YA: Long Live the Female Protagonist

The Whale Rider

To a strong female protagonist:

It’s been a decade since I saw the movie The Whale Rider. I cried throughout the entire movie. I cried for the whales. I cried for the lost traditions and the stupid traditions. But mostly I cried for the completely unfair way Kahu is treated by her grandfather and others because she is a girl.

I knew the book would be even more emotionally charged because Witi Ihimaera wrote it after his daughter asked him, “Why are the boys always heroes?” And any father worth his salt would write a story ALL daughters would be proud to read.

So, I’ve finished it and (no surprise here) I bawled. Many times. On the subway. At the dining room table. Everywhere. Kahu is a wonderful and tragic character. Wonderful because she is strong and wise and good. Tragic because she feels badly about the one thing she cannot change: being a girl. But in the end, Kahu triumphs and becomes a role model for female readers everywhere; although some will argue she does what she does to please her grandfather and not because she is a strong female.

However, she has paved the way for some of my favourite YA novels that feature strong female protagonists like Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior, or a cluster of both male and female protagonists like Harry and Hermione. It makes me happy when my students can see strong female characters (both good and evil) because I didn’t have many – aside from Anne (of Green Gables) and Jo March.

So read this book and love it! Long live the Female Protagonist!

Libby

PS Who’s your fave female?

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Filed under Books, Teaching Literature, Young Adult

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