Why Do ALL Characters In YA Have To Be Attractive?

Or, my original title: Why Do Characters In YA All Have To Be 100% Super Fucking Attractive? A Rant Brought To You By A Cassandra Clare Book! YAY!

angry damon salvatore

If you guys follow me on Goodreads (which you totally should, btw) you might have seen that I have been reading Cassandra Clare’s Tales From The Shadowhunter Academy and complaining about a certain aspect of Cassie’s characters that was really getting on my nerves this time around. Have you guys guessed what that aspect is yet? If you read the title, you definitely did: the attractiveness of the characters! And how that is the most important trait about any of them.

Any given character is really stunning/beautiful/etc first and foremost and anything else is just secondary. Isabelle is a stunning woman before she is a kickass shadowhunter. Same goes for George and other characters. I get it, they are beautiful – you don’t have to point this out every time someone appears on the page. I got it after the first ten mentions.

getting angry

If you have read any or all of Cassie’s books you probably know what I’m talking about. But Cassie definitely isn’t the only Young Adult author who puts such importance on her characters’ appearances. Sarah J. Maas is definitely on that list too. Not that I mind. But it still annoys me to no end when an author continues to hit me over the head with the attractiveness of their characters.

I feel like its quite difficult to find protagonists in Young Adult literature that aren’t thin, with beautiful eyes, full lips and great hair – and of course, they don’t know about their good looks. What would YA be without the (mostly) female protagonist who doesn’t know she’s beautiful (do you have One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful stuck in your head yet?).

you dont know youre beautiful

The majority of people don’t look like that. We’re not all thin. Not all of us have great hair or skin. We have ‘imperfections’. I want to see that reflected in the books I read too! I know that both Leigh Bardugo and Becky Albertalli have fat girls as part of their main cast of characters (Nina in Six Of Crows, Nim in Wonder Woman: Warbringer and Molly in The Upside Of Unrequited) (those are just off the top of my head) and I truly appreciate this. More than you might think. It’s fantastic seeing yourself reflected in the media you consume!

If I would get my pick, I would love seeing more fat protagonists in Young Adult literature. I want to see reality reflected more often and accurate in the books that are being published – and this obviously goes beyond just wanting to see people that aren’t all thin! Society is racially diverse, part of a broad spectrum of sexualities and gender identities. I want to see more of that too. Definitely. It’s just not the main point of this blog post, please excuse that I don’t mention them more.

lets chat 1

Obviously, I understand that there are probably many more books out there featuring fat main characters that I haven’t found yet – or heard about yet. I know that Dumplin also features a fat main character. But if you guys have any recommendations for great books with fat characters, please share them! I would love to add more of them to my TBR!

How often do you guys find yourselves reading a book and wondering why on earth every character has to be so attractive? Do you ever want to go Hulk on a book because of it? Because I sure was ready to.

hulk smash
In this case, Loki is the book and I’m Hulk. No book was actually harmed.

Do you find it easy to find books that have fat main characters (or characters, in general) represented or is it something you have to actively go out and search for? How do you feel about that? Do you think there has been a change in representation as far as different body types go? Let’s discuss in the comments below! I’m really interested to hear you guys’ thoughts on this!

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14 thoughts on “Why Do ALL Characters In YA Have To Be Attractive?

  1. It bugs me so much that pretty much every YA character is either stunningly beautiful or just plain. There’s no in-between area at all. I always notice it whenever male characters are described because they for some reason always have perfectly cut abs when in reality no teenage boy looks like that. I actually know very few books with fat main characters, which is quite a shame, but when I do find them the book usually tends to be about the character being fat and gaining confidence.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t even think about that contrast in YA characters, but you’re 100% right! But even then, the ‘plain’ characters are still considered rather beautiful because obviously they just hadn’t realized it themselves yet and someone else points it out to them.

      Oh yeah, having perfectly cut abs is a must have for any male character! And it’s not just teenagers that don’t look like that. I don’t think most of the men I know in real life have even a hint of abs. Let alone a perfect six pack or something.

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  2. Hi Swetlana, I agree so much with you. It’s a pet peeve of mine as well! I roll my eyes whenever I read about a beautiful character who doesn’t know that she’s attractive XD i think I wouldn’t even mind if there was an attractive MC who knows it and is obnoxious about it haha. I agree that YA novels should feature MCs who are of different shapes, sizes and ethnicities. My favourite YA novel with a fat heroine is The Upside of Unrequited, which is such a cute and touching story.

    Great post 🙂

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  3. This post is SOO TRUE! I hate that the characters in YA are either plain looking or super hot. I’d also like to see someone who has acne. I’ve had bad acne for years, but it’s cleared up nicely recently. I’d love to read about a character who deals with the major issues of acne but still manages to have a good life (family, friends, boy/girlfriend, etc.). Where are THOSE stories?! lol

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    1. I 100% agree! YA is dominated by the same type of characters and it’s disappointing! But I have hope that things are going to change – it might just take a while. The book community has been so amazing at being vocal about what they want to see, I think publishers will listen at some point!

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  4. honestly, i don’t even think about that anymore. i read it, but i put it aside, because it’s always the same. i mostly imagine the characters on my own, without thinking they are oustandingly beautiful. for me, these are just normal characters, you see in every day life. otherwise all my books wouldn’t make that much fun 😀

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  5. AHAHAHHA YESSSS. I totally get that sometimes authors don’t want to outright state that their character is “ugly”, but I mean, do they ALLLL have to be “pretty” or “handsome” or “beautiful” or “good-looking”??? there are more average-looking people than extremely pretty or ugly people so like?? And even then, just because they’re not beautiful in societal standards doesn’t mean their beautiful in their own ways?? I think it’s just important for people to see themselves and their appearances depicted in books, just like POC and people in the LGBT+ community.

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  6. This is such a problem in books! So many times in the books: Girl #1 is really pretty but doesn’t know it (or admit to it) and Girl #2 is a big jerk who is super pretty and popular. Stereotype! (and don’t get me started on how girls always end up liking ‘cute’ or ‘handsome’ guys… and they always like them back. Every. Single. Time.) The only people who are ‘normal’ are everyone else in the book.

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