For a long, long time I’ve wanted to write a post. It was one of my first drafts on A Bookish Heart, even. But for some reason, every time I would go to write it, I would just trash it thinking that everyone would just think I’m crazy.
Well, today is going to be different! Today I ask…
Where My Ugly At?
That’s right. I demand that we talk about the lack of ugly characters in YA. Surely I’m not the only one who has noticed this lack of representation?
I feel like so many YA books I read feature good-looking protagonists who fall in love with these good-looking side characters and they just go run off to live happily ever after and make good-looking babies. (Okay, maybe not exactly, but you know what I mean. Even those characters who are supposedly just average-looking end up getting all the guys within a twenty-mile radius.) Everyone has eyes you can swim in, hair that curls just so, and perfectly flawless skin.
Seriously?! GIVE ME SOME UGLY.
YA is about teenagers, and teenagers, well, they go through puberty! There’s acne, there’s hair growth, there’s some really bad attempts at hair/make-up/fashion. Why do I not ever see this represented in books? (Is it because I primarily read fantasy and sci-fi? Surely puberty would be an issue in those genres as well!)
I mean, really, go sit outside of a high school when classes gets dismissed and look at these creatures that emerge. They’re not all the same. They’re different colors, different sizes, different builds – and they’re definitely not all beautiful! (I’m not saying there’s no beauty to them whatsoever. Just that their beauty doesn’t fit the typical boxes of beauty we’re fed through the media. :P)
Why don’t I ever get to read about those kids?
Let me get a little personal for you. I have the hairy genes that comes with being part of my dad’s family. That’s right. I have to tweeze my eyebrows to ensure I don’t end up looking like Bert, I have to regularly bleach my hair on my upper lip, and going more than a couple of days without shaving my legs is deadly business. And you know what else? I have also had acne on my face (especially around my glasses) that I sometimes picked – which made me look even worse!
Despite all that, I still had boyfriends. I just knew that I couldn’t get all the boys in the school because I wasn’t one of those types of drop dead gorgeous girls. I would often find myself thinking “Oh, everyone says I’m pretty, but no one has ever said I’m gorgeous or sexy. I just only get the guys because of my personality, not my looks.” (Who can blame the guys though? I do have a pretty amazing personality. ;))
Don’t they say love is blind? Surely you look back at some people you thought were handsome or gorgeous back in the day and just want to vomit now?
I just don’t understand why we don’t get this kind of “ugliness” featured in books. In all kinds of books. I want to see characters building relationships even if they have a giant swollen acne bump getting ready to explode off their face. I want to see characters struggling with unwanted body hair and learning to love themselves despite their deviance from stereotypical beauty. I want to see characters saving the world with their split ends and hairy armpits and crooked teeth.
In Dark Triumph, Beast is this big brute of a guy who has scars and physical damage from all these physical altercations he’s been in, and the MC has no problem stating that he’s pretty much the ugliest guy she’s ever seen. But that doesn’t stop him from being a big part of the story, and an amazing, lovable character. [My review of Dark Triumph]
And Wonder? It’s about a boy, Auggie, who has a terrible facial abnormality and has to deal with the evilness of other kids who judge him based on how he looks. While reading his story, it’s absolutely impossible not to fall in love with Auggie and want to give him a great big hug. [My review of Wonder]
Where are my other ugly lovelies at? Where are they?!
What do you think? Is there a lack of ugly characters in YA? Which books would you recommend featuring “ugly” protagonists?