Today's guest post comes from Morgan Keyes, author of Darkbeast. Be sure to leave a comment and get entered for a chance to win a free copy of Darkbeast!
Many thanks to Matt for allowing me to visit and tell you about my middle grade fantasy novel, Darkbeast. Due to the generosity of my publisher, Simon & Schuster, I will give away a copy of Darkbeast to one commenter chosen at random from all the comments made to this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight.
In Darkbeast, twelve-year-old Keara runs away from home rather than sacrifice Caw, the raven darkbeast that she has been magically bound to all her life. Pursued by Inquisitors who would punish her for heresy, Keara joins a performing troupe of Travelers and tries to find a safe haven for herself and her companion.
Even at a glance, Matt's The Sword of Six Worlds and my Darkbeast have something in common: They both have young heroines who are the focus of the story. (Okay, they also both have animal companions, but that's the subject of another post.)
I offered to write a blog post about female main characters and how they shape books for young people. And then, I stared at my computer screen. I got up and ate a snack. I stared some more. I walked around the block. I stared for a while longer.
I started to write a few different blog posts. But time after time, I came back to a simple reality: Keara isn't special in Darkbeast because she's female.
Keara challenges many of her society's basic assumptions. The first section of the novel is called "Rebellion", and Keara rebels against just about everyone – her mother, the Primate's tax collector, the priest of the god of darkbeasts…
But Keara's rebellion isn't based on the fact that she has two X chromosomes. It's not because she likes pink and purple and rainbows and glitter. (Her favorite color is a strong, true red, and neither rainbows nor glitter make it into the pages of the novel.) It's not because she primps and preens in front of a mirror, or dreams of the prince she'll marry some day, or idealizes the children she'll eventually give birth to.
Keara doesn't match any stereotype of a girl, at least one from our rather gender-driven society. (As an aside, there was recently much Web-based merriment over Bic pens "For Her" – pink, glittery pens intended for women, but satirized by all. Keara would have been first in line to write a snarky review over such a ridiculously gender-defined product.)
If Keara isn't a "girly" girl, then, what is she? And how does she drive the story of Darkbeast?
First, she's loyal.
Second, she's brave.
Third, she's clever.
Loyal, brave, and clever. Girls can be all those things. So can boys. In fact, Keara has friends who are male and friends who are female. (There are no romantic relationships in my middle grade novel, so many gender-based complications are beyond the scope of my story.)
So. I'm letting Matt down here. I'm not really writing a blog post about female characters and how they carry the weight of a story in special ways. Can you help me out? What are your favorite middle grade or young adult novels with a female main character? Bonus points if that character's gender actually matters to the theme and plot of the book!
Darkbeast is for sale in bricks-and-mortar and online bookstores, including: Amazon | B & N | Indiebound
Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat. Also, there were books. Lots and lots of books. Morgan now lives near Washington, D.C. In between trips to the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art, she reads, travels, reads, writes, reads, cooks, reads, wrestles with cats, and reads. Because there are still books. Lots and lots of books.
The only one that immediately leaps to mind was Ghosts I Have Been (Richard Peck). The main character, Blossom Culp, is... well, suffice to say she's a bit too psychic for her own good. The fact that she's a girl certainly affects the plot - several of the relationship dynamics, and even some of the events would have to be seriously reworked if you tried to flip the sexes of the characters. (For example, the book opens with Blossom dressed up as a ghost; she's overheard that some of the boys from her school are planning to tip over somebody's outhouse, and she's planning to intercept them and scare them out of it. I don't think you could easily reverse that; it's hard to imagine a group of girls plotting that sort of mischief while a boy waits to scare them.)ReplyDelete
There are other books in the series, but - alas! - I haven't read any of them.
Michael -- Interesting, I haven't read that Peck book, but I understand that gender dynamic you're describing! More books to add to the To Be Read list :-)Delete
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My favorite YA female centered book is Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock closely followed by the ALl of a Kind series by Sydney Taylor. The girls have adventures, have responsibilities and have friendship and it's never questioned.ReplyDelete
I *adored* the ALL OF A KIND FAMILY as I was growing up. I recently told a friend about them, and I realized that I need to re-read them!Delete
This is my third try to reply...ReplyDelete
My favorite middle school heroine is a tie between Keladry from the Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce, and for High school, Alana from the Song of the Lioness series, same author. Both girls have to fight the stereotypes against them and both work hard to have good attitudes and make a difference.
I'm sorry that you had so much trouble replying, but I'm glad that you persevered -- I'm a big Tamora Pierce fan, too. (Pierce gave a great blurb to DARKBEAST, which totally made my day as a writer!)Delete
aw man i was totally going to say Alana from the Lioness series too! it definitely matters that she's a girl. but since she's been taken, i'd definitely have to go with the heroines from The Hero and the Crown (Aerin) and The Blue Sword (Harry) - they both defy cultural and social norms to save their country.ReplyDelete
I am ashamed to say that I haven't read THE BLUE SWORD yet, but it's at the top of my to-be-read pile!Delete
oh and Meliara from Crown Duel. she's also pretty legit but definitely not perfect, which makes her more relatable.ReplyDelete
More books, more books - and oh so little time!Delete
I suugest Menolly from McCaffrey's Harper Hall trilogy. Being female is key to the plot as in her SeaCoast hold, she is not allowed to pursue music and on Pern it is very rare for women to be Harpers.ReplyDelete
Samlubell at verizon dot net
I *adored* the Pern books when I was a tween and teen -- I haven't looked at them in far too long...Delete
And Sam -- the Random Number Generator says that you're the winner of the contest! Send email to me at email@example.com, and I'll have S&S send you a copy of DARKBEAST!Delete