Ooh, I wonder who that Meredith girl is?! Well, before I get too carried away on how awesome Veronica Roth is, let's get back to the overall concept of "Realistic Teenage Characters" (I promise Veronica Roth will show up again later in this post)
Let's take a look a what Phoebe North said about herself as a teenager, keeping in mind that she was a "pretty good kid."
|The uber cool Phoebe North|
As I remarked in my comment on Phoebe North's post (the one that Veronica Roth mentioned!), I don't want "tiny, cute flaws." For example: "Aw, she's clumsy. She has weak ankles." or "She's so pretty that people don't like her." Oh, boo hoo, there are bigger problems in the world. Yes believe it or not- I want to see characters make mistakes, I want to see all their issues and imperfections. That's what makes me relate to a character the most. When I read a more or less "perfect character," it's harder to relate, and even more so, that kind of makes me feel lame.
If teenage girls are only reading about the girl with the "too pretty problem" what do you think that can do to their self esteem? I want honest characters, ones that make mistakes, have flaws. None of us are perfect, and I like characters to have the same number of problems that real teenagers have.
We had to read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson for school and I thought the book was so, so incredible and one of the most realistic books I've ever read. And it's not just that the main character, Melinda, seemed "real", it was more so that she acted and thought just like a real teenage girl would. Another book that has a character like Melinda- The Ruby Oliver series by E. Lockhart. Ruby Oliver is such a realistic character with big problems and enormous mistakes. Also authors like Stephanie Perkins, Lindsey Leavitt, Melina Marchetta, and Jenny Han do a good job of capturing the teenage voice. In terms of male characters, I think John Green does such a phenomenal job. (And recently he's also showed that he's great at writing female voices as well!)
There are even plenty of non-contemp books with realistic characters. (Don't say it can't be done, because it can.) Books like Divergent by Veronica Roth where the main character makes big mistakes and has flaws. Also, Shannon Hale. I mean, have you read Austenland? The part where Jane feels like she's not getting enough exercise and decides to run through the gardens lifting up her petticoats? Probably one of the most realistic scenes I've ever read.
Now of course, I always want to see teenage protagonists change, grow, and maybe get over some of that "angst." But more than anything I want a realistic, very imperfect teenage character than I can relate to. We all make mistakes, none of us are perfect, and I think that our characters should portray that too.