Okay, okay, we've all read The Hunger Games by now, but have you noticed the recent influx of post-apocalyptic YA trilogies with badass heroines, especially in The Hunger Games, the Pure Trilogy, and the Divergent Series?
I just began reading the third book of the Pure Trilogy by Julianna Baggott, and I am once again thrilled by the strength of her heroine, Pressia. Sure, in all of these books, there are a few things that the feminist in me objects to (Trice is always so worried about pleasing Four in Veronica Roth's Divergent Series), but all in all, these are solid female role models.
And I look at my undergraduate students today, and I'm convinced these heroines have come just at the right time. Young women are a mess, as I was, and I wish that I could save them all. Maybe I can't, but these heroines are promising.
Her history- Katniss comes from District 12, a mining town set somewhere like Appalachia (and filmed there). Attached to the memory of her father who died in a traumatic mining accident, she illegally hunts outside of district boundaries to make sure her sister and mother are well fed. Personally, I like Katniss's history best because this (minus the post-apocalyptic dystopia) is the story my Barbies pretended: a tomboy heroine, dead but exalted father, emotionally absent mother, and dependent sibling.
Her motivation- Katniss is motivated by her inherent care to protect the innocent, especially her sister or anyone who reminds her of her sister. This is probably because she had to grow up quickly when her father was killed in a tragic mining accident and her mother became too depressed to care for Katniss and her sister. Because of her desire to protect her sister, Katniss volunteers for the Games, through which she is motivated to overthrow the government, which established the innocent-killing annual Games to keep the people submissive and obedient.
Her character- As a part of the Games, Katniss becomes a celebrity and is continuously threatened by the manipulative government and media of her society. Rather than let herself be manipulated or be used to manipulate others, Katniss bluntly remains genuine. Her character is only conflicted when her ability to protect the innocent and her genuity are at odds.
Young women are too easily manipulated or to freely manipulative; as a role model Katniss inspires not only resourcefulness but also determination to remain genuine and good (even if the odds aren't in her favor).
Beatrice "Trice" Prior
Her history- Trice grew up in Abnegation, a faction of her community which taught her to be self-less, but, in comparison to her parents and her brother, Caleb, Trice always felt a little too rambunctious and selfish to meet the expectations of her factor. Readers meet her at age 16 when she chooses a new faction: the dauntless.
Her motivation- Trice is motivated to be dauntless and fit in with her new faction. And even though she switches factions, she is motivated by the memory of her good and dedicated parents.
Her character- Trice constantly struggles between being taking a stand and being selfless and in all situations she ultimately chooses selflessness. Also, when Trice is faced with difficult situations she reminds herself that because she is unique, she can think of a way out that others might not have considered.
Trice is incredibly resourceful, like Katniss, and her confidence comes from that. Too many young women don't have confidence in their unique talents like Trice does. From her, they can learn to trust themselves and their individuality.
Her history- (This is the most complicated history to tell because so much is revealed at the end of the first book!) Pressia is a girl who was outside of the Dome when the Detonations happened. Those outside of the Dome, the Fused, melded with whatever they were near; in Pressia's case, she has a dollhead-hand that was fused to her in the explosion. Pressia grows up with her Grandfather, and she has an affinity for making small things out of metal.
Her motivation- Pressia is initially motivated by surviving her 16th when she is supposed to report to the OSR, the governing army, which is just really good at killing all its members in training. Eventually Pressia's motivation changes, and she starts to work toward creating a better society for all of the Fused.
Her character- Like the others, Pressia is always trying to do the right this, to fight for the greater good. Like Katniss and Trice, Pressia is a very strong young woman, but she as not as easily motivated by her suspected love for Bradwell.
Pressia's persistent ingenuity is more inspiring than either Katniss's genuine personality and Trice's confidence. Pressia is, of course, a worthy heroine, but she is never aware of it. Too many young women are focused on tangibly and immediate goals. They can learn from Pressia both how to survive and how to save the world.
So stop worrying about the reviews the Divergent movie got at the box office and start reading Pure.