We were talking the other day about the lack of heroes in books, and I had a stray thought. Chasing it down and pouncing on it, I realized it was a thought worth following. Oooh! This could be a list. A list of role models for young men, and also for young women, to look for in husbands or wives.
Reading is a time-honored way for the reader to explore facets of the human character, and consciously or subconsciously, learn more about their fellow human beings. With younger readers, they can imprint on favorite characters like baby ducklings on a mother cat. Yes, I know that sounds weird, but here’s the thing. Whether the young readers – and I will be clear here, I’m talking teens, and furthermore, teens like I was, who considered juvenile or YA books beneath them (yes, I was an arrogant little snot at that age).
I’m also NOT talking about romance stories. I know some of my favorites back then had no plot of boy-meets-girl, and some of them did. What I’m specifically talking about is looking for role models in books of heroes. We all know that heroism is sometimes the quiet acts of life, unnoted and uncelebrated. But the characteristics of a hero in a book: loyalty, duty, honor, love of fellow man, and a willingness to lay down his life for his friends… that’s what I’m looking for. Someone to inspire hero-worship in the readers who get to know them.
With the trend toward anti-heroes, the fatally flawed, broken characters, we have sometimes lost sight of these role models in fiction. I wanted to create a list – and it wound up being a twinned list – of books for young people who are looking for a hero, for a role model that will influence their selection of a mate later in life. I was specifically not looking for YA titles, and if you are looking at this list for your own children, be aware that I consider older teens quite capable of handling both sex and violence in their books. They are certainly exposed to it on the screen enough, and at school.
In either of the lists, the leading hero could not be whiny, bitchy, or irredeemably flawed. A character like John Ringo and David Weber’s Prince Roger (the March series) still works well because he does grow, and further, Colonel Pahner, although not a main character, is an excellent role model. I chose to split the lists into Books for Boys and Books for Girls. But that might not be what you expect, either. The role model list of leading male characters, below, I’m recommending for the young ladies to read. In a world where the strong female character is emphasized, we must not lose track of the need for a beau ideal, a man who can inspire a young woman to seek the best when she looks for a partner, not simply his looks or wealth.
Character! That’s what we want. And inspiring heroes, and damsels who can’t be bothered to be distressed, and the men who respect them… You’ll find all that and more in the list of books below.
I want to thank everyone who helped with suggestions for the lists. I’m not including all of the titles that were given to me, some because I wasn’t looking for YA, and some because I was emphasizing character rather than other features. You will find that I’m listing the books by character name, rather than individual books, as many of these are series. Some of the comments in the list are from the people who gave the recommendations to me (I’ve anonymized the lists since they were collected in private groups).
- Caine Riordan from Chuck Gannon’s Fire books.
- Harry Dresden. I’d argue that he has failings, yes, but nowhere near as big as his strengths, and he seems to have overcome most of them.
- Travis Long from David Weber’s The Manticore Ascendant series. Where the MC is a straight arrow and too shy to talk to girls.
- Steve Maxwell from Peter Grant’s Take the Star Road series
- Jack Holloway from H Beam Piper’s Fuzzy series.
- Bahzell Bahnakson from David Weber’s
- Pete Brumbar from Lloyd Behm’s Martian series. I must point out there is a kitten. I love books with kittens…
- Finn the sometimes-dragon from Dave Freer’s Dog and Dragon series. If we’re going to have kittens, we must also have puppies.
- Jake Sullivan from Larry Correia’s Hard Magic series.
- Xen Wolfson from Pam Uphoff’s Gods and Wine series.
- Earl Harbinger, conversely, and Owen Pitt, from Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series. Earl Harbinger is a splendid example of manliness, honor, loyalty, duty…. why yes, I do have a little character crush
- Tom the definitely-a-dragon from Sarah Hoyt’s shifter series. She points out he “started out pretty flawed, but he’s coming along nicely… “
- Tarzan, John Carter, Carson of Venus, all from Edgar Rice Burrough’s series and books.
- Pretty much any Louis L’Amour book… they do have strong adults who are good role models; not wanting trouble but meeting it head-on when it comes….
- Conrad from This Immortal by Zelazny (Cedar’s note: I haven’t read this one, not familiar with it)
- Also from Zelazny, I see recommendations for Lord of Light’s Loki and Mahasamatma, as good role models in sometimes hard to choose right situations.
