but beware the spoilers!

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1. Katniss Everdeen: Yes, we all love Jennifer Lawrence portrayal of Katniss in the movie adaptation of this series. But even so, it’s worth discussing that her character in The Hunger Games novel series was, uh, less than inspiring. For one, in Mockingjay, she allows her feelings for Gale to cloud her judgment when his plan ends up killing her sister, Prim. While she is devastated for a grand total of five minutes, her usually ‘firey’ and raging personality forgives Gale for snatching away the (apparently) most important person in her life. This same passion and anger had infact initially fuelled her choice to participate in the Games, volunteering in Prim’s place.

2. Tris Prior: The whole point of the Divergent series’ protagonist, Beatrice, or ‘Tris’ is to show that people can be good at more than one thing. However, it seems like she wasn’t really good at anything at all. One of her characteristics is being ‘Erudite’ but she’s actually just the opposite. I mean, who climbs the Ferris Wheel for a game of Capture the Flag when it’s too risky to be worth it? She’s also heartless and unnecessarily cruel. I’m aware things aren’t always peachy in a dystopia- but I can’t help but wince when she mocks Al and calls him a coward after his suicide, shoots Peter when she wasn’t even under threat and is prepared to let a billion people die because she was in love with a boy who she’d met for a month.

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3. Clary Fray: Imagine everyone depending on you, you making everything about you, and then being absolutely irrelevant. That’s right. My former idol, Clary Fray (or Clarissa Fairchild) is as annoying as one can possibly get. In City of Bones, the first book in The Mortal Instruments series, she claims her only goal in the Shadowhunter world is to rescue her mother, but she spends all her time ogling Jace’s abs instead, while judging Alec for being gay. Simultaneously, she whines constantly and allows herself to be attracted to Jace even when he’s proclaimed to be her brother. Ew.

4. Bella Swan: You know you were waiting for this one. Obviously, she’s a bit too obsessed with Edward for anyone’s good. Uh, even if you like this boy, he shouldn’t be watching you sleep and definitely shouldn’t abandon you in the woods at night after breaking up. It’s not very ‘heroic’ to chase after him by trying to kill yourself, either. While there are a million things wrong with Twilight, my main concern is that a victimised and yet vampirism-obsessed Bella is preferred by readers to Rosalie Hale, who kills her rapists after turning into a vampire, without spilling a drop of their blood lest she be tempted.

5. Elena Gilbert: While TV Elena from The Vampire Diaries is irritating enough, it’s the lesser-known novel Elena who gets on my nerves. A stereotypical dumb blonde who swings her hips and turns her nose up at everyone, she manipulates Stefan while leading Damon, Matt, and even Tyler on! Diaries written by bloodthirsty vampires are ludicrous enough, but hers makes me cringe with nearly every sentence. She unnecessarily antagonises Caroline, and anguishes over goddess dresses and opera more than her temporary slavery.

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Don’t get me wrong, tween me was super disappointed too with this limp portrayal of teen heroines. But trust me, these same novels- should you choose to reread them stuck at home- can illuminate the perspectives of so many wonderful female characters who aren’t in some pointless limelight. Rosalie Hale, Meredith Sulez, Rue or Isabelle Lightwood- there are a million women who are more than worthy of being called true teen heroines.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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