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"Perhaps in American cinema, women have typically been reduced to types like mom, girlfriend, or victim. But in the Y.A. books of our youth, they are far more complex, and more thoroughly drawn."
April 9, 2012 12:23 PM   Subscribe

'The Atlantic Wire' kicks off its new YA For Grownups series with The Greatest Girl Characters of Young Adult Literature.
posted by box (54 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's a damn good list, and doesn't involve anyone killing each other or making them vampires.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:30 PM on April 9, 2012


It's interesting that the article chooses to use the hook of the popularity of The Hunger Games but then completely ignored fantasy YA literature as a genre in selecting heroines, which is weird because fantasy YA has some of the bravest, best and most varied heroines I can think of in YA literature. No Alanna? No Harry Crewe? No Beauty or Cimorene or Lirael?
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:30 PM on April 9, 2012 [16 favorites]


Are you there God, it's me: a kickass young girl not in love with vampires.
posted by Fizz at 12:35 PM on April 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


It seems like Young Adult lit is majority female protagonist-oriented these days.
posted by knoyers at 12:38 PM on April 9, 2012


This is by no means a "your list of favorite YA heroines sux" comment, just a plug for one of mine. If Pippi Longstocking (9yo) counts as YA then so does Dorothy Gale of Kansas and Oz (as imagined in the books, where she is not a teenager.) Book-Dorothy's ability--and willingness--to face absolutely anything with courage, imagination, and good manners and deal with it without fuss and drama has been a lifelong touchstone of grace under pressure for me since I myself was younger than YA.
posted by jfuller at 12:39 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's interesting that the article ... completely ignored fantasy YA literature"

Meg Murray is on the list, from a book that's far more fantasy than The Hunger Games. But, yeah, you are right in that it sticks boringly close to the standard Newbery-award-type classics of YA.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 12:40 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was just coming in to say what you said WidgetAlley! Forgetting Alanna and Cimorene are to me the greatest deficiencies of that list. I was surprised to say the least.
posted by Carillon at 12:43 PM on April 9, 2012


No Tiffany Aching?
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:43 PM on April 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


It's interesting that the article chooses to use the hook of the popularity of The Hunger Games but then completely ignored fantasy YA literature as a genre in selecting heroines, which is weird because fantasy YA has some of the bravest, best and most varied heroines I can think of in YA literature. No Alanna? No Harry Crewe? No Beauty or Cimorene or Lirael?

It's pretty easy to be a Strong Female Character in a made-up fantasy world where nothing you encounter actually exists.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:44 PM on April 9, 2012


Gosh, what a lovely trip down memory lane. I've read most of those, and there are tons more fabulous heroines.

Mary and Jean from Baby Island (talk about taking charge and getting the job done.)

Pauline, Petrova and Posy from Ballet Shoes

Podkanye Fries from Podkanye of Mars. (There's some sci fi for you.)

And these were written in the first part of the 20th century! These girls are WAY more interesting than some vampire kissing idiots.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:50 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's pretty easy to be a Strong Female Character in a made-up fantasy world where nothing you encounter actually exists.

Sys Rq, I think that's a really poor way to treat fantasy literature in general and female fantasy heroines in particular. Are you really seriously suggesting we disregard fantasy as a psychologically valid way of dealing with real-life topics in the context of not-real scenarios? Because the stuff that these books deals with is totally true to life-- personal struggles about courage and integrity and the shape of the universal bildungsroman of growing from a child into a fully-fledged member of a community who takes full responsibility for his/her actions isn't suddenly less valid because there are dragons in it.
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:50 PM on April 9, 2012 [32 favorites]


Also I completely forgot about Juniper!
posted by Carillon at 12:52 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was hoping I would see (but suspecting that I would not find) Deeba, from China Mieville's Un Lun Dun. When I saw that they left out Harry Crewe and Aerin, I simply gave up on the list.

Or, what WidgetAlley said.

Also, I tend to think of some of these as less YA and more children's books. A couple of people in the comments of the piece explain it much more eloquently than I can.


Sys Rq,
Really? Do we have to have the Fantasy can be literature discussion? I would have thought that this had been addressed enough times already.

