Why do we read books? From shocking our system to soothing our soul, there could be as many reasons as there are readers. And isn’t that the beauty of literature? It’s so expansive, so flexible, with something different to offer to each person.
But how many of us read to get to know ourselves more? This is probably one of the most personal and revealing posts we’ve yet done. Because here is a list of protagonists we’ve found ourselves mirrored in. These are characters with whom we’ve developed a sense of kinship. For better or worse, these characters have forced us to learn more of who we are. So read them, and see us.
K.’s Kindred Spirits
There are many characters I’ve come to admire, so far are they from me. And then there are those who I feel have stolen my secrets and confessed them to the world. It’s always scary coming across a protagonist who resemble you so much. You’re afraid to read ahead because what if they make your mistakes or fail at your dreams? Would that then be the ending for you, too?
So many writers and yet I find myself encapsulated through a single voice, and through this voice my many sacred parts are given life. Melina Marchetta’s Josie in Looking for Alibrandi and Taylor in Jellicoe Road. To explain why I chose these characters would take an essay but in Josie and Taylor, Marchetta took the deepest most terrifying things about myself and made them okay.
Josie feels like a foreigner. She lived a double life, constantly in balance between family and the rest of the world. She lived in a place she didn’t feel wanted her there. She had ethnicity but she also had nationality. Her struggle was trying to understand who she was between two clashing cultures. I immigrated to Canada and it took a long time to feel like home. To have my memories ripped from their cages was so intensely nostalgic. It made me understand more of how I felt as a little girl. Marchetta gave that to me.
And Taylor is a similar cry for help as I am. I understood so much of her and that was scary because she is so flawed. What did that say about me? I understood how she yearned for connection but feared to get close. How she threw walls up against people who she wanted inside with her the most. How she was afraid to ask for the things she needed. I hated her sometimes but not too much because then it would’ve meant I hated myself, too.
Tonya’s Kindred Spirits
Anne Shirley – a little bit lost, and a lot earnest, Anne could imagine herself out of (or into, actually) any situation. She was a reader like me, a wanna-be writer like me, and in just like me, in love with the annoying yet charming Gilbert Blythe. I read the Anne books every summer as a child, and I don’t know if I’ve ever found a more kindred spirit than Anne Shirley.
Karou* from Daughter of Smoke and Bone / Days of Blood and Starlight – as you might be able to tell from my gushing reviews, I quite like Laini Taylor’s Smoke and Bone trilogy. I mean… they’re okay. If you like that sort of thing. (AND I DO.) In most respects, I am in awe of Karou’s character, and wholly dissimilar to it–I am neither as brave nor talented as she is, and to be honest, teeth gross me out. But in this line, I felt I recognized a piece of myself in her…
“Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn’t. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and…cancel her.”
Lola Nolan from Lola and the Boy Next Door – In Lola I recognized so much of my self. The way she tried on different personalities under her wigs and costumes, at once masking and searching for her real self. What teenager (or *cough* adult) hasn’t done that? And I would definitely fall for the gangly awkward boy next door, Cricket. And Max too, actually. Cat
Cath** from Fangirl – I pretty much said it all in my review, but reading Cath’s story was like looking in a mirror in some ways. Taking on the burden of parenting a parent, burying hurt in reading and writing and obsessing over fictional characters, the agonizing awkwardness of social anxiety, and the tendency to hide myself away when I’m uncomfortable. I think Fangirl is the first book to really speak honestly to and about the new generation of teens in the digital (and fanatical) age.
Wendy’s Kindred Spirits
It’s also kind of funny to me that in 2 1/2 years of using Wendy Darling as my online handle, no one’s ever asked me why I chose it; it is, of course, because she’s the girl who never wanted to grow up…but had to. Quite fitting for someone who never wants to give up reading children’s books.
The character identify most strongly with, however, is probably Tessa Gray from The Infernal Devices. I feel her love of literature so deeply, as well as her desire to behave with as much kindness and honor as she knows how–and I know exactly what it’s like to long for something that I can’t have. As much as I love the kickass Rose Hathaways of the world, and as much as I wish I had more of that adventurous, courageous spirit in me, it’s the more introspective heroines who are really my kindred spirits. I understand them perfectly, and therefore their dreams and troubles and aspirations are nearly as urgent to me as my own.
A very telling post, indeed. But also a very nice way to get to know each other, no? So who are your kindred spirits? Which characters remind you of you and why? How does it feel when you find yourself in the pages you’re reading?