What Makes A Good Teen Fiction Character?

What makes a good teen fiction character?

Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games, pictured left), Harry Potter, Ender Wiggin (Ender’s Game): Three of my favorite characters in teen fiction. Why is it that I like these characters so much? Are there common elements that these three share that make themselves so extraordinary in my (and I’m sure many of your) mind(s)?

The answer is yes. After analyzing these books, and more specifically, these characters, I’ve noticed five key elements that run parallel through all three stories, and here they are:

The parents are gone:

This is the most immediate element that is present in all three books. Harry Potter’s parents died when he was just a baby, killed by the book’s main antagonist, Voldemort. In Hunger Games, Katniss loses her father at an early age and separated from her mother when she’s chosen to fight in the Hunger Games. Ender is taken away from his family and sent to Space School in order to begin his training as a soldier. No parental guidance means a faster growth for these characters.

The problems are caused by adults

Sometimes, adults suck. They represent authority that young adults want to rebel against. In the case of our three characters, the main problems they face all stem from the actions of an adult. Harry Potter is hunted down by Voldemort, Katniss is thrown into the Hunger Games created by Emperor Snow, and Ender Wiggin is part of a psychological experiment created by adults who run Battle School. Adults makes things difficult for our characters, which in turn make for better stories.

The main character solves his/her own problems:

Every character has problems, it’s what makes their stories so interesting. How they solve it is crucial to the books and the character’s development. Harry ultimately finds a way to defeat Voldemort, Katniss devises a way to allow Peeta and herself to leave the Hunger Games alive, and Ender leads a group into battle to destroy the Alien Buggers once and for all. These characters are the anchor for their respective teen books and if anyone else but them solved their own problems, the ending would be anti-climatic.

These characters are realistic:

As readers, we want to believe the plausible. We want to sympathize with our main character and know that every action they make leads to consequences and how they react to these consequences is believable and real. Harry’s grief when he loses someone close to him, Katniss sacrificing herself to protect her sister, and Ender feeling the pressures of being a young leader; these are all reactions that you or I would have if we were tossed into the same predicament.

The characters grow:

From the beginning of the story up until the end, these three teen characters’ experiences allows them to grow into a different person. None of them end up being the same individual they once were. How can they possibly be the same after what they’ve each gone through?


Well there you have it, the five elements of the fictional teen character that make the most beloved ones so successful. These characters are on their own, separated from the watchful eye of a parent, and pitted against another adult who wants to control them with their authority. At the end of their journey, these characters succeed in solving their problems on their own through a series of their own actions and how they react to these actions is believable and realistic. At the end of their stories, each one of these characters have changed. How they were on the first page is much different than how they are on the last.

What are some other characters in teen fiction book that you absolutely love?