And "nothing you encounter actually exists" is a pretty good definition of fiction in general, with the exception, perhaps, of historical fiction.
posted by Hactar at 12:54 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Turtle Wexler

(and anyone who argues with me gets a shin kicking)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:56 PM on April 9, 2012 [17 favorites]


If you are a YA fan, you have GOT to read the Annotated Anne of Green Gables. Until you do you will have no idea how astonishingly feminist and subversive Lucy Maud Montgomery's charming children's tale really is. The flower symbolism alone will blow your freaking mind. All the reasons you love Anne are in there, on purpose, and hella subversive for 1908.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:56 PM on April 9, 2012 [15 favorites]


Exactly, Hactar! Hell, I've been planning my Harry Crewe tattoo for years. (Left foot, the horse and rider from this edition.)
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:59 PM on April 9, 2012


Beverly Cleary started off writing about Henry Huggins but relegated him to the background when Ramona Quimby turned out to be a far more interesting and compelling character. Henry always seemed stuck in the 1950s somehow, with his rolled-up jeans legs and his "I didn't mean to make any trouble" (like a miniature Mitt Romney), no matter how much the illustrations updated his look. Ramona not so much. I identified with Ramona even though (as a red-blooded American boy) I "should" have identified with Henry. One of many revelations in my personal growth, and by no means the least of them.
posted by blucevalo at 1:00 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because the stuff that these books deals with is totally true to life-- personal struggles about courage and integrity and the shape of the universal bildungsroman of growing from a child into a fully-fledged member of a community who takes full responsibility for his/her actions isn't suddenly less valid because there are dragons in it.

We disagree.

Really? Do we have to have the Fantasy can be literature discussion?

I never said it wasn't literature. Obviously it's literature. I read fantasy and SF. I like them. But when characters can solve problems magically, they aren't strong characters. Cf.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:02 PM on April 9, 2012


The Greatest Girl Characters of Young Adult Literature?
Every. Single. Monica Hughes character ever? Seriously. It's a true shame that she is never recognized on these sort of lists, nor on more general "Amazingly nuanced YA author" lists (*Alas, she often isn't even recognized on "Canadian Author" lists... [she was writing Global Warming Aware fiction before it was a genre]).

In the summer of 2011, the death of their mother sends Megan and her younger brother Ian on a dangerous journey across a Canada ravaged by drought and the collapse of civilization.
posted by infinite intimation at 1:05 PM on April 9, 2012


Minnie the Minx!
posted by Abiezer at 1:13 PM on April 9, 2012


But when characters can solve problems magically, they aren't strong characters.

You might as well make the same argument for technology. If young Jane Protagonist has to shoot someone to protect her family, is there a difference to her psyche whether she does it with a gun or a wand?

I'll also argue that if an authority figure says "You can't perform Task X; you're just a girl!" and the protagonist says "Sure I can!" and does, it can be equally inspiring to the reader no matter if the task in question was becoming a mathematician, scoring the winning goal in the championship, taming a griffin or piloting a starship.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:14 PM on April 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


But when characters can solve problems magically, they aren't strong characters.

That really depends on how well-constructed the book's magic system is, and the nature of the character's solution to whatever their narrative problem is. Dismissal of magical elements in this kind of fiction as rendering characters less relatably strong belies an ignorance of how good genre fiction functions.

Anyway, whatever. Totally with you, Hactar, re: being sad at the omission of The Blue Sword, etc.

Did appreciate the inclusion of Claudia Kincaid, though, and while Anne Shirley is probably the single most obvious example in the list, that doesn't mean she doesn't 100% deserve it.
posted by pts at 1:23 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seconding "Where's Lirael?" on this list (or Sabriel, for that matter.)

Also, no Lyra?
posted by Anima Mundi at 1:33 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Trixie Belden. Maybe the books weren't Great Art, but I could relate to Trixie, when I couldn't relate to Nancy and all the rich boarding school girls of English books. Trixie had chores, messy hair, jeans, involved parents, an annoying brother she had to babysit (though for money), a twin brother who teased her, an older brother who drove a falling apart car, and she had to suffer through high school classes. Her boyfriend was a reformed and misunderstood "bad boy", but it took a while before they ever hooked up. And she solved mysteries and started a club. Admittedly, a lot of it was coloured by 1950s role expectations, but she still stood out for the time and genre.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:39 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


This was great (Francie Nolan remains my secret best friend of all time, btw), but the NYT article (on where Katniss fits in the cultural landscape) it links to and cites heavily is excellent.

