1. Let’s start with the girl that everyone wants to be, but nobody really wants to be. Bella Swan is the heroine of the four-book Twilight saga, and I use that term loosely. Her greatest achievement in life (she will back me up on this) is being found interesting by one of the best modern YA heroes. He is handsome, smart, enigmatic, protective, gallant, and even athletic. She is… inexplicably popular? Bella says herself that she has a bad attitude, is not fun to be around, and openly toys with the hearts of two guys who deserve way better. She begins to show strength, courage, and moral fiber only after she is turned into a vampire. What kind of message does that send? Gain the whole world, ladies! All it costs is your soul.
2. The Mortal Instruments series gives us our next heroine. Average, everyday girl Clary Fray finds out through a couple of strange occurrences that the blood of the Angel runs through her veins. She is a Shadowhunter, destined to slay demons and send them back to… well… you know where. As an actor, I am a little partial to Clary whose main gift is artistic. I’m thrilled that author Cassandra Clare thought to reward the arts, imagination, and skill. I like Clary’s growth and, although there’s that weirdness in the second book where she has a crush on this guy she thinks is her brother (thank heavens he’s not!), she seems to have her priorities in line. She uses her artistic skill, quick thinking, and true bravery (acting in spite of fear, not lack of fear), to protect her family and the ones she loves.
3. I know that the last Harry Potter book came out years ago, but let’s be honest: this conversation wouldn’t be complete without Hermione Granger. Talk about the girl who has it all! Smarts, beauty, and a broken horcrux in her trophy case. (Well, that last part is conjecture, but wouldn’t you want to keep it just to show it off to your friends?) We all know this girl a fantastic role model. The journey she goes on is incredible- from socially awkward outcast to blazing warrior, Hermione proves that it should be popular to be smart, not smart to be popular.
4. Maximum Ride has the coolest name ever. Mostly human but part avian, she is a genetic experiment and one of seven kids to be gifted with a pair of wings, among other bird traits. A strong girl, Max realizes that her lack of compassion is a character fault. She often expresses her frustration with trying to play mom (to the other 6 winged kids) when she herself is too young to bear the burden. Max, of course, is gifted in many areas, but many things seem to happen to her instead of her being the one to make things happen. She always seems to be on the run, which is not a life I’d want for any teenaged girl! Her longing for a normal life and family is admirable but impossible, given that evil scientists (one of whom is her father?) are always after her. Max tries to keep it together but, like any teenager, can’t manage it. I wish there were a way for her to overcome these many barriers, but I guess then the series would be over!
5. Finally, the girl of the hour: Katniss Everdeen. This bow-wielding beauty from The Hunger Games is one of the strongest young heroines in literature today. Volunteering to take the place of her younger sister for what she perceives to be certain death, Katniss is selfless, brave, and tough. At that’s at the beginning of the book. The journey she takes is not an easy one and it takes its toll on her mental and physical health. But she fights for what she believes in. Whatever you opinions on the last book, she ceases to play the games other create and instead makes up her own. She is not a rule-breaker, she’s a rule-maker. And you have to respect that.