A Love Song to Strong Female Protagonists… & a Call for Strong, Modern Male Protagonists in YA Fantasy

Posted July 28, 2021 by Amber in Bookish Things / 0 Comments

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It feels a little weird to be saying this, but it’s been a long time since I read a YA Fantasy book with a strong male protagonist.  Over the last couple decades, the trope of “Strong Female Protagonist” has taken the reading world by storm.  I love these characters – when I was younger, I found them so empowering and now that I’m older I respect their drive and passion.  The Strong Female Protagonist who “Doesn’t Need To Be Rescued” and is “The Chosen One And Is Going To Kick Butt” is fun and witty and simply wonderful.  She reminds me specifically of the Halliwell sisters in the original Charmed series.

Piper Halliwell is the best character on that series and I will fight you.

I think the Strong Female Protagonist is still really important to YA Fantasy and of course I want to continue seeing her out there clashing swords with monstrous dukes and vanquishing demons.  But she’s not the only type of character out there….

I know that epic fantasy is overflowing with male leads that are problematic and misogynistic and part of moving toward the Strong Female Protagonist is moving away from that character.  Sure, there’s The Raven Boys and Six of Crows where there are male and female leads mixed together and the male leads are fairly decent human beings.  But not a single-POV book led by a male-identifying protagonist.

Fiction books as a whole are marketed more to women than men or non-binary readers – that’s a whole blog post in itself.  The lack of non-binary and gender fluid representation is also a whole post in itself.  The fact is, many young men and boys like to read too and they should also see themselves represented in something a little newer than Eragon. We talk about teaching men to respect women instead of teaching women to defend themselves against men – the publishing industry could stand to put forth a few positive, inspiring role models for male-identifying readers in the literature they promote.

For myself, I’m going to start looking a bit more for better balance on my protagonists.  So many books on my TBR have female leads and while I love them (I do!), I’d like to see better overall representation for every gender-expression.

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Which stories would you like to see continued?  Sometimes, it’s so hard to say goodbye!  Let me know in the comments!

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