The last line:

In truth Rue, Katniss and Peeta exist in a new kind of frontier that is a dystopian nightmare but one that has its utopian moment — which may largely account for the film’s popularity — in that race and gender stereotypes have become seemingly irrelevant.

Certainly some, possibly most, earlier YA girl characters buck these stereotypes -- Meg Murray, anyone? -- but do any of the male characters go against type to the extent that Peeta does? I don't know that I've come across that awesome almost-gender-inversion dynamic between Katniss and Peeta much before.
posted by kalimac at 1:42 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The more I think about this list -- and the more I realize how many of those characters I identified with -- the more I'm happy that, at least inside my head (if not loudly and proudly), I had enough of a queerness that I didn't think twice about identifying with female characters. Harriet the Spy, check. Claudia Kincaid, check. I was more Beezus than Ramona, but that's just because I was the oldest sibling (to a brother and sister who more than had the Ramona-bases covered in our household). The aforementioned Turtle Wexler... I could only dream of being that tough.

And Meg Murray. Double-motherfucking-check. I didn't know what it meant to be able to find so much to identify with in a nerdy girl in her (oh-what-a-dream) attic bedroom on a dark and stormy night, but any time I've re-read A Wrinkle in Time as an adult, I have to laugh at how it would have been so obvious to anyone while I was so thrilled that Calvin O'Keefe was giving her the time of day.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:53 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you are a YA fan, you have GOT to read the Annotated Anne of Green Gables. Until you do you will have no idea how astonishingly feminist and subversive Lucy Maud Montgomery's charming children's tale really is. The flower symbolism alone will blow your freaking mind. All the reasons you love Anne are in there, on purpose, and hella subversive for 1908.

I loved the annotated version of Through the Looking Glass, so you've sold me. Can't wait to read this!
posted by asciident at 1:53 PM on April 9, 2012


Sys Rq,

Ok, I see your point. I disagree, as I think societal issues can be addressed within a fantasy setting, unless the author posits magic as some kind of panacea for society's ills. If magic is simply presented as another part of the world, as something that has its own aspects, then I do not think that it detracts from the strength of the characters.
posted by Hactar at 2:09 PM on April 9, 2012


Little House on the Prairie is a strange choice for this list - it's memoir (albeit lightly fictionalized).

I also wish that when folks name check it they would note that the whole story plays out against the really grotesque and miserable dispossession of the Indians. The books are a strange document of that - Laura's puzzlement over her encounters with native people and the extremely odd passage (in the third one, maybe?) where Ma or Pa tells her that all the natives are "going away" and they encounter beads and other material traces.

Pa Ingalls was actually a pretty unpleasant person who might have been implicated in the murder of some native people, too.

I enjoyed those books a lot as a little girl - the more so because Laura had brown hair and blue eyes like me and was always aware that she was being compared to prettier girls - but as an adult knowing what was going on in the background to the books, they seem ghoulish and haunting to me, better suited to the historical record than to children's classic status.

Here's a thing: I can't think of very many books I read as a child with a girl of color as a heroine. There was one really fascinating book about some Mexican-American kids who are forced by circumstances to work as migrant laborers, but I haven't read that since I was seven or so and don't remember the title. I read some in my teens, but those were more adult novels that had young protagonists. I think I would have read at least some of them if they'd been around, if only because I was desperate for fiction all the time...so I assume that my library just didn't buy very many.
posted by Frowner at 2:11 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Tenar!!!

Ursula LeGuin is why I am a writer, I am pretty sure. The Tombs of Atuan is an amazing, complex story. Tenar is compelling and horrible, brave and cowardly, and like a lot of LeGuin's heroines, she is heroic without doing that thing that often happens in YA stories where she is heroic because she is good at putting on britches and swordfighting.

(Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's a nice change of pace.)
posted by thehmsbeagle at 2:24 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I read fantasy and SF. I like them. But when characters can solve problems magically, they aren't strong characters. Cf.

What if the character isn't magic, but the world and its dangers are? (Spirited Away, if I remember correctly, follows this premise.) What if the character's magical qualities are meant to be a metaphor for real-world personality strengths and differences? What if magic is just a tool, that can be used for good or ill, but requires strength of will and integrity to be wielded responsibly? (See also: technology.) Your argument ignores the many, many fantasy stories that are not pulpy wish-fulfillment.
posted by IjonTichy at 2:32 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, no Lyra?

