Scary, mortality-crisis-inducing confession: I turn 30 this week!
I’ve frankly no time for the aforementioned crisis (the world is hard enough without dwelling on the ageing process; it’s just a number; I’m so old; where does the spiral begin; where does it end?), and it’s been a difficult enough year without being morbid about something (else) I have no control over. So instead, if I have to get older, I might as well do it with as much fanfare as possible–like three Fangirl Fridays on characters, fictional worlds, and books that made me the reader/writer/person I am today!
10 Characters That Have Had a Meaningful Impact on Me
1. Matilda Wormwood from Matilda by Roald Dahl
Matilda was my first bookish friend, and the first character I saw myself in: we were both bookish and brainy, and quickly outraged at any perceived injustice. As a bookish, brainy adult who’s quickly outraged at any perceived injustice, she’s still the voice in my head that makes me so proud to be a reader, and tells me it’s okay to believe in petty revenges like swapping shampoo for bleach (and you bet your last dollar I’d be still punking the Trunchbulls in my life if I had telekinetic powers, too.)
2. Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Another popular choice, along the same theme–bookish, brainy, studious, passionate, and outraged at injustice–but what I love about Hermione is that she’s so extra with it all. S.P.E.W, anyone? Reading the Minister for Magic a riot act of his own rules? Silencing the most poisonous journalist in the wizarding world for shit-stirring? I love Hermione for many things, including that she’s not perfect (whatever the movies might try to convince you), but especially because she still convinces me that it’s okay to be unapologetically in-your-face about what I believe is right.
3. Mia Thermopolis from The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot
Not to sense a pattern, but… I’m sensing a pattern. (Brainy. Bookish. Outraged at injustice. Are these my new Sims traits?) To break that, here’s how Mia impacted me: she was the first character I ever read who overthought and overworried and overromanticised everything in her life, just like me. But she also was funny with it, and creative, and she made it okay. Princess of my heart, too, Michael. Mine too.
4. Poison from Poison by Chris Wooding
Poison isn’t a hugely well-discussed book, I don’t think, but it’s a brilliant one (that will crop up again on my 30 for 30 lists, heads up!); but what impacted me specifically about the character was that she was so sullen. She was determined, and contrary, and did not give a single fuck for fear or bad decisions–she strode right through them in heavy boots, just to prove her point and stand her ground–but she also did it with sour words and a scowl, and taught me that sometimes women are owed that. Poison walked so Jude Duarte could run. I said it.
5. Kaye Fierch from Tithe by Holly Black
And talking of Jude Duarte, or at least of her author, here’s another Holly Black creation: directionless hot mess/unlikely heroine Kaye Fierch. I say this with all the love in my single-parent-council-estate-raised heart: I loved Kaye instantly, because I had never read the (blessedly POC) equivalent of a white trash protagonist hero who was allowed to be that, without some Cinderella rescue or put down. Kaye made me proud.
6. Lizzie Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Everyone adores Lizzie, and I adore her just as hard: for her wit, and humour, and stubbornness, and confidence, and fearless opinions, and all the things I like about myself that she is, too. But what impacted me is how admirably she owns being wrong, and openly changes her mind–I’m still working on that, but aren’t we all striving to be Lizzie Bennets, in our hearts of hearts?
7. Frankie Landau-Banks from The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Oh, Frankie–I think you might have been the awakening of the literary feminist in me. I’d read and loved strong female characters before (see: every number on this list), but Frankie considered things in a way that made me think, too. Why was it so shocking that a girl would dare to infiltrate the Good Old Boys’ Club? Why is it that people have such difficulties with girls’ transitions from sugar, spice, and everything nice, to capable teenagers who think for themselves? Why is it okay for girls to be sidelined and boys to be boys? Frankie had a huge impact on my feminist education, and I love her for it.
8. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
If this list has taught me anything, it’s that I like my characters either bookish and outraged, or sullen and stubborn–and I guess Katniss is a patchwork of both. I loved her when I first read the books, because she’s so quick to that injustice outrage–but my love for Katniss was cemented in my heart after going through a huge experience with grief. I had a lot of sleepless, gut-wrenching nights, and reading Katniss’s raw emotions worrying for Peeta’s fate, remembering her father, and in the days after Prim’s death, hit me on such a personal, relatable level, they pulled me through to the next morning. I am very grateful for Katniss Everdeen.
9. Lara Jean Song Covey from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
A change of that heavy pace: I found Lara Jean in a calmer phase in my life, and it was a huge breath of fresh air to read an incurable romantic who loved to bake, and scrapbook, and be home on a Saturday night. Lara Jean is also a carnival mirror image of the reader/writer/person I’ve become more recently: someone who proudly lives for sweet romance, but appreciates it more when it’s imperfect and worked for. (Not that that reflects the movies, necessarily–Peter K. is perfect in those–but I love those for whole other reasons.) (And only carnival mirror rather than real mirror because the other half of my Gemini heart is still sullen and stubborn in a way sunny LJ could never be.)
10. Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
And finally, an honorary male character! There are a lot of Grishaverse characters I could’ve included on this list: I admire Genya’s courage, and Alina’s sourness, and Nina’s joy, and Inej’s dignity, and I was thrilled to read King of Scars and see a lot of my own rage-fuelled determination in Zoya. But Kaz, man… The writer in me just thinks he is a bottomless well of brilliance. He’s dark, he’s no hero, he does awful things and doesn’t feel a second of guilt for them, just uses them to fuel his reputation and stop him having to bother doing other awful, inconvenient things; he’s damaged and broken in almost every conceivable way, and he is beloved anyway, by everyone, especially me. He’s page-living proof of the impact a brilliant backstory and impeccably written character can have, and I can’t think of another character in recent memory I think as much of as Kaz.
What characters have had the biggest impact on you? Stay tuned for my most impactful fictional worlds, next Fangirl Friday!