The Twilight series: A New Moon with old trends

<em>New Moon</em> movie poster
New Moon movie poster

I wouldn’t describe my feelings for the Twilight saga as “love” or even “like,” but more along the lines of “obsessed.” When I read the four books in the Twilight series, along with millions of teenage girls, I was engrossed in a world where one could go to school with vampires and be best friends with a werewolf.

However, another feeling rivaled my fanatic obsession while reading the Twilight saga; extreme aggravation.

One of the reasons why I was interested in reading the Twilight series is that I love books with a strong female lead character. My hopes for Bella Swan as the strong main character started to crumble when I delved a little deeper into the folds of the Twilight world.

Bella has a lot of potential, with her passion, wit, and stubbornness. At times the reader is tricked into thinking Bella is the strong female lead we wish we had more of because we can see her obstinate thoughts and read her bold inner monologue.

But all of that is undermined by the fact that she is constantly seen as the damsel in distress. Stephenie Meyer, the author, chose to put Bella in situations where she was completely dependent on the supernaturally strong men in her life.

Bella rescued
Bella (Kristen Stewart) is saved yet again by her supernatural friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) in New Moon

It isn’t until the of the last book, Breaking Dawn, that Bella actually has an opportunity to showcase her abilities, but even then, Bella undermines her own impact. Edward, her vampire lover, tells Bella her talents saved the family, but we never see Bella own that fact herself.

Millions of young (and not so young) readers have read the Twilight series and are going to flock to the second movie, New Moon, in theaters November 2009. I know there are stories out there that are just as interesting as Twilight AND show girl characters as powerful actors in their own worlds.

<em>Ella Enchanted</em> by Gail Carson Levine
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

So, where are the compelling stories with strong girls leading the charge? One of my favorite young adult novels with a fantastic main character is Ella Enchanted. Ella is smart, funny, and determined on saving herself in this fairytale with a twist.

What other books out there should girls be reading? Add your ideas to the comments section. Don’t forget to recommend books with action-oriented girl main characters to ALL young readers. It is just as important for boys to see examples of strong females as it is for girls.


13 thoughts on “The Twilight series: A New Moon with old trends

  1. A wonderful YA fiction book for girls I read not so long ago is Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis . It’s about a woman who joined the African American battalion of the Women’s Army Corps during World War II and in the present is driving across the country with her two teenage granddaughters. It’s been nominated as an Amelia Bloomer Book which is a great place to find books with strong female characters.

    The Forest of Hands and Teeth (by Carrie Ryan) also had a very strong female character and is intensely action-oriented. With the vivid descriptions of the zombies, I was scared to shut my eyes!

  2. My favorite story is Beauty and the Beast. From the stories i read so far, Bella is the only one that is not saved but tries to save her father, and not just that, but she sees the beauty in the Beast, she is smart, brave and stubborn, and she still gets her happy ending 🙂

  3. i cannot recommend enough the dark angel trilogy, an old fantasy trilogy by meredith ann pierce. you see the heroine gradually blossom from a meek maid servant into a powerful, self-confident being. the ending is amazing!

  4. I highly recommend three books/series:

    1. Oddly enough, another Stephanie Meyer book: The Host. This book is not only better written than Twilight, but has a much more interesting heroine. Actually, two heroines…but I don’t want to spoil the story!

    2. The Dealing With Dragons trilogy, by Patricia Wrede: Cimorene is a princess who insists on learning Latin, fencing, reading, and other un-princesslike activities. Upon learning that she is slated to be married to a doltish prince, she runs away and convinces a group of dragons to “kidnap” her. Not only good, but very funny as well!

    3. The Abhorsen Trilogy, by Garth Nix: this series, which begins with the book Sabriel, focuses on young women with destinies to fulfill. Very good fantasy writing, highly recommended!

  5. For little girls, I love the Eloise books, by Kay Thompson, and also the Ramona Quimby series, by Beverly Cleary. Those characters are both spunky little girls who think for themselves and aren’t afraid to rebel or get into trouble.

    Also, with all the popularity that vampire stories are having right now, I’m surprised that Buffy isn’t having a stronger surge in popularity.

    The story began with a movie (which I don’t recommend), and a television show, which is excellent, but there are also tons of books based on the series.

