Weak vs. Strong Heroines (Book Edition)

I used to work at a book store. Seems a pretty good place to start this. Working at a book store was great, I worked in the receiving area so I got to see the books before everyone else did. For someone who loves books as much as I do, this was like Mecca for me.  I’m sad sometimes, having left one of the most personally rewarding jobs (because I’m a weirdo who simply loves books, and not just what’s in them. the feel and smell of a new book fills me with joy) I’ve had. It was a move purely for financial gain and to get the hell out of New Jersey.  But, my love of books has remained.  I’m getting off track. The point is, working there afforded me access to books. I read many a back book covers, and let me tell you…I wonder sometimes.  I’m far from a critic, but have you ever read some books and slap your head and go “WHY?!”

I even read books I never would normally read, because…I had access to them.  I think perhaps the biggest waste of my time, and the real point of this scathing review, are the Twilight books (because of their weak lead character).  Watch out, tweens and adults alike everywhere are reeling backward and hissing. They’ll call me names and throw rotten tomatoes at me in public for this I’m sure. But really. Really?!? I made it through the first book, which shows you what a glutton for self inflicted pain I am. I will never gain back the brain cells I lost reading that novel. (Nor will I gain back the sight in my eyes after deciding to watch the movie to see what everyone was going crazy about.)  But the book. The book first…then I’ll get into bashing the horror that Robert Pattinson became in that series (BRING BACK CEDRIC DAMNIT! I liked him as Cedric….)

I tend to like books with strong heroines. (not strong heroine. this is not a drug addiction site).  I like female and male protagonists equally, but I like novels that portray their female lead in a kick ass way. Meaning, they don’t need a man to save the day and they don’t sleep with everything that walks. I like contemporary fantasy a great deal, but I notice a lot of the A-list mainstream high selling novels have female leads that make me want to claw out my eyes, move to an island and live out the rest of my days in obscurity pretending I’m not a female.   Twilight was no exception.

I have never read such a wishy washy, ridiculously moronic lead female as Bella Swan.  Girl needs to take some classes in feminism. For serious. Mopey, bleary eyed youths may be in and hip, but dear god do they make me want to vom in my mouth. Now, I’m 28. This should be said early on because I want the clarification that I am an adult that will read young adult novels. Why? because a lot of times they are amazing and the story is well worth the read.  And a lot of the young adult novels I have read have AWESOME female leads that really, really exemplify what I would love to see ALL female leads in contemporary fantasy be like.

(WARNING. I will shortly be making comparisons to other novels and female characters, please don’t hold it against the writers. This is all MY opinion and mine alone. So if you want to throw any backlash for it, throw it my way and not theirs.)

One of my favorite series (which is a newer one, but one i love so much I’m using it to compare the characters) is the Iron Codex Series by Caitlin Kittredge.  Now, I love all of her stuff. That should be said right off.  In my hierarchy of favorite writers of this day and age she’s at a tie for the top.  So admittedly I am a little bias. But that’s what blogs are for…throwing your bias out into the world and watching it fly away.  However, she wouldn’t BE my favorite author if she couldn’t write, or if I didn’t like her stories or characters.

The first novel in the series by Kittredge is called The Iron Thorn. And of course I ordered it when I worked at the bookstore to get it the day it came out. Why? Because I was so excited by the premise that I had to read it as soon as I could.  (Now keep in mind this comparison is just to show the QUALITIES of the female leads. Because these books are in two TOTALLY different realms). Within the first five pages I fell in love with Kittredge’s heroine Aoife Grayson. Why? because she’s tough as shit and even though she’s young and goes through some moments, you genuinely believe in her. You want to see her kick ass and take names. She’s a STRONG FEMALE LEAD. Sure, she gets help from the males in the story but I reckon Aoife could handle herself on her own if she had to. But the bottom line kids, everyone needs help. If a character did EVERYTHING on their own the story would get real boring real quick. But there’s a fine line between needing help and needing your hand held while you take a pee.

Now, let’s do an experiment. We’re going to throw Bella Swan into Aoife Grayson’s world. My prediction is that Bella wouldn’t last .5 seconds. Why? because she has no mind of her own other than “make me a vampire. I hate my life and I can’t do anything.” Bella never REALLY solves anything does she? Her entire existance seems based on the fact that she wants to be a vampire. (okay yes, friends have told me a lot about the series. but I still reserve the right to make fun. I wanted to claw my eyes out at the end of the first book. no way in hell was I reading more).  What’s the freaking point of her?

Now. Aoife has drive. She has spunk and sass. She goes on a fact finding mission. She abandons everything she knows, she gets into scuffles and she comes out on top. She thinks. That’s the bottom line. The girl is smart. I like that. No. I love that. I found myself caring so much about her character that I was upset when I finished the book and didn’t have the second one right away.

So. Yes. I hate whiny, good for nothing heroines who need a man to save the day or sleep with to get things done. ( *cough*anitablake*cough*) <—more on this another day.  I love free thinkers, kick butt girls who you KNOW could handle shit on their own but know it would be suicide to run into dangerous situations without some kind of backup.

Oh, and also. I don’t mind sex in novels. I really really don’t. As long as it’s written well and not the only plot in the novel. Kittredge’s adult Black London Series has sex in the books. And by god does she write a great sex scene. But you know what? It doesn’t over power the story. So, go Ms. Kittredge. Keep writing because I love your stuff. You give me hope that one day the crap will all go away. That we won’t have Bellas and Jacobs and Edwards marauding through the written word mucking things up for decent characters everywhere.

As for Twilight, I will steer very very clear of it and it’s ilk. I like my brain cells in tact. And I certainly don’t want to idolize a woman who’s sole purpose in life is to become a vampire like the man she loves.  Dear Bella Swan. Seriously. I really really hate you.

Stay tuned for the film/television edition of this post where I shall highlight my love of Canada’s show Lost Girl and it’s strong female heroines, and my complete distaste for Rose from seasons 1 and 2 of the Doctor Who reboot. Now THAT’S gonna be fun to read.


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