The Qualifications of a YA Protagonist

I turned 19 last month.

It feels exactly the same way 18 does, but if a bearded stranger in a hood doesn’t ask me to join him on a mysterious quest at some point this year, imma sue some authors.

This is my last chance to be a YA heroine. I’m NOT missing it.

The only problem is, I’m not entirely sure I’d be the best candidate for a character in the Young Adult genre. (Nor any genre, really, though that’s beside the point.) I don’t have magic hair or magic hands or animals that speak to me. (Unless you count the battery-operated parrot in Cracker Barrel.)

Thus, I wrote down a list of qualifications to test my eligibility. Starting off with a grand ol’–

You must be female.

Yeahhhhhhh, pretty sure this one applies.

(Far be it from me to mention strong YA stories that have male protagonists, like The Giver or such. Those books definitely don’t exist.)

You are not like other girls.

I… own a chicken…? I once brought a bag of onions to a Christmas gift exchange because I ran out of time and couldn’t find anything else? I can crack all my knuckles and my thumbs individually?

Does that count?

You are strong and spirited! You fear nothing, not even death itself!!

*remembers the time she let a book get sent back before she could check it out because she couldn’t bring herself to go into the library and face the human behind the front desk*

Your parents don’t love you.

Or at the very least, are dead.

Sheesh, mom and dad, why couldn’t you have abandoned me on those gothic temple steps when you had the chance?


Oh yes, totally! I buy my own notebooks now instead of pirating them from my dad!

(*she lies*)

You don’t need no man!!!

Not even my dad?

…though if you end up with one by the end of the story, everyone will overlook it.

*desperately searches for a man who isn’t my dad*

But also, the man must fear you because obviously, you could best him at least a hundred times in mortal combat.

The closest I came to this was the time at work when I somehow knocked the entire shop vac off it’s cart and spilled water everywhere – just as a coworker entered the previously (blessedly) empty room. As a puddle of water spread towards his feet, he raised his eyebrows at me, who was previously hissing and muttering like a wet vampire.

“Depart!” I shrieked, turning my bloodshot eyes on him, channeling every ounce of terrifying fury into my gaze, the true rage of a goddess who turns men to stone in fear and—

“Sarah,” he said mildly, “I know you are a strong, independent woman, but do you need help?”

…yeah, never mind. I don’t fit this qualification at all.

You are ridiculously smarter than aforesaid Man.

*starting to wonder what his point is at all*

He must be hot.

Ah. There’s the point.

And you definitely DON’T like him.

Which is odd, because if I do my heroine job right, I’ll spend every three paragraphs obsessing over him.

But he must Respect you!!

Even though I don’t respect him? Niiiiice.

You must have a token Ethnic Minority Friend who does nothing but be Ethnic and Inclusive and Politically Correct.

Unfortunately, my ethnic friends are too interesting to fill that role. Oops.


At least, so says the author who hasn’t been a teenager in almost twenty years.

And obviously, there’s no adult figure who can help you sort through the angst and figure out where your life is headed.

Because your parents hate you, remember?

Someone will die (kudos if it’s your best friend).

Another man will enter your life.

I mean, I have a brother, so…

And you will be torn between your love for him and your love for the Hot One.

Never mind about my brother.

The new guy will actually do something important, unlike your other suitor whose only purpose is to Respect you and be a testament to your abundant strength.

I can get behind this new guy.

But obviously, in the end your love for the Hot One will prevail.

…but I thought I definitely didn’t like him?

And New Guy will wander off into the sunset to weep away the rest of his years, a victim of tragic love.


Something will probably explode.

Oh yay, fireworks!!

Kudos if it’s a person.


Double kudos if it’s your friends.


And triple kudos if they return from the dead in a shocking twist of events two minutes later.

So then, like… why did they even die in the first place…?

While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about resurrections!!

Yes, let’s! Jesus was crucified for our sins, but on the third day He rose again—

Not that kind.


Halfway through the story, the villain will reveal himself to be your long lost parent.

Like the time someone spilled coffee on my sketchbook and I found out the culprit was my mom?

You will lose a limb

I’ll pretend we’re talking about trees.

Or an eye

…yeah, we’re not talking about trees.

Or your hair

I would gladly surrender my hair in defense of my eyeballs.

Or your mental stability.

