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Bookworm: Put down 'Twilight,' pick up books with strong female characters

By Kathleen Duncan
July 31, 2013 at 2:31 a.m.


I don't have anything against "Twilight." OK, yeah, I do. I have a lot against "Twilight." It's not just the awful grammar, one-dimensional characters and trite dialogue, but the fact that Bella mostly seems to sit around crying and waiting for some guy to save her from violent situations as an abject gesture of love to give meaning to her life. Gross.

Back when these books became popular, my friend told me to read them before I judged them. So I did. And I regret it to this day. Except for the fact that I can now judge freely, so there's that. Huzzah.

I realize that it can be enjoyable to read a book where a young man sweeps a young lady off her feet and makes everything better; I get that. I really do. I've never read a romance novel, but I'm sure that's what they do in those books (among other things).

But since "Twilight" exploded all over bookstores like a burst appendix, the young adult sections have become clad in moody black covers with white rose petals and blood-red lips. The name of those sections have sometimes morphed into teen lit and, on occasion - to my everlasting horror - paranormal romance.

(If you've ever seen excellent writers like John Green and Markus Zusak in a paranormal romance section simply because they write YA books, you'd be horrified, too. You might even weep a little).

The ageless adventure and love plot between a young lady and a young gentlemen is being repeatedly rehashed in a lot of teen books like "Twilight" without any originality or substance. The fact, though, is that the young lady doesn't have to be a helpless idiot for these popular plots to work.

So when I'm asked what young adult author I would recommend for a teen or adult that loves a little fantasy and a little romance, I often suggest Tamora Pierce.

In Pierce's "Song of the Lioness" series, Alanna secretly switches places with her brother to pursue her dream of becoming a knight. In the "Immortals" series, Daine finds out she has a knack for magic, not just hunting, archery and horses. In the "Beka Cooper" series, we follow a young lady as she trains to be a member of the Provost's Guard, a type of police officer who keeps the peace in city streets and tracks down criminals.

Almost all of Pierce's books feature strong female characters who are pursuing their own goals in life. Sure, these young ladies engage in romance at one point or another, but they do it while still being independent, intelligent women with their own values and aspirations. And if they end up with a guy, it's because they fell in love with someone who is their partner, not their savior.

Pierce's books are refreshing adventures that will make a female want to kick off those petticoats and run around in pantaloons like a self-governing, forthright modern woman.

And the best part is, these books won't make you hit your head against the wall, weeping for our future generations of young women. Not even once.

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