- Mannie from RAH’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
- Edward from Rob Howell’s A Lake Most Deep
- Captain Pausert from James Schmitz’s Witches of Karres, and Dave Freer’s follow-on, Wizard of Karres.
- Heinlein’s “Space Cadet”. A young man, Matt Dodson, learning about what it means to serve mankind. There are few women, but that’s due to the year it was written. You know, there do not have to be women around to take the measure of a man. His treatment of his fellows is sufficient.
- John Christian Falkenberg, from Jerry Pournelle’s Co-Dominion universe.
- Black Jack Geary and Tanya Desjani from the Lost Fleet series. (I believe this is Jack Campbell’s work) She starts out a little rough (a century of war will do that) and he’s an old school boy scout.
- Wilson Cole from the Starship series by Mike Resnick.
- Corran Horn from I, Jedi by Michael Stackpoole.
- Dalinar Kholin and Kaladin from the Way of Kings.
- Has there been a vote for Glory Road yet? Oscar is def. not an anti hero, and Star is about as far from distressed damsel as you can get & still need a hand….. (there hadn’t been, but yes, this.)
- Tryton from Ben Hales Warsworn series.
- Ishmael Horatio Wang (pronounced Wong) in the “Golden Age of the Solar Clippers” series by Nathan Lowell. First is “Quarter Share”. Yeah, he starts out in shock. He grows.
- Mighty Mike O’Neal from John Ringo’s Posleen series
- Hadrian and Royce from the Riyria Revelations series (by Michael J Sullivan) are two very strong male characters. They’re flawed, but grow into positive, strong men as the series goes on. Love that series.
- Kind of well duh but Tolkien. Gandalf – You shall not pass! Frodo, clawing his way up- the Mount of Doom to destroy the One Ring. Galadrial Elf Queen offered the power to rule the world and saying NO.
So, readers, who can you suggest? Who did you imprint on, when you were a younger reader, and how did it influence your choices later on?
If you like a guy that’s always there for the gal in trouble, but is always in trouble himself, that’s “Garrett” of Glen Cook’s “Tunfairle” series.
A gal that stood up to the system, and is still all woman would be Mara of the “Daughter of the Empire” series, by Raymond E Feist and Janny Wurts. I fell in love with this character from the beginning.
Sounds like good suggestions, thanks!
Gil MacDonald of “The Doomfarers of Coramonde”, by Brian Daley.
He met his love in someone else’s war. He lost her. His best friend was taken by evil incarnate. He chased the evil magician to the ends of the world.
I’ve had this book since 1977. It and its sequel are still a fun read.
“Once a Hero” by Michael Stackpole. The hero, Neal Roclawzi. The heroines, Genevera and Larissa. In my opinion this is one of the best Heroic Action Adventure fantasies that also qualifies as an epic fantasy. I have to think it’s pretty romantic too, in the old fashioned sense.
A couple of wrinkles cause the story to stretch for centuries, and it runs nearly 180k words. It’s been nearly three years since I read it last, it’s time to read it again.
I’ll second the “Daughter of Empire” series.
I glommed onto Francisco D’Anconia in Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” at a young age and really never got over him. LOL
Then I fell in love with Kenneth Chinran in Mine Williamson’s Freehold universe, because I can’t resist a badass.
And as a high school student, I crushed on Jason Bourne – Ludlum’s hero, not the Matt Damon movie version.
And I totally agree with Earl Harbinger from MHI. oh yes!!!
Yes, I’m totally random.
Owen’s cool, and a hero, but Earl is… something special. And then when Heather the red-head werewolf came into the picture, I was a happy girl.
Me too! Because fellow GINGER! 😉
I dunno. Owen picks fights with…Franks. After that it was hard not to think of him as a dumbass. Agree about Earl.
Hey, Owen nailed both Franks and Earl with a truck at the same time. Of course he finished wrecking his wife’s childhood home also at the same time, so I expect a long hospital stay if he is lucky.
Me, too. I haven’t had a fictional crush in ages but Earl’s it. To me, that’s just manliness served up on a plate and I’ve got me a spoon! It’s actually part of why I secretly don’t think I want MHI turned into a television show or a movie. I actually see a lot of my husband in Earl. I don’t want some actor messing with my vision.