Which wasn’t terribly impressive to begin with.

You will lie and betray and possibly kill people, not to mention consecutively cheating on both your love interests, but deep down inside, you are a Good Person.

Oh to live in a world where morality is based solely on a hormonal teenager’s vague feelings of righteousness!

Because you’re on the good guys‘ side.

Wait, how did we figure out they’re the good guys when there’s no fixed morality—

And you fight against Evil.

…lying isn’t evil?

Above all else, you must follow your dreams!

And step on everyone who gets in the way! *side-eyes friend group who became nonexistent after Hot One was introduced*

You are the Chosen One–

Chosen as a child of God?

–because you’re dazzlingly beautiful.

Dang it.

Moral of the story: The day I become a soppy Young Adult protagonist is the day the genre dies.

My one consolation is in knowing most of you probably don’t fit these standards either.

(If y’all know of any YA that’s actually different from this mess, please, tell me. Please. I need a better selection.)

19, you better treat me well.


A brief word on the scavenger hunt from last week: I was going to post the giveaway results today, but a lot of folks were having trouble solving all the puzzles so I decided to extend the deadline to next week to give everyone a chance. I also put together a little walkthrough to help you out, which you can find here.

41 thoughts on “The Qualifications of a YA Protagonist

  1. Welp, you’re a little closer to your protagonistic goals than you were before writing this post.

    I think this friend over here is officially rendered dead from laughter and over-consumption of mirth.




    *actually dies*

    *wait not yet*

    I’ll… never… forget you.

    *head flops dramatically*

    *cracks open one eye*

    *whispers* Farewell.

    *draws mandatory ragged gasp*

    *stops breathing*

    *is actually gone*


    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, if only our parents had abandoned us when we were younger… *sighs* What a lost opportunity.

    This post was marvelous and hilarious! I would love to see one of these for every genre, and I vote for fantasy next.

    If you’re looking for YA that doesn’t follow this pattern, try Nadine Brandes (you’ve probably done this already, though) and K.B. Hoyle and… those are the only YA dystopian authors I can think of whose books don’t follow that pattern XD There are some better YA contemporaries and fantasies too, though.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ugh, too bad we had to end up with NICE parents… what a bother. 😝😉

      Yes, Nadine Brandes is great and I’ve read everything she’s put out! (Though I wasn’t super dazzled by Romanov, but apparently I’m in the minority there. 😏) Never heard of K.B. Hoyle, I’ll definitely check her out!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yep yep yep. I too am Trash. X’D

    Seriously though, YA characters can be SO DUUUMB. And what in the world is up with all the guys being worthless flops of “respect”???? UGH. And for ONCE I want to see a girl character that all the main guys DON’T end up liking. Can’t they all just be normal people, PLEASE??? The guys don’t always have to like the main girl character UUUUGH.

    Also, love triangles should burn in the fiery depths of Mordor (for crying out loud if you have a problem choosing between the two than you don’t love EITHER of them!!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. #TrashUnited

      I second all of this. Can you imagine a book where the guys don’t like the heroine?? EPIC. Better yet, a book that actually recognizes the obsessive/selfish/emotionally-based relationships usually dubbed as “love” is really just a crush, and forces the protagonist to overcome it through the course of the story. (As well as not getting the guy.)

      Ugh. The modern state of romance angers me greatly.


      Liked by 1 person

    2. The only love triangle I ever actually appreciated was one where the girl didn’t ever find out the second guy liked her, and he (of his own volition) gave her up because he cared not just about her, but about the other guy who liked her and he didn’t want to ruin or complicate either of their happiness.

      I wish love was portrayed like that more often. Instead of being a brutal and selfish fight to get the girl no matter what.

