I can't comment on female characters in recent YA fiction with any authority whatsoever, since it's not a genre I've read since I was a young adult (and how long ago was that? Let's just say "a while".). I have, however, read the Twilight series. It's not a book or series I would typically read---as I said, I haven't read YA in a long time, and I don't read vampire/werewolf/paranormal stuff of any kind---I was talked into reading Twilight by a 30 year old male friend who said, "If I read it, you can read it---just do it." So I did it.
They're not my favorite books, but I enjoyed them. The thing that bothered me most about them was that I couldn't help thinking "Yeah, I enjoy this, but wow, this is not a message I would want to send to my daughter, if I had a daughter." I have two sons, and they are about as likely to read Twilight as they are to beg me for broccoli and lima beans for dessert---it's not gonna happen.
I do have tons of friends with daughters of varying ages, all of whom read Twilight---the whole series. I didn't actually have any problem at all with the (spoiler alert) part where Bella falls into a depression when Edward leaves---I thought that very accurately portrayed the angst and heartache of losing a first love, where you feel like you can't breathe and life goes on without you, and you barely remember doing the day to day things that somehow just seem to take care of themselves (getting back and forth to school, taking tests, etc---it's all just a blur because you're too consumed with what's upsetting you to even notice you're doing it).
And I actually think that portion of the book DID show inner strength, because in spite of the fact that she was dying (from grief/sadness/etc) she DID NOT kill herself (whereas many teens in that situation will or will make serious attempts---more serious than clumsy cliff diving).
What I DID take issue with were things in the later books where I felt that aggression towards women was being romanticized. While I think adult women know the difference between hot sex that may consensually get a little rough, or may know that anger can lead to a passionate encounter, I think a young girl may very well not realize that it's not okay to romanticize sex that leaves you bruised from head to toe, or to fantasize that some guy kisses you against your will and continues doing so till you relent. I found it particularly odd that a book that advocates abstinence and fades to black for sex scenes still managed to glorify the more violent/damaging things that happen to Bella.
I'm tempted to say that those things are okay in the book because it's so clear that neither Edward nor Jacob wants to harm Bella in any way, and they both love her....but in reality those would not be good excuses. "I didn't mean to hurt you, honey" is not a viable real-world excuse to teach to young women, or young men. Again, an adult reader can (hopefully) make the distinction and realize these are fictional characters, Edward did nothing intentional to harm her it's just his super-strength and marble-hard weight---he's a vampire, not a realistic threat and certainly not an abuser....and Jacob is literally part animal and couldn't control his animal urges....but I'm sure there are some young women reading those book and thinking "Oh, it's ok that my boyfriend does (whatever that is painful) because I love him and he loves me and it's just like Bella and Edward...."---and that's not cool.
Passionate Plume 1st Place Winner 2012 - ALWAYS YOU
Published with Ellora's Cave, Turquoise Morning Press & Samhain Publishing