Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is that even a real name?

Literary Pet Peeve #3: Girl main characters with "original" names

Among the many annoying phenomena in contemporary young adult literature, there are a few that stand out as particularly annoying - not harmful, not technically bad... but simply obnoxious.

I guess because the majority of young adult fiction is geared towards young women, there are a few things that are going to be imbalanced. This one, however, will never make sense to me: many girls in young adult books seem to have fancy, "exotic" names while the boys around them have standard, boring names.

I noticed this years ago but was reminded of it today when I saw this review over at Rhapsodyinbooks. The book has a main character named Wren (whose younger sister is named "Robin" - which by the way... seriously?). It's a weird name, to the point where I've never actually met anyone with that name, nor ever heard of it in the context of a girl's name. But there's another half to this complaint - her boyfriend's name. Because you see, her boyfriend is named Danny.

I can list dozens of books with this phenomenon and I seriously can't figure it out. Sure, sometimes exotic or different character names in general can add a level of depth to the story, but it's usually just ridiculous, particularly when it doesn't mesh with the tone of the book. There's the flip side of the coin: the fact that the boyfriends always have bland, standard names. If you're already having fun with names, why not have everyone sport a wacky, original name? Be consistent, at the very least...


  1. I also don't like it when female characters have weird and strange names. It somehow distracts me from the story, you know what I mean? I think it's a really popular phenomenon right now though, and I don't think it will stop anytime soon, but I totally understand how this could be a pet-peeve for you, because it's one for me too.

  2. This post cracked me up and I love this pet peeve. If you're going to have 1 character with an unusual name, but everyone else has something generic, that unusual name better serve a purpose!

  3. So so true! And on top of it, the girl names are usually gender-unclear, which annoys me even more!

  4. I sometimes like an unusual name. I've always had a soft spot for January Jones because I think "January" is a pretty name for a girl. However, I like odd names for boys too!

  5. I am a woman and my name is Wren. My mother named me after the bird. I love that it's unique and that not many people have it. I'd rather have a "weird" beautiful name than a boring, common name like Amanda. I believe you'll remember a person easier of they have an uncommon name.


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