Here is my favorite, my absolute, number one, my go-to when idealizing teenage girl protagonists...
It's Veronica Sawyer from Heathers.
While you find a LOT of snarky characters in YA fiction--and Veronica is certainly that--dark satire and, particularly, campy humor is sometimes lost on both teen and adult readers--so much so that you see very little of it in the genre. Let's turn that around, shall we? It happens to be my primary goal when I sit down to write!
If you're not familiar with this late 80s, black as obsidian teen comedy, Heathers is roughly about a teenage girl (Veronica, played by Winona Ryder, obviously) who ingratiates herself into the "hottest clique in school," the venomous, frightening and titular, Heathers. They rule with an iron fist and wit biting enough to shrivel many a jock-testicle. Scary, is what I'm saying. Enter J.D., a rebel with a cause and a very specific death wish, who convinces Veronica that her "friends" are the definition of evil. By an odd twist of fate, the two find a connection based in the shared desire to rid their school of bleach blonde parasites...namely killing them off and making the deaths look like suicides...and that's when shiz gets highlarious!
Now, I know what you're thinking. Danny, Veronica doesn't sound heroic in the slightest. And she doesn't start off that way, either. Like so many of us at that age, she's trapped in passivity, worried that taking any overt action will somehow reveal her differences, make her a "freak." It's only after she's come to grips with the horrors of what they've done that she can transform into the school's savior.
It's the push and pull I love. The ambiguity of character. The gray inside us all.
Don't get me wrong. Harry Potter's single-minded heroism is awesome, and I enjoy that too. But boy-howdy (<--- a phrase I never use by the way so I'm perplexed even as I type this), when certain elements are revealed about a possible darkness in him (Hello! Sorting Hat!), I love him all the more.
It's because none of us is entirely one way or the other. Heroes aren't all good and villains aren't all bad. They just are. The anti-hero fits with my perspective on real-life and a history of working in social services with clients, some of whom, a good amount of people would consider despicable.
It's funny what life will do to your tastes, isn't it?
Update: Okay, so I just read the assignment and, as usual, I missed the part where I relate my atrocious love of the vile and despicable, terribly-flawed anti-hero to my own protagonist, VELVETEEN (Fall 2012/Delacorte). I definitely see some Veronica in Velvet. Her humor is laced with that same dark sarcasm. She has a flair for the dramatic (in spades) and a tendency toward homicide, but she can pull her crap together when it counts.
Yep. That just about covers it.
Who are your favorite anti-heroes?
Daniel Marks is a smart ass and a liar. He lives with his wife and three furry monsters who have no regard for quality carpeting in the soggy Northwest. His debut YA novel, VELVETEEN, slips through the publishing cracks in the fall of 2012 from Delacorte/Random House Childrens. Read it if you love ghosts terrorizing serial killers, souls in limbo doing karaoke, and other weird junk.