Strength isn't about being a top-of-the-class sword fighter or being able to land that grade A hottie for a prom date. It's not about how long they survive or if they get the most bangin' outfit for their body. It's all about how they get from point A to point B. Are they hanging on the arms of others or walking on their own two feet? Did they buy their way into those A's or study their asses off and STILL make soccer practice on time? Did they buy the dress with the money they earned or with a borrowed credit card with Mommy or Daddy's name on it? Strength isn't just found in the truly kick ass characters but those on the run, running away or those with a goal.
Jenny from A Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Frances Long may get beaten and battered by the forest the runs through. She may be utterly useless when it comes to putting up her fists to fight. But she was the only one that could save her brother. Instead of giving up and going home she threw herself head first into the unknown to save someone she loved. Clare from Sophie Littlefield's Hanging by a Thread works far better with needles and thread than anything physical. Instead of ignoring the horror she finds out she acts on it, working to solve a couple of long-standing crimes that no one else could. She could have taken the easy way out, pretended nothing was wrong and just tried to fit in like everyone else that was normal. Clare took the path less traveled.
Alina Starkov, Leigh Bardugo's Shadow & Bone heroine, puts balls to the wall when she unveils her own magic, hanging the delicate balance of power in her world on her shoulders. It would have been so easy to succumb to The Darkling; the lure of sex and power are so incredibly strong. But some things, like friendship and love, not to mention a greater good, are worth far more than that. Mari Mancusi's Peyton Anderson from Tomorrow Land has retractable freakin' razor blades under her fingernails. Her father trained her to be an apocalyptic killing machine. Unfortunately that didn't do her a lick of good when all she knew gets turned on its head. Being a drone, something straddling the line of human and robot, and listening to her father's orders would have been the easy road. But there were too many bodies down that lane.
Have you picked up on my theme yet? Strong characters, male or female, don't take the easy paths. They don't prance around the plots with characters bowing to their every whim, getting the world handed to them on a platter of their choice. They stand up and fight, be it an epic battle to save the world, against an abusive significant other or cheating on a test. Large, small, it doesn't matter as long as the path isn't a breeze. As long as they earn their ending, fight for it like it so requires them to do. A strong character can't be afraid of pain, physical or mental. They can't be unwilling to jump the hurdles in front of them themselves. They need to stay true to themselves. An inconsistent character whom we're told is strong isn't strong, just schizophrenic. And fake.
A strong character is someone that you root for from the beginning, someone you cheer for at the end. They're someone you look at and, on some level, admire for everything that they've done. People automatically gravitate towards the Buffy type when they think of strong characters. Buffy is strong in many ways but that tends to leave out the regular human beings that are just as strong without all the Chosen One perks. While they may not battle vampires and other supernatural beings sometimes overcoming bullying is far scarier. Or bucking a suffocating society that believes it knows what's best for you. Or asking someone seemingly unattainable out. Strength isn't always out of reach. In fact it's right at everyone's fingertips. It's just a matter of which way you need to bend in order to properly reach it.
Donna has been running Bites since January of 2009, randomly chomping on books and occasionally spitting out reviews. Known for her honesty, Donna doesn't hold back and will tell things exactly how she sees them, even if it means going against the grain. The grain means nothing if it sucks and she isn't one to put on a fake smile and wax glorious on something that makes her eyes bleed.