Book Musings: YA Heroines as Accidental Role Models

Years ago, I read an article where Brittney Spears was critisized for being a bad role model. My husband and I had a long-winded debate about this one. I didn't see how Spears could be criticized when she'd never positioned herself to be a role model; she positioned herself to be a performer and entertainer. My husband, who is a junior high teacher and oh-so-very-wise about the workings of the teenage brain, disagreed. His point was that even though Spears didn't necessarily set out to be role models, by default she became an icon adored and emulated by teen girls across our country. Spears was (is?), in effect, an "accidental role model."

This anecdote brings me to today's Book Musings topic: YA Heroines as Accidental Role Models.

Love and romance has become a prominent feature in YA books over the past few years. The more I read, the more I wonder what sort of effect these stories have on teen readers.

I have come across at least 2 YA books in the past year where one of the love interests was a rapist and/or murderer. These are both books I would not let my daughter read, because I feel the main characters are bad role models. I would never, ever be okay with my daughter dating a rapist, and I do not want her reading about girls who find men like this attractive.

Another thing I see a lot in YA books are boys who mysteriously show up in a girl's house without knocking. They invite themselves in, show up in the girl's bedroom, etc. In my world, boy-I-just-met who shows up in my bedrom = stalker / creepoid. AKA, boy that needs a restraining order. In the fantasy world of fictional romance, I can see how it would be totally romantic for a sexy guy to just show up in your house uninvited. In the real world, boys who do this are creepy.

I even read an Amazon review by a parent who decided to censor a book that featured a teen heorine who never wanted to get married and never wanted to have children. This parent did not feel this heroine was appropriate for the teen readers in her life.

So what do you guys think about YA heorines as accidental role models for teens? Do you think teens are influenced by the characters they read about? If you're a parent, do you censor what your teens read?

(I'm purposely not mentioning any actual books in this post. It is not my intent to single out authors for criticism. My intent is to generate thoughtful discussion on a topic I am interested in.)