'The Golden Compass' is a big omission on this list.
posted by ovvl at 2:51 PM on April 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's really not YA. It's a good primary grades list, but YA it isn't. Also, not really ip to the caliber of usual Atlantic content. Perhaps I should just have some tea and grumble quietly in the pedantic corner....
posted by dejah420 at 3:04 PM on April 9, 2012


And if your eight year old isn't American?
posted by mattoxic at 3:07 PM on April 9, 2012


yeah that isnt what i think of as YA fiction? ramona quimby? i guess i should be inured to mainstream publishers "not getting" YA but it's like what the
posted by beefetish at 3:37 PM on April 9, 2012


Jacky Faber of the Bloody Jack series has really struck my family's fancy. She's got plenty of flaws, makes lots of mistakes, but is such a winning personality you always root for her. The early books especially are very well written. Picaresque adventures in the early 19th century, mostly at sea. Very much worth checking out, though the author could really stand to wrap things up soon before they get totally rote.
posted by rikschell at 3:44 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


And if your eight year old isn't American?

IIRC Pippi Longstocking is by a Swedish author, but uh, yeah.

Nth-ing the "where is Harry Crewe? Where is Lyra? Where is Alanna? Where is Lirael?" comments, because, come on guys. Also Nth-ing the "this is YA lit?" comments because, unless reading standards have fallen considerably while I wasn't looking, you're never going to find Ramona Quimby or From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler on a YA shelf.
posted by clavier at 3:45 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like that they went right back in history and pointed out the great female characters in books from 50-100 years ago.
posted by jb at 4:22 PM on April 9, 2012


I guess Hermione Granger with all her book-learnin' and spell castin' heroics isn't fit company for this bunch. Muggles.
posted by Ber at 4:35 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's a thing: I can't think of very many books I read as a child with a girl of color as a heroine.

Frowner, there weren't that many back then (though as the '70s wound on, there were more). You will be happy to hear of the Pura Belpre Awards, the Coretta Scott King Awards, the AILA Award (sad that's not a formal part of ALA) or even the Schneider Family Book Awards or the Stonewall Book Awards. Note that if you're looking for books, these awards are often divided into picture books and 'everything else' (so, could be easy reader, could be middle grades, could be YA). There's an entire (very helpful!) database of award-winning children's literature which helps librarians buy if, for example, they'd like to give a voice to the experiences of Asian Americans (Alan Say! He's very definitely picture books but man he's awesome)

I could keep going--it was my job at one point to identify books covering every 'ism' we might see represented and suggest a list of good ones to purchase for our library (unfortunately, it was in support of educators so no help to public library patrons).

Today, there is simply no excuse not to buy quality books representing every different experience children and teens might be having (from being a minority of whatever flavor to having parents divorce to being pregnant/raped/assaulted/etc. to being bullied in school to bullying people in school). If your local public library is not doing so, I would urge you to ask why not. All too often the answer is budgets, but that's not a complete excuse.

As for the article itself, I'm waiting for PhoBWanKenobi's take on it and in the meantime I echo what everyone else is saying: this isn't YA and it's certainly not modern YA!

Gender roles and expectations have changed a great deal since Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne of Green Gables, Ramona, and From the Mixed Up Files (which are all, every last one of them, middle grade!) were published. I'd be more impressed with this list if it a) included books published within the last ten years (when YA exploded) and b) if it included books that were anything other than bland and safe classic choices. Too bad, because this had the potential to be a great article.
posted by librarylis at 4:37 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


And for the antithesis of this list please see: Catherine Dollanganger, Heaven Leigh Casteel and Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield!

I read pretty much anything and everything I could get my hands on while I was growing up and therefore read a lot of pretty dire books along with the great ones already mentioned in this thread. I couldn't say which books had more of an influence on me though I could pretty easily say that both Beverly Cleary and V.C. Andrews (and everything in between) strongly influenced my worldview. I don't remember many of the books I read as an adult all that well (unless they're exceptionally memorable) but all those books I read as a preteen girl seemed burned in my memory.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:58 PM on April 9, 2012


Frowner - were you maybe thinking Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan?

