I read this article today about “Trinity Syndrome”. This happens when a female character is set up as badass, interesting, multi-faceted, in the first act… then has nothing to do for the rest of the movie.
Examples were Trinity from The Matrix, Valka from How to Train Your Dragon 2, and Tauriel in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
The comments section was pretty interesting, and the top comment pointed out that “given YA novels with strong female roles, many being compellingly brought to the screen, the atmosphere is changing and being reflected at the box-office. I think we will see continued progress.”
One of the comments responded with this: “Which YA novel strong female role you talking about? The one with the girl who spends the 3 books trying to get married or the one with the girl who spends the 3 books deciding who’d be a better catch, Gale or Peeta?”
Oh, man, I had such a good response! Then I realized it was an 8 month old comment. So, I decided to blog about this instead. And here’s what I have to say.
First of all, Katniss spends about 1% of the Hunger Games series choosing between Gale and Peeta. She is much more concerned with her sister, staying alive, putting on a show for the audience, staying alive, surviving PTSD, becoming the figurehead of a revolution, staying alive, tactics, night terrors — oh, and did I mention staying alive? Katniss is a survivor, not a girl trapped in a love triangle.
Second of all, maybe the original commenter was talking about…
- The girl who was an Allied spy and risked her life for her best friend (Verity from Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein)?
- Or the girl who traveled back in time to stop the end of the world (Em from All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill)?
- Or maybe the new Shadowhunter who has to stop a dark lord from creating a new demonic race of part-angels (Clary from City of Bones by Cassandra Clare)?
- Or the overweight girl dealing with abuse (Eleanor from Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell)?
- Or what about the girl who was diagnosed with cancer when she was young (Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green)?
- Or the girl who is trying to decide whether to stay alive or not (Mia from If I Stay by Gale Foreman)?
- Or the one who struggles with her skill at killing people (Katsa from Graceling by Kristin Cashore)?
I could go on. I’d be glad to!
Come on, guys. Well-written books about awesome females are dominating the YA world right now. Just go to Goodreads, have a gander, and take your pick. It’s really the best place to go if you want a well-developed, multi-faceted character. You do, of course, also have your fair share of shallow characters stuck in a plot that gives them no agency. But in Young Adult, if you’re looking for a good book with a top notch leading girl, the odds are ever in your favor.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go read Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, which is about Ruby, a girl who can see into people’s minds and sometimes even erase all their memories of her.