Words || Shivaun Plozza
I’m a sucker for angry girls in YA.
When I wrote Frankie, I created a character so filled with anger it couldn’t help but manifest in an acidic tongue and swinging fists. Frankie’s anger is loud, uncontained, self-destructive and violent. But when writing my newest novel, Tin Heart, I realised anger comes in many guises, some of them hard to spot at first glance. Initially I thought of Tin Heart’s protagonist, Marlowe, as quiet and timid. But the more I got to know her the clearer I saw the seething anger beneath the surface – anger at the lack of control she has over her body, her choices and her life. Her anger is not as in-your-face as Frankie’s but it’s there, fueling her every decision, waiting to find a release.
In honour of the angry girls of YA – especially the deceptively quiet ones like Marlowe – here are my top five angry YA protagonists.
Taylor, On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchette
Taylor is a lot like Frankie in that her anger is on show for all to see. She’s angry at the mother who abandoned her years ago, an anger that only intensifies when her aunt seemingly abandons her too and the boy who betrayed her comes back to town. Taylor’s anger is incredibly complex and authentic – one of my favourite YA stories of all time.
Sarah, Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King
Sarah is refusing to go to school. Something happened that she won’t talk about – but it isn’t the only secret that is sending her spiraling down a strange and destructive path. Sarah represses her anger – anger at how others have treated her, anger at the secrets her family has been hiding from her, anger at the secrets she’s been keeping from herself. A highly inventive and heart-breaking story.
Riley, Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell
Riley is sent to Spirit Ranch Holiday Camp after her wild and self-destructive behavior becomes too much for her dad and step-mum. Riley is bold, strong and angry but her anger masks a vulnerability, a mask that is expertly unravelled by Howell while still allowing Riley to maintain her sass and her in-your-face attitude.
Alice, In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker
Alice lives in the shadow of a despicable act committed by her twin sister – a school shooting that stole seven innocent lives. How do you survive in a town where you quite literally wear the ‘skin of a monster’? Alice’s anger is complicated – how do you hate someone you love? – but so much of her anger is directed at herself for not having prevented the tragedy, and it’s a heartbreaking thing to read.
Mina, When Michael met Mina by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Ten years ago, Mina and her mother fled Afghanistan to Australia. Now, she is a scholarship student at a prestigious Sydney private school, dealing with ignorance and prejudice. Mina’s anger is quiet, determined and dignified. She channels it into making a difference and standing up for herself, her family and what’s right.
You can read our review of Tin Heart here
About the Author:
Shivaun Plozza is a Children’s and YA writer. Her debut novel about a girl called Frankie is titled Frankie and her activity book about medieval Europe is called Medieval Europe. Because she’s inventive like that. Her short story ‘The Point’ is part of Where the Shoreline Used to Be, an anthology of YA fiction. Other short works have appeared in Above Water, Vivid and The Victorian Writer. When she’s not writing she’s working away as an editor and manuscript assessor.