    Buffy is a great female character, because of her strength, courage, and also sensitivity. Her strength may be superhuman, but unlike many male superheroes, her emotional struggles are more complex and interesting. Instead of repeatedly rescuing her romantic interests, she often fights alongside them, or against them, and even has to kill one of them–to save the universe, of course.

    I also think that Buffy is one of the few shows that features male and female characters in equal numbers (or close to them), and showing both sexes as strong and weak, good and evil, etc. The story truly has a feminist perspective, in my opinion.

  6. I used to love Twilight when it first came out. But by the time Breaking Dawn came, I was older, and I’d heard so many airheaded girls in my class screaming about “OMG RPATTZ IS SOO HAWT!!!” I was ready to snap. I don’t enjoy the series anymore. (for more reasons than just that, including Bella turning out to be a weak character, and analyzing the book in general, but still).
    I loved Ella Enchanted when I was younger! The Two Princesses of Bramire was also a favorite, also by Gail Carson Levine.
    There was also a series about a girl and dragons I loved in junior high, but I don’t remember what it was called.

  7. I love reading YA with strong female leads, and have read some good ones recently. If you like vampires, there’s Melissa de la Cruz’s “Blue Blood” series, which combines romance, the Upper East Side, and strong women with a great plot and interesting theology and vampires. The “Evernight” series by Claudia Gray stars Bianca Oliver, and is similarly great.

    Then there is “Rampant” by Diana Peterfreund which is about Astrid Llywellen, a young girl in the US who gets sent to Rome by her mother to hunt killer unicorns. Yes, that’s right. KILLER UNICORNS. (This book is so awesome and deals with such great feminist issues, i can’t even recommend it enough, except to say that it’s a series!)

    Libba Bray’s “A Great and Terrible Beauty” trilogy is set in Victorian London and deals with girls and growing up, Scott Westerfeld’s “Uglies” series stars two seriously kick-ass girls (Tally and Shay), Maureen Johnson does some good stuff with her earlier books, and Melissa Walker’s “Violet in Private” series is fabulous starring a girl who is plucked from her normal life working at the local movie theater and moved to New York to be a world famous model. (And it doesn’t fall into the normal crazy traps! Violet is real and honest, and I am always impressed by this series.)

    I have so many more, but those are the first that come to mind . . . and man, I definitely feel your frustration about Bella – she *could* have been so great, and yet she never took agency and she never felt sure of herself. It was really quit annoying.

  8. I’d strongly recommend a fairly new book out there, Savvy by Ingrid Law. It follows a soon-to-be 13-year-old girl who takes matters into her own hands in an attempt at what she believes is to save her beloved father. The heroine in this book is strong and bold, and she knows what she wants and what she doesn’t need right now. I read it shortly after it came out but just found out when trying to find the author’s name again that it won a Newberry Honor Medal this year. I’m looking forward to much more from Ingrid Law, as she creates wonderfully full characters whom you actually care about.

    I second any Madeline L’Engle book: Meg is one of the strongest female characters I’ve ever read, and L’Engle’s books hold up across time.

    Both the Law and the L’Engle books will grab a hold of a reader of any gender, because the action is fairly fast-paced with interesting things happening to the characters.

  9. Anything by Gail Carson Levine is excellent. She has another book, slightly less well known but taking place in the same world as Ella Enchanted, called Fairest. This book depicts another young, strong protagonist overcoming adversity, while struggling with and overcoming issues of self-worth. Someone already mentioned The Two Princesses of Bamarre, which is another of my favorites.
    It should be noted, however, that if you’re interested in Ella Enchanted, the movie is so different from the book that it ought to be called something else, and Ella is not nearly as impressive, nor is any other part of the movie, compared to the book. Read it. Don’t watch it.
    Another good series, from what I have seen, is Cry of the Icemark. I’ve only read the first book, but the female protagonist in it is very powerful and independent, though young.
    Of course there are the classics. There are only three significant female characters in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but each of them is very powerful, beautiful and strong in her own way. And Hermoine in Harry Potter is no pushover. For younger audiences, female leads abound in The Chronicles of Narnia. (Once again, read the books-don’t watch the movies.) And there’s always Little Women, with strong-minded Jo and strong-willed Amy.

  10. I’d recommend Tamora Pierce and the Song of the Lioness series. She has other series too, but I haven’t read them so I can’t say much, but Song of the Lioness is about a girl who pretends to be a boy so she can be a knight. Definitely a strong leading woman, and it deals with a lot of growing up issues as well.

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