Welcome to Smugglivus 2012! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2012, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2013.
Who: Sarah and Brianna of Slatebreakers dedicated to writing about girls in kidlit and YA who challenge expectations, stand up for themselves and their communities and have a positive impact on the world around them, fictional and otherwise. We’ve been loving their blog this year and therefore HAD to invite them for Smugglivus.
Please give a warm welcome to Sarah and Brianna, folks!
We are so unbelievably honored to be guest posting here for Smugglivus! We’ve been huge fans of the Book Smugglers, and Ana & Thea’s writing since before we started our blog, so to be able to write a guest post is just plain thrilling.
Since this is our first ever Smugglivus post, we wanted to write about what we know – and that is awesome girls in YA and children’s literature. And 2012 has been a great year for that. But unfortunately, 2012 has also been a year of some straight up annoying postulating on the “problem” of too many girl books, and not enough boys’. (This is not a new phenomenon. But we’ve seen quite a bit of it this year), ranging from a piece in the LA Times that bemoaned the lack of “manhood” in contemporary YA to a blog post that listed the top ten overused tropes in YA with #2 being “The protagonist is female. Let’s face it, the majority of lead characters in YA are girls.”
Another day, another “What about the boys?” panic piece, you might say. And to any one of these individual pieces, and mostly to this overwhelming idea that we need to worry about white straight boys not getting enough representation in fiction (or anywhere), we basically have this to say:
Stop. Just stop. Your privilege is showing. Because this is the thing about privilege: when you let yourself get too comfortable with it, equality can start to seem unfair. Having an equal, or close to equal representation of women in any subcategory starts to seem like an attack on boys because it threatens your understanding of the universe.
As far as we’ve come – and the endless supply of great content for our blog suggests that – it’s incredibly disturbing to think that even now, male protagonists are considered universal, but female protagonists are considered a niche market or a trope.
Luckily, amidst these articles, there have also been a welcome supply of excellent posts, taking the opposite stance. Lea Kelly from The Nerdy Book Club proclaims that “Books do not have genders!” in her super smart post. This detailed post from Ana on Lady Business has some eye-opening statistics about the gender of protagonists in YA award winners. And although this post from Saundra Mitchell is from 2011, it is a brilliant smackdown of those who whine about the lack of books for boys.
We started Slatebreakers because we love having these conversations, and we’d rather celebrate books about awesome girls for all genders than use up our word count with more ranting. Though there were many, many to choose from, here are our favorite Slatebreaking (translation: outstanding female characters who take the course of their lives into their own hands) characters of 2012. These characters populate books that can – and should – be enjoyed by male and female readers of all ages.
Badass Friendship Award: TIE
Kami, Angela and Holly from Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
Maddy and Queenie from Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Though the friendships in these two books couldn’t be more different, both are outstanding examples of how female friendships are incredibly important and awesome in multiple contexts.
Tessa Masterson from Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom by Brendan Halpin and Emily Franklin
Boys and girls, gay and straight, will relate to Tessa’s journey into activism as she fights the closed-mindedness in her small town.
Bitterblue from Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore
When we first met this character in Graceling, she was a meek little girl, who had suffered an unbelievable amount. In Bitterblue, we see her move beyond her personal tragedies to become a leader in her own right. Bonus points to Kristen Cashore for challenging heteronormativity in her fantasy world.
Most Slatebreaking Couple Award:
Hazel & Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
It’s incredible refreshing to see a YA romantic and sexual relationship portrayed with such honesty and humor. Rarely have we been so in love with two teenagers being in love with each other.
All of the characters in The Diviners by Libba Bray
In Beauty Queens, Bray used her satirical genius to balance a feminist storyline with a whole bunch of Slatebreaking characters. It happens again in this book, but what’s even more impressive is that these characters live in an era when it takes immense courage to challenge norms of gender and race.
Thank you so much to Ana and Thea for inviting us to be a part of your celebration. We had a great time writing this, and can’t wait to read what comes next!
Thank you Sarah and Brianna!