Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Top Three YA Heroines

You want to know what I love? Female protagonists. I love them a lot. I particularly love that, in recent years, we've been getting more and more of them. Sure, not all of them have been the most multidimensional or tolerable of creatures, but the fact they're on the upward swing marks a wonderful trend.

Perhaps in a few years' time I won't be so surprised when I find myself finding so many that I like.

So, in no particular order, here are my top three female protagonists of the year 2014! I've narrowed down the genre to YA, seeing as that seems to be where the best of the crop were at, and the 2014 indicates the year I read the books, not the year they were published, just to avoid confusion.

Here we go!

Vega Jane (The Finisher - David Baldacci)

Were this list ranked in any way, Vega Jane would easily steal a place toward the top on the basis of one thing alone: you could swap her out for a male character and, for the most part, that would make absolutely no difference. However, this does not mean the fact that she is female is irrelevant - just that the parts of the story where her gender is relevant do not define who she is.

From its cover, you might think The Finisher was aiming to cash in on The Hunger Games' racket; skilled teenage protagonist with incapacitated parents caring for a younger brother who ends up in a fighting tournament against her will, all the while slowly picking apart the lies and deceits of an isolationist society with a crippling fear of the outside world.

But thinking of it like that would do neither book nor heroine any justice: Vega Jane is a confident, competent, and wonderfully human protagonist whose emotional strength and versatility form the bulk of the story's impetus - most of which has nothing to do with said fighting tournament, and a lot more to do with Vega Jane's own determination to pursue a truth she feels is being wrongly kept from the people of Wormwood.

As a final recommendation: I liked this book way better than Divergent. How about that.

Karou (Daughter of Smoke and Bone series - Laini Taylor)

I have gone on and on and on about this series many times before, but until I find reason to shut up, I won't. Laini Taylor's sprawling urban/epic fantasy trilogy was the first honest-to-goodness love story where I was not only deeply invested in the relationship, but was so invested that the relationship became one of my favourite points of the story.

A lot of that is down to Karou. Karou is what so many superspecialchosenone heroines wish they could be; an anomaly torn between two worlds, at once elevated and isolated by her unique condition. Karou is well-balanced; her strengths do not outnumber her weaknesses, but nor are her weaknesses specifically contrived for cheap sympathy. We feel for her, however alien her situation, because her emotional core is so powerfully linked to the writing and the narrative that it's often hard to tell where Karou stops and the reader begins.

The conclusion of this trilogy had me crying my eyes out next to a pool in Budapest because I did not want to say goodbye to the world, to the story, and, most of all, to one of my absolute favourite protagonists. Period.

Penryn (Angelfall series - Susan Ee)

Confession: I did not expect to like this book. Not. At. All. I scooped it off Amazon while the Kindle version was free, and judging by a good number of its reviews (many likening it to the loathesome Twilight saga) I expected to be alternating between laughing and slamming this thing against the wall.

Have to say I rather ate my words on that front. For all I was not extremely fond of the story, per se, I really really liked  the protagonist, Penryn. In the vein of most supernatural post-apocalyptic heroines, she's tough and wily and knows how to look after herself - good stuff. What I was not expecting was how she would also manage to be a perfectly believable teenage girl in the process. 

While her resignation to the condition of herself and her world is palpable, the moments when her youth and emotional immaturity shine through are genuinely believable and rather touching. We, too, would rather she could swap worries over starvation and packs of cannibalistic neighbours for choosing her prom dress and debating what colleges she wants to apply to. It might be selfish, it might be a little jarring with the flow of her thoughts at times, but by gods it's real - and that is the best part about it. There's no alteration or idealisation there: it's just Penryn, the teenage girl surviving in the ruins of human civilisation looking for her sister with a mutilated angel in tow.

And if that doesn't sound awesome, I think you forgot to take your earplugs out.


So now, over to you lot! Give me some of your favourite heroines of the year - or just favourite protagonists, from YA or otherwise. Or, if you've read any of the books above, or intend to, let me know if you agree with my judgement!

See you all next time.

~ Charley R


  1. Ooh, yes, Karou all the way!! She's marvelous, and in fact Laini Taylor's whole trilogy is fantastic. And while I haven't read either of the other two books, your descriptions of the protagonists make them sound wonderful.

    As for my favorite heroines of 2014, I quite liked Alina Starkov from the Grisha trilogy, Kami from the Lynburn Legacy, and of course Blue from the Raven Cycle. Which, by the way, have you read the Raven Cycle yet? Because if you haven't, YOU MUST. I think you'd quite like it. :)

    1. I've read the first one, but I've not got hold of the others yet! I really should.

    2. Yes, definitely do! I absolutely love them all and can't wait to get my hands on Blue Lily, Lily Blue. :)

  2. I actually received a copy of The Finishers in the summer, but I never got around to reading it - I'll definitely pick it up soon! Thank you so much for the recs. :D