There are many protagonists in kidlit that are very mature and evolved, and when you read a lot of fiction, this starts to feel normal. However, children in real life are flawed and not nearly as together as most kidlit protagonists are. Kidlit characters can be so developed that when you come across a flawed protagonist, they feel unlikable.
I thought these books did a good job of depicting true and flawed kids. Kids are not always likable and motivated, and it is really great to see protagonist who have attitude and make mistakes.
Roll With It is a solid middle grade novel from debut author Jamie Sumner. Ellie talks about living with cerebral palsy, but it isn’t the only problem in her life: she is dealing with aging grandparents, going to a new school, moving, her distant dad, and winning a baking competition. Ellie feels overwhelmed and doesn’t deal with all of those problems perfectly, but she has a great attitude. It was a really nice slice of life story about a kid living with disability.
I loved The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. I had heard a lot about this book since two years ago. I hadn’t read a novel-in-verse in a while, and they really can be hit or miss. Acevedo has a background in poetry and she was had won slams. Interestingly, the protagonist, Xiomara, is a blossoming poet. So yes, this book is book of poems about a poet! And Acevedo pulled it off spectacularly. My favorite thing about Xiomara is that she’s flawed and imperfect and coming into her own — and not at all done with growing.
Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes is a fun mystery for any Frida Kahlo fan! Paloma (dove, not pigeon) is from Kansas and she is in Mexico with her mom for four weeks. Her dad is Mexican, but Paloma doesn’t have any memories of her dad except what her mom tells her. I like Gael and Lizzie, the dad-avenging and crime-solving duo a lot! I also like that Paloma has a different relationship with Gael than with Lizzie, and every kid character is different from the other. I love books about summer-in-Mexico!
Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung is a really interesting book about a girl who is not who she thinks she is. I think Chloe is the perfect example of the unlikable protagonist!
I love Thanhha Lai‘s books. However, I did not finish Butterfly Yellow. This story didn’t grab me like Listening, Slowly or Inside Out & Back Again. The cowboy and brother aspect didn’t interest me as much as the story of a girl going to Vietnam. (Also, I don’t like the language of cowboys 😅 ) I’m looking forward to her future books!
Who is your favorite flawed kid protagonist?