I consider myself a spec fic reader, and it’s only within the past couple of years that I’ve begun embracing YA contemporaries as well as my usual fare of fantasy, sci-fi, historical, paranormal and even thrillers. The magic of contemporary YA, to me, is finding the book that I can relate to. The more I relate, the more my heart gets broken when things go wrong. Earlier this year I read Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard. While I identified with some aspects of the main character, Caddy, it was more the situations the characters were in that hit home so strongly that I felt the book had been written specifically for me.
There are a few characters I identify with in fiction, probably more than I should.
Sydney Sage from the Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead
Number one is Sydney Sage. Intellectual, ignorant of boys, she think before acting. She sticks to her beliefs until something is strong enough to challenge them, then she reassesses and goes from there. She has body image issues which make her very human. She needs to know everything and be in control. She feels responsibility keenly and takes it seriously. Also, something major and life-changing happened to Sydney in Silver Shadows, which was released just after my own life-changing event (she says without trying to spoil anything). My husband was also diagnosed with the same mental illness as Adrian at the same time the books were published, so Sydney and I both became carers at the same time, too.
Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
Hermione Granger obeys rules and respects authority until she realises both can be wrong. I know a lot of young girls probably identify with Hermione because young girls who read are probably more intellectual, like her. And Rowling kind of based Hermione on herself, except made her, you know, more everything, so I think Hermione’s easy to identify with. The other females in the novel are all a bit kooky – villains, weirdos, mothers etc. Hermione might be the only age-appropriate girl for young readers to identify with. But it’s not just that young female readers tend to be bookish and smart, like Hermione, but I also found her quiet competitiveness the same as mine. She wants to be the best. She’s the brightest witch of her age, the smartest in the class, and knows her way around the library. She works hard on her schoolwork and thinks getting expelled is worse than death. UM HELLO ME TOO.
Ellie Cohen from It Felt Like A Kiss by Sarra Manning
This is an adult book, not YA, but it still made an impact on me.
Ellie was a ‘good girl’ who never asked for help, never took charity off anyone, struggled through school, kept her secret, worked her way up to a cushy job, and often gets accused of ex-boyfriends of being high strung, uptight, and in need of relaxing. That last part hit a little raw spot in me. In high school, I was the ‘good girl’ while all my friends were smoking and having sex and experimenting with drugs and alcohol. To this day I’ve never been drunk, and I was never invited to a high school party. Seeing my life reflected in Ellie’s really stung, especially when the accusations started flying. I felt like the author had taken a look at one of my worst fears and delivered it right on the page: that I’m boring, in need of relaxing, and too uptight. It might not be true, but it’s still something I fear.
So what about you? Do you see reflections of yourself in book characters? If so, which ones? If not, which characters would you like to be more similar to?