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Christina Reads YA

"A children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story. The good ones last." --C.S. Lewis

The Cinderella Book Tag

Hey, everyone! Today I'm participating in the Cinderella Book tag. Mel of the Daily Prophecy tagged me about a month ago, and I'm just getting to it now. Whoops.

Cinderella's not actually my favorite fairy tale. Until recently, I thought that it fit into traditional gender roles / damsel in distress / prince and fairy godmother will save you. (Also the makeover trope where she's only "beautiful" (or at least noticeable // empowered) after the fancy gown and so on). Then Melissa Grey was tweeting about how Cinderella was a survivor of child abuse and it took courage to remain kind and open to love, which is also true. And made me wonder... why do they never make that the focus of the adaptation? Because it has never actually seemed that way to me, and seemed less about Cinderella being kind and courageous and more about the stepsister being so awful. I haven't seen the live-action film yet. Verdict? I also admit to being biased about fairy tales, since so many of them often pit women against each other, and that's a huge pet peeve of mine (cc: the stepsisters/mom).

 

 

1. EVIL STEPSISTERS
A book with characters you hate.

So, thing to know about me: I don't generally hate people. Sounds ridiculously idealistic, I know, but in the past when people have done bad things and I've had that urge to hate them for what they've done, it's never stayed with me. The hatred generally dissolves into apathy. I'm either apathetic to, like, or love people, and the same goes for characters. It's very rare for a book to make me HATE characters. So, for instance, I guess you could say I hate Umbridge? I don't like Snape, no matter what people say, he still was unnecessarily mean to almost all the Gryffindors and that had nothing to do with his I'm-reminded-of-you-Lily or his undercover mission. There are also a few occasions when I think, oh, man I would dislike and/or avoid you at all costs, because you're the kind of person I wouldn't get along with. For example, in the FEVER series, you have a lot of alpha male characters (e.g. Barrons, Ryodan) who would sound like utter douchebags in the real world (to me) but who, within the framework of the story, somehow manage to be fascinating and hold information, power, etc.

2. PRINCE CHARMING:
A book with a gentleman.

Okay, so to me this is a kind of weird category. This is a blog mostly focused on YA books. Gentleman is a word so rooted in history, social inequality, privilege.... it's weird to still be referring to guys as gentlemen, unless it's in that historical context. Also, if a teenaged character is referred to as a gentleman, I don't know that I would believe in that character / my instinct might be to say that character is a Gary Stu, and we're romanticizing that time and context again. ANYWAY. I mean, I could choose from my historical romance novels where gentlemen is a real thing, can point out Pride & Prejudice, 'had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner,' or whatever the exact line is. But if I'm restricting myself to YA.... I guess I'd go with Po fromGraceling. I might also say Finn from Illusions of Fate, since I think (don't quote me on this), Kiersten White had been describing him as Howl from Howl's Moving Castle meets Mr. Darcy. If you're going for Mr. Darcy, you're going for the gentleman character, I guess.

3. CINDERELLA:
A character that is graceful, kind and defiant.

Mel said Agnieszka from Uprooted by Naomi Novik, and I would agree with that choice. But I won't repeat Mel's choice. I'll go with the main character of A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. She is graceful and kind with her tribe and family. She's defiant because she's decided to step in for her sister and marry an evil ruler in order to try to rid the kingdom of evil. Her interactions with the evil king are very exemplary of this defiance. The main character of Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith also exemplifies grace, kindness, and defiance. (Well, maybe not the grace as much, but she eventually learns the court's ways...). She's kind to most everybody except for the romantic interest and the villain. The villain is another evil king who, from the very beginning of the book, she and her brother wage war against because they are little defiant rebels who think his rule inhumane. And last but not least! Serpentine by Cindy Pon. The main character is a handmaid to her best friend, and so part of her job requires that she be graceful and kind in most aspects of her life. Her defiance relates to the transformation she undergoes: into this serpentine like form. What that form and transformation means for her life, that is what she opposes and how she exemplifies defiance. To say more will be a spoiler... but have that on your shelves too!

4. FAIRY GODMOTHER:
A character that always has someone looking out for them.

I also agree with Mel's choice on this one, but again I will choose someone different! Eugenides from the Queen's Thief series seems to always have someone looking out for him. This series is inspired by Greek mythology, but Megan Whalen Turner made her own pantheon of gods and stories and legends to accompany them. To say more might be a spoiler... but the main character may or may not have the gods on his side. Discussing faith and the gods in a very Illiad / Odyssey like way is characteristic of this series, and what I first thought of when it came to having a "godmother" of sorts.