The best thing about Earl is that–despite what “modern” mores seem to claim–he is both a badass AND a gentleman. He wasn’t my favorite character until MH: Nemesis, and I got to see him get all adorably flustered by Heather. Someone who is enough of a straight shooter to be shy around a woman automatically rises in my estimation, and suddenly Earl was my favorite. ^_^
For a list of this kind, David Weber is a goldmine.
You mentioned Bahzell, but there are many others, both men and women in that series.
Having just started the Safehold series again, timing it so it should be about right to pick up a used copy of the latest (please pardon name spelling errors, I don’t have time this AM to dig back through all of them):
Cayleb, Prince (later King) of Charis.
Sharleyan, Queen of Chisholm (later of the combined empire).
Princess of Corisande, Irys.
Prince of Emerald, Nahrman (flawed by ambition, but a great man nevertheless).
Archbishop Erayk Dynnys (for the ultimate flawed character that eventually meets the test of manhood). His wife, Adorai, too.
Ahnzhylk, the madam and revolutionary.
And, of course, Merlin / Nimue Alban.
I should probably pull one of those books off the shelf and actually read them!
Recommendation: Start with the first one. This is one series I wouldn’t recommend picking up in the middle. You have to go a while before the strong females, other than the MC, start showing up with more than a walk-on, too (although, IMHO, it was worth the wait).
The one thing is, with this series, we don’t have to worry about problems with terms like a “Weber of missiles.” grin
The names give me a headache. Vowel substitutions galore. Might be better in audio.
Probably would be better.
I deal with it by reading the names with the “whole word” method – there are very few I actually read as they are written, once I first figure them out.
Which does make it difficult to communicate about the specific characters – I can remember how to spell “Angelique” just fine.
*raises one eyebrow*
How did you leave out Hektor Aplyn-Ahrmahk, Duke of Darcos?
I have this weird habit of, in a series, rereading it up to the book just before the one I just bought. Which means I still have the one with Hektor as a major character to read…
(Although I have broken the habit for John Ringo series grin.)
John Rourke from Jerry Ahern’s “The Survivalist” series. Also Mack Bolan from the various Stony Man and other books written Jerry Ahern and by many authors.
I also like Larry Niven’s characters in the Ring World Series of books. Wu is just plain old fashioned womanizer wrapped up in a big heart that shows his heroic side when he sacrifices himself on more than one occasion to save humanity and those he loves. He even becomes fond of a few alien ‘Puppeteers’ and ‘Kzinti’.
Suggestions: Jame Retief. Scott Card’s Alvin Maker. Tom Orley from Startide Rising. Those are the ones that come immediately to mind. I’ll think about this and see who else turns up.
A significant chunk of Lois McMaster Bujold’s men are on my list. Aral, definitely. Illyan, probably. Dag (DagdagdagdagDAG!!), most definitely. Probably Ivan, if “staying alive” is a high priority; most of the others find themselves in life- and immediate-vicinity-threatening danger on a fairly regular basis.
Cazaril too, from the Chalion books. But not Miles, nothankyou.
I’m fond of Caz, too. Oddly, my relationship with my husband started a little like his in the book – with him insisting he was too old and battered for me, and me saying that it was his mind I really wanted 😀
I was surprised at no Bujold heroes on the list. I actually like Miles – he may be hyper but I’ll take a guy with character, honor, and intelligence over good looks any day.
Glad some suggested the Vorkosigan series. I’m going to weigh in on Miles’ behalf. Of course, smart, funny, able to recognize and respect the strengths of others, including women. Also, I like that he has a MAJOR failure of integrity and yet is able to accept the understanding of others and comes back. But, finally, he is LOOKING for his special person. He grew up with parents who modeled a solid relationship, and he was looking for a marriage partner with qualities of character. I think this counters the suggestion is so many stories that the connection has to “just happen.”
Well, and as I realized when I read the Ivan-centered book (Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance)…Ivan is a Nice Guy. As in kind, thoughtful, and very very funny. (And yes, he was a skirt-chasing twit when he was very young–age improved him greatly, and he points out that a history like his, with lots of lovers, also necessarily entailed a lot of breakups, and that it wasn’t actually him doing most of the breaking up.) Sure, he’s not the gung-ho lunatic his cousin is–but in real world terms, Ivan is the more desirable: he *wants* a stable life, a steady career, and peace and quiet. Ideal, really, for raising a family. And he’s a genius about making sure he remains apparently undesirable for those fomenting political plots.
