If you haven’t been following the #womeninfiction trending topic on Twitter, started by the awesome Preeti Chhibber, I highly recommend catching up! It’s been an awesome celebration of fictional women and what makes us love them, what makes them real and powerful and vibrant.
To kick off the blog, I want to highlight a few of the literary ladies I tweeted about, why I love them, and why you might, too!
First up is Parker Fadley, from Courtney Summers’ Cracked Up To Be. On twitter, I wrote that I chose Parker for resilience. Cracked finds Parker shortly after her best friend has disappeared, and shortly after her own probable suicide attempt. It’s a struggle for her to be at school, a maybe-bigger struggle for her to be at home, to be in any space where anyone expects her to be the perfect girl she used to be: “Everyone should know–there’s no such thing as a decent human being. It’s just an illusion. And when it’s gone, it’s really gone.” Parker’s secrets about the night of the disappearance and about her fall from grace weigh her down, but she keeps moving, even when she doesn’t want to, even when others don’t want her to, either. Parker is also fierce and unapologetic in her new imperfection. One of my favorite lines from her narration is “I elbow my way through the mass of people to get to my locker because there’s something immensely satisfying about the toughest part of my arm connecting with the softest part of everyone else.” She is a survivalist, and the ways that shifts in the book and has shifted from before we meet her are fascinating and un-pretty and so compelling. There are so many more reasons Parker is important, so many things in her that burn bright and make you pay attention. I strongly recommend you read her story and find out what the rest of them are!
Next is Zephyr Mourning, from Justina Ireland’s Promise of Shadows. My twitter love for Zephyr was that she never gives up on her friends. Though Zephyr forms unique friendships with a whole cast of awesome characters in Promise, the one I love best is her relationship with Cass, whom she meets in the literal trenches of Tartarus. After their escape (happens very early, not really a spoiler!), Cass is the subject of lots of suspicion and scorn from just about everyone Zephyr loves and trusts. Zephyr struggles throughout the book with whether to trust her loves ones’ warnings or trust her gut, which says that Cass is trustworthy–that Cass is the reason Zephyr survived Tartarus, in fact. I love that Zephyr’s instinct is to stand up for Cass and for their friendship in the face of a pretty large amount of evidence that she shouldn’t. I also love so many things about Zephyr–her anger, her power and the way she embraces it (an awesome line: “I remember what my sister said long ago: You must control the darkness. You can’t ever give in to it. But the shadows want to make me happy, and I deserve a little happiness”). Also, she’s a black harpy, and this whole novel plays with the intersection of Greek myth and 21st century adolescence; I can’t recommend Zephyr and her story enough for fans of myth retellings or flawed-but-powerful girls or just good writing.
Last but never ever least is Taylor Markham from Melina Marchetta’s Jellicoe Road. Taylor got a lot of #womeninfiction love that I saw, and rightly so–people mentioned her toughness, her ability to take care of herself, how she doesn’t let people get in her way. Yes to all of the above, but I chose Taylor for her love, which is the driving force of this beautiful book. Taylor loves so deeply and so fully–she loves her troubled and absent mother; she loves mother-figure Hannah despite her abrupt disappearance; she loves a past she doesn’t quite understand; she loves the younger girls in her house; she loves the frankly very dreamy Jonah Griggs. As Taylor pieces together the mystery of her mother’s past and the connected past of the warring factions at her boarding school, she so overflows with love, and with grief and memory and fear and joy, all messy and complicated and true-to-life. One of my favorite lines from Jellicoe Road is “It’s funny how you can forget everything except people loving you. Maybe that’s why humans find it so hard getting over love affairs. It’s not the pain they’re getting over, it’s the love.” Taylor is one of the fullest protagonists I’ve encountered, full of thought and longing and compassion, all stemming from this bottomless well of love, and she’s so unashamed to be a girl who feels so much. Her story has stayed with me since I cried and cried over it two summers ago, and I know it would stay with you, too.
I hesitate to call Parker, Zephyr, and Taylor my very top three favorite women in fiction, because there’s so much competition, and it shouldn’t be a competition anyway; there’s room at the top for so many wonderful women. But I do think there’s something special about these three, the way they inhabit their stories and don’t apologize for being who they are. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of knowing them, I hope you will soon, and let me know what you think! In the meantime, who are some of your favorite women in fiction?