Characters I Love (That The Book Wants Me To Hate)

Whitley's not buying your cheap stereotyping.

Image from Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.

There are a few character archetypes that are common nowadays in YA books as minor antagonists.  Usually they’re just in there for an annoying flavor of drama, a counterpoint to the major drama with the Big Bad.  We’re supposed to dislike these characters, sneer at them as much as the main character does, and agree that they are generally un-awesome.

Well… I don’t.  And it’s gotten to the point where I’m so annoyed at how often they’re cast as minor villains that I automatically feel inclined to adore them when they show up.

  • The Cheerleader – You know her.  You (are supposed to) hate her.  The Queen Bee Bitch with the simpering smile and the tight uniform and the *gasp* overt sexuality.  *faints from shock*  You know what else?  She *wait for it*  *seriously, you’re going to have a heart attack* wears too much make up.  I know.  I know.  You can sit down for a minute if you need to recover.  But I have a soft spot for cheerleaders, and the more annoying the better.  Mostly because I have a vastly different idea of annoying from a lot of YA books.  I’d rather have a girl who knows how to strut when she wants to than a ‘good girl’ who confuses her first blush of lust with poetry.  Besides that… Have you seen cheerleaders in action?  No, not that ‘action,’ the actual cheering stuff.  They’re awesome!
  • The Nay-Sayer – You know who I mean.  That one character in every group that’s instantly suspicious of the MC, the one that always has to annoyingly pop up and say “this plan is stupid” or “why are we even listening to her?”  The doubter.  (S)he-who-glares-from-across-the-room.  The one person who doesn’t even want to become friends with the suspicious newcomer.  But, wait, yeah, the MC usually is pretty suspicious, popping up at random with outlandish claims and “so bad it might work” plans.  And when you look at it from the outside, the fact that other characters sway over to the MC’s side on the basis of very little is even more suspicious. (Double suspicious points in any canon with possible mind control.)  Yeah, I’m totally on the side of McGrouchyPants over there.
  • Lady Ambition – Are you a ‘well-bread’ woman in a pre-feminism society who is looking to make a good match based on priorities other than love?  FUCK YEAH, I LOVE YOU.  Don’t listen to the blushing virginal malcontent in the corner going on about gilded cages.  I mean, granted, she’s right, but you are actually doing shit that doesn’t involve whining and conveniently falling in love with a duke anyway.  Marry that rich old guy, smother him in his sleep, and take the town by storm as a wealthy young widow. Perhaps not the most patriarchy-smashing route you could take, but not everyone’s a mold-breaking leader, and I’m not going to hate on you for doing whatever you can given the situation.  (Besides, Little Miss CageBreaker is probably going to come to you for money for her activist group.  Sneer at her before helping; I won’t judge.)
  • The Conniver – I see this character most in books that try to be ‘girl power’ but have only a narrow (physical) definition of ‘strength.’  Since the MC can fight her way through an entire army without a scratch, other girls who use things like “wiles” and “scheming” and “manipulation” are seen as too weak to get their way the right-honorable (punching) way.  But every time this happens, I’m on the side of the girl using social skills and smarts to get her way.
  • The Boy of the Month Club – That one girl who seems to be on a different arm every time you see her.  She falls for guys at the drop of a hat, then discards them as soon as someone new comes along.  These days, the BotM girls seem evenly split between antagonists and best friends, but in both cases, we’re not supposed to view them positively.  Distain in the worst case, amused pity in the best case, but never approval.  What greatly amuses me, though, is that many female MCs of long-running series turn into this themselves.  Got to keep that romantic tension high, after all!  Oh, but let’s never admit to it.  Instead it will be deep, soul-churning conflict full of ‘real’ feelings.


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