I’d also take Dag or Caz any day of the week. Or any of Bujold’s heroes, really. (Though much as I love Miles, I suspect I would murder someone like that in relatively short order.)
Okay, as a woman who picked up her first Heinlein novel when she was six (yes, I read /The Rolling Stones/ when I was six, and it influenced the rest of my life), I can wholeheartedly support Star from /Glory Road/, as well as most any other Heinlein heroine, particularly the resourceful and emancipated Betty Sorenson from /The Star Beast/, Peewee and The Mother Thing from /Have Space Suit, Will Travel/, starship designer Holly Jones in “The Menace From Earth,” Caroline from /Tunnel In the Sky/ (yes, she’s a secondary character, but she was a “husky Zulu” woman, “strong as an ox and absolutely fearless,” who left a BIG impression on this little black girl when I read the book back in the Sixties) and Rod’s sister Helen, also from /Tunnel/, who inspired my lifelong interest in knives and other edged weapons.
Let me add the following women to the list :
Lessa and Menolly from Anne McCaffrey’s /Pern/ books;
Helva, from McCaffrey’s /Brain and Brawn/ series;
Lt. Eve Dallas from J. D. Robb’s (Nora Roberts’) /In Death/ series.
Trigger Argee and Telzey Amberson (thank you, James Schmitz!)
I have others, but these come to mind the quickest.
Heinlein women left their mark on me, too. This half of the list was strong male characters for young women to read about, the other half is for the guys to learn about the women you named, and why they make great inspirations to look for when meeting girls. If you have a boy saying ‘that girl, she reminds me of…’ then you know something’s right 😀
I fell in love with Zebadiah John Carter when I first met him doing that tango with Deety, and have never gotten completely over that (Jacob Burroughs isn’t half bad either). Unfortunately their book is not something I’d recommend for a young reader, mainly because it lacks a coherent plot and ends in a somewhat disappointing way. Unless you fall thoroughly in love with the characters like I did, or treat it as writing instruction manual or treatise about leadership roles or some philosophical questions it probably can’t snare its reader, especially not a younger reader looking for a fun, engaging story.
Zeb is — and I am not ashamed to repeat myself — HAWT! The tango. The weapons. The *car*! I mean, his back-and-forth with Gay Deceiver is *priceless*!
Oh yes… ❤
Kind of depends on the younger reader. I would have been fine with it – I did read both “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “I Will Fear No Evil” at that age. They both exhibit the same “problematic” characteristics. (“Time Enough for Love” also, come to think of it – which I also read as a “youngster.”)
Simon from Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. He starts out like any lazy kid but he’s very loyal and learns to do the right thing along the way in spite of his (typical teenaged) flaws. Useful to have a role model start from typical teenager so that readers can see the progression. (Also Miriamele, though she’s less central.)
For my age bracket, the heroes seemed fewer and farther between. The earliest one I recall well was Optimus Prime in his original animated incarnation. How could you go wrong with robot John Wayne? (you can’t)
Next up were Tom Swift Jr. and the Hardy Boys, followed up by the various editions of Star Trek. I became a full-fledged adult before I realized how much more namby-pamby the series became as time went on.
Comic book heroes such as Iron Man still hold much of their appeal, though the societal rot in storytelling has become very evident lately.
I’m partial to Sam Gamgee over Frodo. Without Sam’s quiet, relentless support, well, we wouldn’t be talking about it, would we? More people’s lives are like Sam’s than Gandalf’s or even Frodo’s.
Calm, practical, loyal — when he thinks Frodo is dead, he picks up the quest, kills Shelob, and carries on. And *the* stand up and cheer moment (in the movies, at least) is Sam saying he can carry Frodo.
Frodo wouldn’t have gotten far without his Sam.
I’d like to suggest my own Portals Of Infinity series if I can? I don’t like whiny hero’s or anti-hero’s. I tend to write about men who take responsibility and get things done (because, well that’s how I am). I grew up on Heinlein, et al, and with the concepts of doing your best and being a ‘good guy’. Something which is rather alien now.
