leigh stone

Women In Young Adult Literature

This Wednesday we’re celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women on International Women’s Day. I’d like to use that as an opportunity to talk about a few of my favorite female characters in Young Adult books. Careful if you haven’t read these books because of possible spoilers.

Cather Avery (Fangirl)

Cather Avery and her twin sister Wren are starting college and Wren has announced she wants to discover college on her own, leaving an introvert Cath hiding out in her dorm, writing fan fiction. I really liked that Fangirl was about Cath as a character at first and everything else second. Cath is shy and introvert but she’s also sure of who she is and isn’t ashamed of that.

Madeline Whittier (Everything Everything)

Madeline has a rare illness which prevents her from leaving her house, but Maddy is a happy teenage girl. She reads a lot, takes classes online, has a friend in the form of her nurse. Despite the fact that she was missing out on so much in her life, she keeps being optimistic. It is impossible not to like her. Of course, she was also moody and curious. This curiosity eventually leads her to uncover a secret that will change everything for her.

Glory O’Brien (Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future)

One evening Glory and her best friend mix up beer with the remains of a bat (that is as weird as it sounds). Next thing they know they can see people’s pasts and futures. Glory becomes obsessed with the second civil war and decided to write down every piece of information she gathers from seeing people’s futures. I loved how Glory handled seeing the future. She questioned everything in her past and present; her future, the strange hippie community across the street and especially her mother’s suicide and what I means for her.

Rose Hathaway (Vampire Academy-series)

Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir and thus fated to guard a Moroi. She’s determined to protect her best friend Lissa, a royal Moroi. Rose is sarcastic and insubordinate but she is fiercely loyal to Lissa. Over the course of the series Rose loves and loses Dimitri. The loss of him puts her friendship with Lissa and even her life at stake.

Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer trilogy and upcoming Shaw Confessions)

She has to power to kill people with a thought, but is she a villain? Throughout this trilogy, Mara tries to figure out what is happening with her. She means no harm, but around her people start dying under strange circumstances. She tries to understand her powers and is put in dangerous situations because of it. To get herself out of these situations she must use her power and questions who she is when she does.

Gwendolyn Shepard (Ruby Red)

Kerstin Gier gives us curious and funny heroines. These characteristics often put them in complicated situations. Take Gwendolyn, (Gwyneth in the US/UK editions) for example. She can travel through time but it isn’t nearly as fun as it sounds. She always taught her cousin would inherit the time travel gene, she isn’t ready to fulfill tasks that would take her across time. Yet, Gwendolyn uncovers the truth and stands her ground while taking on an ancient organization.

Shahrzad Al-Khayzuran (The Wrath and the Dawn)

She marries the Caliph, not to love him and be his bride, but to kill him. Khalid has had countless wives and has killed every one of them, including her best friend. But when Shahrzad finds out her husband is cursed she takes it upon herself to save him and their people. Shahrzad can come across as spoiled, but she also doesn’t take shit from anyone and doesn’t like to be told what to do.

Inej Ghafa & Nina Zenik (Six Of Crows)

Inej can climb the most impossible buildings. She grew up with loving parents but was separated from them and sold to a brothel. Her time there still causes her anxiety. Nina was a member of the second army in the Ravkan war. She’s a heartrender. Nina loves her power, she loves food and she loves Matthias, who is supposed to be her enemy, and she knows he loves her too. Nina is determined to show him Grisha aren’t evil like he has been told, to not only accept her but her kind as well. Inej and Nina are just as much a part of The Dregs as the boys and just as important for their mission.

Kestrel Trajan (The Winner’s trilogy)

As the general’s daughter Kestrel knows politics very well. She has always had a privileged life. When Valorians and Herrani’s go to war, Kestrel is put in a difficult position. Her people are in the wrong, but they are her people. Arin isn’t one of them. He’s her slave, the boy she’s in love with. She has to help his people. Kestrel is often put before terrible options but they are her only options and what do you choose when the outcome is bound to be horrible either way?

