Best Fictional Female Outsiders

The boys have their Holden Caulfield, their Boo Radley and Ignatius J. Reilly. And yeah, I love those guys too. But where are the fictional female outsiders rebelling without a cause on behalf of disgruntled girls everywhere? We rounded up a few anti-social anti-heroines to lurk around the edges of the party with us or to share a smoke behind the high school. (Just kidding. Don’t smoke.) These misunderstood misfits are a celebration of otherness, often providing biting observations of life from the cheap seats. Despite their lack of social skills, they’re surprisingly good company. Just don’t expect them play nice. They’re not here to make friends.

Enid Coleslaw and Rebecca Doppelmeyer, Ghost World
Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel features two scathingly cynical besties united by their awkwardness and love of mocking pop culture. As Rebecca matures and becomes more accepting of herself and others, the girls drift apart. Enid, however, remains a wonderful weirdo, fails summer school, loses out on her art school scholarship and doesn’t seem to be on the road to any sort of happily ever after. Which is just fine by her.

Pecola Breedlove, The Bluest Eye

Toni Morrison’s first novel deals with a lot of heavy issues, not the least of which is our culture’s obsession with “mainstream” beauty standards and how anyone not fitting the narrow, arbitrary definition of conventional beauty can feel like an outsider. The book’s protag, Pecola Breedlove, mocked and criticized even by her own family for her brown eyes, dark skin and curly hair, desperately wants blue eyes. She believes these conventional “white” features could protect her from the ugliness she sees and experiences. Unlike Enid Coleslaw, Pecola doesn’t embrace her otherness and is instead, driven mad by it. A cautionary tale, for sure.

The second Mrs. Maxim de Winter, Rebecca

The heroine in Daphne Du Maurier’s chilling gothic mystery isn’t even given a first name, so completely is she overshadowed by her husband’s first wife, Rebecca. While courting, the our Fictional Female Outsider and Max get along like a house on fire till they return from their honeymoon to the isolated gray stone mansion, Manderly, where Rebecca seems to haunt every corner. And like the lady herself, her secrets refuse to stay buried. Our girl starts out the book timid and shy but grows more assertive as she fights for her man, and it’s a pleasure to watch her transformation.

Briony Tallis in Atonement

We’ve all been there: You tell one little lie and an innocent man goes to prison, then dies in the war before he can be exonerated. Guilt is what turns an otherwise precocious young girl into fictional female outsiders in Ian McEwan’s metafiction novel. And though she never actually asks for forgiveness, her remorse ensures that her road to redemption is a long and winding one.

Kenya Curtis, Disgruntled

Moving from West Philadelphia to the suburbs, from public school to private, from childhood through adolescence, eight-year-old Kenya Curtis isn’t sure why she doesn’t fit in anywhere. The funny, smart, poignant star of this coming-of-age tale by Asali Solomon, shows us how desperately we all try find our place in the world and why it’s ok that the search takes some of us longer than others.

Lisbeth ­­Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson said he modeled his character Lisbeth based on what he thought Pipi Longstocking might’ve been like as an adult. (And presumably had a much harder life than the cartoons about her led us to believe.) Part computer hacker, part avenging angel, Lisbeth isn’t a girl you want to get on the wrong side of. Her enemies call her “paranoid”, “psychotic”, “obsessive”, “egomaniacal psychopath.” But that may just be professional jealousy as far as we’re concerned.

So did we miss any fictional female outsiders, introverts and loners you’d like to see on the list? Sound off below.

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2 Comments on “Best Fictional Female Outsiders”

  1. If you are talking kids’ books, my role model has to be Harriet M. Welsch of Harriet the Spy. An outsider and a writer before she’s out of grade school, Harriet can’t understand why it’s: A) wrong to spy on people; and, B) write down everything she sees with complete, unvarnished honesty. When others read what she wrote, it upsets the entire sixth grade.

    Scout Finch is another beloved outsider in her own town but she knows the social world of Maycomb exists and it hurts her sometimes to be so at odds with it. Harriet doesn’t know or care how different she is. Gotta love a kid like that.

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