Last time, I did five lady authors I love, so I thought this time I’d do five women characters I love. I definitely have a “type” when it comes to leading ladies in the books I love to read: unlikable. She’s probably the villain in someone else’s story. She likely defies what it means to be ladylike–either by the standards of her own society, or by ours. And when it’s time, she’ll make the decision that’s right, even if it’s not popular, or maybe even if it’s not Good.
1. Scarlett O’Hara, Gone with the Wind
This is hardly an original entry, I know, but it deserves the #1 slot because I just love her so much. She’s brutally selfish, ambitious, determined, and practical. Scarlett O’Hara didn’t let a little thing like the Civil War keep her from getting everything she wanted. Her selfishness was toned down in the movie, and things like the children she had by her first two husbands were removed. Scarlett is the benchmark against which I judge all female characters and she’s the reason I like “unlikable” women leading stories.
2. Bronwyn Lewis, How Far Would You Have Gotten If I Hadn’t Called You Back?
Bron starts the book a teenager, and so most what makes her unlikable is just normal adolescent selfishness and short-sightedness. I was twelve or so the first time I read this book and it was important for me to see that as bad as things could get–and for Bron, things got very bad–it could all turn out all right in the end. That selfish mistakes you make can be forgiven, that you can learn from them.
3. Heris Serrano, Serrano Legacy books
I wanted to be Heris when I grew up. I still wouldn’t mind. She’s tough, she’s capable, and she’s willing to stand up for what she believes is right, and for people who can’t stand up for themselves. Heris was much more masculine than I thought straight women could be, but in the end, she gets the guy she’s wanted, and that was an eye-opener for me. (This is actually referenced in a later book, when Esmay Suiza’s therapist points out that by the standards of the society Esmay grew up in, her choices–choices much like the ones Heris made–defy her gender role, but by the standards of the Familias Regnant, she fits in fine.) Heris made tough choices and stepped on toes. But she kept going.
4. Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games books
I think one word sums up Katniss: survivor. And I loved the conversation between Gale and Peeta in the third book when Gale said that Katniss would choose whichever one of them could help her survive. She’s so practical and single-minded and she has such great capacity for caring–look at just her relationships with Prim and Rue if no further–and she is so determined. She reminds me so much of Scarlett in her ruthless pursuit of what matters to her.
Jaina is bossy, a little bit reckless, and can at times be incredibly selfish. I feel like I grew up with her because I started reading the Young Jedi Knights books when I was just a couple of years younger than she was when they started. She’s tough and she’s capable and no matter what, she just keeps moving forward, even if she makes mistakes, even if she has to do things that hurt more than anything should ever hurt.