Not the other way around.
I know that may sound counter-intuitive, but think about it. Think about some of the best loved characters in middle-grade literature. In all literature, really.
Let's talk about a few of them.
Harry Potter, and Hermoine Granger too, for example.
They are two of the best named characters I've ever read, and you might think, well they were named perfectly. The names fit them so well. And they do, it's true. I mean being American I personally had never heard the name Hermoine before reading Rowling, and it is absolutely perfect, matching the heart of her character to a tea.
And Potter? I mean Potterwatch? Potter stinks? I'm sure there are other examples of how awesome his name is, but the point is I can't think of a better name for a young wizard trying to discover who he really is, find his power, and discover what he can do with it.
But would these names mean what they mean to us if we hadn't followed their stories through seven volumes and over a million words?
No. Even the best names don't mean anything unless we are compelled by, and feel a connection to, the character who owns them.
Let's discuss some other well known characters in books for young people. Let's try to cover both sides of the coin.
Here's a name that could almost disprove my point. This is such a wonderful, apt, clever, and all around amazing name for a character, that it almost defines him for you before you read his story. But what if Artemis had been someone else? What if Artemis hadn't been the world's youngest crime-lord genius with an interest in the environment and a soft place in his heart for Captain Holly Short?
Yes, I think we should recognize the fact the sometimes a name can be so great that it plays a major role in characterizing a ... well, character, but even in this case it is not the name the defines the character. Not even close.
What about Percy Jackson?
His named is borrowed from Perseus, the legendary founder of Mycenae, and a mythic Greek hero who took part in the slaying of various monsters. Percy is certainly a clever nickname, but borrowing from a famous legend for a character name isn't exactly original (Artemis also comes from Greek Mythology), and though it does help identify him a bit if you know the source of the nickname, it does not define him.
If you mention the name Percy to any person who's read the books, they know immediately who you are talking about, and they connect with all the amazing things he somehow managed to survive in spite of his ADHD and dyslexia. It's the character they remember. How he made them feel, why they cared about whether or not he succeeded, and what kind of person he was.
So, my point (however foggy and rambling it might be) is that it isn't their names that make these characters great, it's who they are, what they go through, how they handle it, and the choices they make to overcome it that define them for us as readers. I'm not trying to say that names mean nothing, I mean after all, if Harry Potter had been James Wilson it probably wouldn't have felt quite right, but I know that I, for one, could have lived with it.
I'm not saying you should name the protagonist Bob, and his love interest Mary-Sue, in your next novel, but if you make them flawed, compelling, exciting, and true, then whatever you name them will fit, because they'll be known for who they are, not what they're named.
What do you guys think? Got any other examples of greatly (or poorly) named characters in books for young people? Or do you think I'm wrong (you are allowed to disagree)?