The Problem is…

I’ve finally started reading ‘Divergent’. Whilst on a New Years Eve boat cruise in Miami, a young American student suggested I read it after hearing my rant about women in youth fiction. The impression I got was that it wasn’t going to fulfil these same stereotypes. I’m approximately one third the way through and already, I feel disappointed.

The story starts off with promise; a post apocalyptic style genre with people divided into factions according to personal traits. The female protagonist ‘Beatrice’ seems to be self aware of her own ill fitting personality to her current faction and joins a faction known for courage and fearlessness. So we have a strong willed female character in an adventure novel. So far, so good.

However, it isn’t long after joining her new faction that Beatrice starts going ‘weak at the knees’ for some older, tall, dark and handsome male character. Sigh. Perpetuating the very problem I have with how female characters are portrayed.

It made me think though: what is my actual problem? Is my problem just with the addition of romance plots or subplots in novels? Because I hated Twilight (a problem that will no doubt get it’s own post eventually), but it is largely a love story that just happens to have some mystical entities in it. I got concerned that maybe my own distaste for romance was the real driver here.

But then I thought again. No it isn’t the romance. It is the fact that in an ADVENTURE novel where there is a female protagonist, it is considered essential that there is a romantic subplot. Novels containing a male protagonist don’t tend to feel they require this. And Twilight, well I’ve worked out my problem with that and it is entirely not related to the problem above. I’m still too angry to write about that monstrosity.

So i’ve started to feel good. I know what the problem is: that there is a thought that a female oriented youth fiction novel requires a romantic plot or subplot to engage it’s readers. Now that I know this, I know I am not going to perpetuate the same problem in my own writing.

For my high school English teacher, Julie Windle, who taught me to love literature and to be comfortable with being different.

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