Posted by: Natalie Hatch | September 27, 2010

Sarah-Jane what did you do?

Let’s talk about kick-butt heroines in YA. How many novels have you read lately where the girl is very clingy/dependent upon the male of the species to do for her what she could do herself? (does that sentence even make sense? oh well)

I’ve encountered quite a few reads in the past month that I thought were going to be pretty great, I liked the start of the story, the characters were well fleshed out, the storyline was intriguing only to give up half way through in frustration. The main complaint I had? The girl dropped the ball. She has all the capabilities of becoming better than she is and she doesn’t, instead she simpers and snivels so that the guy can feel better about his manliness. Ugh! Don’t do this to me. If I start reading a novel and the girl is moving forward, getting things done and then falls in love and becomes an imbecile I don’t want it. Please put this on the back cover blurb: Warning this book contains a lack of self-reliance in the heroine.

Pandering to the male ego is all well and good for some, we see it often in television shows and movies and all that. But come on writers, let’s not perpetuate the mythology that a girl can’t achieve as good if not better than her peers. It seems like we’re glazing that glass ceiling for our characters and teaching teens that they can’t break through on their own.

I want female leads that have resilience, who push past the negative feelings that we all have and keep going in whatever they’re doing. I want a heroine who won’t back down, who’s human enough to know her faults and limitations but says ‘stuff it I’m giving it a try anyway’… those are the kind of women I admire in real life, I want to read about them as well.

It reminds me of when I was four years old and Dr Who was on, Sarah-Jane, Dr Who’s companion, was trying to run away from giant maggots that had infested the never ending quarry (strange how most of the alien worlds on those Dr Who episodes were set in the same quarry, it must have been a time portal or something). Anyway she’s running away from the Man-sized Maggots and she twists her ankle. I shouted at the television set for her to keep running even though her ankle was stuffed. If it was in real life you’d keep going until you couldn’t go any further. You wouldn’t twist, fall into a heap and cry until the Doctor turned up in his tardis. I’ve yet to be rescued by Dr Who (although David Tennant can swing by my place anytime if he’d like to try rescuing me, I’d even twist my ankle on purpose but that’s another story).

I sat there as a 4yr old feeling pretty upset at Sarah-Jane for letting the girl side down. When I asked Mum about why she cried and didn’t get up Mum couldn’t explain it. So the glass ceiling slammed shut on my world, thanks a lot Sarah-Jane.  Now I know it wasn’t Sarah’s fault, but I wonder how many girls read these books that I can’t finish and feel the same disappointment.



  1. I agree totally Nat, The female role and behaviour in literature has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. A part of my Masters exegesis was on that very subject. But there is still a way to go. My female protagonists are strong and stand beside or outdo the males. And that, as you say, sends a clear message to girls that they can be that strong. Great post.

  2. Thanks Elaine, I love girls who stand up for themselves.

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