(If it’s not acceptable to nominate one’s self, you can delete this post, not looking to break the rules here)
There is something inherently… Off, with the whole idea of “personal fictional heroes I model my behavior/seek partners based off of” idea.
Yeah, archetypes and all that, but… Geez. For the love of whatever gods you worship, there’s a huge, fundamental problem with this: They are all imaginary constructs, idealized or whatever the opposite of that might be termed.
I used to run into this crap most often with the young ladies I had working for me in the Army: A lot of them had some insanely detailed preconception of their “perfect lover/husband/partner”, right down to the poor bastard’s height and hair color–And, woe betide anyone who didn’t meet those criteria–That guy wasn’t getting the time of day. I’d be sitting there, apparently relegated to “furniture” due to my age and status as “non-dateable, out of context, boss…”, and I’d hear these discussions back and forth between the young ladies, discussing the merits of this and that potential suitor in the unit, and it was really strange to hear the reasons they’d reject so-and-so, and why. Most of the reasons were really superficial, and downright self-destructive. There was one guy who was well known to be both a cad and a philanderer, but, oh boy, were his eyes just dreamy… Meanwhile, a bunch of boring wholesome types were simply too “boring” to consider. As you can probably extrapolate, a bunch of relationships crashed and burned around me, with much drama, and entirely predictably. All due to this all-too-human habit we have of creating these idealized fairy castle people, who aren’t really real. To have these archetypes in mind, and try to apply them in real life…? Usually ends in tears, in my experience.
Then, from the other hand: You have people who create impossible standards for themselves, based off of what they see in imaginary characters. The average person doesn’t really get that Sergeant Rock, or James Bond aren’t really real people, and when they judge their own performance against their heroes, they come up lacking–Which is incredibly destructive in some cases. Friend of mine went into a firefight in Iraq, and lost three guys from his fire team doing it. He beat himself up for a long damn time after, because he had this insane idea that “he could have done better…”, and had kinda based his standards for that off of a bunch of idealized fictional characters. The reality was, he did about as well as any other real human being could have done in that situation, and his performance was actually pretty exemplary. Try convincing him of that, though–Since he didn’t measure up to his “heroes”, he felt like a failure.
There are a lot of aspects to this whole thing, and while some of them are pretty good, like doing the “What Would Jesus Do” thing before making some moral choice, there are also a lot of aspects of hero-worship/emulation that are flatly destructive. When we discuss this, we ought to acknowledge and recognize it, because it does create problems in many areas of life, for all too many people.
Moderation in all things, even in who your heroes are, and how closely you try to match them. Don’t pick Superman as your hero, and then become despondent when you can’t match his performance, in other words. I think it’s also something of a responsibility to make the people we write about essentially human, with all the inherent flaws and foibles, to keep the impressionable reader a bit grounded…
Well put, sir.
I do model myself after some of the “heroes” in what I read. But the one thing that is completely common among them is that, when necessary, they remove foot from mouth (or entire head from another orifice), correct course, and move on.
The hero is the one who doesn’t give up.
Mike Stearn from Flint’s 1632 series.
Rudi from Stirling’s Change series.
Andrew Keane in Forstchen’s Lost Regiment series.
Prince Manfred from the Heirs of Alexandria series.
James Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series
I had a mild crush on “Christian Johnny” Falkenberg for many years. But I also had a crush on the hovertanks from Hammer’s Slammers and on the lion-version of Voltron, so I may not be the best judge of character.
I am not sure that there is a Loki in “Lord of Light.” I think you either mean “Yama” or “Tak of the Archives.” It is a Hindu/Buddhist based mythology, not Norse.
Good point. I took a suggestion but haven’t read the books myself.
Loki was in ‘The Mask of Loki’. Would also suggest Corwin from the Chronicles of Amber, his son Merlin, and Fiddler from the ‘Malazan Book of the Fallen’.
Ah, and Archie Goodwin from ‘Nero Wolfe’ books. Other generes work too.
Pretty much all the heroes in the Wheel of Time saga are classic heroes. The one who comes closest to broken keeps telling people he’s no hero… and then running halfway across the world to throw himself in danger’s way to try to save a friend.
Couldn’t resist, but he was something else.
Sad Puppies Utah Meetup!
Friday Oct 9, 7pm
In the Salt Lake City area? Come join in!
