Every now and then I venture into the so called ‘young adult’ literature realm and each time I’m surprised by how we completely redefined what constitutes the acceptable reading material for this age group. And I don’t mean it in a bad way. Not at all. In fact, I’m excited over the sheer volume of stuff for teenagers that gets published these days. It might be because I grew up in the post-communist Poland but I’m sure the choice was nowhere near as broad. Additionally, the books the librarians put in my hands seemed so tame in comparison to the current offerings. They even seemed tame compared to my own life, which is why eventually my own life won over and I stopped reading for a few years (until I was ready for proper adult books).
However, the thing that excites me most of all about the current YA books is the proliferation of kick-ass heroines. When I was a girl, there were few heroines I wanted to be. There was Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter, maybe, but generally it was boys who had adventures. Girls did their homework and were afraid of mice.
This is why I loved Katsa, the heroine of Graceling. She definitely wasn’t afraid of mice, or anything else for that matter, being the most fearsome killer in the kingdom with some ultra ninja skills. In the beginning of the book she meets Prince Po, who is quite of an awesome fighter as well but not match for Katsa’s superpowers. They get to train together but of course she still has to pull her punches, so as not to kill him. Well, if this isn’t love…
The adventure they will embark on together will teach Katsa a lot new things, like accepting her own weaknesses, learning to trust someone else with her safety and generally handing over control when needed. It’s Prince Po who knows about people’s emotions, fears and motivations, while Katsa is just a killing machine and occasionally a bit of a dickhead actually, but then most teenagers are. I really like what you did there, Kristin. And I really like how it’s still sexy and very clever, even if the quality of prose is really nothing to write home about, but that’s ok, for that I have Mario Vargas Llosa.
I noticed some reviewers were actually genuinely offended by the fact that Katsa liked her hair short, didn’t like wearing dresses, didn’t want to get married or have children. They were even spouting nonsense that this book is some sort of ‘militant feminism’ or what not. As if Katsa being the way she is, means that all women should be exactly like that. I literally read sentences such as ‘I was offended by the fact Katsa didn’t want to get married.’ I can only hope they were written by time-travellers from the 18th century.