Birdlike

03.25.14

The Tinkerbell Syndrome

The female leads in popular young adult fiction are always tough. They're also almost always tiny. What’s with all these anorexic heroines?

They’re delicate, slender, scrawny, birdlike, petite, and skinny as a string bean. They’re the new heroines of young adult fiction. And while they’re often the stars and not merely the sidekicks in the stories in which they appear, and while they are always resolute, brave, clever, and indomitable, they are never, ever more than a size two.

Tris Prior in Divergent. Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Lena Duchannes in Beautiful Creatures—every one is a slip of a thing. And apparently readers have been conditioned to expect that these heroines will always be undersized: when Jennifer Lawrence was cast as Katniss in the movie version of The Hunger Games, critics complained that she was too “big boned” to be right for the part.

As for their villainous counterparts? Let’s just say a body “crossed with stretch marks” is a typical description.