Why Nasty Women are kicking butt and taking over YA

We sat down with S. J. Kincaid, author of this stunning book, to talk about all the anti-heroines of YA that we know and love. Haven’t read ‘The Diabolic‘ yet? Watch this – careful you don’t become obsessed though!

From Nemesis, the star of the show, to Katniss Everdeen here’s all the nonconforming girls S. J. Kincaid (and we) are totally in love with:

If I were to encapsulate Nemesis, the main character in ‘The Diabolic’, in a single sentence from the book, it would be this one: “These people truly were cruel. But if they posed a threat to Sidonia in any way, they would discover I was crueler still.”

When I wrote ‘The Diabolic’, I loved my main character, Nemesis, but I feared I was putting a good deal of time and effort into a heroine who would never be accepted by publishers or readers. Nemesis did not fit my idea of a market-friendly YA heroine: she is ruthless, amoral, and often downright cruel. She places no value on the lives of others.

I worried that to readers, she would seem alien, unrelatable. She is not vulnerable emotionally or physically, she is not afflicted with self-doubt or uncertainty of purpose. Luckily, I was wrong about the appeal of the anti-heroine in YA literature. When I sat down to really consider it, some of my favourite heroines in YA literature were either outright anti-heroines, or endeared themselves to me precisely because they did something that wasn’t brave, noble, kind, compassionate, or good. Here are a few:

Lada from ‘And I Darken’

This book is a gender-flipped novel about Vlad the Impaler, and Lada is every bit as ruthless and dangerous as the real Vlad himself was. She is fascinating to read about – as you’d expect from any book where the description says: ‘”No one expects a princess to be brutal.” Lada is, and it’s glorious; I can’t wait to read the next part of her story.

Regina in ‘Some Girls Are’

I have read a lot of YA. A lot. I read this ages ago, very early in my YA-reading, and yet I recall this story quite vividly because of Regina. She is the mean girl at school, or one of them. I should loathe her, and yet she is in that common situation where a girl once popular finds herself an outcast at her school, and she moves forward through the situation with grit and bared teeth. Nice and sweet? No. Compelling? Yes.

Ismae in ‘Gave Mercy’

Ismae is the daughter of death, and in this girl’s circumstances it’s no wonder that she gladly embraces a life as an assassin-nun, ready to pay tribute to the god of death with the blood of her queen’s enemies.

Even those traditional heroines I love often exhibit traits that are less than heroic, less than sympathetic – and in doing so, they win my heart.

Tris in ‘Divergent’ turns away and ignores a weeping bunkmate, knowing she should be sympathetic, but despising herself for the scorn she feels for his weakness. Then later, she shoots a guy. She doesn’t need to hurt him, but she does, and her father’s aghast – but not me. Those moments made her a complicated, multidimensional character.

Katniss heroically volunteers to go in place of her sister to The Hunger Games, yet she is by no means sweet, generous and gentle. She has lethal hunting skills and intends to win even if it means killing the other tributes because she promised her sister and her family needs her. She’ll shut her heart to her fellow tribute, Peeta, and distance herself… Just in case she has to kill him later. Cold, calculating, and amazing.

Calaena Sardothien in ‘Throne of Glass’ may be an assassin, but she makes my list not for her killer nature, but rather her flagrant, shameless, unabashed Scarlett O’Hara-esque vanity. Hey, it’s considered one of the seven deadly sins, but to me, it’s what makes her character real and human.

Katsa in ‘Graceling’ meets a mind-reading child and thinks, very cruelly: I will hurt this girl if she reads my mind, to scare her off. That moment sticks out in my mind. It’s mean. It’s awesome.

Upon examining these characters, and this particular trait I enjoy so much in them, I am glad to have contributed one girl – Nemesis – to this list who is not nice, not sweet, and not kind. I hope readers enjoy her as much as I enjoyed writing her.

Haven’t read ‘The Diabolic’ yet? Here’s all the reasons you need to.

Who’s your fave antihero? Let us know in the comments who you love!

And don’t forget to clicky here if you want more kickass ladies in your email inbox.

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