At first, I had thought not to participate in Top Ten Tuesday this week, the top ten books on my syllabus if I taught 'X'. I couldn't think about anything but fantasy books because that's what I'm currently reading (Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas). As much fantasy as I do read, I still consider myself a novice and so doubted whether I could "teach a class" on it.
But then I had a conversation the other day about how hard it is to be a woman because there are a million and one opinions and expectations as to who you should be and what you should want, none of which are actually yours - and boom! I was inspired. So, here are the novel (not ten however) that would be on my syllabus is I were to teach:
YA Strong, Brilliant Female Characters 101
( because young girls need to know there is no one way to be a girl)
Now despite the film adaptations, which all depict these characters as absolutely stunning beauties (hello, Hollywood!), all of these ladies are lauded for their strength and intelligence first and foremost in their respective books.
Let's just go ahead and start with the obvious...
Harry Potter's Hermione Granger
Seriously, I really just adore Hermione. Her character made me feel normal and wanted as a kid, and quite frankly as an adult as well. I may just name my daughter Hermione if my future husband lets me :) In the novel, Hermione is described as having big bushy hair and very large front teeth, and she's brave and "the brightest witch of her age." Her friends and others love her for her brilliance, kindness, and insistence on doing what's right. Very little is said about whether she is pretty because she is so much more.
Fangirl's Cath Avery
Unlike her twin, Cath is described as awkward, painfully shy and quite plain in this novel by Rainbow Rowell. Her wardrobe is full of fandom tee shirts and lounging clothes, and she wear glasses and ties her hair up most of the time. Although Cath is pretty, her sister is considered the "hotter twin". Cath is noted for her imagination and her quirkiness and the deep level to which she cares about people, all qualities just as worthy of praise.
Eleanor and Park's Eleanor Douglas
Eleanor is heavier than most girls, and many of the characters in the novel comment on her size and lack of beauty. But I said it in my review and I'll say it again: somehow, all this considered, the reader comes away with the idea that Eleanor is stunning and wonderful and amazing. Despite her terrible home life, she is brave and funny, adorably sarcastic and sharp as a tack and we admire her for it all.
Divergent's Tris Prior
Shailenne Woodley, who plays the role in the movies, might be stunning, but Tris Prior is not. In the novels, Tris is a plain girl with dull blonde hair, sharp features and a slight frame that makes her look like a little girl. In the first book alone, her boyish frame is commented on quite frequently as well as the fact that she isn't typically pretty. But (minor spoiler!) Tris is divergent; she's strong, and brave, and smart and selfless, and above all else, a good, loving person.
The Hunger Games' Katniss Everdeen
Oh, Katniss. I actually can't remember if Collins describes her as attractive... *checks and gets sucked into the vortex that is the internet* Nope, she's not said to be pretty. She's tan with long black hair, and is malnourished and scarred due to the impoverished state of her life. And even though Katniss is described as hot-tempered and a bit mean, she's got a fiery personality and can be very maternal and protective. She is also incredibly resilient, brave, honest and selfless, which she exhibits multiple times in all 3 books.
Bonus! Because adult girls too need to know that being stereotypically pretty isn't the only way to be (maybe also because I love it so):
Pride and Prejudice's Elizabeth Bennett
She is described in the novel as lively and playful and quick. She is thought to be fine looking but not pretty or a beauty like her sister Jane. In fact, a certain someone refuses to dance with her at a party because she was "tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt" Lizzie's strengths are her [good nature] and the life she seems to carry in her eyes. In a single word, she has spark.
I really, really enjoyed writing this post, or rather creating this "syllabus". I'm thinking I'll do it again sometime.