When you were a child, was there ever a book character you really wanted to be? A character you looked up to or thought of as a role model? A character that you used to pretend to be at lunchtimes during primary school, in your spare hours when you weren’t glueing your hands together or running into walls?
For me it was Matilda.
Matilda, the children’s novel written by Roald Dahl, was an epic tale of adventure. I think I read almost all of Dahl’s novels when I was younger. His books were the stepping stones for me into the world of reading (after Mog, of course), and it lead onto all sorts of other iconic children’s fiction. Goosebumps, Horrible Histories, Harry Potter — you name it, and I was probably reading it.
But the character Matilda really resonated with me as a child. Not because I was a poor, misunderstood outcast of an eight year old, nothing like that — you won’t find a childhood sob story here. I loved Matilda for an altogether more obvious and shallow reason…
Matilda was cool.
She had telekinetic powers — actual magical powers…! She could look at an object and send it flying across the room at a single thought!! Do you have any idea how badly I wanted that power as a kid?? I used to purposely sit in the living room with my older brother and silently will the books with the power of my mind to fly off the bookshelf and hit him in the head! I used to run around the playground at break time trying to make trees topple over onto the teachers! I wanted to be Matilda so badly!
But alas, that never happened. I grew up, as was the style at the time, and I found new heroes — or heroines, in particular — to fall in love with and idolise. Fair enough, when I first found these three lovely ladies I’m about to introduce you to today, I wasn’t running around my house trying to be them (much) because I was considerably older. But if I was still eight years old and trying to dress my cat in my Baby Anabelle clothes, then I’d have probably been pretending to be them at playtime too…
So, let’s hear it for the girls! Much like my last post My Top Three YA Male Characters I will be counting down my top three YA female characters, and I’ll be doing it, once again, in Olympic Medallist style. Get your socks on, because I’m about to knock them off. Here are top three my favourite heroines of all time:
(SPOILER ALERT: This post has been rated ‘Good God!’ for spoilers.)
BRONZE MEDAL: KATNISS EVERDEEN — THE “HUNGER GAMES” SERIES, WRITTEN BY SUZANNE COLLINS.
Katniss Everdeen, the Girl On Fire! Rebellious, stubborn, stoic, noble and wise beyond her years, Katniss is a character who comes with heaps of light and shade to her personality.
Katniss is a sixteen year old girl who, after her father died, became the main provider for her starving family. She risks her life every day, hunting in the forbidden woodlands so her mother and younger sister won’t go hungry. On the day of the 74th Hunger Games Reaping (a ceremony where they pick the two poor kids from each district who will take part in the annual child-killing tournament) Katniss’ younger sister is picked as the female tribute for District Twelve, and Katniss volunteers to take her place, therefore sparing her life.
I’ll skip over the parts where she gets one of the highest scores out of all twenty-four contestants in their training, and the part where she survives mostly alone in the games, doing all her hunting and killing with a single bow and some arrows, and how she saved Peeta’s life, and all those other cool things she did. You want to know what really makes Katniss a top notch heroine? She’s a girl that knows her own mind.
Yep, when Katniss Everdeen was being created, there was no skimping on the bravery or intelligence. Katniss knows how to get what she wants and what she needs to survive. She’s a strong-willed, independent, headstrong woman who is the perfect balance of being selfish when she has to be, and being selfless when she needs to be. Unlike most other YA female protagonists, when trapped in a love triangle, Katniss doesn’t bow down to the romance subplot and spend the rest of the story picking a boyfriend, (not that her choice between cake-boy and baby Thor would be that difficult — one is extremely hotter and taller than the other…) and instead she ignores her love life, only including it when it’s helpful to her and not a hindrance, and gets the job done. Katniss is a take-no-prisoners protagonist and a strong, competent, likeable role model to girls everywhere. Rock on, Girl On Fire!!
…Oh and did I mention she wins the Hunger Games? Twice? #JustSaying…
SILVER MEDAL: HERMIONE GRANGER — THE “HARRY POTTER” SERIES, WRITTEN BY J.K.ROWLING.
Hermione Jean Granger, a Muggle-Born witch and the only child of Mr and Mrs Granger, who on her eleventh birthday learns she is a sorceress and is sent off to Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft And Wizardry to learn about casting spells and quidditch…
Wait, I’m getting a touch of déjà vu here. Anyone else feel like we’ve been here before…?
Nevertheless, Hermione is a world-class heroine. Apart from the fact that she helped Harry and Ron find all the horcruxes and played a huge role in bringing down the evil dark Lord Voldemort, and apart from saving Harry and Ron’s lives numerous amounts of times, ensuring they don’t die a horrible, bloody death in each book, there are actually several more reasons why Hermione is a kick-ass protagonist.
