On Strength

CONFESSION: I read Twilight this summer.

Like, really read Twilight. All four books, plus the novella. I hadn’t read it since high school, and realized over the last year that I had been helping to perpetuate a lot of ideas about the quality of the literature, even though I couldn’t talk about it at length aside from vague buzz words that everyone says when they talk about the negative effects of Twilight. I wanted to read them now that I’ve started writing consistently, and have taken some creative writing classes at the university level.
I won’t spoil everything that I discovered right now… But one thing I did realize was just why I loved this book so much in high school, and (maybe) part of why so many girls loved Bella Swan and her story.

I was Bella Swan.

I had an eerily similar story… Minus the paranormalcy, of course (or WAS it…?). I found myself wanting to rip my hair out reading Twilight this time around because I knew Bella was making the wrong decisions. I saw my past mistakes in hers. And yet, if my story had the same ending as Bella Swan’s, I don’t think I would have regretted it (although, as it is, I’m quite glad my ending was not the same). By the end of the fourth book, Bella makes it abundantly clear that she doesn’t regret those decisions.
Bella doesn’t match the standard definition of a strong character: she doesn’t really beat anyone up, she’s a pushover, and she’s easily manipulated if she thinks her loved ones are in danger. But Bella Swan also fiercely loves her family- it is her greatest trait. She charges head-first into danger for them enough times that sometimes you wonder how natural selection hasn’t won out against her yet.

Bella Swan is not “strong”. But she is a real teenager.

There’s not much I can say other than this: I want more real teenagers in YA. I want to see someone pitch a fit and make rash decisions and fall in love like a real teenager, and I don’t want to hear adults talk about how ridiculous it is. This is a topic that has gone a little viral lately, and so I put together this list of articles on strong female characters, and what that really ought to mean, because really, these people say it way better than I can. Click on the links and check them out! I highly recommend all of them.

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