Contact TheSplinteredMind@gmail.com for details.
(Mildly off topic, and for that I apologize.)
I am packing up my Louis L’Amour paperbacks for a cousin who is taking chemo. I was in a similar situation five years ago and ordered a box of L’Amour novels (Ebay) which arrived just in time. Enjoyed the fun and excitement, but especially the can-do attitudes of the lead characters, which was what I needed for my own situation. Also recommend The Virginian by Owen Wister & Follow the River, about Mary Ingles survival after a Shawnee raid.
American grit – we all have it, just have to pull it out when needed.
Roarke, Eve Dallas’ rogue billionaire, is a man who came from the slums of Dublin, hasn’t forgotten a moment of the hard times, but has risen above them.
Heinlein’s wise old men characters — Jubal Harshaw, Dr. B. P. “Deacon” Matson, Jean DuBois, et. al. Now that I’m an old woman, they appeal even more than they did when I was reading the books for the first time.
Zebadiah John Carter is possibly the sexiest Heinlein hero EVAH. And, yeah, Oscar is close behind (oooo, *swords*!)
Madeline L’Engle’s Calvin O’Keefe made me weak in the knees when I was twelve. Oh, how I wanted to find a Calvin of my own! (And I did, but that was later.)
Masterharper Robinton/Sebell, from the /Pern/ series. Better society through music!
I second the nomination of Captain Pausert! A man of great compassion and near-infinite patience !
Dr. Peter Conway, of the /Sector General/ novels … I have much love for SF healers.
Harry Dresden of Jim Butcher’s /Dresden Files/, of course … tall, understands the responsibilities of his power, knows right from wrong, and needs a hug!
Tavi, from Jim Butcher’s /Codex Alera/ series. I loved him when he was just a Fury-less kid. By the end of the series, he was *awesome*!
Patricia Briggs’ werewolves are almost all sexy-as-heck beasts. Bran, his sons Sam and Charles, and Mercy’s Adam … all morally upright despite the innate instability of their were natures.
MelJean Brook’s Rhys Trahaearn, the Duke of Anglesey in her SF/steampunk/police procedural mashup /The Iron Duke/, is *HAWT*! He starts off as ruthless, but once his awareness is expanded, he evolves.
Sorry it took so long to respond … I started reading four different books whilst looking up names and such !
I can’t believe Sam Vimes from Discworld hasn’t been mentioned yet.
Travis McGee from John D. MacDonald is another great series
And Captain Carrot as well – simple and honest but definitely not stupid. And a good man who doesn’t let the villain get away with a monolgue. ^_^
Sam Vimes…*happy sigh*
The crew of the USS Walker from Taylor Anderson’s Destroyermen series. Too many examples to list.
I’m going to plug /The Aeronaut’s Windlass/, the first book in Jim Butcher’s new series. The whole storyline oozes honor, duty, sacrifice, courage, friendship, loyalty, and integrity. This is the kind of message fiction I can sink my teeth into.
There are both male and female role models. Captain Grimm let himself be dishonorably discharged from the Service for cowardice because it was best for everyone else in the situation if things went down that way, and he’s anything but a coward. Bridget is an insecure young woman from a minor noble house who more than once risks her life for her friends. Gwen is from a major noble house who learns what sacrifice is all about and how to be part of a team. Her cousin routinely puts himself in danger to protect others. There’s even a cat who risks his life to save his human. Most of the people who post, comment, or lurk here will probably enjoy this one.
Alanna, Tris, Briar, Daja, Sandy, Dianne, and pretty much any of the main supporting casts from Tamora Pierce’s Tortall and Circle series.
Pierce is the only one of the authors I loved growing up that is still on my “buy immediately” list.
