Many middle grade and young adult novels feature main characters with pessimistic outlooks. I write them myself. You know the kind. The kid is a loner or loser (sometimes both), and if he were a car he'd be a lemon. The glass is always half empty. The lawn half-mowed. School sucks, parents suck worse, and siblings are little devils reincarnated.
But cleverly enough, this allows room for the main character to experience the plot, grow, and, ultimately, CHANGE (boy, that's a lot of commas). Who wants to read about Mr. Perfect anyway? He's boring and full of perfection. Flaws are what make interesting characters, and those flaws often materialize in hard-luck narrators.
Here are some examples:
J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.
Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid (#1)
First of all, let me get something straight: This is a JOURNAL, not a diary. I know what it says on the cover, but when Mom went out to buy this thing I SPECIFICALLY told her to get one that didn't say "diary" on it.
Gary D. Schmidt, The Wednesday Wars
Of all the kids in the seventh grade at Camillo Junior High, there was one kid that Mrs. Baker hated with heat whiter than the sun. Me.However, there is a fine line to writing characters like this. If your protagonist becomes a whine box and constant complainer, then it can be difficult to create Reader Empathy (yes, in my world, Reader Empathy is capitalized). Much like Mr. Perfect, no one wants to read about someone who uploads their petty issues to other people's databases, especially the reader's. In other words, who wants to buy a book, only to be vented upon. Not me.
However (I realize I started the previous paragraph this way; I've done it purposefully, and my brain is in shut-down mode), the proof is in the pessimist's pudding. Take a look at lines from my students' (7th graders) journal entries (during last period on a Monday):
I got up this morning, reluctant to go to school because I was so tired... the room was filled with obnoxious boys, who talked in baby voices the entire time...
Today has not been such a great day so far... then I had math, which couldn't have been more boring... I DON'T LIKE MONDAYS!
Wow, I hate Mondays! The tired feeling after a nice, relaxing weekend. The disappointment that comes with the realization of the quality times with friends and family coming to a rapid end...
This morning was one of the worst mornings of my life. First, I woke up twenty minutes late, which caused me to be frantic and stressed out. I was in such a rush that I spilled juice on one of my favorite sweaters, and I had to apply my make-up as I was eating breakfast.
Mondays are always too long, and this one was no exception. We always park near the field, all the way on the other side of school. I had to run all the way to the middle school, only to find out it was only 7:40. I groaned, and went to my locker.
Well, there you have it. This may help you realize why pessimism rings true with Tween Readers. (forgive me, I'm way in to capitalizing today).