Not the Girls We Think They Are: On unattractive female characters in fiction

Jane Eyre (2011)

Jane Eyre (2011)

“She isn’t ugly enough.”

This was my friend’s comment on the actress playing Tris Prior in the movie Divergent as we stood in line to buy tickets.

“She wouldn’t be my type if I were into girls,” I replied, thinking I’d missed the punch line of a joke and trying to compensate with humour of my own.

“No,” my friend insisted.  “People are complaining about the actress being too pretty because in the book Tris is supposed to be ugly.  Remember?”

We’d both read the book.  My friend enjoyed it more than I did, and as a result seemed to remember certain details better than me as well.

But now that she mentioned it, I did recall something about Tris considering herself unattractive, or in the very least, plain, and that she was sure her male crush would dislike her because of it.

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Should Authors Be Good Role Models?

JK Rowling

I recently concluded that reading Young Adult dystopian isn’t for me.

Admittedly, having just celebrated my 35th birthday, it’s hardly a revelation that I’m the genre’s target audience.

However, my conclusion came even less recently than that; it happened about a month ago when I finished my sixth YA dystopian title this year after Suzanne Collins’s Mockingjay, Beth Revis’s Across the Universe trilogy, and Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season:

The uber-popular Divergent, by Veronica Roth (soon to be a movie in 2014).

In this book, all 16-year-olds – the main character, Tris, included – undergo often violent and competitive initiations in order to be inducted into one of four societal factions that go on the govern the rest of their lives (full plot summary here).

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On Military Fiction and Other Stories About War – A Remembrance Day-inspired reflection

Remembrance Day

When I was younger – perhaps being around 13 or 14 years old – I developed a fondness for military fiction.

I’m not entirely sure why this was.  Even though my father spent 30+ years in the military before retiring, his preferred genres at the time were westerns and historical fiction, so I wasn’t influenced by his reading preferences.

Nor nor was I by his specific profession, for he served in the Navy, yet I was reading primarily about the activities of the Army.

I remember picking up a novel about the Vietnam War at the library.  It had an eye-catching cover, and once I started reading, it wasn’t long before I was utterly absorbed.

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What’s Good About Twilight: Observations from a non-Twihard with a head-cold

Every time I get really sick, I end up watching something I otherwise would have avoided.

This tendency is born of a desire for easily-digestible entertainment in my physically diminished state.

Last time I was sick, I watched the entire first season of the cartoon Transformers: Prime (and later went follow the show obsessively to its conclusion two seasons later, but that’s a topic for another blog post).

This time, it was the last three movies of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga that I’d yet to see: Eclipse, Breaking Dawn pt. 1, and Breaking Dawn pt. 2.

I’d previously watched the first two films – Twilight and New Moon – years ago at the behest of Twihard friends, and swore I’d never watch another.  After all, there was just so much to dislike:

  • Edward’s behaviour toward Bella was stalker-ish and controlling
  • Bella, as a character, was dull as a spoon, possessing no interesting qualities nor being an active (as opposed to passive) participant in her own story
  • Edward was way too old to be in a romantic relationship with Bella
  • Neither Bella’s mother nor Edward’s had jobs (unlike both of their fathers)
  • As a whole, the story glamourized unhealthy romance for its target audience of impressionable young girls.

And yet….

Maybe it was the Advil Cold + Sinus at play, but as I watched the final three movies, I found they weren’t all bad.  Indeed, there were a number of elements of the Twilight Saga that found quite enjoyable, both as a consumer of stories and a creator of them:

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Adventures in Reading: New Planets and the New Adult Genre

(A/N: Mild spoilers for Beth Revis’s Across the Universe series)

Here’s a scenario for you:

Imagine you had the opportunity to help colonize a new planet located hundreds of light-years away.  This would involve saying goodbye forever to everyone and everything you know and love on Earth, being cryogenically frozen for centuries, and shipped off into the stars.

Would you go?*

This question is brought to you by a dystopian young adult sci-fi series dealing with this very subject: Beth Revis’s Across the Universe trilogy.  This trilogy includes Across the Universe, A Million Suns, and the final book of the series – Shades of Earth – which I read back in February.

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Adventures in Reading: A tale of two tyrants (in two parts)


As previously mentioned, one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 is to read 12 books.

Twelve books in 2013 is a book a month(ish), and once the New Year hit, the countdown was on.

The problem was, on January 1, I was midway through a research book for my novel that I had to finish to continue writing.  Yet, this title couldn’t count as book #1 since I was, indeed, already halfway through it.

To compromise, I took another book I was also halfway through and counted the two halves as one.  And as it happened, the two books – John, King of England by John T. Appleby and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – both dealt with the subject of tyrants and people’s responses to their actions.

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