While there is no shortage of heroes in history and adult fiction, strong male leads are increasingly difficult to find in the YA genre. Most young adult fiction is written by women for women, but there seems to be a growing trend in YA novels geared toward teenage boys. With writers like Rick Riordan, Eoin Colfer and Anthony Horowitz topping bestseller lists, one can only hope that soon boys will get the representation they deserve. Here is a list of my favourite YA heroes, in descending order.
1. Harry Potter from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling.
You probably knew Harry Potter would feature somewhere on this list, didn’t you? Well, there are many reasons the most famous character in YA literature is my favourite hero, not the least of which is the fact that the Harry Potter series was one of the first YA series I read. Perhaps I am biased, but I can also justify my choice. No matter how many horrible things happen to him, no matter how awful things get, Harry perseveres. He does things 99% of teenagers would not be capable of doing; he shows courage he never knew he had. But he is not perfect and his friends are usually there to help him through the tough times. Harry is a flawed hero, which makes him my favourite.
2. Alex Rider from the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz.
Unlike James Bond, Alex Rider never wanted to be a spy; he had no say in the matter. Yet he literally puts his life on the line time and time again. He gets shot, nearly dissected alive, tortured and almost eaten alive by crocodiles, just to name a few things. Did I mention the fact that he’s only 14? Alex has a tragic backstory and his life has never been easy, yet he is still a good person that just wants a normal life. The reason he doesn’t make the top spot on my list is because he’s a little too perfect and always seems to save the day.
3. Huy from the King’s Man trilogy by Pauline Gedge.
Imagine you are killed at the age of 12, but brought back to life by the gods and tasked with unraveling the complicated Scroll of Thoth, which has only been read in its entirety by a man who became a god. Sounds like a lot of pressure, right? Well, that’s why Huy, son of Hapu makes this list. Ostracized by everyone but priests and his oldest friends, unable to have sex and haunted by visions of peoples’ futures, Huy endures a living Hell, especially after he comes to the attention of the pharaoh. Yet he keeps going and despite everything, manages to have a good life, which is definitely why he makes my list.
4. Artemis Fowl from the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer.
This was a tough choice because in the first few books, Artemis is more of a villain than a hero. Yet, he is good at heart and does get much better as the series progresses, which is why I consider him a hero. He’s intelligent and resourceful, yet deeply flawed, especially when it comes to socializing. Socializing is one of the few things that does not come easily to Artemis, but with the help of Holly and Butler, he becomes more well-rounded as the series progresses. And Heaven forbid, he’s actually likable by the fourth book.
5. Percy Jackson from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan.
You probably knew this was coming as well. Rick Riordan’s wildly popular series took the YA world by storm and it would be a huge insult not to include Percy Jackson on this list. When his mother is killed and he is suspected of stealing Zeus’s lightning bolt, he goes on a dangerous journey to get his mom back and prove his innocence. He braves countless dangers with the help of his friends and proves himself a true hero in my eyes. Since male leads are uncommon in YA fiction (let alone good male leads), Percy Jackson is a great role model for teenage boys.
So who are some of your favourite heroes and why are they your favourites? What do you think makes a good hero?