YA Cliches: Mary Sues and Gary Stus

Mary Sue

It’s that time again! For part two of my YA Cliches series, I want to talk about female characters known as Mary Sues. These characters are portrayed as near perfect females; young girls and women who can do no wrong and who no harm comes to. Take Tris from the Divergent Series for example. Tris starts out as a very relatable and flawed girl trying to find her place in a divided dystopian Chicago. By Allegiant however, Tris morphs into a Mary Sue. She is immune to death serum, which in most cases would be pretty cool, but when you consider that she is already immune to the simulation serum and unable to be controlled, it’s a bit much.

Even Ginny from the Harry Potter suffers from occasional cases of Mary Sue-itis. She is never shown as flawed. She’s pretty. She’s popular. She’s powerful. She plays Quidditch and is very smart. While we, as readers, don’t get to see enough of Ginny to get a good grasp of her character, she is hardly shown as vulnerable. Hermione on the other hand is an extremely flawed character who at times could be considered a Mary Sue. She is smart, but at times she can be narrow-minded to a fault. Her greatest strength is also her greatest weakness. We see her triumphs and we see her failures. That’s why I wouldn’t consider her a Mary Sue.

The reason why this trope bothers me is because it shows a real lack of character development. How boring would The Hunger Games be if Katniss was perfect all the time? The real appeal of that series is how flawed, vulnerable and damaged Katniss is by the games. Though her narration can be a bit difficult to read at times, it adds to the charm of the series. Katniss is a wounded veteran of war. And that’s why I love her.

Fortunately, I haven’t seen the Mary Sue archetype in many books lately, but I still have to catch up on a few popular series before I come to a final consensus.

Female characters are not the only ones who suffer from this syndrome. YA books are also filled with the male version, known as a Gary Stu. Barnes and Noble released an article citing some famous (or infamous) Mary Sue’s and Gary Stu’s in literature such as James Bond, Beth March, Charles Wallace Murry from A Wrinkle in Time and Bella Swan just to name a few.

I don’t mind characters who exhibit good traits. In fact, I tend to root for them. However, when they start treading into wish fulfillment territory and find themselves getting out of each and every situation too easily, I  become uninterested.

Are you guys familiar with Mary Sue/Gary Stu characters? Drop me a comment and let me know.

Stay tuned next week for part three!

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