Today in literary infographics: Young Adult heroines are mostly shy, plucky virgins with poor self-esteem and brown hair.
I'm going out on a limb here--do you suppose because most Young Adult authors are themselves bookworms and former English majors they might be writing about what they know? You know the type of girls buried in Anne, Nancy and Jo's stories throughout adolescence. The type of girls who were, by nature, introverted, shy, prone to daydreaming? Blonde, gorgeous, popular girls were generally too busy going on dates and trying on prom and homecoming tiaras to read and fall madly in love with books. Heck, if I'd had boys flanking me throughout high school, I don't know if I'd have felt as drawn to a fantasy life between the pages. Another funny story: boys don't seem to be drawn to the shy, virginal bookworm types who don't lead cheers or party all weekend long ...
And if a writer writes what they know, it stands to reason that we find a dearth of popular, gorgeous, blonde, confident and promiscuous Young Adult heroines, right? Because those girls? Don't fall into reading and writing in the same numbers as shy, plucky, brunette virgins. Bookwormy-English majors are of a type--mostly shy, plucky, brunette virgins who don't wear much make up and play in the school band or join Key Club. I know very few fellow writers who identify more with Jessica Wakefield from Sweet Valley High than with Elizabeth Bennett.
I'm currently working on a YA manuscript. My heroine? Plucky brunette virgin--who works part-time at the public library. (Of a type? You betcha!) This girl is a total cliche. Realizing this, I thought Hey, let's switch this up a little bit--make her stand out! Yeah, my big brilliant idea was to make her (wait for it...) a math whiz! Yeah! Instead of a bookworm, my heroine would be on the math team! Bam!
I'm rolling my eyes at myself right now. What a dope! Mmmkay...let's change her up differently. Instead of giving her long, straight brown hair I'll give her spiked PINK hair! And she doesn't have to be such a goody-goody afraid of other people (while her best friends are all busy dating boys and sticking up for themselves). Nope, I'll make her more antagonistic. Suspended for fighting in school and coat her eyes with black make up. Because that? Will definitely appeal to my standard YA reader.
Like that shy, plucky brunette virgin in the flowing hippie skirt browsing the stacks over at Barnes & Noble or the public library ...
Spill it, reader. Your favorite YA heroine AND your thoughts on how you'd make a YA heroine stand out of the pack of shy, plucky, insecure, brown-haired virgins.