Rant: The Willful Damsel
Tuesday April 17, 2012 at 12:32 am |

I am noticing a DISTURBING trend in Young Adult fiction lately and I really don’t like it one bit.  It’s because of all you wonderful book bloggers out there that I’m even into Young Adult fiction like I am now.  Don’t get me wrong, Adult fiction still totally rocks my world, and it’s still probably what I read most.  But I’d be lying if I said the Young Adult world wasn’t drawing me in more and more.  It’s almost nostalgic in a 21st century kinda way and makes me remember my childhood.  But there is one theme I keep encountering that bothers the hell out of me, and that is the Willful Damsel.  I offer up Clary from The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, and Meghan Chase from The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa as examples.

The Willful Damsel: The lead teenage girl in a story who is more than content with being pathetic and letting the lead male or males save her ass over and over again though she has power beyond measure.

I get it.  It’s nice and fun to read about the hero who saves his girl from imminent danger.  But when that girl is ALWAYS in danger, and many times from her own stupid actions, this becomes tiresome for me.  Especially when it has been expressly said that the girl in question has a power and a might all her own.  The fact that these girls are so ambivalent about learning more about their powers and how to harness and use them is beyond me.

Case in point Meghan Chase.  A part of me feels really bad for her.  Her brother has been taken and she has just found out that she is born of a world that she had no knowledge of at all.  The father she remembers has disappeared and she finds that her true father is a powerful faery King.  That is a lot to swallow in a day.  I even admire her for wanting to go and save her brother though she knows nothing about the world she’s about to fall into.  But my patience quickly thinned after she had been told a number of times of her power and she had no curiosity or desire to learn how to use it.  And when Grimalkin urges her to try and tap in, she gives a half-assed attempt and then gives up.  WHAT!!!!  I’m sorry but if someone told me I had some supernatural powers, I’d be doing every exercise, every training, every puzzle or mind game I could to learn how to use it and keep my ass out of trouble.  Or at least have a good enough handle on how to get out of trouble when it arrived.  But this girl, oh no!  It’s Puck and Ash to the rescue, constantly having them put themselves in danger for her own personal crusade.  And what disturbs me the MOST is that miraculously, at the end, she just knows how to use her power in a very pivotal moment.  Are you kidding me people?  So first she has no interest in her power, gives a half-hearted try, and now all of a sudden she knows how to use it?  CLACKERS!!! (as my Dad used to say), I’m just not buying what they’re selling.

Another example is Clary of the Mortal Instruments series.  Le Sigh.  I cannot for the life of me understand how this child went for three books without learning how to defend herself.  HELLO!  Your in an institute where they train Shadowhunters!  You’re a Shadowhunter and your father is a notorious badass!  GET SOME TRAINING ALREADY!  Sure what the girl can do with a stele is phenomenal, but I was irked that this just came to her.  Enough with all the ladi da shit people.  Can we have better explanations on how these girls figure out their powers instead of some miraculous knowledge cop-out.  And again with Jace saving her ass after she got herself into trouble time and again.  I almost hate to see how this series continues because if Clary doesn’t begin training of some sort I don’t think I can deal.

I understand that in today’s young adult world this is a popular theme, but I’d be lying if I said I’m not bothered by it.  I love a strong female character and I get that not every female character can be this.  But those with the clear potential to be strong women seem to be taking a very lazy approach and relying on the men in their lives too much.  How about sometimes they let the men rely on them?  But I want them to earn that, I want them to work for it.  I don’t want them to have some crazy in-the-moment discovery…that’s lazy and boring.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still thoroughly entertained by both the MI trilogy and the first of the IF.  All I’m asking is for some protagonists I can love and be proud of.  Ladies that will give it all they have to survive and live another day.  Can I just get a little effort. . .please?

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Jade

Written by Jade

Jade is a book blogger from NC. In her spare time she loves to read and build and maintain websites. She has been reading since she was four and building websites since she was 16. SortofBeautiful.com was born on March 8, 2011 and is a fantastic merging of her two favorite hobbies. Enjoy your stay!

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23 Responses to “Rant: The Willful Damsel”

  1. Whoo love the rant. Though I haven’t read the two books you mentioned, I instantly recognized the phenomena. I just finished a book and it was bugging me as well. I didn’t know it was a trend in YA though. I’m wondering why give them these amazing powers if they are going to fail to use them or use them unrealistically. Everyone needs a little rant every once in a while and I enjoyed reading yours :)
    Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic recently posted..Teaser Tuesday… Bound

    • Jade Jade says:

      Hey Alexis. Yeah I just don’t get it. Why write these supposed strong characters who have special powers but have them act so weak all the time? The contradiction slays me every time.

  2. I took a few months break from YA because it felt very repetative. I’m slowly started to get back into it, but I’m going to focus more on adult fiction. I do enjoy YA but I’m trying to stay away from reading just YA paranormal. There are so many other types of YA reads.
    Mrs Q Book Addict recently posted..Review: A Good American by George Alex

    • Jade Jade says:

      You are right. There are more genres than paranormal and I think I’ll have to start delving into more YA genres as well. I have to say so far I’m enjoying YA dystopians the best.