And yes, you will always hear me talking about this series because it's one of my favorites of all time. *sigh*

5. HELPFUL CREATURES:
Something that makes you happy when you’re sad.

So, I could very well say my family and friends and list out all my favorite things, but since this is mostly focused on books/characters, why not. Reading wise, what makes me happy is discovering a new favorite, even if a book hangover accompanies that because HELLO NEW FAVORITE. Who cares if you're bemoaning being unable to find a book as good as the one you just read because rereading is just as good.... Recently, for me, this was  Poison Study by Maria Snyder. I read on in the series, but my favorite remains the first book because it had a pretty complex, dynamic plot that I didn't expect for a book focusing on a food taster. Also, the Yelena/Valek relationship.

6. ASHES:
A book you didn’t care for.

There have only ever been a few books I did not finish, but in general, I make it my policy not to publicly discuss which books I'm less a fan of. I also try my hardest to emphasize mostly positive elements in my reviews now as well.... so skipping this question!

You'll forgive me, right?

7. PUMPKIN:
A character with a transformation.

 
Man, I feel like I can name so many books/characters for this category. A character should almost always go through some sort of transformation (though for some books, the character isn't supposed to find redemption, so that character growth arc won't exist for a reason). I suppose it depends on what you mean by transformation - the YA makeover? The actual turning of the pumpkin into some chaise? I don't really like the YA makeover trope because I think that feeds into dangerous stereotypes about beauty and power and so on, but if you interpret transformation to be some sort of unveiling of character... or a character growth arc... well, again, many books, but I guess I'll highlight some of my favorites. Fire by Kristin Cashore. If I'm not mistaken, she starts off the book not being surprised that this poacher shoots her, mistaking her for a deer because of her drab clothing. Girl has some serious self-loathing and regret, but then over the course of the novel, she finds family, a city to love, belonging, and self-love and acceptance. It's a wonderful, powerful transformation that I adored. Dumplin' by Julie Murphy is about a self-proclaimed fat girl entering a beauty pageant to reclaim her sense of self. This book refreshingly doesn't have the trope of the fat girl needing to lose weight to feel good about herself. Her transformation more has to do with the self-doubts that arise when she begins a relationship. To reclaim herself and her positive attitude about her body, she enters the pageant and by the end, another beautiful growth arc. A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. In this retelling of Arabian Nights, this version of Scheherazade, the main character has to undergo quite a bit of a transformation in order to defeat the evil king. To say more is a spoiler but... read the book!

8. IMPOSSIBLE:
A book with an ending you didn’t see coming.

Honestly, very few endings surprise me. But I'll mention a few. Chime by Franny Billingsley was written in this beautiful, circular poetic style that made it very hard to guess what would happen next. It also features an unreliable narrator who doesn't realize how unreliable she is, so there's a double whammy. The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski. So, I had a feeling things would end badly, but I didn't predict that. I mean, with all these endings, it's always really cool to go back and see where the author laid her clues. Also, Black Iris by Leah Raeder. If I hadn't read a spoiler-filled review before reading the book, I probably would've been really surprised by how things ended. Very good romantic suspense novel.

9. JUST BREATHE:
Something that inspires you to be courageous.

I think Mel changed this to someone who inspires you to be courageous? If not, well, I did. Lol, in keeping with the book theme... Emma Watson and Hermione Granger. Emma Watson really exemplifies Hermione's character and is a really great feminist role model. Allie Brosh, the author of Hyperbole and a Half. She speaks so realistically, so truthfully about depression, and yet in a comedic manner that never undercuts her handling of the subject. She's an inspiration for those inner battles we all have. Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Cain really understands introversion and knows how to inspire people like me to be quiet leaders.

10. HAPPILY EVER AFTER:
A book with a perfect ending.

Well, since we're talking about fairy tales, my perfect ending would be Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. Cruel Beauty is Greek mythology meets "Beauty and the Beast." CB ends in a perfect circular manner; I love when books cycle back in on their themes. It leaves us with hope and stays true to its complex plotting and the layers within the world. Made You Up by Francesca Zappia is about the senior year of a schizophrenic high school girl, all the accompanying rites of passage against the struggles of determining what's real and what's not. This book also cycles back in on its themes and the ending leaves us with hope for our characters. Lovely.

Sorry I've been a bit absent! I was sick for a week and then had to make up the work I've missed, and haven't been into blogging, but I'm still around. Since this took me a month to get to, I'm not going to tag anyone in particular, but I'd still love to hear all your answers!

What would you answer to these questions? Did you relate to any of my answers? Let me know!