Women In Fiction: Unworthy

One of the main recommendations for the book Unworthy (which was sent to me by its Australian Author, Joanne Armstrong, in exchange for my Goodreads review) was the fact that I found its female protagonist so compelling. Not in the sense of liking her, necessarily (though she was likeable enough). Rather, I was impressed by the representation of a young woman who was strong and compassionate and ignorant and full of doubt… and who was a hero because of rather than in spite of all of these things.

I’d like you to go into reading this book with an open mind. So, without any spoilers, I’ll try to give a little more detail as to why I liked this book.

To begin with, Unworthy was an excellent example of how women can be portrayed in modern fiction.

Not only was there a female protagonist (a young woman named Arcadia), but there were female antagonists (whose names I won’t divulge). And none of these characters were purely virtuous or purely good for the sake of it. (I’ll refrain from a tangent on J.R.R. Tolkien here, but let it just be said that even the most epic of adventures can have issues with creating unrealistically virtuous or vindictive females.) Nor were the females in Unworthy stereotypical emotional caretakers. They were well-developed, realistic, people.

There were also male characters, of course. With similarly complex emotions and motives. It’s pretty rare to read a Young Adult book without romance, because so much of the hormonally-charged life of young people (and, to be honest, the less-hormonally-charged lives of not-so-young-people) revolves around romance. So I was unsurprised to read of marriage proposals and hand-holding, of affection between people whose lives require them to be together.

What I appreciated about the obligatory Young Adult romance in Unworthy, though, was the fact that it wasn’t the point. Romance was not the main thrust of the plot. If anything, the romantic sub-plots seemed to be vehicles to move the plot forward, rather than the plot being an excuse to write about angst-filled young people torn by love.

Unworthy was a lot like what I’d wanted The Hunger Games to be. (Not that I thought Collins’s series was just an excuse to write about angsty young people in love. I liked her books. Just… slightly less.) Armstrong created a realistic future: dark with secrets, technologically advanced, understandably beset with issues. She took a not-overly-emotional female with hunting skills and put her in a dystopia where she was “chosen”. Arcadia showed sympathy, a desire to change her corrupt society, and the ability to feel romantic affection in spite of her scary circumstances. I’m fairly sure Unworthy is the first in a series, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it.

Also, the Australian vibe of the island community was a refreshing divergence from the other Young Adult dystopias I’ve been reading lately. The Australian spelling was cool, too.

You can read about the author and the book, Unworthy, here:
Unworthy written by Joanne Armstrong


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