  3. I haven’t read these so I can’t really weigh in, but I did dig your thought provoking post.
    Juju at Tales of Whimsy… recently posted..What We’ve Been Listening To…

  4. Rant On!!!

    LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE this post, Jade. It’s so true. Yes, some people are more skilled at picking up skills faster than other, but the at least they are putting effort into learning! In fact, that is how anyone learns, but putting effort into it.

    I often find myself taking breaks from YA. I find I enjoy it better when I do.
    Missie, The Unread Reader recently posted..Can Sex Save A Marriage? Guest post & giveaway with author Diane Escalera!

    • Jade Jade says:

      Thanks Missie! I’m usually reading Adult fiction but these kids are wearing me out…and I take plenty of breaks in between my YA reading. I’m just hoping it gets better.

  5. “Clackers!” <– LOL I LOVE that expression! I'm going to use it the next time I don't understand something in class — my teacher will probably take to using it too, right?? x) <3

    I prefer stronger characters to the damsel in distress ones any day! They don't have to be completely bad ass and rule-bending like Rose Hathaway from Vampire Academy because those girls are sometimes harder to connect with, but I like it so much better when the girl can actually hold her own, you know? =) But I find that for both The Iron Fey series and Mortal Instruments series, they start out with the heroines being pretty dependent, but they get SO much stronger later on! I really hope you think so too!

    Have an awesome Tuesday, Jade!
    Mimi Valentine recently posted..Guest Post & Interview with Jessica Shirvington + GIVEAWAY!

    • Jade Jade says:

      LOL, MiMi I would love to be a fly on the wall if you used that expression on your teacher. I think I would die laughing! And I totally agree. I prefer a strong kick ass girl to the damsel anyday. But if you are a damsel with power…learn to use it. I’m going to continue with these series.

  6. Great Post! And I agree, I’d much rather read a story about a girl who can take care of herself. If I suddenly had supernatural powers, I’d be taking advantage of every moment learning to use and control them. Ha, now I wish I had a supernatural power.
    Jessica (BookLover) recently posted..What Would Jane Austen’s ‘Pride And Prejudice’ Look Like As a Modern Vlog?

    • Jade Jade says:

      YES! Me too! Someone tells me I have powers, that’s all I’m thinking about until I’ve learned them inside and out. How these characters can be so dismissive of this is crazy to me.

  7. Jade why are you having me laugh out loud at work? I loved your rant!! I am reading the Shiver books (Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy) and I am having a hard time with Grace (the main character). So far she is not a werewolf but I am so over her right now. This give up everything in your life for a man is beyond me. Family, friends and maybe school too! REALLY!!!! Lord, don’t get me started. Great Post sista girl! Loved it!
    Alysia @My Little Pocketbooks recently posted..Cheap Reads #1

    • Jade Jade says:

      Oh no I hate to hear that because I want to read that series! Lord not another one! And I can’t understand that giving up everything business either. That’s another reason I couldn’t stand Bella from Twilight. How she was ready to give up everything was CRAZY. And glad I could get a chuckle out of you.

  8. I noticed the exact matter you are ranting about some time ago. like years. I don’t read much YA now but have said I was going to return so I able going to be very, very, very, selective with the books I choose and I think its going to be hard. so hard I just may swing right back to my regular genres.
    take care and happy reading. I know this was you ranting and I took it serously but JADE i could not help from giggling here and there.
    Sidne the Reading Socialite recently posted..Teaser Tuesday

    • Jade Jade says:

      LOL. I’m okay with the post getting some giggles. Although I’m so serious about it, I can see the humor in it all too. YES, be selective in your YA books, because the themes can become tedious and tiresome quick.

  9. Yes, I agree with this so much. I’ve only read TMI and it has always been my pet peeve. I kept expecting Clary to step-up and for Jace to sit down. I think The Infernal Devices is trying to steer away from this, but I haven’t seen it yet.
    Jess @ Books and Sensibility recently posted..Sense List Vol.6

  10. Brie says:

    You make such a great point, and I completely agree with you. I think if there’s a heroine that needs to be strong and be able to stand up for herself, it’s the YA heroine. Obviously not all YA readers are teenagers, but most of them are, and there are enough bad role models out there to add more in the books they read, especially when these books are so popular. This trend of unrealistic and weak heroines worries me a lot.
    Brie recently posted..Review: Caught in the Act by Jill Sorenson

    • Jade Jade says:

      I do wonder whta kind of impression these characters are having on teens. I’m sure there are mature ones that can take these things with a grain of salt. But I think others might start to think this is cute.

  11. You know what though? I see this all of the time in adult fiction too. And It makes me pretty cranky. I’ll allow for some helplessness early on in the series, but like you, I have limits. Take some self defense classes, if nothing else. And plus, who doesn’t love a good traingin mantage?
    ReadingPenguin recently posted..On Gambling: A Review of Devil’s Kiss by Zoe Archer

    • Jade Jade says:

      My Adult fiction books usually consist of strong females. And if they’re not strong at first, they quickly learn or are filled with such bravery that it offsets their weaknesses. But this trope is becoming overused and tired in YA.

  12. [...] talked about this one extensively in this post!  But it really burns my buns when a female character is repeatedly told that she possesses [...]

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