Oh, don’t dismiss YA too quickly. First of all, both the quality and popularity have shot wayy up both with teens and with adults since we were that age (there’s a ton of grown-ups out there reading YA, and it is popular in the culture, witness Divergent, The Maze Runner, The Hunger Games, all YA books, all blockbuster films. Want to know what movies you’ll watch next summer? Ask a 14 year old what they’re reading.) Plus, you leave wayyy too many people off your list if you do that. Like Meg from A Wrinkle in Time, who had all the insecurities of a teenager and yet went on an adventure through space to save her father. How about Charlotte Doyle from Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, who gets accused of murder and sentenced to death by a crazy sea captain while alone on a sailing ship in the middle of the ocean? Patricia McCormack’s book “Sold” about a teenager sold into sex slavery will change you forever. Fever 1793 takes you along with a teenager who is surviving a gruesome epidemic, if you want historical fiction, and if you want realistic fiction why not the very real Muslim teenager who decides to don a hijab even though her very mainstream parents would never have thought of such a think in Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abel-Fattah, maybe one of the best and most real YA books on faith out there. Trust me, the role models are there. A lot of people have already mentioned Tamora Pierce, which is definitely YA. All I’m saying is if you are a grown-up who isn’t reading YA, at least on occasion, it’s time.
YA is great – I’ve done YA lists. This particular list was very specific, and I left off the YA suggestions for a reason.
Fair enough, but what you said is you were dismissing YA because you were talking about, and I’m quoting here, “teens like I was, who considered juvenile or YA books beneath them.” I would argue that there are FAR fewer teens like that than there used to be because, frankly, YA has gotten better and everyone is reading it, adults included. This makes dismissing the category wholesale problematic IMHO. But, your list, your rules, and it’s an interesting one.
Since I write YA, I’m really grateful that it has gotten better! Add into that, when I was a teen, YA was a different genre – not even sure it was a genre – back then, the library had fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books.
This may sound weird, but I’d throw in a vote for Joe Buckley. Yes, he’s a PITA but he had a fusion grenade, a skyscraper and half a Posle’en lander dropped on his ass, and he still stood up and took on an entire Posle’en counterattack by himself.
I don’t think that fatally flawed and broken heroes necessarily can’t be great role models. I think it’s important sometimes to show that even when you screw up or when you’re broken that you can rise from it and become a better person. That necessitates of course that the characters can’t stay that way. Good role models can’t wallow in their own vices.
Then that isn’t a fatal flaw.
All of David Gemmell’s protagonists qualify.
From Vile 770:
“Cedar Sanderson’s list of books for girls was pretty depressing IMHO. Her list for books for boys was quite good (70%?). Although the idea of having teens reading books to get an idea of the kind of male/female who would be a good mate based on generic standards seems a bit weird to me. I approve of encouraging teens to read books with more positive relationships. But people are different and what they want and need in a partner is not going to be the same thing couple to couple.
It’s too bad there was little/no overlap between the two list. A number of the books I thought were good had good couples which I thought fit both her categories.
I was surprised by some of the books/authors she expressed great liking for as they are also many mine partly because I think they make you think about social justice issues.”
Butterflies-are-free Peace Sincere, Hellflower trilogy, by Eluki bes Shahar (a.k.a. Rosemary Edgehill), who tried to do the right thing and didn’t survive it
Maelcum, “Neuromancer” by William Gibson. Who, despite being a peripheral character with about six lines, was the only male character in the book who deserved the term “man.”
Steve Dravek, “The Day Before Forever” by Keith Laumer. Because sometimes your own worst enemy can be yourself.
Percival van Schravendyck Stevens, “Spacehounds of IPC” by EE Smith. Because no amount of resourcefulness will save the day unless you know what to do and how to do it, and can carry that information in your own head. At the age of twelve or so, this was the first fictional character I wanted to be like.
Marc C. DuQuesne, “Skylark of Valeron” by EE Smith. Because single-minded determination is a virtue, even if others don’t share your goals.
Dondragmer, “Mission of Gravity”, by Hal Clement. Because he wanted to know both “how” and “why.” And then do something wonderful with the result.
Sandor Kreja, “Merchanter’s Luck”, by C.J. Cherryh. Because when you’ve reached the end of your run, you might as well make a grand gesture.
Carl Corey / Lord Corwin of Amber, Amber series by Roger Zelazny. Show showed you can change *who* you are, but you’re always *what* you are.
Hm. Eight characters – one a caterpillar-like alien, one a woman, one a black Rasta drug addict, one a god, two ordinary schmucks, one villain, and one pulp hero. Good thing I’m one of those racist anti-diversity types…
I could easily list a dozen more, but those are a good representative sample.
Addendum to your Tolkien Men – Samwise Gamgee. If that man (Hobbit) isn’t the epitome of faith, faithfulness, friendship, and duty, then I don’t know who is.