Howl's Moving Castle
Diana Wynne Jones
It's not every day I fall in love with a fictional character. Most of the time the characters I love most are the ones I can identify with, like Lizzy Bennet (we're both judgmental and sarcastic) and BBC Sherlock (we're both awful and arrogant). Except, of course, Sherlock is a genius and Lizzy married a man with a mansion so big it requires its own name.
To make it clear: I don't want to marry Sherlock; I want to be Sherlock.
Now all that has changed. I think I'm finally really, truly, madly, deeply in love with a fictional character. I'm in love with Sophie Hatter.
I suppose it all started with the trends. There's the badass female, and then there's the manic pixie dream girl. Both are “supposed” to be idolised and loved. You seem them all over the place: television and the movies and books. I suppose I still like badass women (always will) and the manic pixie dream girl is okay in small doses, but when everything you see is saturated with cookie cutter archetypes who've traded in actual characterisation for familiarity, then I'm out.
Sophie Hatter is different. You know how some female characters tend to be all mopey and lacking in confidence yet are secretly perfect? The Mary Sue, ladies and gentlemen. Well Sophie is none of that. She's resigned to the fact that she'll be living a fairy tale trope, where the eldest child never amounts to anything (because it's the youngest who gets to go on fun adventures). She's not insecure or unhappy, or at least she's not continuously consumed by it.
There is no constant “woe is me”. It's Howl who does that with his incessant whining, but that's another story.
She's just strong without having to constantly remark on all her hardships. She loves Howl without mooning over him. She helps people without acting like it's a big deal. She just goes about matter-of-factly, recognising her weaknesses and strengths, indulging in pettiness occasionally, succumbing to jealousy (rather than weeping she cuts up Howl's clothes, which is insane but realistic), and basically just being herself.
Sophie has her insecurities, and over time she learns to appreciate herself more, but perhaps what's so remarkable – for me, at least – is how she manages to avoid the annoying way most fictional females harp so much on how they're so different and special and unique snowflakes.
If you have to tell people how crazy and unique and different you are, then sweetheart you probably aren't.
And that's just it, I guess. Diana Wynne Jones managed to create less than perfect characters and gave them real personalities. They are not placeholders. They are not special snowflakes. They are people.
As far as I'm concerned Sophie Hatter is completely, flawfully human, and I'm in love with her.