Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Strong Girls, Strong Women

March marks Women's History Month -- a time to celebrate women who have struggled to overcome various social inequalities.  Young Adult literature features a variety of strong female characters, in every genre: share some of these with a girl or teen in your own life to inspire her to grow into a strong woman.

Trickster's Girl by Hilari Bell. Kelsa, dealing with the death of her father, does not seek out the mysterious stranger who shows up at her private burial ceremony; he seeks her. And he then tells her one of the most far-fetched stories she's ever heard: that the plague that is killing trees across the earth is connected to her father's cancer, and that she is the only human who can heal the planet.   Despite her skepticism, Kelsa senses something real about this stranger and his story. She was looking for a reason not to spend the summer with her mother, anyway. Demonstrating savvy and bravery, Kelsa devises a way to disappear from her high-tech, high security world, and to begin the work of healing earth at its most crucial points: the ley lines that transverse sacred locations, such as Arches National Park and Flathead Lake. Regional readers will enjoy following Kelsa's adventures through territory that is familiar to them; all will be surprised by Kelsa's final choice at the end of the novel.

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell.  In this historical fiction novel set in the period of affluence just after World War II, we learn that everything is not as it seems. Evie Spooner lives with her mom, stepdad, and grandmother in Brooklyn, trusting in Joe's business sense, her mother's love, and her best friend's guidance to make her life run smoothly. A sudden vacation to Palm Springs, a budding romance with an older man, and a murder mystery throw Evie's carefully constructed life off its foundations. Suddenly, she doesn't know who she can trust, other than herself. An interesting novel in which the heroine doesn't realize she is the star of her own story until the very end.

 Brooklyn Rose by Ann Rinaldi.  Another historical fiction piece set in Brooklyn, this novel by storyteller Ann Rinaldi introduces us to Rose Hampton, a 15-year-old girl living on her parent's South Carolina plantation at the turn of the 20th century.  Rose thinks she will never leave St. Helena's Island, or her beloved horses; but a marriage proposal that promises financial security for her family changes her mind. Within a month of her older sister's wedding, Rose is choosing to marry a man she barely knows, move with him to Brooklyn, and assume a new life there as a woman, not a teenage girl.

Stolen by Lucy Christopher.  A parent's nightmare: 15-year-old Gemma is drugged and kidnapped in an international airport, the crime crafted so carefully that her kidnapper is able to pass her off as his girlfriend. It takes Gemma days to realize that she has been taken to the middle of the Australian outback, to a place so remote and oppressive that she will not be found. This is a story of a victim becoming a hero: Gemma fights, with whatever limited means she has, to resist her captor's elaborate, twisted plan, and to take back the life he has stolen from her.

A Curse Dark as Gold  by Elizabeth C. Bunce.  When her father dies, there is no son in the Miller family to inherit his wool mill; instead, 18-year-old Charlotte and her sister Rosie assume leadership. Not only are they responsible for the operation of the mill, but also for the employment and security of all their employees and employees' families.  It's a lot for a young girl, but Charlotte is up to it: at least she is until the mill is threatened by financial strain, inexplicable accidents, and rumors of a powerful curse. A long-lost uncle shows up to care for Charlotte and Rosie, but offers no help with the mill. Instead, Charlotte finds herself turning to a strange man, Jack Spinner, who offers her a miracle . . . but at what price?  A masterful re-telling of the Rumplestiltskin legend, this novel offers us a glimpse at a society that still believed in curses, fairies, and family, and at young woman who only believes in herself.

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