Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who Challenge Societal Norms & Expectations

Posted April 27, 2015 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Top Ten Tuesday, Weekly Features/Memes / 26 Comments

TTTcustombannerTop Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly feature hosted by the fantastic blog The Broke and the Bookish. I’m also thrilled that I’m participating in my first TTT on my new blog! Hooray! This week you could choose any topic that completed the sentence: “Top Ten Books That Feature Characters Who ____.” I’ve read a LOT of fantastic books lately with protagonists who really, deeply challenge their society’s structure, and grapple with the shades of grey between what’s right and wrong, what’s tradition vs oppression, etc. I love reading about characters who struggle with their society in a real and meaningful way (even if they don’t always do the right thing, because it makes them that much more human) or who challenge societal norms by the way they choose to carry themselves in difficult situations, whether contemporary or dystopian. So this week my topic is “Top Ten Books That Feature Characters Who Challenge Society.”

1) The Handmaid’s Tale: Offred is a former feminist caught in a new society with a patriarchal regime. One of the “lucky” ones to be chosen as a handmaid to produce heirs for high ranking officials, she has to grapple with joining a potentially fatal revolution or living her oppressive- but safe- life.

2) The Winner’s Curse: Kestrel is the privileged daughter of the highest ranking Valorian general, and must struggle with her people’s oppressive enslavement of the Herranni while also facing cruelty by the oppressed. I was fascinated at how Kestrel was caught between two nations of people, acknowledging the potential for brutality and humanity that both exhibited.

3) The Hunger Games: Not for the obvious reasons you think! Katniss isn’t who comes to mind, but rather Gale, who must set aside his kind nature for the sake of war, or Prim, who helps people and patients in need despite them being from the oppressive class. Or even little Rue, who defies what everyone thinks someone so tiny is capable of in the area. This trilogy is rife with secondary characters who do extraordinary things that go against society’s norms.

4) Eleanor & Park: This entire book is about a romance that defies societal norms, crossing ethnic, economic, and social boundaries. The romance throws out all of the superimposed norms of what is deemed “attractive,” and Eleanor and Park are so brave for it.

5) Trouble: This book doesn’t shame teen pregnancy, but rather has characters who deal with their situation in unconventional, but interesting, ways. Hannah doesn’t let her pregnancy define her, and it manages to be more of a coming of age story for all people involved despite the “scandalous” situation.

6) To Kill A Mockingbird: This book is at it’s core a tale of challenging society’s perceptions of superiority, whether it be the superiority of  a certain race, gender, or social class. Atticus Finch is one of my favorite book characters because he challenges so many everyday societal expectations and wars against them with determination to outshine even the strongest of dystopian heroes.

It looks like it’s only a top 6 today, but I only wanted to include characters who I felt really struggled against and challenged societal norms in a meaningful way! Did any of these books feature characters who you felt challenged society meaningfully?

What did you choose for your TTT topic this week? Let me know in the comments, and I’d love to stop by and visit!

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26 responses to “Top Ten Books Which Feature Characters Who Challenge Societal Norms & Expectations

    • Thank you! I really like the Hunger Games because there’s so much more than just Katniss’ struggle being depicted, it’s so rich with secondary characters with absolutely fascinating personalities (even if that gets overshadowed a bit in the movies!)

  1. Characters that subvert their own stereotypes or societal norms are favourites of mine too! Great choice of subject for this Top Ten Tuesday. I’ve been meaning to get hold of The Handmaid’s Tale for a while now and I’m hoping to read Eleanor & Park this summer!

    To Kill a Mockingbird, The Hunger Games and Trouble are all EPIC. Great choices.

    • The Handmaid’s Tale is truly AMAZING, I can’t wait to hear what you think of it! I really need to find time to reread TKAMB soon, as it’s been 7 years or so since I’ve read it and I want to refresh my memory before the sequel comes out (although I’m not sure how I feel about it…but that’s a whole different story!)

  2. What a great idea for a list! I’ve read and loved just about every book you’ve got listed here — The Handmaid’s Tale is the only book I haven’t read, but it’s on my shelf! I’ve been obsessed these last few weeks with The Winner’s Curse/Crime, and one of the things I love about them is that the characters are actually instrumental in the politics of their world and the war breaking out. I want to see how their romance goes AND how the war between the Valorians and Herrani end!

    Christina @ Christina Writes recently posted: ten characters I would totally share a library with
    • If you like dystopians that really make you think, you’ll love the Handmaid’s tale! I have the Winner’s Crime on my bookshelf and cannot WAIT to finally read it (once I get through my other book obligations first!) I think you make a great point, that Kestrel and Arin are so vital to the world’s politics in a meaningful way, not in a “random teenagers who fight the government” way! Thanks so much for stopping by! 🙂

  3. Wonderful topic choice^^ I couldn’t agree more with you on Hunger Games. It isn’t just Katniss who changed the world, but Gale, Prim, Peeta, Rue, Haymitch…everyone! I still need to read The Winner’s Curse though but I was gifted a copy recently so I should be getting to it soon! Also need to get my hands on Eleanor & Park. Great picks!

    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews

    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews recently posted: Top Ten Tuesday #21
    • I think you’re going to love the Winner’s Curse! I think Hunger Games gets pushed aside a lot as being “overhyped” or “overdone” but I think there’s so many interesting things going on that don’t involve Katniess that often get overlooked! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  4. I’ve read all of these except for The Handmaid’s Tale and Trouble although they sound really good! I really like reading about characters who struggle against social norms because it really represents how controlling society can be without anyone knowing. Great post!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

    Laura W recently posted: A Week In Review
  5. I love reading these kinds of books because as you said, they can be contemp OR dystopian. most of the time [at least the ones i read], the contemp ones are about isues like rape culture, mental illness, bullying etc. while dystopian focuses on the way society is wrecked [especially due to corrupt world building]

    I read this one book called The Revenge Playbook about girls who stand up to the system where the teachers put football players on a pedastal. a girl with a learning disability can’t get an extension on a project while the star football player can because of his athletic ability. it’s awesome how much impact that book had on me!

    Nova @ Out of Time recently posted: Get Rec'd: Fave Feminist Anthems

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