For my first blog post, I am going to take up the #Rainbowblogchallenge, hosted by lots of bloggers, including Ellebiblio. The first colour is Red, and here is my take on angry characters. Thanks to all the bloggers. I will link you all on Instagram.
It’s not really who is angry in YA, but rather why and to what degree. Every teen is angry for any number of (justifiable?) reasons, but the depiction of one whose rage is convincing, yet still able to garner sympathy, is hard to find yet worth it if you could find one.
I found two 2016 releases and one due out in January, two with male main characters, and one with a spectacularly uncompromising girl. This ratio is valid, and reflects the reality and the truth represented in fiction. Boys are often more angry, and we have more angry boys in YA lit. Sam in One Would Think the Deep (June 2016), and Griffin from History is All You Left Me (January 2017) have both lost loved ones, and their rage spills over the page.
McGinnis has a different agenda. Her protagonist Alex in The Female of the Species (September 2016) is also grieving the death of a loved one (her sister), but her rage depicts a female prepared to kill, and confronts readers to contemplate rape culture. It’s brutal.
In all three circumstances the character has to work through not only grief, but guilt. If only I hadn’t… If I had just… what if I didn’t say that? The only way through to acceptance is to confront the negative thoughts and look to the future. Of course that is sometime impossible for some characters. In Alex’s case, it’s not that she can’t move beyond her guilt, it’s that she refuses to back down from bullies, and stands up to protect the vulnerable. This behaviour will have dire but not unexpected consequences. There’s a whole other blog post about the resolution of The Female of the Species, but that’s for another time.
Teens are an angry lot, but often it’s understandable. What’s important is how the author depicts them dealing with their anger, controlling it, and coming to accept it. Usually we see optimism, hope and triumph. But not always.