Graceling

The amazing novels are coming out of the woodwork!

Down the Rabbit Hole is my absolute favorite find of the year. Not only is there excellent novel commentary and fun memes—there’s also hundreds of YA fiction recommendations just waiting to be discovered! I have been following the blog for months, and I’ve recently started to get library books from the website’s recommendations. Holy dinger, do I wish I’d done that ages ago!

I have been reading so many amazing YA novels because of this blog. One novel that I just finished is called Graceling, by Kristin Cashore. It’s the incredible story of Katsa, a girl born Graced with the ability to kill. If you like strong female characters, fantasy, and light romance, you MUST read this book.

Many people in Katsa’s world are Graced with different abilities from birth. Their eyes are two different colors and they may be able to climb a tree well, or cook, or fight. Katsa is deadly in that her ability is considered to be killing after she accidentally murders a lecherous cousin at age eight. Since then, she finds herself being used by her uncle, the king, as his goon.

But Katsa isn’t going to let one man rule her. Not only does she refuse to marry, she also starts a secret society to help people in all of the kingdoms that her uncle doesn’t know about. During one of these secret missions to save a kidnapped prince, she meets another prince by the name of Po who helps her see who she really is—not the king’s dog, but a woman of her own mind with her own choice to make.

The adventure and the character Katsa are downright amazing in this book—in fact, I’d call them near perfect as far as any adventure story I’d want. Katsa is like an older, even more stoic Katniss Everdeen. She will make you cheer her on throughout the entire novel. And Po isn’t like many other male characters you’d come across, either. He’s masculine and strong, but he admits to being bested by the fierce Katsa as well as being smitten with her. He also wears more jewelry than he does, courtesy of his kingdom’s customs. Indeed, some of the scenes between them—though not explicit in any way—are verbally luscious.

There was a shift in the end with the love interest that I didn’t care for that seemed to alter characterization a bit, but between the fights, voyages and straight survival against insurmountable odds, this is one heroine that will never be forgotten once you read about her.

The Red Wolf

I am constantly on the lookout for new literature featuring strong female lead roles (and supporting roles) for my daughter, and recently I ran across some great recommendations at a website that I follow called Reel Girl. Several wonderful picture books were named, though my local library sadly only offered one. It was a fabulous book, though—so wonderful, in fact, that I went ahead and purchased a copy for my daughter, who really enjoyed reading it (multiple times!).

The book is called The Red Wolf. Written and illustrated by Margaret Shannon, it is the engaging, exciting story of a young princess whose father is afraid for her safety, so he locks her in a tower. I really liked this departure from the traditional mother/witch version, since it is often fathers who do want to lock their little girls up away from the world (remember the Cyndi Lauper song?), but moreso because it doesn’t build upon the whole evil mother/stepmother trope that I can’t stand. That said, the father is obviously only doing what he feels is best for his little girl and is not acting out of malice, which is nice, too.

But instead of relying upon some random prince to rescue her (and/or impregnate her, depending upon which version you are familiar with), this princess rescues herself. The princess, Roselupin, receives a mysterious gift (I do wish we’d find out where it came from)—a golden box filled with various colors of wool. The king laughs and tells his daughter she can knit him a scarf, but instead she knitted herself a long red wolf suit, declaring that if the world was too wild for her—as her father frequently insisted—then she would rather be a big red wolf. The costume transforms her magically into a wolf, and she then embarks on several wonderful adventures. The kingdom searches for her frantically, but she is the monster that they fear so much!

I love the story because Roselupin saves herself; my daughter loves it, too, though she also loves it because of the animal transformation (what kid doesn’t love such things?). In the end, once she is back to being a girl and is found, she thinks that her father will allow her to be free now, but she is sadly wrong—so she gets him back by (what else?) transforming him as well. It’s a really fun story about a spunky girl for spunky girls and boys to enjoy.