Monday, July 4, 2011

*Snarky Rant Alert!* Where are the Heroes?

I just finished reading the novel I Am Number Four. An interesting premise--a young alien on the run with his mentor--quickly turned blah by over-the-top green references (whaddaya know? The bad guys are trying to take over earth because they poisoned their own planet by turning it into urban sprawl), waaaay too much angst (butting heads over the same girl--please, we've seen enough love triangles with Edward, Bella and wolf-boy-what's-his-name) and...

I disliked the "hero". Actually, I don't think I could even call him a "hero". He was just the main character.

Sorry. Four just wasn't a hero. He openly disobeyed his mentor's rules. He threw at least one hissy fit. He wasted his time on the trivial instead of realizing the big picture wasn't getting his way but saving the remnants of his people AND everyone on earth. And as for the love story...well, I didn't buy it. Maybe if he was older than fifteen...

I know, I know--all this could happen in a good book where the main character actually turns out to be the hero. Heroes are human (or...whatever. I suppose the best term to use in this case is "fallible"). They have to learn that the world doesn't revolve around them. But the difference between a real hero and Four is this--heroes grow. Four did not.

I'm finding this a trend--a young adult book with a good premise that I end up not liking as much because the hero doesn't learn. Foremost in my mind is the Artimus Fowl series. (Although, I must admit, those books were funny and original.) Artimus is a sketchy character anyway because he's an anti-hero, but maybe if he learned once in a while--if he stopped his schemes or even realized they had a greater price than he really wanted to pay--it would be better. I'd even say that the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is a partial example of this--despite everything, Percy just doesn't learn sometimes. (And yes, I unabashedly enjoyed that series. Yay for the new series to come!) Don't even get me started on the Kane Chronicles or Eragon.

And we're feeding this to our young adults...why?

I'm not advocating that every YA novel contain a hero who is perfect or even grows to be perfect. No WAY do I want to go back to the days of Little Lord Fauntleroy or the Elsie books. I'm not advocating that every YA have a "message". I'm not even advocating that we do away with all these books...I just admitted to enjoying some of them!

What I'd like to see would be more YA books with a good hero. A teen who, though he may be selfish and angsty, gradually learns to be a real hero. He doesn't have to be perfect, he just needs to try to grow. He needs to strive for that ultimate heroism. Teens don't need characters who just continue to act like a teen--they need characters who grow up. Like...Billy Bannister. Pippin and Merry. Peter and Edmund and Lucy and Caspian, etc.

OK, I'm done ranting now. What do you think about books (YA in particular) needing better heroes?

5 responses:

Lostariel said...

Oh, I wouldn't include Artemis. It did take five books, but in six and seven he really HAS developed. He betrayed Holly in 5, but eventually the remorse became too much for him and he risked his friendship to tell her the truth.
And she was NOT happy, oh boy...
I especially liked The Time Paradox because we got to see Artemis contrasted against a cruel, younger self, and he really hated himself.

As for Percy - I do love him, which is one reason I didn't really like The Lost Hero, but yeah... He's a bit thick.

Galadriel said...

I can't think of any examples at the moment, but yes, that is definately something to guard against.

Mary Ruth Pursselley said...

Hear, hear. I'm seeing the same trend you are, Heather. Eragon was the first time I really remember noticing it, but it pops up more and more, it seems, as time goes by.
Good post.

H. A. Titus said...

@Lostariel: Really? I guess that's what I get for not reading the whole series...I'll have to try it again.

Lostariel said...

Oh, whoops, I got my book numbers mixed up (but the point still stands).
6 was The Time Paradox, in which he lied to Holly to get her help in saving his mother's life.
7 is the latest, The Atlantis Complex, in which I don't remember villainous tendencies at all.
To be honest, I don't remember 5 really well... But in 4, I believe part of his problem came from his memories of the Folk having been erased, which caused him to lose a lot of the character he'd gained.
But eventually he remembered.
So anyway, all this to say, YES! You should try again.


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