M is for Mitty
Okay so I'm kind of cheating again. James Thurber, I'm sure, never intended for Walter Mitty from his short story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" to be a YA character. However, it's another one I teach to my middle schoolers. If you've never read it - go read it. Now. It's fabulous - brilliant. I'll warn you though - it isn't a story you can read once quickly through. In order to appreciate Thurber's genius in writing this story and creating this character, it has to be read closely (and maybe more than once).
Mitty is forgetful, passive, and lazy. His wife constantly nags him and treats him like a child. To escape his mundane life full of runnings errands and making silly mistakes throughout the day, Mitty daydreams. In each of his daydreams, he plays the hero: a doctor about to save the life of a millionaire banker (and close personal friend of the president), a captain of a war plane flying through a hurricane, an defendant on trial for murder, a pilot who risks his life to bomb a German ammunition dump. The best part of his daydreams though (and what makes Thurber genius) is that Mitty is completely ignorant of the situations he puts himself in. As a doctor, he takes one look at the millionaire banker and decides "Coreopsis has set in." Coreopsis is a type of flower. "Tertiary of the ductal tract,"he continues. He ends up preventing a machine "with complicated dials" that is keeping the banker alive from breaking down by sticking a fountain pen in one of its faulty pistons. If you read this story closely, it's very funny. (It's about to be a movie starring Ben Stiller....if they ever start filming it).
This story is brilliant mostly because of Walter Mitty's character. He's an idiot (a lovable one) in real life, and although he portrays himself as the hero in his daydreams, he's still kind of an idiot in them too. Another brilliant part of this story is that while most characters are dynamic, Mitty is not. He has a moment when his wife is nagging him that he kind of tries to stick up for himself, but it doesn't work. He doesn't persist, and the reader understands he'll never change. He'll continue to escape from his life through his daydreams.