Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Girls in YA {Discussion Post}


Is it just me, or is it that almost every time I open a book, the main heroine has a problem with her physical appearance? Don't get me wrong. Being a teenager myself and a girl, I do notice that type of self-consciousness in others and in myself. It's not even out fault for thinking this way, either, but maybe YA is playing that out that stigma too much?

Growing up, girls will always worry about how they look. It's been hardwired into our brains that if we don't look like that DD-cup bombshell beauty with perfectly applied makeup and skinny limbs, we're not what's considered beautiful or hot, sexy, and very attractive. It's not our fault. But I don't think that this is every girl's main priority worry growing up through adolescence. I may just be speaking for myself, but, never have I felt truly insecure about my image 24/7. And, unless my friends haven't told me, neither do they care so much, either.

What I can't stand in YA books is that readers obviously know that this leading heroine is attractive and smart and talented in some way. We know this because 1) There's a love triangle. And let's face it, if the girl's got game, she's doing something right, or 2) When have we ever watched a successful movie where the leading and super hot hero love interest is interested in someone who isn't attractive? Never. To me, there is no definition between what is considered attractive and what is not, but all media focus on a certain kind of attractive. And this also includes books. 

I'm not blaming authors and I'm not bashing books. I love books and I love authors. But what I think is that we need more female characters that are more confident in their appearance. This, meaning that the main girl can be all geeky and awkward and socially inept, but know that she is pretty and smart and in command of who she is.

Do I think I'm attractive? Uhhh, yes and no. I find that I am too skinny and my hair is flat and boring. I don't think that my face or body is all that stunning, but not only is it not a major issue for me, but I also am confident in who I am in some ways. I never wear makeup. Mainly, it's because I'm lazy and don't like makeup, but I also know that I don't look that unattractive without it. I don't consider myself to be pretty, but I think I'm cute. And that's what counts. Also, within the six years of high school I've been in, two boys have admitted that they had a crush on me. While that may not be all that impressive, it proves that I'm not all that ugly. I mean, there must be something that's physically appealing about my face that others see as well, along with my personality.

Instead of sending this message out to young girls that read YA that it's okay to think you're unattractive because, someday, your handsome prince will come and sweep you away, let's do something else. To me, this just makes the main heroine look like she's fishing for compliments and is in complete denial when her potential boyfriend insists that she is beautiful. While this idea has many perks (like relating to all those other girls that don't think that she's attractive and is a great technique for making character growth), it also has its downfalls, because this, in some ways, makes that girl look weak and a damsel, when in all actuality, that character's not because she ends up saving the day in the end. 

What I think should happen with girls in YA is: make those girls confident in who she is right from the very start. What YA books are teaching the younger demographic is that it is okay to not like her body or her face because eventually, some guy will see the true beauty within her. That's not good! And to think I almost fell for this, too! Women shouldn't have to wait for the man. Women can be confident and women can be in control and women of all kinds can be pretty. I think I see this trend more in dystopia of female confidence than I do in, say, contemporary or paranormal. Perhaps this is why dystopia is a growing, popular genre?

Maybe I'm speaking nonsense here, but it's what has been on my mind. What are your thoughts? Do you think this is true? Do you disagree? Tell me what you think!


  1. Very well said. I'm definitely sharing this!

  2. Awesome post!! I really agree with everything you said and it's something I've noticed too. All these books with love triangles (and usually both guys are said to be uber hot) and the MC is always complaining about her looks and saying she's not anything special. It really annoys me and it does give off a crappy message to teens. EVERYONE has things about themselves they don't like. Your hair, our nose, your size, your nail, whatever, there is always something we don't think is "up to par" or whatever about ourselves but do we really sit there and agonize over our looks so often? In high school, though I won't say I never thought about my looks, it wasn't a constant nagging thought it my head that my hair wasn't Hollywood worthy or that I was underweight. I even got teased about my weight ALL the time and I never really dwelled on it. Hey I can eat 5 cheeseburgers and not gain an ounce an I still get carted at 29 years old, take that!! Teehee. Have you ever met a person who was perfect? Except for people who have been severely Photoshopped for magazines. I do think YA books makes attractiveness a bit too important. I also read a book not too long ago where the person was like "I hate my almond shaped eyes" O_o really? Would you rather have a pear shaped eye? And on the same attractiveness note, why does the love interest always have to be someone who is "the hottest person in the world"? Like WTF? There were no Brad Pitts in my school. Maybe I just lived in the wrong town but...

    My comment is all over the place sorry about that haha. Great post! :)

  3. *APPLAUDS* Yes! I personally can understand when the girl is conscious of herself but truth be told, *no one really cares*. We know the character is awesome/smart/badass/etc and physical beauty, no matter how it's defined, doesn't really matter but when they choose not to accept themselves and that *gasp* a boy likes them then it's annoying, have some confidence! The reality is that there are different types of girls in this world with different issues of accepting themselves. I'm okay with the girls in YA and a piece of advice to them and girls IRL, get over yourself because, in reality, no one is paying as much attention to yourself than you.

    (lots of spelling mistakes, I'm sure)

  4. Love this post, by the way xoxo

  5. I agree that in the movies the "unattractive" girl is never really unattractive. But as a 40 year old who has felt that way about themselves forever, and still does, and sees it in the eyes of others, or the lack of eyes of guys, it is enjoyable to me to read about what I wish would come true. So I agree, but don't? Does that make sense? Your post is great though, very well thought it out.

  6. YES. It is way overdone!

    "Instead of sending this message out to young girls that read YA that it's okay to think you're unattractive because, someday, your handsome prince will come and sweep you away"

    I love this. Because all the girls who complain about how unattractive they are still get the 'hot' boys. Every girl's dream, but cliche and unrealistic.

    I recently had a MAJOR problem with Girl of Fire and Thorns because of this. Yes, there was clear development in Elisa's character, but she had to lose weight to get there. I wish her realization of her worth could have come while she was still 'fat.' One of my commenters disagreed and we had a pretty long debate...she was contemplating posting something like this. But my opinion stands (very) strong...I don't like how YA tends to make it sound okay to have low confidence. I do get that it's 'realistic' because many of us do indeed have problems with it, but still. I don't like reading it over and over again.

    On that note, there is a point where they can become TOO confident. *coughcoughRosefromVampireAcademycough* There needs to be a happy medium. Like a 'I may not be gorgeous or thin but I'm happy with that' kind of moral. Or something.

    Great post, Millie! <3

  7. Ooh, great post! Never really thought about it like that. Just got annoyed with the girls when they act so naive and self-conscious.

  8. Excellent post! I totally understand what you mean and it's something I've noticed. I never understand how a girl with no confidence and thinks she is ugly, ends up in a love triangle. I would love to see more confident protagonists who aren't so self-conscious. I mean I understand being a bit self-conscious because who isn't from time to time, but I would like to see it not be so overdone. I definitely tend to like the protagonists in dystopians because they are just stronger characters.

  9. I just found your blog and am so happy you wrote this post. I have the same irritation. Did you ever read The Girl of Fire and Thorns? It features a fat girl as the heroine. I thought that was so great at first. But then I read on and, shocker, she loses a ton of weight, becomes attractive, and only after that does she really grow as a person and become a kickass protagonist. HUMPH.


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