Firstly, let’s look at her achievements. In her first year at Hogwarts, Hermione helped Ron and Harry defeat the giant troll that overtook the girl’s bathroom and knocked it unconscious before it could kill anyone. In her second year she solved the mystery of how the Basilisk was moving through the halls of Hogwarts going unseen. By her third year, Hermione’s understanding of magic was skilled enough for Dumbledore to entrust her with the Time-Turner, enabling her to go back in time and help Harry save his Godfather Sirius from a lifetime in Azkaban. During her fourth year she became an advocate for House Elf Rights and by her fifth year she was putting together her vigilante group, “Dumbledore’s Army” so the students could fight back against Professor Umbridge. By the time sixth year rolled around, Hermione found herself in her first combat during the Battle Of The Astronomy Tower, and by seventh year she was fighting again in the Battle Of Hogwarts, and helped Harry Potter defeat Voldemort once and for all.
Also, she dated Mr Hottie, Victor Krum, for a little while, so there’s that.
But even all that isn’t what makes Hermione such a great character. What truly makes Hermione a great heroine and a role model for girls everywhere is her strength, her bravery, and her love for learning and bettering herself. Hermione is a protagonist that teaches girls everywhere that it’s okay to be yourself and it’s okay to dream big and aim high.
Also, she dated Victor Krum.
GOLD MEDAL: VALKYRIE CAIN — THE “SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT” SERIES, WRITTEN BY DEREK LANDY.
Oh, Valkyrie Cain. You good guy, wrapped up in a bad guy, wrapped up in a black jacket. What are we going to do with you? We’re probably going to pick you up, try giving you a stern talking to (trying to destroy the world isn’t nice, young lady!), but we’ll probably eventually just let you off the hook and back into our hearts, because you’re awesome and we love you.
For any of you out there that are currently glowering at your computer screens wondering what the hell I’m going on about, let me break it down for you…
Valkyrie Cain, formerly known as Stephanie Edgley, is the lead protagonist in the Skulduggery Pleasant book series, and a heroine truly worthy of the Gold Medal in my eyes.
Valkyrie is a teenage sorcerer who specialises in elemental magic and necromancy (until you get to the last book in the series), who joins forces with the infamous skeleton detective, Skulduggery Pleasant, and accompanies him throughout this nine-book series, saving the world, beating up the bad guys, slaying monsters, and even vanquishing a few evil Gods too. She is a take-charge, no nonsense, confident, capable, young woman who doesn’t hesitate at running head-first into danger as long as it ensues a good adventure and the world’s safety.
As well as being pretty, funny, intelligent, strong, courageous, witty, likeable and brave, Valkyrie Cain was also written with arrogance, egotism, selfishness, unkindness, coldness, complete narcissism and the ability to be a complete asshat at times. But wait, Skulduggery fans! Before you start throwing things at me, hear me out! I say all this with love! LOVE!
What I’m saying is, she is realistic. She is a genuine, believable, grounded character — something hard to come by in your typical YA heroines these days that are all big blue eyes, goodness through and through, and size D boobs. Her personality and character traits have been written with such a perfect balance of both the good and the bad, she becomes the perfect protagonist. She’s relatable and that’s why it’s so easy to become completely enamoured with her, even if she can sometimes be super annoying.
But then of course, there’s so much more to her than that. As we all know, behind a good hero is a dark, crippling, heart-wrenching backstory that the author (yes, you, Derek) has put in there purposely to break your heart and rip out your soul. Valkyrie is no exception to the rule. Do you remember what I said earlier about it not being nice to try and destroy the world? Yeah, you keep that in mind when you pick up the first book in the series, and you fall head over heels for adorable, plucky, big brown-eyed Val.
Remember, this good girl was born to be bad. Everyone has a dark side, and Valkyrie has the darkest side of them all…
So, let’s put together all the ingredients that make Valkyrie Cain and see if she deserves that spot in first place for my Top Three YA Female Characters:
She’s a strong, likeable, fun heroine with a big secret and an even bigger dark side, who can still manage to capture our hearts and is so relatable we began to actually believe she’s a real person. She is exiting and interesting to read about, an ideal role model for girls everywhere, and she makes you want to actually know her and be her friend.
Alright, it’s official. Valkyrie Cain, go sit atop your throne and accept your Gold Medal, because you are my number one YA female character, and you deserve all the accolade you get.
Although I haven’t actually finished the last book yet. She could still turn out to be a complete dick.