Verity (Code name Verity)

“Kiss me, Hardy. Kiss me, quick!” Well, if this book didn’t destroy me. Verity is captured by Nazi’s and tortured until she agrees to write down everything she knows - everything. The first half of the book is her confession, the second half is told from her best friend’s POV. Maddie and Verity are major friendship goals. Their story was so inspiring and completely heartbreaking at the same time.

Bianca (The DUFF)

The Designated Ugly Fat Friend is what Robbie calls Bianca, explaining that it isn’t a bad thing, but it’s a fact. Bianca tries to not let this bother her, but it does. She is the DUFF. Despite the fact that he hates Robbie the two of them start a friends-with-benefits relation, except for the “friends” part because they hate each other. The book discusses many others topics, such as friendship, neglect, alcoholism and divorce. Bianca uses the words ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ a lot throughout the book. In the end, she comes to a nice conclusion about these labels and ultimately it’s a good message. I would also recommend Kody’s other YA novels.

Linh Cinder (Cinder)

So far I’ve only read the first book in the Lunar Chronicles series, but it was enough to see that Cinder is bad-ass. She’s funny and sassy and the best mechanic in New Beijing. Instead of going to the Prince’ ball she’d rather use that opportunity to elope from her evil guardian. Things don’t go as planned when it’s discovered that Cinder is a Lunar, that she has powers, and that if the Lunar queen finds out, she will take Cinder to Luna and most likely kill her.

6

“The laconic film crew on the set, even now, years later rhapsodize about her professionalism. There was not a detail that missed her. Before the continuity girl could tell her she knew exactly how far a cigarette had burnt down in a short from the previous day. She understood every camera angle and lights and had a phobia about being late on set. She could be tired, defeated, even cross at the delays, but the moment the director called ‘Vivien…’ by some inner force she would pull herself together. This tiny, fragile figure seemed to grow as she walked with straight back, head authoritatively poised. Again and again she would deliver her lines with the same pitch, same nuance. Camera crew on all her films were floored: ‘She never fluffed. It is difficult to choose her best take.’” -Gwen Robyns on The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone.

9

“I think all this talk about acting is - you just have to act, you have to do the thing, you have to practice the art, just like a painter practices his art, just like a writer writes.” - Vivien Leigh

Top 5 favorite: YA Fantasy series

Halloween has never been my thing, perhaps because where I come from (especially when I was a kid), it isn’t celebrated. I do find it the perfect excuse to talk about my favorite fantasy books. These books might not be spooky in general, but they have their moments!

1. Mara Dyer 

I took the first Mara Dyer-book home with me from the library without having any expectations. Once I started reading these books, it was impossible to put them down. The story’s about Mara, a high school student who’s been noticing strange accidents around her. Accidents she’s afraid she caused. Noah Shaw is Mara’s love interest and he’s so hot and brooding but also sweet and caring. They really are M.A.D.N.E.S.S. (sorry, inside joke). Mara also has a great best friend and a cool relationship with her brothers. 

2. The Grishaverse

If there’s one author everyone should give a shot it’s Leigh Bardugo. She can create a mystery and let her kick-ass characters solve it with a lot of action and a little bit of humor. I deliberately wrote Grishaverse, instead of trilogy because Leigh’s Six Of Crows-duology is set in the same universe. The setting of Six Of Crows is very different from the Grisha-books but just as good. Maybe even better…

3. Vampire Academy (and the Bloodlines spin-off)

About three years ago I read Richelle Mead’s VA-series, which is narrated by the witty Rose Hathaway. She’s a dhampir, a half human-half vampire, who’s in training to become her best friend Lissa’s, a royal vampire, guardian. When I first heard of this series I wasn’t entirely convinced, but once I started reading the first book, I couldn’t put it down! I read the entire VA-series in one week. Luckily after I was finished there was the spin-off, which is about Sydney Sage. She gets introduced in the fourth VA-book. Bloodlines isn’t better or worse, it is only different.