And on the Little House tip - I couldn't agree more. I recently re-read the whole series and was pretty aghast at how blatantly racist some of it is (I mean, black face in Little Town On The Prairie? UGH).

And when I looked at this list and Turtle wasn't on there, I pretty much dismissed it.
posted by bibliogrrl at 5:13 PM on April 9, 2012


Why no Turtle Wexler? She was the best. I loved The Westing Game.

I was another Beezus fan.
posted by jeather at 5:18 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I watched all the Pippi movies growing up. She was really kind of anarchic and fun and weird.
I wonder if the whole thing with the way Katniss is displayed in the movie is so popular could be because loads of smart girls could be totally sick of the fuckass sexist way that smart girls are portrayed in action films. "one of the most radical female characters to appear in American movies."(Subtext: because at their core all female action heroes are either weak or frigid because of stupid writers.)
Basically, she doesn't have her mouth open unnecessarily and she doesn't show tons of cleavage because when you're running for your life, it's less important to pander to post-adolescent boys than it is to survive. Which, in the long run, is cooler than looking all Witchblade/female terminator sort of thing.
posted by Zack_Replica at 5:20 PM on April 9, 2012


...but do any of the male characters go against type to the extent that Peeta does? I don't know that I've come across that awesome almost-gender-inversion dynamic between Katniss and Peeta much before.
If you mean the dynamic wherein Peeta is all doe-eyed and getting all needy with the romance and Katniss has to put on her big-girl panties and say "Boy, I have shit to deal with right now, but lemme still work at preserving your mental and emotional stability even though it is the last thing on my list", than I think you need not turn to examples in other books but in real life.

It's actually fairly common for either sex, but I am constantly reading about the men out in that great wide world who just want to settle down, make babies, and get all cozy with their woman of choice while still working to maintain their Testosterone Cred. At this man's side is often a woman who feels as if she must use kid gloves so as to not damage this dream, whether or not she wants a career in addition or instead of a family.

.......y'know, or this might just be my life which has so far been a small run of boyfriends who consistently want to marry me and "maybe kinda sorta someday maybe?" keep mentioning wanting children even after I stamp that idea out on my end with warm hand-holding but cold "over my rotting corpse" death eyes. Heh, if that's so, do ignore the parallel conclusions.
posted by DisreputableDog at 5:29 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


KATNISS! KATNISS! KATNISS!

God I love Suzanne Collins. I'm sorry - so new to the Hunger Games, and so, so in love.....
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 5:36 PM on April 9, 2012


I can't believe they left out Julie of the Wolves - and Cassie from Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. And if Laura counts, surely Caddie Woodlawn would as well.

As far as fantasy characters solving things with magic - the wonderful/awful thing about being a teenage girl pretty much everywhere is that most of the time, your problems can't all be fixed with magic. Just like I couldn't solve all my problems in the same way that Alanna could solve hers, Caddie Woodlawn's life was pretty alien and I'd never be able to shove stuck up girls in the pigsty. But when Alanna has to change the way she thinks about her sexuality as she matures and different things become important, that mirrors the sorts of questions I and other people were having at the same time. Yes, part of what I loved about Dealing with Dragons was the whole Princess and Dragon part, but "I'm a princess ... and I fence!" was sort of my mantra when people told me I couldn't do something because I was a girl, or too young, or not the right kind of intelligent, or any variety of things.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:46 PM on April 9, 2012


I am kind of hoping that the upcoming Code Name Verity will distract people from arguing about Bella and Katniss.

It's really really good. And really feminist.

Not that I don't like Katniss lots, but I think the issues around surveillance and performativity are way more important in The Hunger Games than issues of gender, and while it's nice to see a strong female character and I'm all for teenage girls seeing more of them, as an adult who reads a ton of YA I didn't feel like it was doing anything too new or radical in terms of gender.
posted by Jeanne at 5:49 PM on April 9, 2012


I too was disappointed to see this list so heavily weighted towards middle grade fiction over 25 years old, though I was gratified by the inclusion of Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief.

Frowner: Here's a thing: I can't think of very many books I read as a child with a girl of color as a heroine.