      Liked by 2 people

          1. yOu hAvEn’T wHaT *sputters* *coughs* THIS IS SOMETHING YOU’VE GOT TO TELL A GIRL!!! I! COULD! HAVE! SAID! A! NAME! *chokes from the horror and dies*
            (…my death is totally on your hands, let it be known)


            1. Foolish mortal! You do not yet realize I have the power to revive the dead!!

              *she says dramatically, knowing full well she doesn’t*

              No worries though. I already kind of knew who you were talking about. 😉


  4. And this, my friend, is why I avoid most YA books at all costs 😛 HOWEVER… this post was the result of all the terrible YA in the world, so I guess something good DID come out of the genre, right?!?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. tag yourself, i’m

    “ Or your mental stability.
    Which wasn’t terribly impressive to begin with.”

    and i’ve read quite a decent amount of YA—- no wait nvm that was nd wilson’s 100 cupboards heh *jumps ship and dies in laughter* i couldn’t pick a favorite quip, dangit, this was quite possibly the best thing i’ve read this month. you genius, you mad genius.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. “Oh to live in a world where morality is based solely on a hormonal teenager’s vague feelings of righteousness!”
    MaYbE wE dO aNd ThAt’S wHy It’S tHe wAy It Is!!
    I am off to do that scavenger hunt for real now, thank you for extending that 😅

    Liked by 1 person

  7. hehehehehehehehehehehehehehe….
    *laughs slowly and evilly for a few minutes*
    *stops when people in the near vicinity give her strange glances but resolves to quietly murder them in their sleep*
    Anyway, I have never actually read a YA “book” such as the ones you have described (see below for explanation on parentheses) BECAUSE 1) they are stupid 2) I don’t need that junk in my life and 3) why read a sappy teenage novel when you have Tolkien, BUT from what I have seen from my friends’ experiences with those…things we shall not even qualify as books are exactly what you so eloquently described up above.
    My own take would go something like this (with a bit of aid from your loverly description):
    “Oh, hello, it’s another book series about some idiotic fearless teenage girl–oh, and she’s also drop dead gorgeous, I forgot to mention–who goes on a quest to find, uh, something (her true identity most likely) and at some point discovers her supposedly dead parents are either traitors, murderers, or worse; also, there’s some dude who shows up and falls in love with her and she, of course, hates him but for some reason she, uh, probably kisses him more than once and eventually marries him, or she ditches him for some other idiot. All her friends die, and she has to kill her parents to reach her true self, but in the very last ‘breathtaking’ pages of the book, with all her dead friends lying around her and both her love interests staring in awe, she accepts who she truly is and becomes her true self and GOSH DARN IT if that doesn’t smack you in the feels I don’t know what will.”
    The Silmarillion, anyone? *Sniff* *Sniff*
    The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict? (yes, I will admit, I cried twice when I first read that).
    Every single other book that doesn’t star a stupid teenage girl whining about her unfortunate circumstances?
    Yeah. I’ll stop.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I have long held the suspicion that I’m the hapless best friend character rather than the protagonist- y’know, the normaler-than-the-protagonist-but-still-weird-enough-to-be-weird.
    This post had me laughing out loud to the point where my brother came upstairs from his lair to ask what was so funny xD

    Liked by 1 person

  9. AGGHHH this is amazing. 😂😂😂 Yes. Just yes.

    You should so do ones for other genres too. (Although judging by your audience’s reaction, you’re going to kill us all off that way. Proceed with caution, I s’pose.)


  10. PREACH. You covered everything, even the things no one ever addresses. WITH HUMOR. Thank you!

    Oh, girl, have I got the rec for you…. THE THIEF. A series. By Megan Whalen Turner.

    If it ever does any of these things (maybe one or two) it is in the least cliche way possible. And with the other things, it’s the opposite. Do not spoil yourself at any cost. (That includes blurbs and reviews.) Just read it. I have divined from what I know of you that it fits your taste exactly–at least as far as I know. I don’t think you in particular will be bored by the first book, but some people are. So just hold on till the ending and THEN you’ll be hooked enough to read the sequels. Which might hook you for life. (But you’re free to not like it. It’s just worth the chance that you will!)


  11. ok so I’m aware most of these might not be technically YA, but whatever. They’re all really good epic fantasy.
    Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan (well actually that can be kind of cliche at times, but still, it’s really good)
    the Dragon Keeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul
    Once and Future King by T. H. White (ok that one definitely isn’t YA, and I’m pretty sure you were more talking about modern books, but do I look like I care? This is a great book.)
    the Dragonriders of Pern series! dunno who it’s by.
    The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
    The Seer and the Sword by Victoria Hanley
    ordinarily, the rest of this would be consumed by practically every book (or essay) ever written by JRR Tolkien, but I’ve heard you’ve already discovered the marvelousness of the Arda legendarium, so I will refrain. If you haven’t read his On Fairy Stories essay, though… *shakes head*


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