Monday, May 20, 2013

In Defense of the Weak Girl

When the discussion turns to common annoyances in YA books (or any books, probably) one common complaint is the weak female character. I won't say her name, but she loves a sparkly vampire and has become the poster girl for the kind of character nobody wants. She lets things happen. She is obsessed with a boy. She whines. 

And before I go further let me clarify, I don't love a weak character. My favorite books feature characters who make things happen, who are intelligent and problem-solving. Who save themselves and don't wait for someone else to do it for them.

But I got to thinking as I was listening to an audiobook this afternoon (and I won't mention the title right now. I will just say it is making me uncomfortable, but not in a bad way. But we'll see.). You know, sometimes I am a weak character in my own life. Sometimes I've let people save me. Sometimes I've needed them to save me. Sometimes I'm stupid. Sometimes I care too much about trivial things and crave praise to make me feel valued. 

Does that make me one of those girls? What does that even mean, anyway? Is there a list of qualities which you must achieve in life to become a "real" woman? Because sometimes I feel like there is. A complicated algebraic equation of amount you're allowed to care about fashion over the time spent reading times which boys you swoon over to the power of which indie bands you listen to. (I am clearly a math genius). 

And if the numbers add up right and you take a few kickboxing classes then you qualify as a "strong" female. Or in the case of books, a strong female character. 

But what if my numbers don't add up? Can my story still be valuable? What if the girl waits for the prince to save her? What if she doesn't know how to save herself? Can she still be an interesting character? Can her story still be worth telling? 


Because a real girl can sometimes be a damsel-in-distress and still be intelligent and complex and have hidden depths. Because I can care too much about what number the scale says and what other people think of me. Because when I was a teenager I just wanted a boyfriend because it made me feel like I had value. And not a single one of those facts tells the whole story about me or defines my strength, then or now. In fact, some of my strength now comes from feeling that way then. I learned things. I grew. And yeah, some of it I still struggle with. 

I'm rewriting my WIP (again. I know.). And I'm thinking about my two female characters. I love them both. And I hope they don't get plunked in a category (Strong. Weak. Mid-weight!) because they fit some checklist. 

A weak character can be complex and worthy too. And a strong character can kick butt but lack depth. Women come in all shapes and sizes and personalities. There's room in my library for a weak character. What about yours?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book Recommendation: Hex Hall

Okay, so this book has been out for awhile. And there are sequels. And I might read them even. Here's the thing: Hex Hall has been on my TBR list for a long time, and I think that long lead time worked in HH's detriment. This is the blurb from goodreads:

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters. By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. 

Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect. As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Hex Hall was published in 2010 (I know, super behind. In my defense there have been lots of babies around here since, oh, 2006). Anyway, if I'd read Hex Hall in 2010 I think I would've liked it way more. Reading it now though it felt a little tired. The suspense didn't pull me in and Archer--oh, I want to love him more. Should you read Hex Hall? If you've got a spare afternoon and a warm day, (and a hammock, why not?) then for sure.

And just a note, I did listen to this book.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Today at the Pool

D (my 3-year-old): Look Mom! Dad's can nurse too! (points an overweight gentleman exiting the pool).

Me: (gasping noises like I'm the one drowning).

How has your Monday been?