For those looking for a YA book with a girl of color as a heroine, I enthusiastically recommend The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. The protagonist is Gratuity "Tip" Tucci, a young biracial girl trying to find her mom after aliens invade earth. It's hilarious, charming, and tremendous amounts of fun while still making some very astute points about colonialism. Tip is definitely one of my favorite YA protagonists of recent years.

kalimac: but do any of the male characters go against type to the extent that Peeta does? I don't know that I've come across that awesome almost-gender-inversion dynamic between Katniss and Peeta much before.

That kind of gender inversion is one my favorite tropes/trends ever, and I am always thrilled to see it pop up. Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series does it too (though it only comes up starting in the second book, Queen of Attolia), and I think it's one of my favorite examples of the power dynamics of a relationship being completely flipped from the norm gender-wise. I will say no more so as not to spoil the series (and seriously, DO NOT READ THE BACK COVER BLURBS if you do not want to be spoiled), but I highly recommend the series, and the female character who makes her first real appearance in Queen of Attolia is one of my favorite ever. The first book reads as clever, rather young YA, but the next few books go to awesome SHIT GETS REAL places and feature some interesting politics in an alternate Mediterranean.
posted by yasaman at 8:21 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


The article is done a disservice by the headline writer. It isn't "The Greatest Girl Characters of YA Fiction" it is the greatest girl characters from the YA fiction of the writer's youth. So everyone saying "why isn't X recent character included" is kinda missing the premise.
posted by yoink at 9:27 PM on April 9, 2012


To hell with the premise. Where's my Nita Callahan?
posted by mikurski at 10:35 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Disreputable Dog:

If you mean the dynamic wherein Peeta is all doe-eyed and getting all needy with the romance and Katniss has to put on her big-girl panties and say "Boy, I have shit to deal with right now, but lemme still work at preserving your mental and emotional stability even though it is the last thing on my list", than I think you need not turn to examples in other books but in real life.

ehhhh, sort of? I don't know if Peeta's super-needy so much as kind of blindly assuming Katniss is bonkers for him, while she's putting on her big-girl panties because hello, she's got a family to take care of back home and also the crazy guy from District 1. I was focused more on the fact that he's not a hunter, he bakes (holy female symbology Batman!), for that matter he bakes and decorates very pretty cakes. And he's really, really able to read people quickly and respond to make them like him, to charm them, to make them do what he says. (I'm trying to avoid calling him manipulative, although he is! But in a survival sort of way; that when he doesn't need to pretend, he can turn it off.)

Erm, sorry to go on, I just really, really like the way Peeta's written. And the inverted relationship that he has with Katniss. But I absolutely see where you're coming from, as we work out how we deal with gender roles in our own society.

yasaman:

Oooooh, thank you for the rec! I will totally check that out soon. I wonder -- is it somehow safer to play with gender in YA books than in adult fiction? Fewer expectations to meet?
posted by kalimac at 2:05 AM on April 10, 2012


I guess that Ramona Quimby's about the same age as Harry Potter in The Sorcerer's Stone, and the HP books have to be as responsible as any for the trend of adults reading YA fiction (I wasn't aware there was such a trend--thought it was just me!). OTOH, the Harry Potter books span the age range into adolescence, something Ramona and Pippi do not do. I agree with posters above that the FPP list skews bizarrely young.

One major achievement of The Hunger Games is that it is being read by both boys and girls. To younger children, a girl protagonist is not a problem (Ramona, Pippi, Little House, etc.). But once kids reach adolescence, their tastes diverge; books with boy protagonists are read by boys and girls, and books with girl protagonists are read mostly by girls.

If this is the start in a series from the Atlantic Wire, I will be curious to see if they include Scott Westerfeld's "Uglies" series. It plays with some of the same inversion of gender expectations that you see in Hunger Games, and the protagonist Tally is competent and self-reliant (or a very quick study at least) in many of the same ways that Katniss is. In terms of achieving universal readership, though, I find it mystifying and depressing how Simon & Schuster chose to market these books, though.

Although I have to say that both Westerfeld and Collins drive me nuts in terms of writing style, I'm so excited that these books are available to my teenaged daughter and son. It's true that Katniss and Tally come from "hardy stock" as the Atlantic column says, but it's also true that there are cultural assumptions about girls and women in all those classics that are refreshingly absent from the newer books.
posted by torticat at 7:44 PM on April 10, 2012




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