Monthly Archives: April 2015

Holding Out For a Hero(ine)

Why are the best YA heroines in fantasy books?

Katniss Everdeen, arguably the strongest female character in contemporary young adult fiction, acts: she volunteers, she sacrifices, she fights. She is such a strong character–some might say a masculine character–that NPR blogger Linda Holmes asked, What Really Makes Katniss Stand Out? Peeta, Her Movie Girlfriend.

And in YA fantasy there are others, of course. Famously, there’s Lyra Belacqua of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, and a newer arrival (1998) is the interesting character Ti-Jeanne from Nalo Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring, who I mention because Ti-Jeanne is not only a young woman of color but she is also a young mother, so Hopkinson has brought a really interesting heroine to the table.

Photo credit Melanie Lamaga

But in much of the contemporary literary YA fiction I’ve read recently, the young women are mired in romance, not action, and they always have the wherewithal to be eloquent and insightful. They’re supposed to be “normal” teenagers, but, frankly, normal teenagers are rarely eloquent or insightful. In fact, I’d hazard to say that they’re only eloquent or insightful 2% of the time. And that’s being generous.

Normal teenagers fumble their way through things. They aren’t quip-y or witty at every step of the way. But too often, writers of YA literary fiction, especially those books with female protagonists, write their young women this way. And it’s a mistake. Even Hazel Grace in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars was just too poetic for a teenager. Yes, she was sometimes strikingly honest, and it was refreshing to read about a young woman fighting for her life in a real world instead of a post-apocalyptic one. But it wasn’t enough.

Is there too much pressure on authors to write young women as smart, as paramours of wit? Must they be so clearly, so smartly beautiful on the inside so that when the young Prince Charming comes along and realizes that they are beautiful outside as well, we readers are satisfied?

I want stronger contemporary YA heroines. I want them to screw up, to fumble, to not say perfect things. I want them to screw up and maybe, just maybe, not get the guy in the end, because that’s what happens. We usually don’t get the guy. And not getting the guy makes a better story. In fact, I don’t even want there to be a guy. But that might be too much to ask.

I want a female Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I want an awkward, uncomfortable, fractured kid who finds a place and finds himself. Herself.

Have I just not read this book, this heroine? I haven’t read every YA book out there, and I might be deficient in a number of books that feature this very young woman I’m looking for. I don’t want a Katniss. I love Katniss, but she doesn’t live in my world. I want a Perks girl. Where is she?

Trevor Has a New Job

Trevor has a new job! Yahoo!

He’s the new studio manager and producer at Callie Lipkin Photography, a one-woman studio on the north side of Chicago. He’ll manage the day-to-day operations of the studio, organize locations, stylists, and talent for photo shoots, handle files and invoices, and get hands-on with a bit of assisting. It’s the perfect job for him, and we’re so happy.

The only issue is that there’s a taqueria near the studio and he’s able to get delicious fish tacos, burritos, and tortas whenever he wants to. So, I’m really jealous of this.

Otherwise, it’s perfect.

Callie got Trevor to smile in a picture! She's my hero.

Callie got Trevor to smile in a picture! She’s my hero.

Cakes and Contemplation

The weather at Camp Crystal Lake has been a pain in the butt: cold, warm, rainy, sunny, depending on the minute. It’s been boots and scarves one day and bare legs the next.

The rain and mud doesn’t stop Roo from running around like the three-legged maniac that she is, but it does stop me from letting her run wild like the three-legged maniac that she is. Instead, I take her on a lot of short walks and then make her towel off. She spends the rest of the afternoon staring out the window, thinking about chasing bunnies in the rain.

Roo, Day Dreaming of Bunnies


I also baked a cake for Easter. Last year I made a cake and decorated it like a lamb face:


But this year, I figured I’d do a chick–simpler but tastier because I didn’t use a box cake but did a Better Homes & Gardens vanilla cake recipe. And I loaded on the frosting, which didn’t hurt.


These are the lemons I used for my lemon frosting


Pre-baked beauties: vanilla cakes from the Better Homes & Gardens recipe

A couplea cakes





…and decorated! Peep!

Happy belated Easter–hope you all got a lot of cake for yourselves!