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Whatever Happened to the Ordinary Kid Protagonist?

Children’s and young adult (YA) literature has exploded in recent decades, giving young people more reading options than ever. Additionally, young protagonists have more power than ever. Harry Potter is a wizard. Tris and Katniss from The Hunger Games are almost unstoppable heroines of dystopian societies. The Descendants protagonists are the magical offspring of Disney villains.

While these protagonists and their books are wonderful, they bring to mind a question: do today’s protagonists always need powers, magical and supernatural connections, or the high stakes of dystopia? Put more succinctly, do they always have to be "the chosen ones?" What does fiction for young people gain by putting protagonists in that position? Does it lose anything by not focusing on more common kid/teen issues? Or, do we actually have a good balance between powerful and ordinary protagonists in our current literature? Discuss using the above examples and any others that fit the topic.

  • This is definitely an interesting concept. As a writer, I find it's less and less common for regular protagonists to make an appearance, especially in teen fiction. I'm in the midst of writing a book with an ordinary protagonist, and the biggest comments I've gotten back on the beginning of the book is that the protagonist is normal, and that he shouldn't be. We've gotten into a tradition of extraordinary protagonists, and I think it's important to bring back the ordinary kid protagonist. – LilyaRider 4 years ago
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  • I'm also a writer, and one of the things I constantly have to remind myself of is, it's ultimately my story. Some critiques are valid and some are not. Calling a character "too normal" is not, IMHO, a valid critique. Now, if "normal" means "boring," as in undeveloped and flat, then that needs to be fixed. But personally, I miss normal protagonists. I miss the average kid or teen who stumbles into adventure, maybe didn't even want it, and struggles with what to do. I miss characters who can't do everything well, who make mistakes, who do something that doesn't involve saving the world. I wonder, in fact, if all these larger-than-life characters are making real kids feel like they aren't good enough. – Stephanie M. 4 years ago
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  • Patrick Ness wrote a book called 'The Rest of us Just Live Here', which is from the perspective of the 'ordinary kids' in a school full of heroes. It was quirky and thought provoking. Heroic child protagonists do seem to be the current trend, though. – JudyPeters 4 years ago
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  • I'm gonna have to investigate that book... :) – Stephanie M. 4 years ago
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