4. Shatter Me

Writing, or even thinking, about Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me-series always hurts a little bit. I’ve read this series twice. When I finished Ignite Me, I started all over again the next day. Tahereh’s writing is beautiful. She writes about the journey of Juliette, a girl with fatal powers, who’s captured and eventually used as a weapon. In Unravel Me there’s this really intense scene and every time I read it, something scares the shit out of me, like the doorbell. My heart hurt so badly from being startled that it still hurts when I think about it.

5. Precious Stone

If you’re looking for an adventure with mystery and great humor, Kerstin Gier’s books are for you. In this trilogy, she writes about time traveling and her character’s are hilarious! Once you’ve finished this book you’ll want to read more of her. Luckily her Silver-trilogy is also published in multiple languages.

This is the seventh installment in a series of book recommendations, all of which will introduce you to kickass women from mythologies around the world, all of them written by women. All books listed had to pass the following criteria: 

  • Be written by a woman
  • Be fictional
  • Have a woman as (one of) the protagonist(s)
  • Feature Russian or Slavic mythology

This recommendation list comes on the heels of the Asian mythology rec list, because I really wanted to include Russia (which falls under both Asian and Slavic mythology), but I wanted to keep the country as a whole in one post. @kostromas (x) and @lamus-dworski (x) (x) were kind enough to take some time answering my questions.

While I mainly looked for books ft. Russian and Slavic mythologies (I used this Wiki file as a measure to determine the Slavic region), I also include a few books with other origins, such as Norway and various Eastern European countries, because I think - out of all the recommendation posts I have done and plan to do - this is the one they would fit best in. 

Please note as well that there is a lot of overlap among most of these cultures, with different versions of a character appearing in many, so some of the below classifications may be rather arbitrary (I usually go with what’s 1) listed in the summary, then see if 2) the writer specifies a culture, or if 3) readers had helpful input).

UPDATE: It’s been brought to my attention that this post could do with some clarification and additions. To start with, I’d like to address the small number of books listed under Slavic. I don’t mean to say that only the countries listed are Slavic countries. The list is as limited as it is because I found it difficult to locate books that met all the above listed criteria, and an unconscious fifth - that they be written in English. If you take out any one of those criteria, a larger pool of books would open itself up, and I encourage you to consider that as an option.

While I understand that limiting these lists to books written in or translated into English is not ideal, I also don’t think I am the right person to judge which books written in Slavic languages should be included, as I am not Slavic and don’t speak or read Slavic languages. Readers should be aware though, that reading a book featuring Slavic mythologies or cultures, which are not written by someone who identifies as Slavic, may promote a stereotypical or otherwise harmful depiction of those cultures. 

Moreover, those authors who do hail from the relevant region are more likely to be published if they don’t push the envelope too much to be acceptable for a generic Western audience. Therefore, additional reading of books on and / or featuring Slavic mythologies or cultures can aid in understanding the context of these tales. I have listed a couple of books in the honourable mentions with that in mind, and I have decided to add an asterisk (*) to all works written by an author who is confirmed as hailing from the region their work is set in. Typically, I’ve listed one or two books per author, but do check for their other writing.

Finally, I should add that I might have made a mistake in including Russia in this list. This was done because I wanted to keep the country in one post, rather than splitting it between the Asian list and this one. The Asian one was sufficiently long I didn’t want to add it there, but I might have been better off creating a completely separate list for it rather than including it here.

With the above reasons in mind, I have decided to move the Slavic section up, I have added a number of entries throughout, and expanded the resources list at the bottom.

Slavic

Russia

Other regions (not Slavic or Russian)

Undefined / speculative

Historical fiction

Comics & graphic novels

Some collected tales

Poetry

Honourable mentions

Other lists you can consult

If you have any suggestions for other Slavic and / or Russian women who deserve more attention (and a corresponding book), or which mythology should definitely be in this series, drop me a line!

Other kickass women in mythology: women in Greek mythology | women in Egyptian mythology & historywomen in Mesoamerican mythologies | women in Celtic mythologies | women in Native American mythologies | women in Asian mythologies | women in pirate lore & history

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